Day trip to Summit County

summit county family activitiesDaytrip: Summit County By Shauna Farnell

In the same spirit as the Vail Valleys seemingly endless ski-town offerings of summertime family fun, nearby Summit County is equally equipped to serve up overflowing days of adventure and exploration. In addition to a change of scenery, Summit County offers certain summertime opportunities not found in our fair valley or in many other places, for that matter.

A half hour from Vail, Summit County has plenty of mountains and ski resorts, but Lake Dillon and its shores present a slew of fresh options. And then there the areas exciting mining history to explore. To pack as much as possible into a day trip east of Vail Pass, here are some kid-tested, parent-approved ways to spend a full day in Summit County.


The Butterhorn Bakery on Frisco’s Main Street has been around for decades and is pretty special for diners of all ages with its gamut of fresh, homemade breads, muffins and pastries. It goes out of its way to ensure that kids develop a taste for fresh baked goods with its affordable children’s menu that offers a couple of varieties of French toast (made with either cinnamon fruit bread or multi-grain), scrambled eggs or the standout Mouse Cake with powdered sugar, fruit and whipped cream.

Go to or call (970) 668-3997.

Pedaling, picnicking at the Frisco bike park.

Head up Highway 9 to the Frisco Adventure Park. You’ve been wanting your kid to get into mountain biking but have been a bit afraid to introduce him/her to the overwhelming force of gravity that comes with flying down a narrow trail zigzagging across a ski slope.

The Adventure Park, which doubles as a tubing hill and Nordic area in the winter, is home to four free bike courses open every day of the summer. The pump track allows bikers of all levels and ages to pedal over rollers and berms on relatively flat, open ground. It’s a great way to learn shifting, braking and cornering techniques.

From there, you can move onto the dirt jump or slopestyle course, or get competitive on the dual slalom track. Then pack up your sandwiches and head down one of the peninsula’s rolling singletracks or dirt roads ending at the lakeshore. There are sandy spots and breathtaking panoramas perfect for a picnic.

Go to or call (970) 668-2558.

Breck alpine coaster, slides and zipline With the family cardio capabilities maxed out for the day, how about a less strenuous route to the next adrenaline rush?

Drive 12 minutes to Breckenridge and take the gondola to Peak 8 for the thrill of charging down the mountain on the Gold Runner Coaster. Smaller tykes can ride with you on the self- controlled carts, which fly down the half-mile track of curves, dips and twists.

For a similar rush, tear down one of three alpine slides, all of which wind through fields of wildflowers on rolling sleds at full throttle or at a more leisurely, smell-the-roses pace. To ramp up the heart rate a little more and leave the speed up to gravity, try the TenMile Flyer Zipline. Strap onto the cable 1,500 feet up the mountain and soar 50 feet over the grassy slopes reaching speeds of 45 mph as the pine trees become a colorful blur.

Go to or call (970) 496-4700.

History lesson

One huge draw of towns like Frisco and Breckenridge that set them apart from Vail is that long before ski tourism took over, people flocked to the area for a more materialistic lure. There was at one time lots and lots of gold in them thar hills. In Breckenridge, the best way for families to learn about the area’s mining legacy is to travel headlong into a mineshaft, where every one of your senses can experience what it was like to be a Colorado miner more than 100 years ago.

Dating back to 1887, Country Boy Mine just outside of Breckenridge offers 45- minute mine tours down a deep mining tunnel. Learn about the gold that was found in the area, the techniques and tools involved and the kooky characters who earned their fame in the Old West. The tours wrap up with an actual gold-panning session.

Go to or call (970) 453-4405.

Keystone a kiddy wonderland

Next up is another quick drive, taking the shortcut from Breck over Swan Mountain into Keystone, less than 30 minutes away. Most parents are already aware of the wintertime hub of activity Keystone offers for pint-sized guests, so it’s no surprise that in the summer the resort is a festival of crafts, bouncy castles and kid-specific fun.

The Keystone Pond is a peaceful place to spend late afternoon, particularly on a paddleboat or kayak. There’s also a tree house to explore and a huge indoor arcade with free wii rentals. The Kidtopia Play Park, complete with bounce house and bungee trampoline, is just down the road in River Run Village.


Keystone is also the county’s best place to be for dinner, since the resort is home to a handful of Colorado’s No. 1 dining options. The cozy Ski Tip Lodge offers exquisite, seasonally changing four-course meals that finish with dessert in front of the fireplace.

There’s also Keystone Ranch, with its farm-to- table-fresh fare and four-course specials for children in the rustic but elegant setting of a 1930s homestead. Or there are on-the-mountain dining options, involving a scenic ride up two gondolas, for family-style fondue at Der Fondue Chessel or the AAA Four-Diamond-rated Alpenglow Stube.

For a more casual and adventurous option, sign up for a Wagon Dinner and take a horse-drawn wagon from Keystone Stables through the grassy meadows of Soda Creek for a 30-minute scenic ride to a barbecue dinner outdoors. The grub is grilled chicken, smoked ribs, corn on the cob and apple pie for dessert, and the soundtrack is cowboy-style live guitar.

Call (800) 354-4386 or go to


Kids Adventure Games in Vail

kids adventures games in vailKids Adventure Games: Born in Vail, now a national hit By Pepper York

Challenge your child this summer in the ‘coolest adventure obstacle race on the planet’ From being a semi-professional adventure athlete to the adventure of being a dad, Billy Mattison melded these two passions and is the proud founder, along with his wife Hélène, of the Kids Adventure Games.

The first adventure race was his twins’ birthday party, where three- and four-year-old kids climbed ladders, swung on ropes, jumped over stumps – they were kids being kids. As the years went by, the birthday became bigger and bigger with longer courses and more challenging adventures.

kids adventure gamesThis being Vail, their birthday-party tradition soon grew and morphed and burgeoned into a “real” race. So real that in 2014 the Mattison family hit the road and made it a cross-country adventure race series. In Vail alone there were 366 teams with 732 participants over three days of competition last year.

“Everybody thought so highly of it I decided to go to the Vail Rec District; they loved it,” Mattison says. “It doubled the race in size each year. Kids, the town, parents, they all loved it. Everybody said, ‘You should take this on the road.’ Last year was the first year of doing a big tour. We had a great summer.” The kids who participate in the race also had a great summer, taking on challenges like slacklining over mud pits, tubing down a creek, hunting with blow-dart guns, hiking underground rivers, and, most popular, a slip-and-slide that sends kids splooshing into a big pool at the bottom.

It’s all a sneaky way to get kids to work together, get exercise, challenge themselves and, of course, have fun. The race is open to kids ages 6 to 14, with an anticipated 1,000 kids testing their skills in Vail Aug. 5-9 this year. “It’s definitely my favorite race I’ve done so far,” says Eli Howard, a Vail 9-year-old who has done the race three years and counting. “It’s very fun, there’s never a limit. My favorite part is getting to ride my bike from challenge to challenge. But my favorite challenge is the Tyrolean traverse.” The Tyrolean traverse, for those who’ve never done the course, is no simple thing. It’s described as a method of crossing through free space between two high points on a rope without a hanging cart or cart equivalent.

kids adventures games in vailAccording to Wikipedia, “This is used in a range of mountaineering activities: rock climbing, technical tree climbing, caving, water crossings and mountain rescue.” Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Ha. It’s similar at the Adventure Games, but more of a zipline. Still challenging, huh? Although all the courses have similar challenges, each venue and race is unique. They are similar but very different, Mattison says. They really let the area determine the obstacles.

