CMC helps HS students start their college journey early.

By Heather Hower

Colorado Mountain College (CMC) and Eagle Schools have teamed up to offer a Dual Enrollment (DE) program that allows kids in high school to simultaneously take college or vocational courses – free of charge towards a postsecondary diploma or certificate. This means kids can graduate – from high school – with an associate’s degree from college.

The DE program at CMC started in 2002. More students than ever are taking advantage of the program, according to Debra Crawford, public information officer for CMC. In the 2014-15 school year, 408 students took 52 classes and earned 4,093 college credits. This year the numbers are even greater with 700 students taking 1700 classes and earning 5000 credit hours, according to Tammy Schiff, Eagle County Schools’ chief communications officer.

According to the Colorado Department of Higher Education and Colorado Department of Education, nearly 30 percent of Colorado’s juniors and seniors participated in a DE program during the 2014-15 school year – an increase of 15 percent over the previous year. “When you think about [those numbers], and the level of tuition saved – it’s in the millions of dollars,” says Deborah Crawford, public information officer for CMC, and it seems like more and more Eagle County high schoolers are figuring that out.

Battle Mountain High School senior Kimberley Gonzalez has already taken four DE classes this year, with plans to ramp it up even more next year. “I’m taking these classes to try to get my Associate’s of Art and save some money,” she says succinctly. “Many of my siblings and teachers recommended I take those classes, and I’m glad I did. It challenges me and at the same time I enjoy having a faster-paced class.

So, how does it work?
Students sign up for Dual Enrollment classes as juniors and seniors to start their journey for advanced college level classes. To enroll in Dual Enrollment classes students must earn qualifying scores on either the ACT or Acuplacer exam. There is an orientation for Dual Enrollment each fall for students who participate, so that they know the requirements and expectations. Students take a full load of high school credit classes, which can include a mix of both regular classes, advanced placement (AP) classes and/or Dual Enrollment classes.

Students are fulfilling high school requirements as they get the college credit. The professors follow a state curriculum for the general education classes, which guarantees the credits are able to transferred to any state school. General education classes are those that are commonly required of all degrees: English, math, speech, foreign language, computer science and psychology. In order for the student to receive college credit, they must earn a C or better. Classes are taught either at the CMC campus, via online learning – or right at one of the four public high schools

Beyond the obvious benefits of cost savings and higher learning, dual enrollment should tempt students who may not have thought of college at all or may be first-generation college attendees.

The full-length version of this article can be found in the Summer 2016 Parents Handbook.

Middle School…learn, grow and take chances – while having fun!

By Gaby Fuentes

Ahh… dreaded middle school, do you know it well?

Oh, the boyfriends/girlfriends, the lockers, the stress, the piles of homework, and the all too well known ‘popular kids’. Wrong! Middle school isn’t the exaggeration that “they” make it out to be in the movies. Yes, you have a locker, and as Nick, from Eagle Valley Middle School’s seventh grade says, “I do like lockers, because it keeps your stuff safe…” And you don’t have to worry so much about forgetting your combination. If you have a lot of stress try taking a walk or playing a board game with your family. Do you have a ‘bestie’ with the same first letter in your last name? Here’s the catch: your locker is in alphabetical order, most likely. But hey, you’ll have some new locker buddies!

Aside from that, if you go to Eagle Valley Middle School, as I do, on Wednesdays we start at 9:20 a.m., also known as ‘Late Start’. Feel free to sleep in, or go treat yo’ self. On another note, Siyana from the seventh grade says that our school is unique because of, “All the different teachers, subjects (such as core classes and specials) and people.” Olivia adds that, “Our school is unique, because we offer many advanced classes (like exploratory and algebra) and many after-school clubs.”

Take your pick, there are a variety of clubs to get involved with: cooking, STEM (a science club focusing on science, technology, engineering and math), The Cycle Effect (mountain biking), unicycling, Girl PowHER, and homework help on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Which leads to a topic that is disliked by everyone…HOMEWORK! Let us guide you through the ride. Nick says that, “…Homework is bad for the environment, and wastes paper.” I agree 100 percent! Siyana takes on a totally different perspective by saying, “…Homework should be given only to challenged students.” What do you think? Me? I think that homework should be given only at times, when there is going to be a test on that particular subject, so you could practice the certain questions. Also, my recommendation for all you middle schoolers to-be or already middle schoolers, is that you try your absolute best, it’s not as hard as you might think.

I agree with all of them but my perspective is that middle school is a big leap of faith, where trust grows as much as you do. There is always something to smile about, and something to be proud of … and you will have fun.  As May Lamberton Becker once said, “We grow neither better nor worse when we get old, but more like ourselves.” Don’t be encased in trying to be someone else, you shouldn’t have to try so hard to be “in style” with the people around you. Be that person who is themselves always, and more people will like the person you are, rather than the person you thought everyone liked. With all that said, have the best years in middle school, instead of having the worst years.

Gaby Fuentes is an eighth grader at Eagle Valley Middle School. Quick with a smile and always looking on the bright side, she chooses to dispel the myths of middle school. Do you have a strong opinion that you want to share and would like to write for The Parents Handbook? Send an email to We love to hear what students of all ages think.

Cycling opportunities for families in the Vail Valley.

cycling in vail, eagle and avonby Shauna Farnell

Two wheels are a way of life around here, and there are many ways for kids to get involved and latch onto that lifestyle Kids who grow up in this part of Colorado are lucky. The same way they can just about be born with skis on their feet, when they’re surrounded by recreation paths, beautiful open roads and in the coming years, even Singletrack Sidewalks (at least in the town of Eagle), a knack for two-wheel transportation is a forgone conclusion.

Small children have naturally gravitated toward bicycles for decades, but these days it’s sometimes more difficult to steer them into wanting a new bike for their birthday than, say, an Apple Watch or an iPad.

The obvious way to cultivate a kid’s love for cycling (and by association, the outdoors in general) is with a Strider – one of those tiny, pedal-less push bikes that teach two-wheeled balance to riders between the ages of 18 months and 5 years, allowing many to skip training wheels altogether.

