Ski and shred in style, look cool, stay warm


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This year’s epic snow sports season is likely to go strong into late spring and even early summer months on the West Coast.

Some North American resorts have reported on high-snowfall years that their slopes stay open as late as the Fourth of July. So gear up in style for spring skiing and riding with these slick head-turning fashions and take advantage of some great near-the-end-of-season sales prices.

Pull on your big-boy/girl bibs

Bibs are back in a big way. The sister of the full-on zip-up onesie snowsuit of the 70s, ski bibs are rising up as the nouveau chic on the slopes. Not only do they look stylish and sassy, they are the far better choice for snow wear than traditional ski or snowboard pants. Bibs are perfect when you want a bit of extra warmth over a fleece pullover or under layer, but you don’t want to wear a vest. For aggressive riders and steers, the bibs come up high under the arms to prevent snow from getting in your waistband. They also stay up, so you don’t find yourself constantly tugging and adjusting your waist band, which is especially a hassle with gloves on.

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A hot and hip company, Trew, is leading the revival of bibs, with their high-performance bibs, that style spotters are seeing all over the best resorts this season, like the Trewth ($399) men’s bibs that set the standard for tit-to-toes coverage, or Trew’s already legendary women’s Chariot bibs ($399) that tackle the biggest complaint about bibs for women, with its “she pee” side zip (check it out here https://trewgear.com/trew/trew-updates/article/bathroom-break-in-your-bibs), that makes bathroom breaks easy and fast.

They also have beaucoup pockets for stuffing glasses, digital lift tickets, lip balm, wallets and other necessaries for the slopes. The styling of the Trew bibs, with bright colors and water repellent materials and fashionable bright colored zips and trims, will make you stand out in the snow. When it’s time to chill out in the lodge, you can roll them down to the waist, but they look pretty cool anyway you wear them.

Who wears the pants?

All that said about bibs, if you choose to go traditional, Trew has perfected snow pants, with the plentiful pocket design and fashion forward colors and trim, with an adjustable Velcro strip to keep the waistband snug. The pants for a little larger opening at the leg for heftier snowboard boots. For women, the Tempest ($349) features an adjustable waist, long legs, and three-dimensional articulated panel design that fits all shapes of physiques.  For guys, the Eagle ($349) pant is articulated and ventilated for sidecountry stash runs, with durability for long days hot-lapping your local mountain, and relaxed for comfort.

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As with all the Trew stormproof wear, their technologically advanced proprietary material, Dermizax®NX, is tops in breathability and toughness. The water-repellent membrane keeps you dry after fall, and next to the skin the material keeps you warm yet it is breathable, with ventilation openings.

As someone who has gone through many snow pants due to rivets popping, zippers tearing off we’re getting stuck, and seems tearing open, Trew has impressed me with its durability, looking and wearing like new for an entire season.

Top it off

For spring shredding, pair bibs with a lightweight water-repellent cold breaker like Trew’s Stella ($190) women’s fly freeride shell that has set the standard for the industry with its tailored-to-flatter, articulated-to-shred, and built-to-last design.

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Layer up

Underneath it all, Trew’s women’s lightweight Nuyard Merino ¼ Zip (sale priced $109) is ultimate hi-tech baselayer, woven with NuYarn merino, a  warmer, softer, better thermal-regulating and more mobile wool than its traditional merino brethren.  For warmer days, the Merino Sweater ¼ Zip (sale priced $55) keeps out the chill and regulates as you move, and it looks sharp and stylish for hitting the lodge apres ski.

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Hot mitts

Serius Heat Touch Torche component gloves ($394.99) may be the first gloves you have to read a manual to use, but hands down you will be wearing the smartest gloves on the mountain with these on your mitts. These three-in-one gloves have a battery-heated component glove that slips inside an insulated shell. They can be worn together or separately and with or without the heating batteries. The heat can dial down for spring skiing or up when you are at the top of the peak and the temps drop. Charge the batteries for about three hours, insert the batteries into the wrist cuff and press the button to the desired heat level.  What’s even smarter, and you can swipe away on your smart phone screen while wearing these gloves.

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Pack it up

Nothing’s more of a drag on your travels than hauling a bulky duffle around stuffed with all your gear.  You don’t have to lighten your load and leave stuff behind, instead get rolling with the massively spacious Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 36 ($419) or ORV Trunk 30 ($359).  This bag fits all your winter adventure gear plus the kitchen sink, with lots of pockets and compartments to keep wet stuff separate from dry and all your gear easily accessible. Some extra bells and whistles include an Equipment Keeper Porter Key with bottle opener, exterior and interior compression straps, and an external pocket for easy grab items. All that and a waterproof boot bin, to boot.