“We look around and see what it’s got to offer. In Vermont, there were big trees blown down in a storm. They became great balance beams through a swamp,” Mattison says. “When we get there, we walk around and see what the place has to offer. The sky’s the limit.” Each year the courses and races are slightly different, too, Mattison says. As if ziplining and rock climbing aren’t challenging enough, he wants to keep the kids guessing. “We like to add and subtract things that don’t work. Every year we try to mix it up a little,” he says.

The only requirement is that the obstacle should be something kids will like. The challenges sound grueling and a little scary… but they’ve got you covered there too, with four optional skills clinics offered before the race day. There’s rock climbing, mountain biking, teamwork and adventure racing 101. But as we all know, kids are tougher than adults, and seem to have far less fear.

kids adventure games in vailMore than likely, these kids have been out mountain biking, summiting mountains and rafting rivers since they were born. A kid’s life in Vail is anything but sedentary, after all. (All skills clinics are capped at 100 participants and have sold out in the past.) Who’s to say kids are the only ones who get to have fun?

The Vail Recreation District and the Mattisons are always adding to the weekend – how does a family fun mud run sound? The inaugural event had more than 300 runners slop their way through a muddy trail run. Now that this is a nationwide event, the Mattisons are on the road most of the summer. And the twins have a very important job – they have to test the courses. “They are good course testers. It’s good to have them around to time it and see if there are any flaws in the system. We’re kind of like a carny family, hitting the blue highways,” Mattison says with a laugh. “We’ve got the inflatable pool for the slip and slide. We have big trailers – it’s like when the circus comes to town.” A new-kind of ultra-fit carny family indeed.

kids adventure games in vailSidebar * On the road again * * If you’re not going to be in Vail for this year’s race Aug. 5-9, check out these other dates and locations: * * June 19-20, Snowbird, Utah * * June 26-27, Squaw Valley, Calif. * * July 10-11, Trapp Family Lodge, Vt. * * July 17-18, Snowshoe Resort, W.V. * * Aug. 21-22, Mammoth, Calif. * * Aug. 28-29, Big Sky, Mont. * * Sept. 5-6, Sun Valley, Idaho * * * * * *


There are a variety of obstacles over the three-mile course that will take kids anywhere from a little less than one to two hours to complete. Kids will be tested – hiking up steep hills, biking singletrack and working with their partner. If your child seems interested, better sign up right away. The race has sold out every year and is on track to do the same this year. Teams can be coed and racers can be of different ages – they will compete in the older age group. This is a team event, so two partners are needed to complete the registration.

Parents are welcome to go on course, but must refrain from helping their child. The course has plenty of marshals to assist if needed. Dress for success: have kids wear appropriate moisture-wicking clothing, good running shoes that will get wet and a helmet and bike gloves, as well as a lightweight rain jacket, but these games go on rain or shine.

Go to, email or call Hélène Mattison at (970) 401-3804 for more information or to volunteer.

Where to swim in Vail and Eagle County

swimming pools in vail and eagle countyDIVE IN by LS Burns How to get landlocked mountain kids comfortable in the water in Eagle County

Getting mountain kids acclimated to aquatic environments can be challenging in a place covered by snow seven months of the year, but thankfully there are a handful of both indoor and outdoor public swimming pool options available in Eagle County.

Tiffany Oetting thinks about water when she thinks back on her childhood growing up near Michigan’s Great Lakes. “I can remember as a child always being in the pool or lake nonstop and loving it,” says Oetting, who lives in Edwards with her husband, Chris, and their daughter, Chloe. “My parents put my brother and me in swim lessons at a very young age. This helped us to learn to save ourselves if we were ever in a situation involving water and taught us to not be afraid of the water.”

Oetting wants the same for Chloe, who she took swimming for the first time when she was 5 months old. Now, as a toddler, Chloe loves pool time. Nearly every Friday the Oettings have a mommy-daughter date at the Avon Rec Center pool. “She really is a little fish when it comes to the water, and just loves it,” Oetting says. “When she was really little I would dunk her under the water to get her used to getting her face wet. And now when she goes under she has learned to blow water out of her nose and not to breathe or drink the water.”

Now Chloe, though only 15 months old, is very comfortable around water. “I just love the fact that she isn’t afraid of the water. She’s even started to want to slide down the little water slides they have at the pool,” Oetting says. Getting mountain kids acclimated to aquatic environments can be challenging in a place covered by snow seven months of the year, but thankfully there are a handful of both indoor and outdoor public swimming pool options available in Eagle County.

From toddlers to tweens

For Oetting and many others, the Avon Rec Center facility is extremely kid-friendly, with features that appeal to the little swimmers, like smaller slides, fun animal character sprayers, bubblers and fountains, all in a pool that’s kept around 90 degrees to prevent those little teeth from chattering.

Plus, there are features the tween set will dub cool, like a 140-foot water slide and an AquaClimb climbing wall where both kids and adults can practice their climbing techniques, with a fun splash back into the pool when finished. “The way their kiddie pool is set up is perfect for all ages,” Oetting says. “It’s a graduated pool with fun water animals, water slides and even a tiny lazy river for toddlers to enjoy. Chloe has been going to this pool even before she could walk and just loved crawling everywhere in it and just enjoying the warm water. It has a large pool area and water slide for when she’s older.”

Hours of fun

Speaking of fun pool features, the outdoor Gypsum Creek Pool, which is managed by the Western Eagle County Metropolitan District and located at the Gypsum Creek Golf Club, has a Witbits Fast Track that’s new this year. The 62-foot floating obstacle course is for children 42 inches or taller, and adults too.

swimming pools in vail and eagle countyIt can be used by individuals or for competition, says WECMRD aquatics director James Schultz. “The course starts off with a wiggle bridge with six round discs, some of which flip and some don’t, and ends with hurdles where you try to jump from hurdle to hurdle,” Schultz says. “The goal is to go end to end without falling off.”

The town of Gypsum and WECMRD chose the Witbits because it “builds balance, coordination and motor skills in children,” plus it equates to “hours of fun,” Schultz adds. The Gypsum Creek Pool is one of three outdoor public swimming pools in Eagle County that’s open in the summer. Guests can order food from the Creek Side Grill and eat poolside, Schultz says.

There’s also a small toddler pool that is a 1.5 feet deep and kept at 89 degrees. “Most of the guests who come to the Gypsum Creek Pool like to relax and hang out with their children,” Schultz says. Up valley, the Eagle-Vail Pool is another outdoor swimming pool option open from mid-May through Labor Day each summer. Along with a water slide and a zero entry kid’s pool with spray features, there are other amenities that make it pretty attractive to families. Bring lunch or dinner over to the pool and cook on the free barbecue grills (there are even tools) and then dine at the picnic tables with sun umbrellas.

When kids need a break from the water, there’s a large grassy area where they can play. It’s worth mentioning that the pool uses a salt water, ozone and solar system for heating and sanitizing the pool. The pool offers a full array of classes — everything from private swim lessons and water aerobics to baby and me classes.

With the exception of Gypsum Creek, each of the public pools offer swimming lessons. Contact each pool for individual schedules and prices. Six months of age is around the time Schultz recommends taking your child swimming for the first time. When it comes to getting kids comfortable in the water, it’s important to make it fun.