As you’re strolling along the sidewalk or recreation path, plop your toddler onto a Strider (with helmet on, of course) and he or she will organically learn how to ride. The transition to bikes with pedals, brakes and gears, is an opportune time to seal the deal for a kid’s love of pedaling and, luckily, there are lots of helping hands for that around here.

biking for kids in vailEagle

There’s a reason that the Colorado High School Cycling League state mountain bike championships are held here and that it’s become the first town in the world to build singletracks for sidewalks. Mountain biking is kind of a big deal in Eagle.

Mike McCormack, who was pivotal in getting Eagle’s Singletrack Sidewalks efforts off the ground and who also helped launched the Mountain Bike Little League program in Summit County many years ago, knew the benefits of introducing kids to biking long before his own 6 and 8-year-old sons became avid cyclists.

Three years ago he started Vail Valley Alternative Sports Academy, which, among other things, offers comprehensive mountain bike summer camps teaching 7 to 13-year-olds how to ride dirt and also the importance of environmental stewardship. “It’s like daycare with a purpose,” McCormack says of the camps. “They get a curriculum, exercise, and an appreciation for the outdoors. You can really use mountain biking to mind meld these little critters in many positive ways.”

Although the Singletrack Sidewalks are not yet completed, Eagle is, in general, the county’s No. 1 place for family mountain biking, with its miles of wide trails and singletrack over rolling high desert terrain (as opposed to long slogs up mountains in most other mountain biking areas east of Eagle). There is trailhead parking in Eagle Ranch or at the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink, and a comprehensive trail map at

cycling in vail for kidsEagle BMX

As most locals are probably aware, there is a sweet, USA BMX-sanctioned dirt track, complete with start gate, rollers, high- bank turns and berms, right next to the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink. Although it gets busy with riders of all ages – some practicing for races (which happen every Thursday throughout the summer) and others just feeling it out themselves –it’s a good place to get acquainted with the idea of riding on dirt.

The track even hosts Strider races on Saturdays. There is a lot of opportunity for dirt lovers who want to stick with the small bikes. Check out the rules of the track and race schedule at

Easy family rides

In addition to the BMX track in Eagle and the area’s many miles of rolling trails, thanks to the elbow grease of the young ladies of The Cycle Effect (see related story), Eagle-Vail will soon be home to its own brand new pump track, a small dirt loop with jumps and rollers, geared toward mountain bikes rather than BMX.

The track will be open to riders of all ages and ability levels and presents a great opportunity to familiarize oneself with the feeling of mountain biking over obstacles and around curves without too much gravity to contend with.

As far as pavement, there are, of course, the multitude of recreation paths stretching between East Vail and Gypsum, offering a prime place for toddlers to learn on pushbikes and for families to build up their out-and-bike mileage. Be sure to stay to the right of the path at all times in order to make way for fast-moving cyclists and other recreationists.

cycling in vail for kidsOnce everyone is comfortable on dirt and knows the intricacies of climbing, descending, braking and shifting, the family might be ready to gain some elevation on dirt. There are several gradual climbs on wide dirt roads accessible from the Berry Creek trailhead in Edwards. The bumpy and cracked but wide dirt road up Meadow Mountain in Minturn will ramp up the lung capacity at least one more notch.

At Beaver Creek, Village to Village trail is a fantastic introduction to on-mountain riding since it is much wider and more gradual than other resort trails … but it does require some uphill pedaling to get there (up the service road or down from the top if hauling bikes up Centennial Express chairlift).

On Vail Mountain, it’s possible to reach the Eagle’s Nest downhill easily via bike hauls on the Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead (or if the family is up for it, via the rewarding, six-mile slog up the service road). None of the Vail Mountain singletrack is easy per se, but once dirt skills are dialed on the pump track or BMX course, Radio Flyer and Big Mamba trails are thrilling options.

And high atop the Wildridge neighborhood north of Avon there’s a great new beginner trail called Our Backyard that will thrill and challenge young riders. It’s a .89-mile loop of single-track with very manageable grades ranging between 5 and 15 percent. “It’s like a rollercoaster,” says Max Williams, an 11-year-old Avon resident. “You have to work a little uphill but then you get to go down really fast. It’s really fun.”

Our Backyard is part of a system of beginner, moderate and expert single-track trails in the West Avon Preserve that was purchased and set aside as open space by the Eagle Valley Land Trust. There’s free parking at multiple trailheads but will require a bike rack to get you and your young riders to the top of the steep Wildridge subdivision.

The views of Beaver Creek, Arrowhead and the Sawatch Mountains are well worth the effort. Take the main Wildridge Road to the top of Wildridge, head left on Old Trail Road, left on Saddleridge Loop and then right on Beaver Creek Point Road to the Beaver Creek Point Trailhead.

cycling in vail for kidsCompetitions for everyone

It’s not necessary to possess competitive genes to partake in local races (until you enter the adult sport or expert race categories, where the fun is mixed with a solid dose of cutthroat). In addition to the weekly race events, including Strider races for toddlers on the BMX track in Eagle, the Vail Recreation District offers ample opportunities for pedalers of all ages and ability levels to compete in short track and mountain bike races, with events every week from spring to fall.

The short track races are open to children age 6 and older and typically only last five to 10 minutes, involving mostly flat dirt terrain. The mountain bike races are midweek mini social extravaganzas for participants of all ages. Not only are they the place to see and be seen for every active two-wheeler in the valley, but the children’s competitions have become the highlight of the week for young cyclists — the highlight of the summer, in some cases. “Kids participation in the mountain bike series grew 55 percent between 2013 and 2015, and I anticipate that trend to continue,” says VRD mountain bike race director Beth Pappas. “Biking is a lifelong sport that they can enjoy in many forms for years to come. The younger they get involved, the better to teach good habits like riding etiquette and trail/environmental stewardship.”

