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.



Explore Haunted Breckenridge

Gail and I.Looking for something different to do right in the hart of Breckenridge’s historic downtown? Well, we have the answer. Check out Ghostly Tales and explore the darker side of Breckenridge on a 90-minute ghost hunt.

They will entertain you with Ghostly Tales of Breckenridge’s past in the warmth of four of our popular eating and drinking establishments.  The tour will introduce you to such characters as Sylvia, the lonely widow; William Goodwin, the mangled miner; Dr. Condon, the cold blooded killer; and Miss Whitney, the lady of the evening. They will also provide ghost-hunting equipment to help you find their ghosts. Recommended for the older kids.

Not up for a haunted tour? That’s okay, they also offer a wild west experience where you can step back into time with Breckenridge’s Gold Rush History and the residents that shaped Breckenridge.  A historic walking tour that is sure to expose the more historic aspects of Breckenridge.

Check out their website at or give them a ring at (970) 485-2894.

About the Author

Mike McGoff is an avid skier, outdoor enthusiast, blogger, father, business owner, Breckenridge local, and the co-founder and owner of MountainTot Gear and MountainTot Sitters in Breckenridge, Colorado. Follow me on Twitter @MountainTot or visit me on Facebook @MountainTot.

Nordic Sleigh Rides Provides Fun for All Ages


With an abundance of family friendly activities in Breckenridge, your family should add Nordic Sleigh Rides to your list of things to do. Located just 9 miles from Breckenridge’s Main Street, Nordic Sleigh Rides offer a secluded experience through the White River National Forest.

A hearty dinner and theater show awaits at the end of your horse drawn winter sleigh ride to a recreated Colorado gold mining camp.  The big, beautiful and gentle draft horses will carry you through snow covered hills and winding winter trails.  Once you arrive at your destination about 25 minutes later, you will be greeted by our professional actors and live entertainment.  A mixture of fact and fiction, each show includes authentic costumes and props and draws on Breckenridge’s unique history. Once the show is over, dinner is ready.  Plates are heaped with generous portions of delicious and hearty food – just like the miners of yesteryear, only better!!

Looking for something for just mom and dad? Nordic Sleigh Rides offers a private sleigh ride perfect for a romantic getaway or to celebrate a special occasion, just for two.  What could be more romantic than cuddling under a blanket, being whisked through a winter wonderland on your one-hour private sleigh ride?

Whatever your pleasure, Nordic Sleigh Rides will provide an unforgettable memory of your vacation. If you’re looking to capture those moments, ask about their on site photographer that will be sure to dazzle you with photographs of your adventure. Check out Nordic Sleigh Rides at or give them a call at (970) 453-2005.

About the Author

Mike McGoff is an avid skier, outdoor enthusiast, blogger, father, business owner, Breckenridge local, and the co-founder and owner of MountainTot Gear and MountainTot Sitters in Breckenridge, Colorado. Follow me on Twitter @MountainTot or visit me on Facebook @MountainTot.

Family Travel Tips: Breckenridge, CO…And Don’t Forget the Kids


Keystone, Colorado

Parents often ask me; should we travel to a ski town with kids?  The short answer is yes. There are tons of great activities for kiddos at most ski resorts and Breckenridge has no shortage of fun for the whole family.

If you’re traveling with infants or toddlers, you may first ask yourself, how do I get all my baby gear to Breckenridge?  The answer is, you don’t.  MountainTot Gear can provide everything you need including strollers, cribs, high chairs, and toys.  They deliver all your items before you arrive and come pick it up after you leave.  So easy and convenient, don’t sacrifice the comforts of home.

Once you arrive in Breckenridge, you won’t be disappointed at the activities for the kids.  Head on over to the Mountain Top Children’s Museum and spend some time exploring their educational exhibits.  Mountain Top promotes informal learning through interactive exhibits and programs, imaginative play and engagement in active experiences for children ages 10 and under.

Looking for something more active for the entire family?  Check out TrekBreck.  They offer guided family snowshoe tours in the local area.  You can snowshoe on a secluded trail to an abandoned mine and explore the equipment used hundreds of years ago by Colorado miners.  If you can walk, you can snowshoe. This is truly an adventure the entire family can enjoy.

Maybe it’s time for some adult time away or maybe just a night out.  MountainTot Sitters can help you relax and unwind by providing in-room/home babysitting and child care at your lodging location.  Their sitters are all 21 or older, possess background checks and CPR certification and are all local to the area. You deserve some time to yourselves after a busy day with the kids. Let their sitters come to you.


