Nothing warms the hearts of people in the ski industry more than
families. "All ski areas are trying to go after the family market,"
says Craig Cook, president of Travel Organizers, a travel
wholesaler/retailer in Englewood, Colo. "They know that if they get
the kids into instructional programs, they will get built-in skiers
"Ski resorts had nurseries before it was chic because they had
no choice," says Dorothy Jordon, editor-in-chief of Family Travel
Times, a 15-year-old newsletter. "If you're at the beach, the kids
can stay with you. That's not the case at ski resorts."
Child care at ski resorts, says Jordon, is no longer just
babysitting but involves "doing fun and educational things. The
resorts are almost going overboard and doing remarkable things to
make kids happy because happy kids mean happy parents who will come
While children's activities can be expensive, says Jordon, "they
do offer good value because they include activities, instruction
and meals. And, depending on the resort, they might be
commissionable to agents."
Crested Butte in Colorado is one of those ski areas where almost
anything sold by an agent, even a la carte, will be commissionable.
That includes ski school and other activities for children.
(Crested Butte Vacations, the area's reservations center,
commissions all lodging, lift tickets, ski rentals and instruction.
Day care is not booked by the center and is not
Even an area known for hard-core skiing has made a broad gesture
toward the family market. Jackson Hole, Wyo., introduced a new
children's facility called Cody House with an on-slope playground,
learning carpet and Kids Ranch.
Aspen, which has a state-licensed slopeside day care center, has
introduced private lessons for toddlers from 18 months of age.
At the Peaks at Telluride, Colo., the Activity Center has
anticipated the needs of children of all ages. There are toddler
rooms full of toys, infant gyms and crib rooms, instruction and
even a glass kiosk to the central romper room so parents can look
down on the kids undetected, then slip back to the slopes. The area
will rent out car seats, strollers, backpacks, safety gates, toys,
cribs and other items.
The Peaks at Telluride even has a KidSpa program for children
featuring spa cooking classes, yoga and relaxation techniques.
At Vail, a new on-mountain activities area named Adventure Point
will feature a tubing hill located on Keystone Mountain. Additional
children's skiing attractions, located near the Spring Dipper,
Upper Paymaster and Silver Spoon trails are also on the
On certain dates at Sugarloaf/USA in Maine, kids 12 and under
get free lift tickets, rentals and lessons. And such special
activities as tubing, movie and game nights -- all supervised --
All these efforts may be having their effect. A study by
Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade organization, of Colorado skiers
for the 1996-97 season indicates that families accounted for the
largest proportion of skier/snowboarder visits, 40.2%, compared to
singles (36.7%), empty nesters (12%) and couples without children
(11.2%). Families and empty nesters have been the fastest rising
segment of the market.
Parents bringing their offspring to a ski resort should be ready
to ask a few questions, says Jordon. One is how far a children's
center is from the slopes.
"It could be a half-mile away, up hill," she says. "That's too
far. It's more important to be close to the children's center than
to a restaurant or other facility."
Another important consideration for families, Jordon says, is
space. "I'd rather go on a five-day holiday with extra space than
seven days with a tight space," she says.
Finally, says Jordon, agents should be aware that reservations
must be made for any kind of child care or activity. She recalls
that her brother "neglected to make reservations and ended up
playing tag-team skiing with his wife because one had to stay with
the kids at all times."