The local VRD mountain bike races always take place on Wednesday afternoons/evenings from May 27 to Aug. 26 at a different venue every week. The children’s course is between one and three miles long and is designed to be ridden in 20 to 25 minutes. For more information on the series, visit

Competitive teen opportunities

Is your kid clearly on his or her way to becoming a world cycling or mountain biking champion? In addition to the one-of-a-kind opportunity for pre-teen and teenage girls that The Cycle Effect represents (see related story), the Vail Valley Junior

Cycling Team is an incredible resource for teenage boys and girls who display an obvious aptitude for competitive pedaling. Originally dubbed Street Swell Cycling when the long board company’s owner, John Cummins, wanted to sponsor a few local athletes as they began competing on high school teams, Street Swell now partners with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail as the Vail Valley Junior Cycling Team.

Open to 14 to 18-year-olds, the team is comprised of at least 50 riders from Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley high schools, the Ski and Snowboard Academy and Vail Mountain School. They all wear matching racing kits and meet several times a week for group road and mountain bike rides and to compete in all of the local races and even some state and national competitions.

Coached by local pros, the objective is to help young riders become seasoned competitors. As evidenced by the 700 individuals that landed in Eagle last fall to compete in the Colorado High School Cycling League state mountain bike championships (up nearly 30 percent from the previous year’s turnout), there is a real need for speed. “The goal is to send some kids to Nationals,” Cummins says. “I really have seen a lot of growth. The development of the statewide high school series has been a huge part of that. It’s amazing living in Colorado and to try to count how many kids are not involved in cycling, somehow, some way. We have some athletes that are quite good.”

High-altitude race camp

Pedal Power Bike Shop and Leadville Racing holds a high-altitude mountain bike race camp in early June on the Leadville campus of Colorado Mountain College – the highest college campus in the nation. The camp is specifically geared toward young riders looking to improve their racing technique and hone their competitive edge. Geared toward all levels, young racers learn how to train for competitive racing surrounded by the 14,000-foot peaks of the Sawatch and Mosquito ranges in the heart of the Rockies.

Camp participants will learn from professional riders as well as coaches from the highly successful Leadville Racing high school team. As head coach for Leadville High School’s race team, Pedal Power owner and race camp director Bruce Kelly has been a part of competitive high school bike racing since its inception. As he watched it gain popularity and the level of competition rise, he saw the need for more organized training methods.

With that goal in mind, he has assembled some of the most successful bike and endurance racers from the region to help develop and implement this program. Fellow coaches include Tokyo Joe’s professional racers Gretchen Reeves and Jay Henry, along with Pedal Power team members Adam Plummer and Stacey Kelly.

Kelly is also an assistant coach with Leadville Racing. Between them they bring a combined century of professional bike and endurance racing expertise to the camp.

For more information or to register call (970) 845-0931 or go to

Free clinics, pint-sized bikes and something for mom

Venture Sports offers rental discounts for Vail Mountain Bike Camps and it also supplies ample equipment for young riders, including Striders, kid-sized Camelbacks, clothes and helmets, children’s mountain bikes with 24-inch tires, and even kid-fitted road bikes that can be rented or demoed.

“I think we’re the only shop in the valley to sell kids road bikes,” says Venture Sports owner Mike Brumbaugh. “If you have a 10- year-old kid who wants a road bike, oftentimes all you have is a $3,000 custom-made option. We have junior road bikes that are considerably more affordable.” Venture also hosts the new Vail Valley Vixens women’s cycling club, a group of women of all ability levels that meets for weekly group rides and warmly follows a “no-drop” policy, meaning that nobody gets left behind.

“Needless to say there’s lots of moms in that,” Brumbaugh says. “We have people who are hardcore, racing Ironmans and Nationals, and people who have literally never ridden a bike more than two miles. If you don’t know the difference between the rear brake and front brake, you’ll have someone show you the ropes.”

To become a member (it’s $35 and includes Venture discounts), visit

Ensuring that everyone in the family knows how to change a flat tire is kind of important. Venture Sports offers free clinics pertaining to repairs and all things cycling at 5:30 p.m. on June 9, July 14 and Aug. 11. Venture also hosts group mountain and road rides for adults, open to all ability levels and free to the public. They meet at 5:15 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 14 at the Northside restaurant parking lot in Avon.

For more information on clinics or group rides, visit or call (970) 949-1318.

Cycling by the Numbers

Vail Valley Alternative Sports Academy mountain bike camps in Eagle: six-day sessions in June and July for 7 to 12-year-olds. Camps cover everything from how to shift gears, rules of the trail, technique and fixing flats. Go to

High-altitude mountain bike camp: Pedal Power and Leadville Racing every June on the CMC Campus in Leadville. Cost includes the camp, all meals and lodging at the CMC Timberline Campus dormitories. Call (970) 845-0931, go to

BMX camps: Basic BMX camps: six-day sessions for 5 to 12-year-olds on the track in June and July. There is also a four-day race camp: consecutive days on the track, preparing for competition for 5 to 13-year-olds.  Go to

Vail Valley Junior Cycling Team: This is a competitive mountain bike team for 14 to 18-year-old riders that meets several times a week, competes in all of the local races as well as a few statewide and national competitions. The summer program and includes races and 70 to 80 sessions. There is also a fall high school training/racing program. Go or call (970) 476-5119.

Vail Recreation District races: Mountain bike races on Wednesdays from May to mid-August. Kids pay per race or a one time fee for the entire 7-race series. Races are at a different venue in the valley and kid’s courses are 1 to 3 miles in length, taking 20 to 35 minutes. Go to


Rafting + Dinosaurs = Best Day Ever

billy_doranPlay means something completely different when your kids learn from ‘play-leontologist’ Billy Doran.

White water adventure with a side of dinosaur digging? Yes please!

Can you imagine rafting down a river, a river where dinosaurs roamed, where they ate, lived and fought? It’s not exactly like Jurassic Park, the fictitious movie where humans and dinosaurs clashed, but it’s the next best thing: Timberline Tours is teaming with the Fossil Posse to create one heckuva exciting adventure for kids and families alike.

