Sweet, Sweet Sugarbush

Photo by shiar.org

We decided we had to get my son, Matthew, on skis.   He tried snowboarding before with success but my husband is a skier.   Some skiers have a “thing” about snowboarders and my husband is one of those skiers.  The thought is snowboarders are generally a bit more out of control and aren’t as respectful to others on the mountain.   This is just a generalization and I know there are many in control, very respectful snowboarders out there. I actually don’t ski or snowboard so I can’t give any firsthand experience either way.   

My husband wanted Matthew to learn to ski so they could ski together on the slopes.  There’s no controversy if they are both skiing, which is what I like.  What I want is my son to be able to fly down a mountain with no fear, okay, maybe a little fear so he doesn’t do anything too reckless.  But, enough confidence so he’s not like me, which is terrified to go any faster than a snail’s pace without sitting on my butt trying to figure out how to get down a mountain without going fast while still looking totally cool. As you might guess, it’s an impossible task; hence, I don’t ski (or snowboard).   

We chose Sugarbush, Vermont.  It’s a short flight from Philadelphia to Burlington and not too far from the airport. We also decided to invite my husband’s parents. His dad still skis, at 70 years old.  His mom has hung up her skis but since I don’t ski, we figured the girls (my mother-in-law, my six month old daughter and me) could spend some quality time together.  We rented a ski in/ski out condo at Sugarbush Village.  My in-laws arrived a few hours ahead of our flight since we waited for my son to get most of the school day in before departing.   

We’d been through security previously with the baby so we had our routine down.  We had no problems with the flight and the Burlington Airport is great.  It’s small but provides really easy access to the elevators and nice long, wide ramps that make pushing a stroller and luggage carefree.  There are even lots of old-time rocking chairs, which we didn’t use but I imagine would be quite helpful when dealing with small babies and flight delays, more common in snowy destinations.

We rented our car without any issues — another good note for Burlington, the car rentals are on-site and in a garage.  This makes getting your stuff, your kids, and you in the car much easier.  No worries about the cold, shuttle transports or cleaning the snow off the car before you even get started on your drive.  We were quickly off on our snowy drive to the condo where my in-laws were waiting.

Travel Tip One:   If at all possible have someone in your party go-ahead to open the room and purchase some groceries prior to your arrival.  Okay, I know this tip is a little far-fetched but it was so nice to have everything ready upon our arrival, I just had to add it. 

As soon as we arrived, we took a walk to check-out the area.   There was already so much snow and it was still coming down.   It was dark but the snow reflected the light making it easy to find our way.  Also, when it snows all the sounds are absorbed.   The combination made for a beautiful adventure through a winter wonderland with a few snowballs “thrown”; in for good measure.   When we got back, we unpacked, put the baby to bed, had some wine and cheese, a quick spaghetti dinner, and off to bed so the guys were prepared for an early morning.

My husband took my son to ski classes.   My son took half-day lessons so my husband could ski with him in the afternoon.   One of my son’s favorite parts was the hot chocolate they served.  The instructors were great and by the end of the first day he was able to ski a very, very easy blue trail.

Travel Tip Two:   When possible look for lessons offering half-day and full-day options.  It allows you flexibility based on what you want to do on your holiday (spend a little time with the kids or completely ditch them for the day).

After dropping my son off at the lesson, my husband went out to ski with his dad.  They had a sunny morning with new powder and just the right temperature for a great day.  The skied in and met us girls for lunch at the condo.

Travel Tip Three:     Ski in/ski out is a bit more expensive but is really convenient, especially if you are traveling with a baby.   You don’t have to worry about packing them up in and out of the car in order to meet the skiers.  You may save a bit on gas and time.  Depending on your math, this could make up the extra expense of the prime location.

The boys went back out to ski and my mother-in-law and I spent some time reviewing the dinner options.   My mother-in-law is big on reservations, which I’ve learned is a good thing.   There’s nothing like walking into a crowded establishment, giving your name, and walking right to your table.  We made a reservation at a place we thought would appeal to everyone.

Travel Tip Four:   When possible make dinner reservations, especially if you have a larger group and even more so if that group includes children.  They’ll be happier not waiting for a table and so will you.

At the end of the day, the boys come back and changed.  We made the quick drive to the condo community pool.  The pool was crowded.  The locker room area was not very nice and neither was the pool, it just all seemed a bit dirty to me.