“The best thing to do is play with your kids in the water, one on one,” Schultz says. “Sit on the edge and talk about it. Splash a little water on them so they get used to it.” WECMRD offers parent-child swim classes for children age 6 months to 3 years old year-round at the Gypsum Rec Center and during the summer at the Eagle Pool.

Swimming lessons begin at age 3 with the tadpoles class and continue on. The classes focus on skills like kicking and blowing bubbles and teach parents about child safety and the proper way to enter and exit the water. “Parents go away with skills and games they can do with their kids in the water,” Schultz says. “It’s all about trying to get the kids comfortable in the water.”

Your Best Bets to Get Wet in Eagle County

• Eagle Pool and Ice Rink (outdoor): 1700 Bull Pasture Road in Eagle; (970) 328-5277 and Hours: The pool opens for the season on May 29 and closes Aug. 30. Call for hours. Family-friendly features: The pool has a walk-in entry for children and a frog slide, as well as a large grass area for lounging near the pool. There’s also a climbing wall, a water slide, a vortex and more. Cost: $5 for kids and $7 for adults. Summer pool passes available.

• Gypsum Rec Center pool: 52 Lundgren Boulevard, Gypsum; (970) 777-8888 and Hours: Summer hours begin June 1. Call for hours. Family-friendly features: There’s a walk-in entry for kids, a spray feature, lazy river and two water slides. The pool is kept 87- degrees year-round. Swim lessons are offered Monday and Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Cost: $5 for kids and $7 for adults. Summer pool passes available.

• Gypsum Creek Pool (outdoor): 530A Cotton Ranch Pool (at the Gypsum Creek Golf Course), Gypsum; (970) 777-8888. Hours: Monday-Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. daily from June 1-Aug. 10. Family-friendly features: New this year, this pool has a Fast Track by Wibits, an inflatable obstacle course that floats atop the water. The pool is kept at 85 degrees. Cost: $5 for kids and $7 for adults.

• Avon Recreation Center: 90 Lake Street, Avon; (970) 748-4060, Hours: Open swim is from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. Aquatic features are open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. Family-friendly features: There’s an Aquaclimb Climbing wall, 140-foot water slide and a lazy river. The slide pool is kept between 90 and 92 degrees. Zero-depth entry in the kid’s pool and fun animal character sprayers, bubblers, fountains and age- appropriate slides. Cost: Avon residents are $12 for adults, $8 for youth or seniors; non-residents are $14 for adults, $10 for youth or seniors; kids age 2 and under are free.

• Eagle-Vail Swimming Pool (outdoor): 450 Eagle Road, Eagle-Vail; (970) 949-1203 and Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily from mid-May through Labor Day. Family-friendly features: There’s a special beach entry kid pool with spray features heated to 90 degrees. Enjoy a water slide, free barbecue grills for public use, picnic tables and sun umbrellas, a large grassy area, snack food and lifejacket rentals. Cost: Eagle-Vail residents are $9 for adults, $7 for youth; non-residents are $12 for adults, $10 for youth.


Shopping for kids in Vail

kids shopping in vail candy storesShop Talk by Heather Hower

I 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.

Kidsport Coupon

Sugar Bar Coupon

Vail Jazz festival for kids and other musical offerings

music events in vailPint-sized performances By LS Burns

This summer, Vail Jazz will produce more than 45 shows from late June through early September, many of which will appeal to youngsters. “Our mission is to perpetuate jazz with a focus on young artists and young audiences,” Litt says. “Kids are a huge part of the festival. We offer easy listening performances and hands-on educational programs geared toward introducing jazz to children. “It’s exciting as a parent to see what sparks interest in your children when they witness live music played at such a professional level,” Litt continues.

If your child is more of the hands-on type, they’ll likely enjoy Jammin’ Jazz Kids, which takes place every Sunday in July at the Jazz Tent at Solaris at the Vail Farmers’ Market tent. The free, interactive educational program is for children age 4 to 12. Jazz master Tony Gulizia, who has been teaching and performing locally for more than two decades, teaches the classes.

The 50-minute sessions begin at 11 a.m. and feature a new topic each week. “One week we’ll do the rhythms of jazz and the next week we’ll focus on the improvisational aspect of jazz,” Gulizia says. “It’s very informative for young kids, but I’ve gotten so much feedback from parents too, who say ‘I’m glad I stayed; I learned so much.’” Speaking of staying, consider grabbing lunch and then watching Jazz at the Market, the free afternoon shows featuring local and regional jazz groups performing a wide range of styles.

Catch a kid-friendly concert in Eagle County this summer Classical music filled the soundtrack to Robin Litt’s childhood. “My mother was an opera singer and a concert pianist, so I grew up with classical music playing 24/7, more than my sister and I liked at the time,” said Litt, who is the executive director of Vail Jazz.

Looking back “I really appreciate that my parents instilled a love for music in me,” she says. Given that, Litt exposed her daughter, Hannah, and son, Sam, now ages 14 and 15 respectively, to music early on. “Introducing music into young children’s lives is so important in their development — it inspires creative movement,” Litt says. “It calms little ones and it also fosters strong listening skills. There are so many studies that tie early listening to strong math skills; it’s the beat, rhythm and melody that children can relate to. Music is so powerful and it’s a gift for kids to be able to grow up with.”

Litt’s children took piano lessons for many years, and both enjoy music. “My son sings in the high school show choir and plays in drum line and both of my children are active in performing arts, singing and dancing,” she says. Compared to similar-sized communities, Eagle County affords families unparalleled access to a wide variety of culture.

muscial events for families in vailOn Thursday evenings, you can catch Jazz at Vail Square at the jazz tent in Lionshead. The two-hour shows, which begin July 2 and run through Sept. 3, will appeal to both the jazz newbie and the aficionado alike thanks to the wide variety of jazz styles presented— from bebop to the American Songbook, straight ahead jazz to the blues.

Free family fun Some of the best kid-friendly concerts in the Vail Valley also happen to be free. On Thursday evenings during the summer, Eagle Town Park morphs into a bright patchwork sea of blankets, picnic fare and busy children.

The ShowDown Town concert series takes place in July and August and you’re likely to see many of the same faces at each show since it’s a summer bucket list item for many Eagle County families. The series kicks off July 2 this year. While the specific acts had yet to be announced at press time, all of the concerts have a few key things in common. “All ShowDown Town performances are family-friendly and feature free activities for kids,” says Kate Peters of the Vail Valley Foundation, which puts on the concerts. “Families often bring chairs or a blanket and pack their own picnic.”

The bands come from a wide variety of genres, including rock, bluegrass, jazz, country, cover bands and more, in order to appeal to all ages and interests, Peters says. The nearby playground allows parents to watch the band and keep one eye on their child while he or she runs off some energy before bedtime.

There are also family activities each week, which includes things such as face painting, balloon animals and character sketches.

The ShowDown Town concerts aren’t the only option when it comes to getting the kids out of the house and in front of a good performance. Along with gorgeous weather, each summer the Vail Valley boasts a wide variety of kid-friendly concerts and performances at venues throughout the county.

Up- valley, the longstanding and very popular Hot Summer Nights shows take place for free Tuesday evenings at the Ford Amphitheater in Vail. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the shows start at 6:30 p.m. Top-notch tributes Appropriate for the slightly older children, the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek has a few shows on the summer schedule that will appeal to all ages.