First off, just what is the Fossil Posse? Besides an incredible adventure and a stunning fossil3_webpiece of history right here in Eagle County, it’s a camp that winds kids up and lets them learn hands-on about fossils, dinosaurs and the prehistoric times. It’s hard to know if the kids get jazzed from the fossil pit or they pick up on the energy from Billy Doran, the founder of Fossil Posse and a self-taught paleontologist. He deems himself a play-eontologist and it’s easy to see from his high energy and enthusiasm that’s not far from the truth.

Despite Eagle County not seeming an ideal climate for dinosaurs, Doran read a few books, got addicted to the idea of fossils nearby, studied a few maps and the geological layers… and soon enough found actual dinosaur fossils: leg bones, vertebra and footprints that turned out to be some of the largest dinosaur footprints ever found, Doran talks excitedly.

It’s not that hard to get kids excited about dinosaurs, to get them dreaming and envisioning these behemoths wandering the land.fossil5_webDoran takes it step further, creating a fossil pit where kids can hunt for real and replica fossils.

“This summer we are teaming with Timberline Tours, we’ll be doing dinosaur rafting trips,” Doran says. “There are parts of Colorado where you can see footprints and fossils, we’ll talk about the geology, then go back to camp and dig in the fossil pits.”

The kids will be absorbing the information as they float down the Upper Colorado with Timberline Tour professionals, then get to back, dig – and keep the fossils they find.

fossil6_webTimberline will take the kids – and families too but kids over the age of 10 can go solo – from Rancho del Rio to State Bridge. They will get to see dinosaur footprints, learn geology and feel the spray on their faces as they paddle the river, says Greg Kelchner of Timberline Tours.

“The trip is about an hour and half in the river, depending on water levels,” Kelchner explains. “It’s limited to two boats, so it’s a relativity small and compact group. Billy will talk about the rock formations that are visible along that stretch of the river, he’ll talk about geography and paleontology.”

Timberline Tours has more than 40 years of rafting experience, so the kids are in experienced, safe hands while you’re out on your own adventure. After the raft trip, the kids will spend the afternoon digging fossils that they can take home.

This is living history taken to an entirely different level – one that can, seriously, only happen in Eagle County.

Fossil: adjective fos·sil \ˈfä-səl\: a group of people who are together for a particular purpose

Posse: noun pos·se \ˈpä-sē\: preserved from a past geologic age

The details:

  • The trips are offered Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • Kids over ten can be unaccompanied; kids ages 8 and 9 can come on the trip with a parent.
  • Lunch will be provided.
  • Timberline Tours will pick up and drop off at hotels, or families can make arrangements to meet.; 970.390.4831; 970.476.1414

Adventure, anyone? Nature’s playground just got a serious boost.

Skiers and snowboarders know there are no friends on a powder day. Soon enough friends just might be lost on a blue-sky, mountain-top summer day, as your ‘friends’ will be jockeying to experience the Vail Mountain’s Epic Discovery adventures. The new on-mountain adventures have been a couple of years in the making – the concept was approved by the U.S. Forest Service in 2014 and construction began as soon as the snow melted in 2015. So just what’s in store?

While riding up the Game Creek Bowl lift this winter, if you could tear your eyes off the deep powder, you might’ve seen new towers and lines over head. Plan on checking them out up close this summer as part of the Game Creek Zip Line Canopy Tour. As you soar, zip and traverse high above the world, commune with nature in a completely unexpected and different way. Combining eight zip lines that span more than two miles and aerial bridges – some 300-feet above the mountain below – along with a guide who will teach about the environment and ecosystem, this is a mix of beauty and brawn, adventure and education.

For an adventure that is just a little bit less… adventurous, check out the Forest Flyer. Tame enough for even the most nervous Nelly but fast enough for the adrenaline junky, the Forest Flyer is 3,400-thrill-inducing feet long. Mom might ride the brakes while dad lets the coaster roar through the forest down the raised track. Invariably there will be races and one-upmanship, peals of laughter and cries to go faster. Parents and kids can ride together or anyone over 54 inches can control their own destiny.

Adventure Ridge

A bit to the east is Adventure Ridge, which has become a family favorite. After all, who doesn’t want to brag they tubed in the summer, tackled a challenge course, reached new heights on a climbing wall – that starts off two miles above sea level? Luckily there are options for kids and adults, so no one will have a chance to whine that they’re bored.

Adventure Ridge offers a kids’ zip line and challenge course. Kids can fly through the air on the nearly 200-foot Little Eagle Zipline. Nearby, kids can get a taste of a challenge on the Pine Cone Adventure Course complete with rope bridges, suspended wood bridges, swinging logs and carabineers.

The Aerial Challenge is aptly named. Even standing on the ground and watching adventurers work their way on beams and ropes, clipping and out, going over and around causes heart palpitations. Actually doing the challenge can cause palms to sweat but a glorious feeling of accomplishment upon belaying down. Although there is a beginner and an intermediate/advanced option, all are challenging, and the perfect way to get a shaky leg. The view from the top is unrivaled, so if you need to rest and catch your breath and your balance, at least you’ll enjoy the scenery.

Let gravity take over on the 1,200-foot long Zip Flyer or on one of the three tubing tracks at Eagles Nest Tubing or on the Marmot Mini Tubing.

Human Power

A few years ago, the hard-working crews on Vail Mountain added ‘flow’ mountain biking trails that bring pure joy to knobby-wheeled fanatics. According to Vail Resorts, “The flow trails are built slightly wider than typical downhill trails and designed for intermediate mountain bikers as well as with sustainability in mind. According to the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), characteristics of a flow trail include synergy with the landscape, forgiving and natural terrain that is accessible to a wide range of riders, and banked turns and rollers that are designed to maximize a rider’s forward momentum.” One ride down and you’ll be hooked.

There are a plethora of other trails, as well, for a wide range of abilities from pro athlete, intermediate weekend warrior and to the beginner. Tidbit: there are more than 52 miles of mountain-bike specific trails wending around the mountain. Some are just for downhillers, others for cross-country riders. For the newbie and the youngest in the group, ride the gondola up and enjoy the road down. They’ll feel like they challenged themselves without a fit of frustration on technical singletrack.