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Sundance Kids

 

Sundance Mountain Resort offers year-round family friendly activities

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When most of us think of Sundance, we think of the film festival founded by Robert Redford in the 1980s. The indie filmmaker event moved many years ago to nearby Park City, Utah, but still today Sundance Mountain Resort remains a beacon for creatives and independent spirits, and it has become known as a wonderland for families, where they can spend quality time together and make lifelong memories.

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Purposefully kept small, true to Redford’s vision when he took over the former Timp Haven in 1968 and developed it to create this idyllic resort, Sundance prides itself as a sanctuary committed to the balance of art, nature and community.

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Many families we met at Sundance say they vacation year after year at the resort because of its smallness and the appeal of its family friendly offerings, such as a top-notch children’s snow sports school, art and pottery classes, wooded paths and mountain streams for exploring, and activities such as evening snowshoe hikes with owl spotters.

The wild, wild best

The resort sits on 5,000 acres of beauteous mountain land just outside of Provo, Utah, on the slopes of Mount Timpanogos in Utah’s Wasatch Range. Locals and those who return year after year to this best-kept secret in Utah ski country refer to it as Shangri-La.

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A true testament to an enterprise that is well-managed from the top down, the staff, from the hotel check-in clerks to the ski instructors, are impressively professional and enthusiastic about their work. And like a dedicated CEO and true believer in his mission, Redford himself skis at the resort at least a few times a season, ensuring the resort runs at peak level.

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Accommodations are limited to approximately 400 guests at the privately owned or leased 115 cabins and a dozen mountain homes at the resort. Our ski party of two adults and two kids stayed at one of the resort’s chalets nestled in the wooded property, which felt like a private retreat. Paths from the villas lead to the restaurants and other resort buildings, or guests can utilize the resort’s fleet of SUVs to shuttle around the resort.

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The chalets on the property speckle the woods of the hillsides, and in a heavy snow they are barely visible except for their rooftops and chimneys. After one snowy night we awoke to a fresh foot of powder on our doorstep, perfect for snow man making and a snowball fight in our front yard.

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Inside, the cabins are luxurious yet designer-rustic.  Each feature breathtaking views of the mountains, a private deck, expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, wood-paneled and slate stone walls, an open floor plan with a climb-up loft – a favorite with the kids, a kitchen, large fireplace, and rooms outfitted with alpine chic pine and leather furniture and hand braided rugs.

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Our cabin was also stocked with board games, which we played by the fire, until the tired kids passed out before 8 pm, after a day on the slopes.

Mountains of food

When it comes to dining, you can’t go wrong with any of the resort’s restaurants, which all have stellar reputations for their culinary excellence. The romantic candlelit Tree Room Restaurant is the most formal offering, yet the ambiance is comfortable and inviting. Décor includes Native American art from Redford’s personal collection.

For more casual and family friendly dining, the frontier-themed Foundry Grill features fresh hearty fare and pizza from its open kitchen. Après ski and into the night, the late crowd can enjoy drinks and live music at the Owl Bar, the site of the original Redwood Bar where Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall Gang hung out. For quick pick-me-ups, the Creekside Café offers sandwiches and soups at the base of the mountain, and for the adventurous, the Bearclaw Café is a treat at the top of the back mountain, for skiers skilled enough to get there.

Snow, snow on the range

While the dining is superb, it’s the mountains that are the main attraction of Sundance.  For those old enough to remember the Redford classic “Jerimiah Johnson,” these are the mountains that provided the stunning backdrop for the film. Though quaint in size compared to other local resorts, such as Park City Mountain and Deer Valley, Sundance holds its own when it comes to the quality and variety of terrain for all levels of skiers and boarders, and the resort boasts four chair lifts and a beginner tow lift, with the newest quad lift, Reds, carrying 500 people uphill per hour.

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During our visit near the holidays, which is peak ski season, the staff remarked that the “crowds” were large, but not once did any of our party wait more than five minutes for a chair lift; and even during the busiest hours for renting and returning skis, we did not experience any long waits more than 20 minutes.

Heading for the hills

Sundance is easily accessible, about an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City airport. Rather than brave the mountain roads after dark when we flew in at night, we opted to stay overnight at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. If we had not been so eager to get to the mountains, we would have certainly stayed longer at this gorgeous hotel, which offers the only five-star luxury accommodations in Salt Lake City and features one of the most beautiful displays of holiday lights and Christmas trees in the world during the holidays.

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Sundance’s proximity to the airport makes it an easy ski-in, ski-out resort, but its location lower on the mountain range, at about 12,000 feet, means the resort has a shorter snow season than its neighbors at higher elevations.