Stayin’ Alive, A Bee Gees Tribute Concert, is slated for July 2. Expose your littles to the disco era with hits like “Night Fever” and “Jive Talkin’.” The dance pit will be open for the show, and the folks at the Vilar Center encourage families to bring their children, as it will be one big dance party for all ages to enjoy.

musical events in vail for kidsIntroduce the kids to the Fab Four with another tribute concert on Aug. 29 when 1964 The Tribute visit the Vilar Center. The Beatles tribute band has been around since 1984, performed around 3,000 shows and released their own albums and videos. “We love bringing topnotch tribute shows to the Vilar Performing Arts Center and they’re always a big hit for families,” said Kris Sabel, the executive director of the Vilar Performing Arts Center. “While reliving their past, parents have the opportunity to expose their children to the tunes they grew up listening to, kids have the opportunity to experience the excitement of a full scale concert, and it’s always fun to see all ages dancing together to timeless classics.”

Classic creations If classical music is more your family’s bag, Bravo! Vail has a handful of concerts taking place this summer that are suitable for children of all ages.

“Let’s Dance” with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra takes place July 8 at the Ford Amphitheater and showcases a combination of classic and popular dance styles, including waltz, cha-cha, tango, swing and jazz paired with classic tunes. Lawn seats are $5 for kids age 3-12.

In a rare opportunity, Bravo! Vail will host a live concert of NPR’s acclaimed radio show From the Top with host Christopher O’Riley on July 9 at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek. Bravo! is collaborating with Colorado’s National Repertory Orchestra for pre-professional orchestra players from age 18 to 28.

bravo vail event in vailThis show is suitable for children age 7 and up ($10 for children age 7 to 12). “Audience members will be part of the show’s creation before it airs on the radio, while meeting a young generation in love with classical music — a positively rare insider opportunity,” says Carly West of Bravo! Vail.

Last year the Philadelphia Orchestra performed Disney Fantasia: Live in Concert while the popular childhood classic screened overhead. This year, the Philadelphia Orchestra returns for Pixar: Live in Concert on July 11. The orchestra will play music from 13 Pixar favorites such as “Toy Story,” “Up,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters, Inc.” and more, while showing animated movie excerpts. Kids of all ages will enjoy this event, as well as the free family concert slated for July 16 at 11:30 a.m.

Members of The Philadelphia Orchestra and two actors will captivate youngsters with Prokofiev’s playful Peter and the Wolf. Arrive when the gates open at 10:30 a.m. for a chance to check out the Instrument Petting Zoo and a variety of games and activities.

Summer Day Trip to Glenwood Springs

summer family activities in vail

It’s amazing how the landscape changes once you head west of Vail. The alpine environment quickly transforms to high desert, with sagebrush dotting the surrounding mountains rather than pine trees. If only for the drive itself through one of the country’s most beautiful canyons, the day trip to Glenwood Springs, Colorado is worth it.

Located about an hour west of Vail, Colorado on Interstate 70, Glenwood Springs, Colorado offers spectacularly colorful summer scenery but is also a rich stomping ground for family activities that can make for a lifetime of detailed memories in the course of one fast-moving day.

Morning hike to Hanging Lake

It might be best to eat an early breakfast at home and pack plenty of snacks. It would be a crime to go to Glenwood Springs without checking off what is perhaps the most popular hike in all of Colorado.

Be warned, however, that while the trek is relatively short (less than a mile to the lake), it is steep and rocky, gaining more than 1,000 feet of elevation. Wear sturdy shoes and bring lots of water. Especially on a weekend, it’s best to get there early to get a decent parking spot, and also be aware that when you follow the signs to Hanging Lake on westbound I-70, reaching the trailhead parking involves doing a u-turn and doubling back eastbound for a couple of miles.

The trail winds through the shaded red walls of Glenwood Canyon, Colorado across a couple of footbridges over the lush, bubbling Dead Horse Creek and up a final set of rock stairs and switchbacks to the magical view of the turquoise blue lake and waterfall.


You’re bound to work up a serious appetite post-hike, so after a 10-minute drive into town, you’ll find a few tasty lunch spots in Glenwood Springs’ historic downtown.

A somewhat surprising kid favorite and obvious winner for adults is the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub. Ordering a pitcher for the table is an absolute must – a pitcher of root beer, that is. Like the rest of the place’s brews, this non-alcoholic treat is made onsite. One of its secret ingredients is locally harvested honey. The Brewpub’s food also incorporates as much Colorado-grown produce and meat as possible, and the kid’s menu has some fun surprises.

Go to or call (970) 945-1276.

family activities in vailCave Tour

The Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park has a couple of options for cave explorations (not to mention a full slate for other thrill-seekers), but by far the most fascinating is the guided walking tour of the Fairy Caves. Traveling underground for a quarter mile, the tour lasts 40 minutes and takes you into a magical natural world that does indeed look like the ideal place for a blossoming fairy colony.

Massive tree roots reach through the ceilings, which are crouch-sized tunnels in some spots and vast 50-foot-tall underground auditoriums in others. The minerals from the river and nearby hot springs have embedded a rainbow of colors along the cavern walls, and the water has formed bubble-like structures amid the stalactites and stalagmites. There are tiny rock formations that take on the shapes of straws, popcorn and bacon. The spooky cracks and crevices appear to delve into the core of the earth. If you don’t believe in fairies, you might start having second thoughts after a trip through this ethereal underworld.

Go to or call (800) 530-1635 for more info.

Thrill rides and laser tag

Also at the top of the gondola on Iron Mountain above Glenwood, the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is home to the country’s first alpine coaster. The metal track dips and curves for 3,400 feet, and rather than the traditional mechanical train you’d find at an amusement park, you zip down on individual sleds.

Control your own speed through pine forests, wildflowers and down the mountain, high above town with views of the surrounding canyon. Oh yes, there’s also a traditional roller coaster at the Glenwood Adventure Park, which happens to be the highest in North America.

family activities in vailAptly named The Cliffhanger, this coaster rips around sharp curves and steep dips on the top of the cliff with the Colorado River a thin pencil line nearly 1,500 feet below. For bigger kids and true thrill seekers with an iron stomach, prepare to taste your own guts if you ride the Giant Canyon Swing, a pendulum that pitches passengers out at a 90-degree angle, forcing a direct, straight-down view of the trees and river far.

A tamer way to travel down the cliff is via the Soaring Eagle Zip Ride. Unlike a zipline, this cable line ride is comprised of a pair of seats that still provides the sensation of bird in flight. Indoor thrills If the weather is iffy or if you’re in the mood for a friendly indoor competition, the Adventure Park’s laser tag is an exciting way to replicate an Old West-style shootout. Aim for the blinking targets while crouching behind barrels, lurking in dark corners and bursting through saloon doors.

The park also has a 4D theater with rumbling, moving chairs, water spray and short cartoons and action films. If all of the above options sound appealing, rather than buying individual tickets, purchase the Adventure Park’s FunDay Passes.

Go to or call (800) 530-1635 for more info.

End of the day soak

Although it might look like a gigantic swimming pool, the Glenwood Hot Springs, complete with kid’s wading area and water slides, are the work of natural mineral pools bubbling up from the Colorado River. The hot springs are comprised of at least 14 more remedial minerals.

The pool is open until 10 p.m. every day of the summer, but the kiddy pool closes at 5 p.m., and the water slides at 6 p.m.

Go to or call (970) 947-2955.