Our favorite? Big Mamba and Radio Flyer. Hours of fun. Bike up and flow down or do laps on the gondola.

Some of us like our feet planted a bit more firmly on the ground, thank you very much. Planted in a way that is not quite planted – like a hike. There are some off-the-beaten-path rest stops on the top of Vail Mountain that offer a splendid respite from action and adventure – but getting there can be as challenging as easy as you choose. Want to sweat? Take the twisty, heart-pounding, elevation-gaining Berry Picker from the base of the mountain to Eagle’s Nest. If you have a couple of youngsters in tow, try Eagle’s Loop – a short trail that meanders along the ridge with spectacular views of the Mount of the Holy Cross. Are you not comfortable exploring on your own? Enjoy a guided tour with a local who can share stories, local lore and information on flora and fauna.

A lovely break from the hustle and bustle of Adventure Ridge can be found in the Nature Discovery Center, a community-based partnership between Vail Resorts, the U.S. Forest Service and Walking Mountains. The all-seasons yurt is cool in itself. The expert naturalists are kind, patient and knowledgeable on most any question thrown their way. Take a walk with one of the experts – your eyes will be opened to nature in a whole new way. Or explore on your own on the new wildlife exploration trail, featuring mountain flora and fauna and a series of installations that captures kids’ imaginations – each one showcases an animal trait, such as vision, stride, agility and strength.

You’ve done it all – ropes, zip lines, alpine coaster, nature course, climbing and the trampoline. Clearly, you deserve a little something as a reward. Check out The 10th for a refined dining experience – a little bubbly goes a long way at 10,000 feet. Or sit on

the Talon’s Deck on Eagle’s Nest and enjoy outdoor dining, summer sun and views that are heaven sent.


Valley Communities

Every town has a distinct feel, just as every neighborhood in each town is special to its residents. Thinking about moving? Here are just two choices.

gypsum colorado parents handbook

Once a seemingly far-flung tiny town on the western edge of Eagle County, Gypsum has become a hot spot for families. Affordable homes, tons of parks, bike paths, a rec center, fishing ponds, hiking trails, horse property and what feels like an extra two months of warm weather makes raising a family in this town an easy choice. After all, wouldn’t want to call “2015 Playful City USA Community” home?

One of the older towns in Eagle County, Gypsum was settled by ranchers in 1883. There are still ranches and horse properties in the 8.37-square-mile town, as well as condos, duplexes and single-family homes dotting the valley floor.

The town has taken a proactive approach on growth and is committed to creating a master plan that encourages economic growth. Eagle County Regional Airport and Costco are both part of Gypsum’s tax base. It’s home to the first biomass energy plant in Colorado and to the High Altitude Aviation Training Site.14531+Highway+6+Gypsum+CO+USA+482339_001_S

Residents have a number of options when it comes to finding a home: from Buckhorn Valley near the airport to Eagle River Estates at the entry to town; Cotton Ranch to Sky Legend, perched high above the town’s golf course; Brightwater on the far end of town to the quaint, older bungalows and cabins in downtown Gypsum. Gypsum is also home to Stratton Flats affordable housing and Habitat for Humanity’s latest projects. Housing costs are far less than Gypsum’s up-valley neighbors: prices range from $200,000 with the bulk of homes selling for between $300,000 and $750,000.

Neighbors know each other in this town of 6,800 residents and know how to have a good time. The town hosts myriad of events and family-friendly festivals including the wildly popular Gypsum Daze in mid July. They can relax together at the outdoor pool or play a round of golf at the Gypsum Creek Municipal Golf Course, take in an outdoor movie at the Lundgren Amphitheater or swim, climb and work out at the 57,000-square-foot recreation center.

In a town that focuses so much on family, schools are bound to be important. There are two elementary schools, a middle school and high school – which was ranked in the top 10 percent of high schools in the United States by U.S. News and World Report.


new-bg1Heading east and taking the corner at Dowd Junction, one enters a different world – a snow globe much of the year and the resort town of Vail, home to seven community parks, Vail Mountain, a Tyrolean-inspired pedestrian village, gardens, amphitheater and miles of trails. Home to Ute Indians then miners, next sheepherders and ranchers – Vail has a past that’s hard to imagine today.

Head a bit farther east and you’ll enter the enclave that is East Vail. Residents of here feel passionately about their community. The tall rock walls make the night come earlier in the winter with nature right outside the door. Bighorn Park nestled at the far end of East Vail is the perfect family hang-out spot. It was remodeled recently and has grills for cooking, a pond for fishing, an area for dogs to run and a park that will keep toddlers to tweens occupied for hours.

Hikers can access numerous trailheads, and bikers can test their lungs and legs by pedaling up the old Vail Pass road to the summit of Vail Pass. For a more sedate adventure, walk or bike into town on the bike path – or ride one of the town’s free buses. (Fun fact: Vail has the largest free transportation system in the United States.)

Kids from East Vail generally attend Red Sandstone Elementary School then head down to Homestake Peak for middle school. Vail Mountain School is also based on the Frontage Road.

Shopping for kids in Vail

Shop Talk by Heather Hower

kids shopping in vail candy storesI am not much of a shopper. My 9-year-old daughter on the other hand gets an obvious rush from shopping. She waxes enthusiastically about trying on clothes, sorting through the ‘yes’ pile and getting a few new outfits.

In the dressing room she lunges and squats, jumps around to make sure everything fits just right. She’s not the type to save an outfit for later. She usually wears it right out of the store, or at the very latest, the next day.

She’s a tomboy to boot but there’s something about the transformative powers of clothes. I can see her picturing herself at school in a new dress or on the playground in different shoes. As most any woman can attest, a new outfit can create a new attitude. And lucky for us, Eagle County has some fabulous shopping options.