The compact season is a boon to the resort, as the resort hosts more guests after the snow melts. When other area resorts are winding down with dwindling crowds for spring skiing, Sundance is gearing up for its busiest time of year, when spring and summer vacationers come for horseback riding, mountain biking, zip tours, and, of course – for fans of Redford’s “A River Runs Through it” — fly fishing.

Like the plot of that film, the great outdoors and the notion of family is treated as sacred at Sundance. The resort’s fame may be born of its celebrity owner and the Hollywood-once-removed SWAG-circus festival that bears its name, but otherwise this serene retreat is an escape from city life, and a place where visitors can reconnect with nature, and their families.

 

Busch Gardens Williamsburg -the new-school Old Country

LA Parenting

There’s a lot of ballyhoo about Southern California theme parks being the best in the nation, but as an Los Angeles replant and frequent visitor to all the usual suspects (Disneyland, California Adventures, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, Six Flags, etc.,) I believe Busch Gardens  in Williamsburg, Virginia, can hold its own against the park super powers.

Ride of My Life

On a recent trip back to my home state of Virginia our family of two adults and two six-year-olds planned a two-day visit to Busch Gardens in historic Williamsburg.  My childhood memories of the place are still fresh.  I recall riding the famed Loch Ness Monster when it opened in 1978, and the fear in my heart as a bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace played softly over the stereo system as my brother and I waited in line.  My parents refused to go on this crazy upside-down looping roller coaster over a…

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Memories of fishing with my father, and a boy’s first boat

Fishing with my father as a child is something I will always remember. He would take my mom, me and my brother out on his Formula cabin cruiser boat, where he was captain of the world, and we would anchor in the Rappahannock River; or when the water was calm he would take us all the way out to the Chesapeake Bay, and we would sit with our lines in the water waiting for a nibble.

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My dad taught us how to rest the line on our fingers next to the reel so that we could feel a tug when there was a fish. He showed us how to jerk the line back to set the hook, and he showed us how to wind in the reel and keep the line taut so we didn’t lose our catch. When I was too squeamish to bait my hook or take off the slimy fish, Dad would do it for me. Our days on the boat fishing with dad comprise some of my favorite memories from childhood into my adult years, so this is a tradition I wanted to pass on to my son.

In 2007, when I told my parents I would be having a baby, my father, then 73 years old, had tears in his eyes. He said he never thought he would be a grandfather, and he was overjoyed. Once he dried his eyes and began to look ahead to the idea of having a grandson, he began anticipating all the good times we would have, and teaching his grandson to fish. “I hope I make it to see that boy turn 10,” he said.

Dad had been a hard-working man all of his life, but his strong-but-tired body — that he kept in shape working out three times a week at the gym into his 80s — was starting to fail him. He had to quit tennis and golf when he snapped a bicep muscle, and his gait had gotten slower and more unsteady with the years. But his biggest fear was Alzheimer’s, the disease that had taken his mother and his sister.

Unfortunately, in the following years, his worst fears were realized, and my dad slipped into Alzheimer’s, which worsened quickly, leaving him unable to take out his boat. Even though he surely missed being out on his boat, steering into open water, he still enjoyed fishing at a local lake with his grandson. As my father’s dexterity and mental capacities deteriorated, it was my turn to bait his hook.

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Sadly, in October 2014, my dad died, two months after my son’s seventh birthday.

It will be two years ago this month that my father passed away. My son has just turned nine years old, and already he’s taking after his grandfather with his love of boating and fishing.

My mother has kept our family’s cottage on the Rappahannock River, and it has become my son’s favorite place on Earth. It is the place where my father, known to my son as Papa Jack, kept his boat, named happy Jack, and the launching place for our many fishing trips over the past several decades.

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The boathouse and pier still stand strong after many years, like the memory of my father and our fishing adventures. Now, the pier has become a fun place to play, where my son loves to leap from a running start into Broad Creek, which runs in front of the cottage.

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Last year, our family took my father’s ashes to Deltaville, where we celebrated his memory and we sifted his ashes into the waters where he loved to boat and fish, from the end of the dock of his boat house, that he built with his own hands.

Now two years after his passing, the boat house sits empty. Dad’s last boat, a Slickcraft cabin cruiser, is enjoying new life with another family that took it out to explore new waters in Maryland.

Meanwhile, after 17 years of living in Los Angeles, 2,600 miles away from my birth state of Virginia, I have moved home with my son. We are now able to travel as often as we wish to the cottage in Deltaville, where we can continue in the tradition of my father by sharing fishing and boating together as a family.

While it may be a while before I can afford a ship like my father’s, my son and I have started small, with our first boat, an inflatable Airhead Angler Bay, a six-person craft perfect for our fishing excursions in the creek. Outfitted with his luckiest rod and reel, my son dropped his line on our maiden voyage and declared, “I love being on this boat.”