Summer Camps for all kids in Vail Colorado

summer camps in vailBrain Teasers By Heather Hower

Beyond summer school: these camps engage the mind and the spirit of even the youngest camper.

Summer break is the idyllic time when kids can run, play, hang out and put a brake on learning. Only that isn’t really true. Without some sort of education taking place, kids can lose progress they made over the academic year. All those hours of spelling words down the drain!

This isn’t a new phenomenon by any stretch: Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004).

STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math, is the latest educational catch phrase and is plastered everywhere.

Getting and keeping kids interested in science and math can be challenging, but with some of the coolest camps around, kids will be immersed in learning without evenrealizing it. No worksheets and times tables here – these camps will stem the summer slide, but more importantly, they might even light a passion for science within. Read on because we’ve found the perfect combination of learning and leisure with Eagle County’s plethora of camps.

Get Dirty, Learn Clean Eating

summer camps in vailThere’s a real food revolution going on if you haven’t noticed. Get kids growing their meals and before long they’re asking to make dinner, try spinach, help compost and even weed the garden. The Youth Foundation’s Sowing Seeds summer camps are an extension of the school year program, which is the highest altitude public gardening program in the world. The summer camps let kids get their hands dirty – literally – while learning about nutrition, gardening and healthy cooking.

“Everyone should know where their food comes from, how to garden and how to grow their own food,” says Sandy Story, the program director.

Sowing Seeds works with all ages of children from the Garden Sprouts, ages 4 to 6, right up through 11 to 14 year olds as Garden-to-Table Chefs. The Garden-to-Table program is new this year and will have tweens and teens creating their own lunch masterpieces with renowned chef Kelly Liken, using fruits, vegetables and herbs harvested from the Sowing Seeds gardens and greenhouse.

“We have a lot of unique things growing in all of the gardens, anything from brussel sprouts to watermelon and everything in between,” Sandy quips. Younger kids get to sample fruits and veggies they may otherwise wrinkle their nose at. Harvesting sweet strawberries, pulling carrots and sampling snap peas takes place throughout the day, interjected with yoga and water time.

summer camps in vail There’s even a rumor fairies come to visit at night, leaving behind trinkets in each campers lovingly created fairy house.

Sowing Seeds camps take place at Brush Creek, Eagle Valley and Edwards Elementary Schools throughout the summer.

Definitely NOT Summer School

Camp Deep End is based out of the Eagle County Charter Academy in Edwards. While it’s at the school, it is not summer school, Joey Peplinksi, the director and teacher, is quick to point out.

“We focus on what interests the kids the most. We keep them engaged,” he says of his five-day per week program. Last year he had a group of boys who were way into baseball. So Joey hid math-building skills deep within baseball stats. Girls were obsessed with the movie Frozen. They teamed up to come up with different endings to the movie: Language arts at its best.

The camp day starts at 8 with circle time, getting to know one another and then morphs into reading comprehension. The campers spend an hour and half each day synthesizing thoughts and making connections. Groups are formed based on individual levels, Joey says where they spend an hour doing math – again disguised as fun.

summer camps in vail“We keep it game based. It’s definitely not school. There are no work sheets,” Joey says. “I try to keep it fun and interactive. As a teacher, I design camp around getting away from losing everything over the summer.”

Afternoons are devoted to adventures, whether going to Freedom Park or Singletree in Edwards,catching the bus to Nottingham Lake, EagleVail or Beaver Creek. They get outside to run, play and be kids. Kids can come to camp every day, or just a few times a week.

Camps run from 8 till 5:30 with only eight kids per session.

STEM-ming the Summer Slide

Walking Mountains Science Center is a natural resource unto itself. What once was a tiny venture based in Red Cliff is now a thriving center in Avon. With changing programs geared towards children of all ages, it’s a go-to for many parents, something kids are thrilled about.

The educators at Walking Mountains have some serious summer fun planned with its new STEM Discovery programs. Children in fifth and sixth grades will dabble in bio mimicry.

“We will be exploring how engineers have used nature’s ingenuity to create some of their greatest designs and sustainable solutions,” says Beth Markham, youth programs director. “We’ll look at trains inspired by bird beaks, wind turbines that resemble whale’s fins. These students will engineer their own inventions.”

For the seventh and eight graders, Beth is super excited about the underwater robotic camp. What kid wouldn’t want to participate in becoming an aquatic biologist for the week? The first few days the kids will design, create and build their own aquatic robots that can, as the name implies, go in the water. Then the kids will go to different locations in the Eagle River Watershed, and using their robots, they will collect water samples and analyze the water quality.

The last in the STEM Discovery triad is Design, Create, Discover, where kids look at machines and the way things work.

It will be heavily focused on engineering marvels from bridges to generating energy. Campers will use the laws of physics to harness their creative power to address building and design challenges.

“This program is all about looking at machines and the way things work,” Beth enthuses. “We’ll look at the big green bridge in Red Cliff, how bicycles can be used to generate energy. They’ll be building a few different items.”

Mad Scientists at Work

Kids love to make potions – the messier the better. And if it doesn’t have to be at your house? Even better! Enter the Vail Recreation District’s Mad Scientist camp that takes place on select Fridays throughout the summer. Each week has a special focus allowing kids to gain an understanding through testing, observing and manipulating.

“Many children have more fun when they have a project to focus on. This camp gives children social opportunities in a non-threatening environment,” says Chad Young, director of youth services at the Vail Recreation District.

Kids are able to spend a full day exploring one topic, allowing them to get more in-depth. Topics include magnetism, solar power, electric motors and rockets. “We give guidance, but there is also the freedom to explore and experiment,” Chad adds. “We teach the scientific method, or portions thereof, in a playful way.”

Although it is play-based, the kids get pretty creative and determined in their study.

“We had fun building magnetic accelerators and simple electric motors last year. I was amazed by one little girl who made electric motors – she does not always get to be the super-star in a school setting, and she relished that role here.

Mad Scientists is open to kids ages 7 to 12.

The Other Kind of Learning Ute Springs Experiential Learning Center takes on learning in a different way – a way to build character through outdoor play and exploration.

These camps, for kids from ages 7 right through high school, develop and foster leadership and team building skills while teaching social/emotional skills and providing tools for personal growth. Definitely not a place to sit still, campers explore Vail Mountain, Piney Lake, Mountain Valley Horse Rescue and learn how to work together solving problems, mastering tasks and taking on chores.

Children are given the chance to take on challenges that might seem intimidating, but as their peers cheer the mon, offer assistance and they all gain trust in each other, they are able to succeed.

“While the Ute Springs Experiential Learning Center camps do have a component of academics incorporated within each program, our true focus is on allow kids the space to develop foundational social-emotional skills such as self and social awareness, and leadership, relationship and responsible decision making skills,” Amy Ben-Horin, executive director, says.

“Research shows that the aspects of camp that we integrate (being outdoors, journaling, semi-structured free time and movement/exercise) at Ute Springs are keys to learning, as well as establishing the skills that allow us to make and keep friends, understand our personal strengths and challenges and work within a community to accomplish certain goals.”

In one short week last year, my young friend helped clean a horse stall, made dinner, did her first sleepover and made seven new friends. Every afternoon the kids write about their experiences, remembering what made them feel good and what they want to work on in the future.

Camps fill up quickly, so make your summer plan and get your kids’ brain working.


Minturn Anglers-a great gift idea!