We tracked down some of the favorite places for the younger set. There’s everything from running shoes to party dresses, toy stops to sweet shops. Warning – don’t try to do this all in one day. There’s just too many options. KidSport in Vail is a one-stop shop for kids, teens and tweens. The owners travel almost three months of the year finding fancy to rad, not only what’s cool to parents, but what kids must have.

shopping for kids in vailThe store, used to be known for its gear and brands like Patagonia, Spyder, Burton and Obermeyer, has a softer side with its boutique offerings. “We have a strong boutique side of our business,” says Eric Belyea, co-owner with his wife, Michelle. “We have higher-end brands that are absolutely beautiful. We carry Splendid and Ella Moss, two very popular women’s brands that we carry in kids.”

You can’t help but swoon a little when your ‘little’ girl comes out in a twirly, light-as-air Ella Moss dress. Add to her look with a sumptuous cashmere sweater and fun leggings from Zara Tarez. Shopping might be a girl’s favorite past time but that doesn’t mean boys want to miss out on the fun.

More and more, boys want to be as stylie as their sisters, and they can be just as, if not more so, particular. Besides the popular surf brands – think Volcom, O’Neill and Billabong – KidSport goes a little deeper. “Appaman is a fun, cool, trendy type-of-deal,” Eric says. “We have casual shorts to collared shirts.”

The kids are decked out, that doesn’t mean you’re done yet. This is where your kids’ mouths will really start watering: electric skateboards, skateboards with LED lights, orbit wheels, Sbykes (pedal scooters) and scooter and kick bikes. “Our whole concept is outfitting the active kid,” Eric says. “Whatever toys or accessories we carry, it’s about being outdoors, being active. Even the books we carry are about using your mind, using your hands. We don’t want a sedentary kid, it’s what we are built on.”

shoping for kids in vail candy storesWhat kid can sit around when there is a Sbyke calling? For the uninitiated, it rides like a scooter but pedals like a bike. “It’s almost a cross between a scooter, a bike and a unicycle. It’s a real unique product,” says Eric, as if he needs to explain. Rounding out the offerings, KidSport has the pads, helmets, hats, socks, sunglasses and even water bottles to keep everyone happy and hydrated.

KidSport runs the gamut from sensible shoes to cashmere sweaters, scooters and padded bike shorts. Being stylish and ready for adventure never looked so good.

Global Design, Local Find

For the moms who have shopped at Perch, one of Vail’s hottest stores, their mini-mes now have the option to be just as stylish thanks to owners Laurie O’Connell, Kerry Roach and Jill Alfond.

Laurie explains Skipper & Scout fills a specific niche: for the fashionable woman with a modern lifestyle – this woman is not trendy, she has an appreciation for high quality and premium brands. And most of all, after she shopped at Perch, she wanted to find comparable brands for her daughter. “It’s about the modern mom and the brands we carry,” Laurie says. “These are the clothes that support her lifestyle year-round. It’s more fashion and style. “It’s been very well received. There was a customer out there who wasn’t finding what she wanted in Vail and people were very excited to find these brands in Vail. Now they can walk across the street [from Perch] to get their kids clothing.”

shopping for kids in vailThe store carries, for example, Stella McCartney, who, Laurie says, is a global designer sought after in New York, Europe and South America. “There’s an appetite for that level of clothing in Vail, it’s very fun.” Skipper & Scout carries lines from baby up to size 14. Kids will be well outfitted, it’s not stuffy clothing – the clothes are designed with the active child in mind and are positively swoon-worthy, whether a brightly colored frock, chambray romper or Euro- inspired shorts.

The clothes are surely fashionable but are not for the sedentary – this is Vail, after all. Take, for instance, Native shoes that are designed for the beach – or in our case, the fountains and streams throughout the village. Then there’s Marc Jacobs or Milly for special occasion dresses: Fashion that’s functional, accessible and appreciated. “It’s more about the quality, unique, hard-to-find product, the special product,” Laurie enthuses. “Fashion is fun and should generate an emotion. You want your customer to get excited about the product.”

And if the number of kids swarming the store is any indication, the customers do indeed get excited about the product, from the make-it-yourself watches, specially picked books, magic cards, doodle books, girlie trucker hats, in every nook and cranny there is something special, unique and fun.

On the off chance the kids aren’t enthralled with all the store offers, they can grab a soccer ball and hit the turf that’s on the rink out front.

candy stores in vailLike a Kid in a Candy Store

Exhaustion can set in after a few hours of shopping – but there’s a cure for that and a product sure to get kids excited – candy. There’s Fuzziwigs in Vail Village near the Children’s Fountain. It’s stocked with chocolate, penny candy, rock candy – any kind of sweet you or your kid can dream about.

Further down valley, there’s the brand new Sugar Bar, a 1,000-square-foot store flooded with natural light and enough confections to cure any size sweet tooth. Owner Nancy Tellor opened the store last September and has been in the throes of making it a must-stop for kids of every age – and their parents of course.

Nancy has the perfect focus group – she’s a mother of four, so she knows a thing or two about candy favorites. A few bucks goes a long way here. But be warned, spending that few bucks could take a few hours! The Sugar Bar has 30 bins of quarter candy, another section for candy under a dollar, then the favorites: Jelly Bellies, Hot Tamales, Sweet and Sour, gum, fun dip, licorice, sour candy and a lot of gummies.

“Kids come in and do a lap all around the store to see what they want,” Nancy says with a laugh. There’s tables set up indoors in the winter so parents can chill out while the kids find just the right piece of candy. There’s a couple of screens playing movies, so kids can chill out too. “It’s a place to celebrate and hang out, it’s something different in the valley.”

Nancy stocks the kids’ favorites – anything super sour and fruity. A hot seller is the Quattro Sour Power Belt, which is a very sour long gummy strip in tons of colors. Yikes! Besides candy (who else needs candy?), there’s gelato, hot chocolate, Avery soda, Japanese marble sodas, Coke with real sugar and mother’s little helper: coffee.

Later this summer, the staff at the Sugar Bar will be hosting parties where kids can make their own gelato or cupcakes, fill their candy bags and wile away the afternoon in a sugar daze.

shopping vail kidsActively Outfitted

After the sugar rush hits, there’s time for more shopping at Ptarmigan Sports just down from the Sugar Bar.

