Today’s post is really fun, and a genuine group effort. Thanks to five ski moms, each of whom graciously took time to answer my questions about Ski Sundown in New Hartford, Connecticut, we’ve got a great perspective on why this small resort in southern New England has been a family favorite for 51 years.
Many thanks to Connecticut Ski Moms Jeanine Baxter, Kim Hughes, Cary Rubbo, Julie Williams and Allison Ziering Walmark. Also thanks to Lori Shield from Ski Sundown for assisting with photos!
One resort. This season. Your family. Where do you go and why?
Clearly the answer is Ski Sundown!
Allison Ziering Walmark and her family make the one-hour drive to Ski Sundown for several reasons. First, she likes the resort because there are “no posers.” As she puts it, “Everyone is there to ski or learn to ski. There is nothing fancy or fake about the environment. It’s a good solid, no-hassle, no judgment day of skiing.”
Second, she likes the bright lodge, especially the “adult-only” area with “adult-only” beverages — perfect for relaxing. Kim Hughes, a mother of four young kids, also likes the lodge for the friendly staff and convenience, especially for a mom with little non-skiers. Windows facing the slopes make it easy for moms, or grandparents, to enjoy watching the action in comfort.
This friendliness is a consistent theme amongst all of the moms’ answers. Cary Rubbo, who like Kim Hughes, is a local, says that “from the greeter at the entrance to the ski instructors to the lift operators everyone always has a smile and is willing to help.”
What makes family skiing at Ski Sundown special?
Julie Williams was a non-skiing mom who wanted to spend time with her husband and two sons, both of whom are ski racers. She started lessons at Ski Sundown and she’s now in her fifth season. She’s also a loyal participant in the Tuesday Women’s Club, building her skills, making new ski friends and enjoying the weekly potluck lunch.
Julie credits the excellent ski school — for adults and kids — for their professionalism and encouragement. Kim Hughes and Cary Rubbo agree, both mentioning the Puffins program for young kids, with Kim calling it the “best” and Cary singling it out for positive, individualized instruction.
A new, longer magic carpet improves the experience for young kids, while older skiers can choose between programs like Mountain Adventures, the racing and competitive programs or special events like Girls Rock the Park and Wild West Days.
Ski Sundown also has an Adaptive program for children and adults with special needs. Allison Ziering Walmark’s son skis with the Adaptive and she’s thrilled that the ratio of instructors to students is two-to-one. Also important, “Ski Sundown takes into account all the financial strain a “special needs family” has, and the private rates are very favorable.”
Allison adds that while her son is in his lessons, her daughter participates in the ski school. “We are always 100% confident that our kids are safe and happy with their respective instructors,” writes Allison.
In addition to the snowsports school, Ski Sundown offers night skiing on 15 of its 16 runs, 100% snowmaking and a 100-day season from early December to late March. The mountain is small, with 70 skiable acres and a vertical drop of 625 feet. Still, the longest run, Tom’s Treat, is one mile long and the mountain is full service with practical amenities like dining and rentals, along with NASTAR racing and freestyle terrain parks.
What would make Ski Sundown even better?
While the moms listed many, many reasons why they love Ski Sundown, coming up with possible improvements was a bit more tricky.
Kim Hughes would like to see some “family” bathrooms, where she can keep an eye on all four children (great idea!), while Julie Williams would love to see more trails. She then enticingly adds that she is “seeing some progress on that now.”
Jeanine Baxter shares that she’s “impatient and would love to get more runs in during the time I am at the mountain” adding that while she’s never stood in line longer than 10 minutes, a new faster lift system would be amazing. Overall though, Jeanine has nothing but praise for the team running Ski Sundown.
“Management seems to listen to the people when they make a suggestion and implement it. They stay ahead of the curve.”
Any “secrets” you’re willing to share?
When it comes to sharing secrets, skiers are notoriously tight-lipped.
Still, a couple of the moms were willing to share. Get to the mountain early for the best conditions and shortest lines, suggests Cary Rubbo. If you can ski mid-week, do it, advises Julie Williams. “I feel like it is my own mountain, at times!”
Sticking with the midweek theme, Kim Hughes recommends mid-week afternoon lessons, if you’re willing to let your kids miss school.
And finally, to get everyone pumped up, check out the “run of the day” video streams on Facebook (thanks Julie Williams for that tip!).
What advice and tips do you have for other families?
An ever practical mother of four, Kim Hughes suggests making lists. That way nothing is forgotten.
“Do not be deterred by the weather,” advises Jeanine Baxter. “The skiing is always great. With the amazing snowmaking that Sundown has, it can cover the bare mountain in a couple of days.”
Jeanine, who is raising a family of hungry bump skiers, also recommends “great food” and “reasonable prices” at Portobellos in New Hartford. “My teenage boys are always satisfied there after a day of skiing.” Her other trick? Packing her pockets with chocolate kisses. “They go a long way when encouraging the little ones to try it one more time.”
What’s your favorite thing about family skiing?
On this the mom’s completely agree: the best thing about family skiing is spending time together, racing down the hill, riding the lift and sharing the same sport.
Jeanine Baxter remembers coming to Ski Sundown with her father and wishing she lived in New Hartford. Now that she does and the mountain is in her backyard, she’s happy to pass skiing onto her sons and appreciates it when they thank her for teaching them to ski.
Likewise, Cary Rubbo, a middle school literacy teacher with three kids under 10, remembers waiting for her kids to be old enough to ski.
“My husband and I skied many weekends before we had children and could not wait until they were all old enough to start the sport. Now it is so much fun to watch them ski and decide which trail they want to tackle next.”
Allison Ziering Walmark’s perspective is especially valuable.
“When we go family skiing, we are just another ‘typical’ family; everyone is equal and tries their best to get better each outing.”
The Brave Ski Mom Adds…
Easy. Friendly. Fun. Rewarding. These were some of the words these five wonderful moms used to describe Ski Sundown, their favorite family ski area.
I use the same words to describe compiling their comments and feedback into this article. Easy. Friendly. Fun. Rewarding.
Thank you each for sharing your stories and experiences with braveskimom.com.
It’s always amazing to learn more about ski resorts and mountains and to find out what parents think about family skiing in their region of the country and world.
More Local Family Ski Areas:
- Ski Butternut: The Real Deal for Northeast Families, December 4, 2013.
- Why I Love to Ski Blackjack, Michigan, March 13, 2013.
- Why Our Family Loves to Ski Elk Mountain, Pennsylvania, December 26, 2012.
- Why My Family Loves to Ski Snow Valley, California, December 31, 2012.
- Sol Vista Basin, Colorado: Where Families Go Big! January 26, 2012. (*Sol Vista Basin is now known as Ski Granby Ranch)
- Why We Love Cataloochee Ski Area in North Carolina, March 8, 2012.
- Why My Family Loves to Ski Granite Peak, Wisconsin, March 28, 2012.
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