By L.S. Burns

This Father’s Day, forget the boring tie or tired golf shirt and get dad something he’d really enjoy — a fly fishing adventure.

Kids love to catch fish!

Kids love to catch fish!

Minturn Anglers, with locations in Parker and the Vail Valley, is offering a Father’s Day special that’s sure to please pop. Enjoy a walk and wade fly-fishing trip for two people on the Eagle River for the price of one ($440, single-day fishing license and guide gratuity not included). Purchase the special through the third week of June and redeem anytime through October. Everything is provided for the day, including all fishing gear and waders. Dad can apply what he learns from an experienced guide to his own fishing adventures.
“We love to guide trips; guiding trips is our number one thing,” said Dave Budniakiewicz, the manager of the Parker location. “We take anyone out — from the absolute beginner to the most advanced.”
If a guided trip is out of your budget, the store has plenty of other options sure to make dad grin.
The store carries a large selection of Patagonia clothing and apparel from Simms, including waders, boots, packs and fishing clothing. Bamboo shirts have been really popular, according to Budniakiewicz. Made by Free Fly, the shirts are super soft and comfortable, and as a bonus, they’re antibacterial (which means they won’t retain any unpleasant smells), have UV protection, wick moisture and help regulate body temperature. There are more than 10 colors to choose from; the long sleeve shirt is $59.95 or the hoody is $69.95.

fishing with kids in Vail

Catching is better than fishing!

There are plenty of cool accessories to choose from as well. Consider getting dad a selection of flies, or some new Simms nippers. There are also flasks from Montana Fly Company, Fishpond toiletry kits, iPhone covers with artistic fish patterns and high end, polarized sunglasses from Smith and Costa Del Mar.
Or if dad is looking to get into tying his own flies, you could buy him a gift certificate for either a group or one-on-one fly tying class, offered November through March. The classes cover the essentials of fly tying and helps attendees build the skills needed to successfully tie flies.
For more information, email, visit or call 720-851-4665.

Discount coupons are available here!

Talk to your kids about legal pot in Colorado

Honest, Open and Informed: How to talk to your kids about pot in the new cannabis culture

It doesn’t matter who you’re talking to in Colorado these days – or even outside of the state – the topic of pot will come up. There is a fascination with the state’s legalization of recreational marijuana in 2014 that borders on obsession. And don’t think your kids aren’t listening.

Talk to you kids about marijuana

Talk to your kids about marijuana

Children at a very early age begin to pick up on what all the adults are talking about, especially if it’s the first question out of the mouth of your van driver on the way to Universal Orlando Resort in Florida,. My wife and I and our three boys experienced that on a recent trip, politely deflecting his questions about all those “wild-eyed stoners out in Colorado.”
The fact is, no matter how you voted on 2012’s Amendment 64 – which led to Colorado in 2014 becoming the first state in the nation to begin legal sales of recreational marijuana – very little has changed. And then again everything has changed. One pot shop employee compared it to the end of the Prohibition on alcohol in 1933. It was just four years later that the federal government first began passing laws that criminalized marijuana consumption.
Virtually since the inception of the Colorado ski industry, but especially during its boom in the 70’s and 80’s, Rocky Mountain High has had at least two meanings. Vail’s old Vistabahn bubble chairlift recently replaced by Gondola One used to be referred to, with a wink and a nod, as the “Rastabahn” for the clouds of smoke that wafted from it like the crowd at a Bob Marley concert.
Weed has been de facto legal in ski towns for decades. Police, for the most part, looked the other way, and a one-hitter or a joint was as standard a piece of ski equipment as a bota bag full of wine. It’s still illegal to smoke legally purchased pot in public, especially on U.S. Forest Service land leased from the feds by most of the state’s ski areas. Still, that skunky smell persists.
Some tourists from more conservative parts of the country are stunned at the open display of what has been taboo for most of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century. And a lot of them are even more shocked to see actual stores in Eagle-Vail and Eagle openly selling pot. But what really sends some folks over the edge is how everybody is talking about it.

Open, honest and informed

Open, honest and informed

That’s where the kids come in. They hear everything. The stories on the local news. The arguments around the dinner table. The constant questions from out-of-towners fascinated by this new phenomenon. And as much as they’ll tell you they have no interest in disgusting adult habits, many kids of a certain age can’t wait to sneak their first cigarette, tentatively sip their first beer, or … eat their first edible pot product.
Unquestionably, even though marijuana has always been around and could be acquired by any truly enterprising and curious teenager for decades, it’s now much more accessible in Colorado – if for no other reason than a 21-year-old Colorado resident can go into any local pot shop and legally buy up to an ounce. Then he or she can illegally sell or share it with friends under 21.
The question for parents then, in one of the four states – Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, plus Washington, D.C. – that have voted to legalize recreational marijuana (as opposed to medical marijuana, which is legal in 23 states and D.C.) is how do I talk to my kids about pot when it’s all the rage? And how do I keep them from consuming it, breaking the law and possibly impairing their brain development before they’re 21?
That, in and of itself, is a tricky question. There are varying studies on the extent to which marijuana consumption can impair the healthy development of an adolescent brain. But no matter what your experiences tell you from your own possibly wayward youth, most at least minimally responsible parents agree that letting your kids lie around smoking pot all day in the basement is a bad idea. Just like you wouldn’t let them drink excessively, or take pills.
So the Parents Handbook set out to explore these sticky issues, and three words kept coming up no matter who we interviewed – from law enforcement to healthcare professionals to addiction counselors to marijuana retailer. They all urged parents to be honest, open and informed.

‘It’s not just about marijuana’

“Most importantly, it needs to be an open conversation,” said Deputy Megan Richards, a school resource officer with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. “Because once we start that open conversation, marijuana’s going to come up, but so are a lot of things that are great opportunities for a parent to have conversations with their kids about.”
In many ways, says Richards and other experts, the pot conversation needs to be the same one parents have with kids about other things that are illegal or inadvisable under the age of 21.
“It’s not just about marijuana,” Richards said. “It could be about prescription drugs. It could be about unprotected sex. It could be about drinking and driving. It’s about teaching our kids how to make appropriate, healthy choices for themselves when they’re given options to be destructive.”
Dena Southerlan, MSW, a certified substance abuse counselor with Rocky Mountain Counseling in Eagle, says that for children and families in Colorado it doesn’t matter that recreational marijuana is now legal for adults over the age of 21.
“Whether or not marijuana is legal for those 21 years and older, I feel that is irrelevant,” Southerlan said. “A lot of times I will use nicotine as an example. This is a legal drug, and the evidence with nicotine very clearly shows how dangerous that drug is for all individuals. It is clearly the responsibility of the parents to educate and guide their children.”
And part of that education, Southerlan says, center on just how harmful excessive marijuana consumption can be in the teen years.
“The overwhelming amount of research that has been done on the effects of marijuana on a child’s development focuses on the probability of future problems and the fact that the most commonly used gateway drug is marijuana – hands down,” Southerlan said.
She also sees pre-teen and teenaged pot smokers suffering from paranoia, anxiety, depression and general demotivation that impacts their ability to perform well in school, both academically and athletically.
Nick Brown, owner of High Country Healing and its seven retail and medical marijuana outlets in Silverthorne, Colorado Springs and Alma (near Breckenridge), agrees that parents need to be completely open to discussing the potentially harmful effects of marijuana with their kids.
“There’s a lot more money going to research to show what cannabis is doing to the health systems of human beings, and really the main finding anyone has found on the negative side is that it potentially does alter the brain growth in adolescent children,” Brown said.
However, the former Woodland Park High School standout and Princeton economics graduate adds that he’s living proof that some marijuana myths simply don’t stand up to scrutiny.
“I’ve consumed cannabis the majority of my life – I’m 32 years old – and I’ve never done a hard drug in my life,” Brown said. “It’s been the opposite of a gateway drug for me. I was actually the Colorado Football Player of the Year in high school and then I ended up playing football at Princeton for four years while consuming cannabis the whole time. I graduated in four years.”
But Brown knows everyone is different, and he acknowledges that habitual use of cannabis can inhibit the motivation of adolescents. He also knows that teenagers can and will get marijuana if they really want it.
“It’s going to be out there just like alcohol is,” Brown said. “Children are going to find one way or another to try to get it, and they’re going to get it, so trying to help them understand what happens to you when you consume it in different ways is a good idea to start talking about.”
For instance, the proliferation of edible marijuana products – many of which look just like normal cookies and candies – has been a game-changer.
“It’s really hard to ‘overdose’ on smoking pot,” Brown said. “You generally can’t smoke yourself to the point where you think you’re going to die. But if you eat too much of an edible and you don’t know what you’re doing, I’ve heard people say, ‘I thought I was going to die.’”
So information about dosages, what types of edibles are out there and how they can affect kids is critical, Brown said. “Parents obviously want to teach their children the same beliefs they have, so whether they’re pro cannabis or against cannabis, they should try to get the facts out to them.”