This outdoor- inspired store carries myriad of brands for the outdoor active lifestyle. For us, it’s the go-to place for Keen shoes, sun hats, swim wear and outfits that go from the playground to the concert scene seamlessly. “Keen sandals are great for kids, they’re very versatile. Kids can wear them hiking and in the water,” Steve Lincks, owner of Ptarmigan Sports says. But even more than the sturdy footwear and cool-casual clothing, Ptarmigan carries so many other items that kids need – they just might not know it… yet. Slacklines. They’ve become very popular after the last few Mountain Games in Vail, where kids and adults alike become entranced watching people walk, twist, skip and even flip on the four-inch wide piece of webbing.

Everything and Beyond

shopping in vailThe town of Eagle is 15-miles west of Edwards and has become a mountain biking mecca with trails that twist and turn through sagebrush, climb up into high alpine desert and offer beautiful descents. When the riding’s done for the day, a kid’s gotta play and The Nearly Everything Store has just what the name implies.

From Legos to Bog boots, fishing rods to crafts, books, treats, puzzles and teapots – the store has everything. Part of the fun is strolling up and down the aisles, comparing the different wares, trying to select the perfect item. The beauty of The Nearly Everything Store is that you have no idea what the perfect item is until you see it – and there is a lot to see.

The store has quite a history of its own – bought by the Hoza family in 1966 as a pharmacy till it grew and morphed into a store that sold nearly everything. In January 2015, the Batsons (who run the pharmacy) bought the business and have put their own stamp on it in the way of tons of toys, new books, different cards and party supplies.

Eagle County isn’t the podunk valley that fashion left behind. The area’s fashion and adventure experts will keep your kids outfitted for any adventure, whether a hike up the mountain or a bar mitzvah at the Ritz.

The Cycle Effect by Brett and Tam Donelson

cycling programs for girls in vailThe Cycle Effect By Shauna Farnell

Brett and Tam Donelson are building dreams, bolstering young lives one female rider at a time When Rita Gutierrez first tried mountain biking, she narrowly avoided crashing headfirst into a river. Six years later, you won’t catch the recent high school graduate going anywhere without a bike.

Gutierrez is a veteran member of The Cycle Effect, the nonprofit group founded by Edwards residents Brett and Tam Donelson. The organization’s goal is to empower and enrich the lives of teenage girls through mountain biking. It has grown 300 percent since launching in the summer 2013.

By 2016, it’s on track to double once again. With teams in Eagle, Edwards and Summit County, The Cycle Effect is comprised of about 75 girls, most from lower-income Hispanic families. It is an evolved iteration of the Donelson’s first brainchild, a smaller team of female riders from the same demographic called Ells Angels, which was run in conjunction with The Youth Foundation.

That’s how Gutierrez was initially persuaded to try biking again after that first off-putting ride. “I was terrible. I never wanted to get on a mountain bike again,” Gutierrez recalls. “But everyone else on the team was also new at it. We were all clipped into the pedals for the first time. That was a big challenge.”

Needless to say, the learning curve for Ells Angels and then Cycle Effect riders delivered many more crashes for Gutierrez and the rest of the team. But then it became obvious that the girls were not only bonding with one another but growing as people – becoming more confident, focused and dedicated not just in training and racing, but in other areas of their lives.

cycling programs for girls in vailA place for kids

“I wish I could say it was some huge master plan five years ago that I would start a nonprofit,” says Brett Donelson, who was an alpine coach at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail for many years. “I just thought, if you can help kids stay healthy and ride bikes, there’s nothing better than that. Now I really want to create a place for these kids. We’re not the Bad News Bears anymore. Yes, there’s faster kids and slower kids, but when we have the high school boys team wearing Cycle Effect trucker hats, we have to say, ‘OK, we’re onto something.’”

Training and conditioning for The Cycle Effect begins in January on Monday and Wednesday afternoons in the gym or, if the weather allows, outside. By April, the Edwards and Eagle riders get on bikes and out on the trails, beginning with basics like clipping in and out of pedals, and then learning techniques for cornering, shifting and braking.

By the time May rolls around, the short track season is in session, and the team is whittled down to the girls who really want to be there. “We see a high turnover rate at the beginning. Girls don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. They think, ‘Wait. I don’t want to get dirty,’” Donelson says. “Obviously, not every kid wants to be a mountain bike racer.” But then those who stay realize that getting dirty can lead to great things: new friends, better fitness, a fresh sense of pride and self-respect and even opportunities to go to college.

Once a rider is committed to the team, she gets a full riding kit – jersey, helmet, bike shoes, and access to a high-end bike for the race season. The Cycle Effect is funded by donations from local sponsors like the Roadhouse Hospitality Group and gear suppliers Giant, UVEX and Primal.

The rider pays an annual fee of $125 (with discounts and payment plans possible) and gets 80 days of practice and free entry to local races. Once The Cycle Effect takes effect and a rider experiences her first race, tapping into that communal well of adrenaline, the magic is contagious.

cycling programs for girls in vail“The older girls break down the barriers and the younger girls think, ‘I can do what this girl from my culture is doing.’ The whole philosophy is so much greater than just mountain biking. It’s creating dreams,” Donelson says. “Once you experience doing something really challenging and you’re successful, it’s easy to apply that to any avenue in life.” Hence The Cycle Effect’s unprecedented growth in the last three years.

Abigail Elizalde, a junior at Battle Mountain High School, is rapidly becoming a team star during her second year in the program, and her 13-year-old sister is eager to join this summer. “I’ve always liked doing sports, but I had never done mountain biking. It got me so much fitter and healthier,” 17-year-old Abigail says. “I really like how Brett started this program to help girls find themselves. It’s my little sister’s first year biking. I like showing her how to do things right. You just want to be healthier in general when you get into it. You don’t just want to eat Cheetos all the time.”

A positive path

So far, 100 percent of high school graduates involved in The Cycle Effect have gone onto college. If team members don’t keep their grades up, they’re not allowed to ride. Before they set off on rides without their coaches (there are about 12 Cycle Effect coaches, all volunteer), every girl must know how to change a flat tire.