Travel Tip Five:   Try not to go to the pool immediately after the ski day.  About 10 minutes before we were ready to leave, the pool area had really cleared out.  It’s like traffic, leaving 10 minutes earlier or later can change the experience.  It’s something to think about even when it comes to visiting the pool. 

Travel Tip Six:   Remember your flip-flops or whatever pool footwear you have.  Wearing ski boots into the pool area isn’t done but walking barefoot through is not a good thing either.   Bring everyone who can walk some flip-flops (cheap and easy to pack) to wear in the pool area.  You’ll reduce your chance foot infections and look cool.

After our swimming excursion, we went back to the condo and got ready for dinner.  We arrived at the restaurant and gave our name to find out, they didn’t have our reservation.  Can you believe it?   After all that restaurant analysis and talk about the reservations, they didn’t even have ours.  Luckily, the place wasn’t crowded so we were seated immediately.  Even so, my mother-in-law was not happy and was sure to speak to the manager about it.  Of course, there just must have been some confusion and since we were seated, everything proceeded.   

I wish I had a better story here, like we got a free meal or even a free dessert but nothing like that happened, maybe next time.  The dinner was fine, not great but not bad.  The service fit in the same realm.

After, we went back to the condo, played a few games, and hit the sack – ready for another early morning.   We awoke to more snow without as much sun but still a great day.  The boys left for their next ski adventure and we stayed back to get everything ready for departure.   My mother-in-law and I had a good time with the baby. I would have liked an excursion we could have done together with the baby.  There wasn’t anything like that at Sugarbush, which is understandable since most everyone is skiing but some non-ski, baby-friendly, warm activity would have been nice.

We packed up the cars and drove up to the mountain to meet the boys for lunch.  I was able to see my son skiing at the end of his lesson.   I was so proud, I can admit it, I cried.  He was a miniature skier out there, it looked awesome.  As we hung out for a while before eating, my husband took my son down two more runs together.   They had a great time. Lunch at the lodge was what you would expect, expensive but good choices and good food.   

Travel Tip Seven:   The lodge is always a bit colder than you might expect.  If you’re hanging out with a baby or smaller kids, remember to bring extra blankets or dress them appropriately.

After lunch, the boys took a couple more runs and we packed up to head to the airport for our flight home.  Luckily for those staying on the mountain, it was snowing fresh powder by the bucketfuls.  Unluckily for us, we had to drive to the airport in those bucketfuls.  Once you have even a little travel experience, you just know when your flight is going to be delayed and this wasn’t a tough one to call.   When we arrived at the airport, our flight was delayed two hours.  Not devastating but not good.   A couple of notes about the Burlington Airport.   There are not a lot of food choices and what is there closes by six p.m.  The one restaurant is prior to security and the one coffee stand located after security has a limited food selection.   

Travel Tip Eight:   Check the airport ahead for options, especially if you’re close to the end of the day. You don’t want to be stranded at the airport hungry and thirsty, especially when traveling with little ones.

Thankfully, we did have time to get to the restaurant and back through security before everything closed but it was close.   We, like most everyone else, tried to make the best of it. We pushed the baby in stroller, round and round the waiting area — it’s not that big.  We also spread out one of her blankets so she could play on the floor.

Travel Tip Nine:   Always pack at least three baby blankets in your carry-on bags. They don’t take up much space and come in really handy for so many things — playing peek-a-boo, keeping baby warm on a cold flight, spreading out on the floor to play, drenching up a spill when you have nothing else to grab, the list goes on and on.

Travel Tip Ten:   When you’re in a pinch or the toys you brought just aren’t cutting it, look for everyday things around you to use as toys. A plastic/Styrofoam cup or plastic spoon makes a great toy for babies.  You’d be surprised how entertaining a cup can be — try hiding things in it or under it,   make cool noises with it, put it on baby’s head as a hat, or possibly funnier, your head as a hat. One cup equals 30 minutes of waiting with no tears. 

One of the funnier parts of our waiting experience occurred with my mother-in-law and son.  She was extremely worried about the delay as she wanted to get home.  She had things to do the next day and didn’t want to change her plans. On the other side, my son, was extremely worried about the delay as he didn’t want to go to school the next day.  He delighted in the thought of us getting a room at an airport hotel and having a free day.  The two of them were completely agitated about the same point but in completely opposite ways.   

My mother-in-law has more experience worrying and won this battle. Our flight left three hours late but landed safely in time for her to keep her schedule and my son to go to school.   Our Sugarbush trip ended in sweet success.

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