‘I survived it; it’s no big deal’

Many parents in their 40’s or 50’s who have been in the Vail Valley for 15 or 20 years came here to enjoy a ski-town lifestyle. Besides outdoor recreation – hard-charging on skis and mountain bikes — that lifestyle often came with some hard-charging in bars and clubs. And in addition to rivers of beer, Jaeger and tequila shots, that after-hours activity may have included marijuana or even harder drugs. Now the ski bums have grown up and have little park rats of their own.
Deputy Richards encourages complete honesty with your kids when it comes to past drug use – just don’t glorify that past by emphasizing the partying or dismissing its impacts.
“I hear that a lot from parents,” Richards said. “‘I survived it; it’s no big deal. I’m successful. I own my own business. I’m making six figures.’ Whatever their success story turned out to be, that’s great — wonderful. And I would agree that just because you dabble or experiment doesn’t mean that you become a junky. We need to be real clear about that.
“But, 80 to 90 percent of adult addictions begin in the teenage years, so why would we not encourage our kids to stay away from it?” Richards added. “Your brain and your body are growing and developing at astronomical rates. Why would you mess with that long-term?”
Family drug counselor Southerlan concurs.
“It does become an issue for some parents if they have used marijuana in the past or if they’re currently using it. It’s important for parents who have used marijuana to … look honestly at their previous drug use and ask what possible health effects they could have faced.”
Richards adds that parents need to go into retail marijuana stores and do their homework, learning the lingo, familiarizing themselves with the products and becoming educated on the potency of today’s pot.
“The THC [tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana] content in the 60’s and 70’s was anywhere from 2 to 4 percent, and it’s upwards now, commonly, of anywhere from 20 to 60 percent, and you can get almost pure THC with the dabs,” Richards said. “We have high-school-aged kids who are being consumed by those dabs right now.”
Sold legally at local retail stores, dabs are a form of hash oil made with butane and smoked through a special pipe that can deliver in excess of 90-percent THC content. One local pot shop “budtender” (yes, that’s really what they’re called) called dabs the “crack cocaine of marijuana.”
Such potency couldn’t really be found at the Dead shows of the 80’s or even the Phish shows of the 90’s. For that reason, Richards implores parents to educate themselves and then educate their kids.
“It’s wonderful if you’ve got a parent who’s able to say, ‘Yes, I used. I made really poor choices. Here are some of the pitfalls of my choices and what I had to live with,’” Richards said. “Not all parents are going to have those stories.”
Grant Troeger, retail manager at the marijuana retail store Native Roots in Eagle-Vail, encourages parents to come in and see what the buzz is all about.
“Come in here, see what it’s like, ask us questions,” Troeger said. “We’re here for people; otherwise we’d just have a vending machine. The whole point of having a staff here is to be knowledgeable and to share. That would be my advice to parents is to come in here and educate yourself and share [information] with your kids.”
To shun or ignore the stores is to embrace ignorance and invite misinformation, Troeger adds.
“The most important thing nowadays is to not deny the fact that it is legal now and it should be addressed in terms of education compared to shunning it and saying, ‘This is terrible thing,’” Troeger said. “We’ve had the police departments come in here, the fire department. We spend time with people. People want to know, and that’s our job.
“The point of having a legal store and having people like us here is to educate people so they’re not buying it on the street and getting something that they don’t know what it is. We’ve even talked about having education awareness night for parents who are concerned.”

In-home drug testing

But besides education and honest and open communication, it’s a good idea to know who your kids’ friends are and the values and rules practiced by those friends and their parents, Richards says. Finally, look for obvious and not-so-obvious signs of drug use, such as red eyes, the smell of pot smoke, money issues and a drop in performance at school.

Richards is one of about 180 certified drug-recognition experts in the state of Colorado – a designation put in place to enforce new drug driving laws but also useful in the hallways and parking lots of local schools.
A mother of four whose oldest child is 12, Richards practices and recommends random, in-home urine tests for kids when they’re old enough to start being out on their own with friends who may use drugs.
“I advocate home drug testing, not as a punishment, but as an out for kids who may otherwise have a difficult time saying no to their peers,” Richards said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to say, ‘You know, my parents drug test me occasionally, and you don’t even want to know what’s going to happen when they find me positive for THC or cocaine or whatever it may be. My dad’s going to take away my car or my mom’s going to lose her mind.’”
Urine tests can be purchased online or at Walmart or other stores, and Richards recommends random, periodic testing so kids can’t figure out the timing to beat the tests and because the tests can only determine consumption that’s metabolized in the system over time as opposed to recent use. She also suggests starting the process before you suspect there’s a problem.
“If parents choose to go that route, what I suggest is again having that open conversation,” Richards said. “A lot of parents are concerned about [testing] because they feel it violates trust. It can depending on how it’s brought into the home and how it’s used. But it’s also a great tool as an out for kids and also for parents being able to verify they’ve placed trust appropriately.”
Southerlan agrees with the in-home testing approach.
“It’s excellent because the parent in that scenario is very clear and consistent about their views on marijuana and what will and won’t be tolerated,” Southerlan said. “On the other hand, I think that you need to have the lines of communication open.”
Again, she says it’s an individual choice that may not work with all families, but that if it’s portrayed properly – as a positive rather than punitive measure – testing can keep a kid’s head in the game both academically and athletically.
“You certainly don’t want to do anything that pushes your kids away, that closes down the lines of communication,” Southerlan said. “You want them to be able to tell you the truth about what’s going on, and so [testing] is an individual choice, and each family is going to need to make the decision as to whether that’s the right choice for them.”
And that should apply to any and all steps taken to monitor, prevent and mitigate the impacts of drug use among adolescents. The one nonnegotiable factor, however, that all experts seem to agree on, is the need for honest, open dialogue with your kids.

If you would like to be become part of the discussion visit and leave your comments-we’d love to hear them.