Mike Santambrosio runs the Eagle Cycle Effect program, which added a middle school team this season, and has witnessed many personal transformations among his riders. “I’ve got a girl in her second year in Cycle Effect. She’s a 4.0 student, but very quiet, very reserved. I approached her about joining the program, and this year the transformation is ridiculous,” Santambrosio says. “She’s laughing and joking with girls in class. She’s tackled all these obstacles, and it’s made her extremely confident. She’s really coming out of her shell. The same could be said for the other returning girls. The sense of pride is fantastic. They all wear their Cycle Effect hats before races. On Facebook, they’re all blowing up about their rides and the team. It’s such a positive outlet.”

Any mountain biker can relate to this phenomenon. No matter what kind of stress one is facing in life, the sport is literally all about strength, overcoming (pedaling over) obstacles, staying balanced and focused on the path ahead. It’s about getting back in the saddle if you fall. And these days, falling doesn’t faze Cycle Effect riders like Gutierrez, who was selected from a group of 5,000 high school students across the country for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association’s Leadership Award and is going to attend Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction — selecting it largely due to its proximity to great mountain bike trails.

“I can remember what it was like the first time I raced,” she recalls. “I was nervous with super sweaty palms. I was thinking the whole time if I fell, how would I get out of my clips? Now it’s so different. I think if I fall I have to get up and start running. I have to get my bike, run and get back out there.”

For more information about The Cycle Effect, visit the website, email or call (970) 306-7572.


Tips for kids heading to Vail and Beaver Creek Ski School

There are all sorts of tips to get your kids ready for ski school. Here are some that we found most useful.


Mittens: obviously kids need them. But if they are too big little air pockets form at the top and kiddo’s fingers are cold. They are too little—the kids won’t wear them. Go for the Goldilocks effect here and make sure they are just right and are waterproof.

Helmets: required. Again, make sure it fits snugly. Protect those developing noggins.

Make the morning hasslefree. We lay out all the layers the night before, from base layer to neck gaiter so we leave nothing behind. There’s been more than one day we’ve had to visit the ticket office to get a replacement pass. Now, we just leave it in the ski jacket’s pocket.

My daughter is an observer, a watcher, a thinker. She has never been one to jump right in to anything without full analyzation. Knowing this, I told her what the day would hold, what time we would get there, who she would be with and overall what she would need to know. It seemed a little bit like overkill, but it calmed her nerves. After her first day, I asked if she liked it. She said, “I didn’t like it.” My heart fell a little, until she continued, “I loved it!”

Eat a hearty breakfast. It’s can be a challenge to get up and eat, so we make egg burritos the night before and eat them on the drive to Vail. Other easy take-along snacks we always have with us are healthy bars, fruit leathers, applesauce pouches, cheese sticks. I love this recipe for healthy, inexpensive energy balls that we all devour. You can add or subtract for your preference: try cocoa powder, almond butter, different nuts.

1 cup (dry) oatmeal

2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ

1/2 cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs (optional)

1/3 cup honey or maple syrup

1 Tbsp. chia seeds (optional)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Stir all ingredients together until thoroughly mixed. Cover and chill for half an hour. Once chilled, roll into balls. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to one week.

Most importantly, remember it’s supposed to be fun.  Read about Vail and Beaver Creek Ski School

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Make 2016 the year to start a 529 plan


By Stephen Stribling
If you haven’t done so already, 2016 may be an opportune time to start saving for your children or grandchildren’s college education – while giving yourself a tax break in the process.
Last year, the average out-of-state tuition and fees for one year at a public four-year college or university increased 3.4% to $23,893.[1] Tuition and fees for private nonprofit four-year institutions rose even higher at 3.6% over the same period to $32,405.[2] By establishing a 529 plan, you’re not only taking advantage of a tax benefit but also giving a child or grandchild a helping hand toward alleviating the skyrocketing costs of higher education.
Here are some common questions asked about 529 plans:
What is a 529 plan?
• Named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, a 529 savings plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future college costs. The two types of 529 plans include a college savings plan and prepaid college tuition; both are generally sponsored by state agencies. Your cash is invested in investment options established by the plan. The total value is dependent on the performance of the investment options that you choose. The growth of these assets is tax-deferred and will be free from federal taxes if used to pay for qualified educational expenses. There are approximately 12 million 529 accounts currently in the U.S. with more than $248 billion invested and an average of $20,474 saved.[3]
What are the advantages of a 529 plan compared to other college savings options?
• Two major 529 plan benefits include flexibility and income tax advantages. 529 plans are great when it comes to flexibility. Virtually anyone can contribute to the plan on behalf of the beneficiary including parents, grandparents and other extended family as well as friends. Additionally, investments can be used at a wide range of higher education institutions. Once the student is ready for college they can withdraw the funds to pay for qualified expenses at accredited colleges, universities and even technical schools. While contributions are not deductible, 529 plans are federal tax-free and will not be taxed when the student is ready to withdraw funds. [4]
Does investing in a 529 plan affect scholarship opportunities?
• A 529 account owned by a parent for a dependent student is reported on the federal financial aid application (FAFSA) as a parental asset. While parental assets are assessed at a maximum 5.64% rate in determining the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), this is more favorable to student assets that are often counted at 20%.[5]
How does a 529 savings plan affect financial aid?
• Colleges can establish their own formulas in distributing their own scholarship and grant funds. While many follow the federal formula when making awards based on financial need, some do not. Colleges may specifically inquire about 529 accounts set up for the student and make adjustments to your child’s award. Again, it’s best to contact the school beforehand and ask how 529 plans are handled under its institutional aid formula.[6]
You may want to consider contributing to a 529 plan as a gift for birthdays and holidays. While this may not be your children’s or grandchildren’s favorite present, I promise that they will come to appreciate it come college time.

Stephen Stribling is a Financial Advisor with the Global Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Denver. The information contained in this interview is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors as the appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives. Morgan Stanley Wealth Management LLC (“Morgan Stanley”), its affiliates and Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. Investors should consult their tax advisor for matters involving taxation and tax planning and their attorney for matters involving trust and estate planning and other legal matters. Investing involves risks and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, or its affiliates.