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I provided the engine power with two oars, and we spent our first afternoon out on the boat taking in the sunshine while my son asked me to tell him more fish stories about my past fishing expeditions with my dad. As the day winded down, and I paddled toward shore, just like my father, my son did not want to go in yet. Like my father, he could fish all day, and into the night if I let him. I told him, don’t worry, this is just the beginning. This is the continuation of an old family tradition for us. There will be many more days like this.

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Doing Disney right – tips for planning your visit to the Magic Kingdom

Planning a trip to Disneyland or Disneyworld?  Disney resorts are known as the happiest places on earth, but it can turn into the most miserable place on earth if you do not plan your trip properly.  Make the most of your family’s Disney vacation with these tips to de-stress your visit and maximize your time at the resort.

 

Take Two, or More

 

It’s not just because Disney wants to sell more tickets that they tell you that you need at least two days at the park. While not every family can afford a week-long Disney vacation, at least two days is needed to experience even a short list of main attractions. If visiting Disneyland, park hopper tickets which allows visitors admission to both California Adventure and Disneyland resort over two days is the best deal. Look for online deals for discounted tickets at local grocery stores.

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It’s all About the Date

 

Choose your dates optimally with a crowd predicting site, like IsItPacked, to avoid the busiest days. You can also get a DVD with tips customized for your family’s visit and a personalized planning web page at disneylandvacations.com/parks.  Another great resource is The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, with tips on how to beat the longest lines and maximize your time at the park.

 

Pick Your Attractions

 

In advance of your trip go online and make it a fun family activity to pick out each family member’s number one attraction for each day. Do not set yourself up for failure and disappointment by planning too much. Plan on three major rides, defined by those that offer FASTPASSES, per day. Then choose a few second-tier attractions.  Check height requirements beforehand so there are no meltdowns after standing 45 minutes or longer in the line, only to find out your kid is too short to ride.

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Get Fast Passes

 

Take advantage of FASTPASS tickets that give you a return time so you can come back and wait in shorter lines for major attractions.  For efficiency sake, give all of your admission passes to a designated person in your party so that person can go get FASTPASSES for the next ride on your short list while the rest of the party waits in line for another attraction nearby.  Remember you can only get one FASTPASS at a time, so choose wisely.

Take Breaks

 

Take a Break

 

Don’t forget to build in lunch time and down time and nap time if you have little ones. Missed meals and grumpy kids can quickly turn the Magic Kingdom into the Haunted Mansion. While officially outside food is not allowed in the park usually the gate attendants look the other way when it comes to a small stash of Goldfish crackers and granola bars. Even a juice pouch or two will be overlooked so long as you do not bring any glass into the park. For tired little ones, consider taking in a show or a parade where kids get a break from walking and standing.

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Make a Budget

 

Decide how much money you and the kids are going to spend and then stick to it. Be realistic. Meals snacks souvenirs and games are expensive at any theme park. Budget for at least $15 per meal per child and $20 for adults. For families on a tight budget a good rule is to tell kids that besides lunch and dinner they get one snack, and one game and one souvenir per day. Set limits, like $20 per souvenir, so they don’t beg for the biggest stuffed character in the Disney store. Help kids set their own limits by loading the funds onto a Disney gift card that they can spend anywhere in the park or at Disney stores.

 

Chose a Leader

 

The more people in your party the harder it will be to decide what to do next.  As much as possible have a roadmap of attractions you will visit and in what order, but for those debates that come up, assign a designated tie-breaker, or give each kid a turn to be leader.

 

Stay Close

 

The family that sticks together…can get on each other’s nerves, so keep this in mind when booking accommodations.  Resist the urge to save money and pile everyone in one room.  Check out affordable hotels that are a short drive or shuttle ride from the park.  Many affordable budget hotels offer spacious suites with sofa sleepers in an adjoining sitting room so that parents and kids can spread out, watch their own TVs and have some apart time. Hotels like Embassy Suites also offers a buffet breakfast to get the kids out quickly in the morning and a shuttle service leaving every 30 minutes, which is a far better option than navigating and traversing the morass of parking lots at the park.  Another advantage to a close by accommodations is the option of a mid-day break at the hotel, where everyone rest and rejuvenate to get a second wind for fireworks and other night time attractions.

 

Stay in the Moment

 

Don’t forget you are at Disney park to have fun, not accomplish a mission. Enjoy the time with your family, even while waiting in line. Turn waiting time into an opportunity to nibble snacks, play games, relive the attractions you just experienced, talk to your kids about the fun you are having and know that every moment you are at Disney counts as family time.