The Ski industry looks to reinvigorate female skiers-here’s how!

DSC00579What Women Want by Katie Kukar

The ski industry looks to reinvigorate the female skier population with better gear, a family friendly mountain and innovative ski school programs.

On a particularly sunny day, after a huge snowstorm dumped 18 inches of powder on Vail Mountain, my friends from Minnesota and I are perched above Morningside run watching tiny snowflakes drifting off the evergreens and sparkling and shimmering in the breeze.

The crisp, bright blue sky awakens the color of the trees and ski apparel, and the scent of clean, fresh air is all around us. The essence of the ski experience is days like this shared with friends.

My friends are enamored with the sunshine and views, expressing their joy with repeated comments of, “This is so gorgeous; what a beautiful day!” My skiing soul agrees; it’s a memorable day. All of us have skied our whole lives, and this is why we continue to ski.

Katie SkiingThe fresh, white powder of Morningside is a smooth, unbroken blanket of fluffy goodness, and it’s taunting me. I’m anticipating light, smooth turns carving through the powder, bouncing lightly in rhythm and peace. The view will come again; it’s time for “freshies!”

I’m lucky to have friends who enjoy skiing — women letting go of their families for some “girl time.” I learned this sport from my parents, and it’s an important gift. Skiing and snowboarding aren’t just sports; they provide a complete experience from the fresh air to action, excitement and majestic views.

Our day started around 9 a.m. with secret powder stashes, and now rubber legs ensue, so we take a break at The 10th, Vail’s newest on-mountain restaurant. The 10th is perfect for my crowd in search of ambiance, cozy blankets, champagne, buffalo chili and a fireplace. The 10th has a warming room for hanging ski jackets and helmets, clean bathrooms offering sunblock and hair dryers, and comfy slippers available after freeing your feet from ski boots.

Kelly, Jen and I stretch out on overstuffed loungers around the fire, covered in soft blankets. Tired legs, warm feet, happy hearts, tasty bubbly and expressive conversation. We are lucky women for this experience and the one on the slopes.


Our conversation eases into recent statistics showing a decline in women skiing and snowboarding. Other women skiers mention having no friends and family who ski or snowboard, uncomfortable equipment, lost confidence and waning joy for the sport.

Both Kelly and Jen are mothers and suspect the amount of effort getting families prepared for skiing is a deterrent. Both women ski with their families because their husbands actively participate in the organization of family ski days and ski vacations, and this greatly increases their excitement for skiing and snowboarding.

Hauling equipment can be a deterrent for visiting mothers, but many Vail lodging properties now offer ski valet services.

“What do you like about skiing?” I ask. Jen Canton, an avid skier and frequent Vail visitor, smiles like a kid ramping up, recalling the most amazing story ever! Straightening her back, legs rooted to the floor, gently setting down her glass, she says, “It’s more fun than the gym, thrilling, aesthetic, graceful, competitive and therapeutic.” She breathes and starts again: “I love the fresh air and views from the mountain tops you just don’t get access to anywhere else. I enjoy working on my style and maintaining that smooth style in small bumps and crud. It gives me a sense of accomplishment.”

Kelly Vickers nods in agreement. Kelly lived in Vail for three years and taught skiing at Afton Alps, a recent Vail Resorts ski area acquisition in Minnesota. Kelly jokes, “The ski resorts should chronicle our current ski day as a marketing tool and women would flock to skiing and Vail. Fresh powder, groomed blue runs, ocean-blue sky, warm temps, sophisticated lunch spot and a spa day with shopping time.”  

VR-3-ladies.Jack-Affleck.webAs adults and mothers, Kelly and Jen love family ski trips. We also agree that a fantastic ski day with girlfriends is precious. It’s our friends and families we thank for introducing us to skiing since all of us learned as children. Skiing and snowboarding are family sports.

“The best part of family ski trips for mothers is children’s excitement about skiing. When they ski a black run for the first time, you cannot contain their enthusiasm. When they ski the whole run without falling, they are so proud!” Kelly says.

Vail local Alan Sandberg says, “The best part of my day is skiing with my daughter and her friends. They are good little skiers, like to try new terrain because they are young and fearless. I learn so much about my daughter on the chairlift, when I talk to her or listen to her talk to her friends. There are no cell phones, no iPads, no TV. We talk about the last run, what’s happening in school, about their friends, their dreams and thoughts. We bond doing something we both love, and it’s a rare opportunity. It’s valuable intel on their personality. It’s precious time.”


Kelly, Jen and I pay the bill and wander to the warming room to prepare for more fresh powder skiing. Squeezing back into my boots, groaning, since I need a new pair, Kelly perks up and says, “Amazing you even ski with those torture chambers on. Why don’t you get a new pair?”

My problem is taking time out of my ski day to shop for equipment, and duct tape is pretty these days. Other women have expressed having crappy or dated equipment as a deterrent to skiing. The right equipment makes all the difference to an enjoyable ski experience.

The good news for women is ski and snowboard manufacturers have listened and taken into account the differences between women and men skiers and snowboarders, according to Jeannie Thoren. Jeannie is a local women’s ski shop owner, originally from Minnesota and considered to be a pioneer of women’s skiing.

“There is fantastic equipment designed specifically for women’s body types. The shape and makeup of skis and snowboards make it easier and more fun. Women are not small men, a previous idea directing manufacturers. Bindings on women’s skis are mounted differently for better support and control. Proper boots are imperative; needed for good support and comfort. Heal lifts help with posture.” While talking, she eye’s my ski boots and says, “Nice duct tape; come see me.” Patting me on the shoulder, she strides into the crowd.

Companies like K2 and Burton use lighter material for their women’s skis and snowboards since women are typically lighter than men. Pushing around heavier equipment is challenging. The skis and snowboards are softer, giving the equipment flex so women can easily control and engage the equipment. The placement of bindings on skis and the size of the bindings for snowboards also changed since women have a lower center of gravity.

GETTING OUT THERESki instructoe shot

The ski day continues at the Red Lion and local ski instructor Georgia Norgren joins us for a drink. Georgia thinks, “Women’s lack of confidence in their skiing and snowboarding ability is a big deterrent for continuing with snow sports.”

Through an accident, a quick fearful incident or age, women lose their confidence. “I recommend women take a half-day lesson from one of Vail’s highly qualified female ski instructors,” she says with a proud smile. “A morning half-day lesson is a perfect refresher course making the afternoon available for practice. If they feel they need more, take another half-day lesson. Building confidence for the skier or snowboarder is part of the instruction and often the right ski run changes the confidence.”

What about equipment I ask? “Oh, for sure women need the right equipment. More than five years, it’s too old. The right equipment makes it more enjoyable!”

These are a few of the reasons why fewer women are skiing. What is the industry and Vail Resorts doing to address these issues? The snow sports Industry created the Bring a Friend Challenge, encouraging skiers and snowboarders to get friends and family to take a lesson.

Vail Resorts has created a number of new programs and products available for the 2014-15 ski season.

Skiing and snowboarding are family sports, social sports and provide opportunities to see the world and the mountains. Everyone should have a chance to look over Vail’s Back Bowls; friends and family surrounding them and jump into knee deep powder or zip down a freshly groomed run. Seeing the Rocky Mountains in every direction, covered with snow and the bright Colorado sun jazzing up every living thing and sitting by the fire with friends after a gorgeous ski day. That is skiing and snowboarding and a lifetime of experiences.