MountainTot Sitters

This is just a snapshot of the activities and services available to families traveling to Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain or the surrounding area.  Breckenridge is an excellent family destination, so pack the luggage and don’t forget the kids.  Head to Breckenridge this winter and enjoy!



About the Author

Mike McGoff is an avid skier, outdoor enthusiast, blogger, father, business owner, Breckenridge local, and the co-founder and owner of MountainTot Gear and MountainTot Sitters in Breckenridge, Colorado. Follow me on Twitter @MountainTot or visit me on Facebook @MountainTot.

Let your kids release their creative minds in Breckenridge, CO

Ready-Paint-Fire-2Ready, Paint, Fire is a great Breckenridge destination for families looking to explore their creative side. The offer regularly scheduled events and camps or you can just drop in and see what’s happening.  Whether your medium is ceramics, canvas or glass they have something for all ages.

Paint Your Own Pottery, Canvas Painting and Mosaics are available all day every day. Glass Fusing & Slumping is offered regularly as evening workshops and at quieter times throughout the year. We have regular Evening Events for adults from 7pm ’til late. Canvas Painting Parties and Glass Fusing Workshops are a fun alternative night out in Breck. Get creative socially with friends or discover something new!”

They also have a great Keystone location in River Run that opens on December 13.  Check them out, your kids will love you for it.

About the Author

Mike McGoff is an avid skier, outdoor enthusiast, blogger, father, business owner, Breckenridge local, and the co-founder and owner of MountainTot Gear and MountainTot Sitters in Breckenridge, Colorado. Follow me on Twitter @MountainTot or visit me on Facebook @MountainTot.

Zip lining in and around Summit County

 zip line, flying over the train, DSC_8181

Zip Lining in Copper Mountain, Breckenridge and in the Back Country.  By Lu Snyder

Summit County, loves adventure. We’ve got skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking, rafting, kayaking, climbing – you name it. And now, we’ve got ziplines to add to the list, too.

Fly over water

Copper Mountain’s Alpine Rush Zip Line gives guests an opportunity to soar 300 feet across West Lake, at speeds up to 30 miles-per-hour. The dueling design of the zipline allows two guests to race each other across the lake.

Be warned: In the summer, West Lake is often busy with bumper boats, equipped with big squirt guns and you might get sprayed as you fly above them. 

The start of Copper’s zipline is conveniently located on the patio of Sugar Lips, a miniature donut shop. Stop by before your zip for crispy, warm, sweet treat to fuel your zipline adventure.

Down the mountain

With Breckenridge Resort’s new TenMile Flyer, you’ll have the chance to zip along one of the resort’s ski runs. You’ll ride the Rips Ride chairlift up and take two ziplines for a total distance of almost 1,500 feet toward the base of Breckenridge’s Peak 8. 

The first section, which extends about 400 feet, allows two people to zip next to each other. A quad span, the second length allows four people to travel side by side, so the whole family can zip together.

Set high above the town of Breckenridge, Peak 8 offers magnificent views of the town, Mt. Baldy and Guyot to the east and the Ten Mile Range above. 

In the backcountry

If there is one word to describe Top of the Rockies’ zipline experience, it’s rugged. 

Located in the quiet, remote valley between Fremont Pass and Leadville, just outside Summit County and on the west side of the Mosquito Range, the zipline spans across the company’s 2,500-acre property. From Highway 91, you can see the 100-foot tower in the meadows nearby, but not much else. That’s because the zipline, which includes five sections, travels through the forest, over the train tracks (and, if you time it right, over the Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad train), over deep canyons, streams and wetlands, and past old mining claims.

Typically, guests take an old military truck to the start of the zipline, at more than 11,000-feet above sea level, though there is an option to take the train instead if you prefer. Once at base camp, you’ll have safety briefing and a test run on a safety zipline. The ziplines are not continuous, so this tour includes strolling through the forest, from one tower to another.

“All the trails are downhill,” says Judith Gilman, General Manager with White Mountain Tours, so they are fairly easy. “The views in every direction are spectacular. You can’t see any houses or condos or hotels. You’re going to see every kind of critter up there. This is a beautiful, totally unspoiled backcountry area.”

This summer, White Mountain Tours is adding a sixth section to its zipline, for a total length of more than 9,000 feet and an elevation drop of about 1,200 feet. If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry. The entire experience is a progression, says Gilman, and the zipline features double cables for safety and an automatic braking system to ensure a gentle landing.

“It’s great for families,” she says.

Go to or call (800) 247-7238.