Skiing on a Budget in the Northeast

Bromley
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I’m just going to cut to the chase.  Skiing is an expensive sport!  Throw in a couple of kids and a family of four can easily spend a small fortune on a weekend ski getaway.  But skiing on a budget is possible with a little planning ahead.

Smugglers' Notch

After a long hiatus, I found my ski legs again last winter and, and along with my husband, we introduced our kids to skiing.   I definitely owe a lot this to my work with the All Mountain Mamas – Vermont’s Family Ski and Ride Guide for getting me back on the slopes again.

This year we made a decent sized investment in gear since there are over a half dozen ski mountains within an hour’s drive from our home and we’ve become a little fanatical about finding good ski deals.  I will be very honest, spending hundreds of dollars a weekend on lift tickets just isn’t in our budget.  But we have been, or have plans to ski for a whole lotta weekends this winter and here are some of the tips I’ve discovered to skiing on a budget in the northeast.

Ski Gear

  • Lease Gear – ski and boot rentals average around $40 per day for adults and $30 per for kids.  If you plan to ski more than 3 to 4 days in a season (that’s just 2 full weekends) head to a local ski shop in the Fall and lease a pair of skis and boots.  Season leases for adult leases are around $150 – $200 and for kids the price is usually around $100. Not only will this save you money but it will save you time at the mountain.
  • Buy Off Season – end of season sales are a great time to buy equipment.  Better yet, explore a local ski expo early in the season.  We scored a fantastic package deal in November and loving the new skis this season!
  • Albany-Ski-Expo_thumb.jpgFind a Consignment Sale – local organizations and communities tend to have early season used sporting goods sales.  Our local boy scouts run a one-day consignment of winter sporting goods where you can find everything from skis, boots, poles, and storage bags.  We’ve donated  A LOT to this annual sale!

Lift Tickets – This is where the real expense comes in with larger mountains easily costing $85 plus for a one day lift ticket.

  • Coupon / Savings Books – Do you know when your kids and neighbors are selling those discount coupon books for one of the many school fundraisers?  Well next time – buy one!  I’ve found two for one lift ticket coupons at local mountains in these little gems.  You definitely need to read the find print carefully as they often have restrictions on when you can use them.
  • Join a Ski Club – Ski clubs are usually inexpensive to join and allow members the benefit of discount lift tickets and packages at various mountains.  The New York Capital District Ski Council is comprised of 11 different clubs all promoting skiing in the northeast with promotional deals and discounts.
  • Buy Online and Plan Ahead – some mountains, like Mount Snow, offer steep discounts on lift tickets if purchased ahead of time directly on their site.  You have to know the day you want to ski but if you plan ahead you can save a bundle.
  • Check out Local Tourism Sites – My new best friend has become I Ski NY where I can purchase discounted vouchers for lift tickets at various mountains in New York State. Ski Vermont is another great site for discounted packages at ski resorts in the Green Mountains.
  • Kids Ski Free – both New York and Vermont have programs where kids of a certain age can ski free with a paid adult.  These are excellent programs that encourage families to get out together and embrace winter!  Some mountains, such as Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks, have promotional weekends where kids can ski free. At many mountains kids under the age of 6 ski for free or nearly free ($5 at Mount Snow).
  • Ski and Stay Packages – If you are planning to stay at a local hotel, ask if they offer discount lift tickets to area mountains.  Many of the hotels in the Berkshires of Massachusetts offer discounted lift tickets for Jiminy Peak and Butternut ski resorts for guests.

Skiing on a budget is definitely possible, but like all budget travel, is involves a little extra planning.  If you’re skiing with little kids, investing in a lesson is well worth it and the one area where I would spend a little more on for a quality program.

Looking Back on 2014 and Thinking of the Year Ahead

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With diapers and nap time all but a memory for us in 2014, this year was the year of amazing new beginnings for my little family.  As the year comes to a close and we all are looking back on 2014 my takeaways are really focused on my kids and how we’ve changed as parents this year. The kids showed incredibly growth and increasing maturity throughout the year and we had the chance to try a lot of new things.  As parents we allowed ourselves more time to be adults and started to explore new areas that we ALL can enjoy!

For me wanderlust can be satisfied by a new locale close to home if that is the only destination you are able to explore.  This year that was more the case but it was a fabulous year and thank you for being part of it!

We Are Now a Skiing Family

First, the winter of 2014 was my first year writing for the, in my very biased opinion, fantastic new Vermont family ski and ride guide, the All Mountain Mamas! This opportunity put this mama back on skis again after a long hiatus and gave my whole family the chance to learn to ski at some of the best mountains in the northeast!  This experience really changed my family as my kids learned to love winter and have already been asking when we’re going to start skiing again.  And if I can find a weekend where both kids aren’t fighting some illness – we’ll get there!  We all tried our ski legs at Smugglers’ Notch, Bolton Valley and Bromley Mountain and loved different aspects about each of these mountains!

Smugglers' Notch

First ski trip to Smugglers’ Notch

Spring Weekend Getaways in the Hudson Valley

The spring brought some great weekend trips including our annual Mother’s Day tradition in Rensselaerville to hike the Huyck Preserve.  Staying close to home brought us to some great spots in the Hudson Valley including a Girl Scout trip to Olana and its stunning Hudson River School vistas and a birthday celebration at the Hyde Park at the Vanderbilt Mansion. I felt like Lady Mary for a day and dined like it too at the Culinary Institute!

Olana

Olana – home of Hudson River School artist, Frederic Church

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Sky Zone Albany – A Trampoline Park for the Whole Family

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Sky ZoSkyzone Albany Logone Albany is the Capital District’s new family-friendly destination! The indoor trampoline park at Sky Zone is a great way to shake off some of the cabin fever your kids will likely experience in the coming winter months!  My family was lucky enough to get a complimentary invite to try out the huge indoor park with my two bite-size testers – my 7 year old daughter and 4 year old son and we had a blast!  Yes, I even got out there to bounce around.

Sky Zone provides the much sought after family-friendly destination that we all need when the kids just need to burn through some of that pent of energy.  It’s clean, safe, and there is constant supervision on the trampolines so parents can feel at ease.

Skyzone Albany

Skyzone socks are a must to keep kids from slipping!

But, first things first, ALL guests must purchase the specially designed Sky Zone socks.  They cost $2 but once you purchase them they’re yours to keep and bring with you next time.  This is actually a smart move to prevent little ones from slipping while on the trampolines.  Once our scheduled jump time was called we were provided a brief introduction and the park rules were discussed in an age appropriate way.  After that we had 60 minutes of bounce time!

My kids immediately darted towards the Foam Zone!  With three lanes and six feet of dense foam blocks you can easily spend a good part of your visit just hanging out here – we did!  Next we tried out one of the three dodge ball rings.  This was pretty cool and can probably get pretty crazy when you throw in a bunch of energetic tweens! Continue reading

Long Island’s North Fork with Kids – Gingerbread University and Wineries

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It was a post-Thanksgiving on Long Island’s North Fork and a great way to spend time with my family and get into the holiday spirit! Growing up on Long Island I had some, but not a significant, appreciation for the beauty of the island’s less populated fork.  The towns along the north shore of the Island are dotted with former potato farms turned wineries, farm stands, and the quaintness you may expect in a small New England setting. My approach had always been to turn every getaway from home into an opportunity to explore an area.  Even though I grew up on Long Island, it’s really something to see how it’s changed and now view it through the lens of my kids.

We started our day with a trip to Gingerbread University in Riverhead. I’ve heard about this festive locale for a while but finally had the time to visit. Kids can chose from small gingerbread people, giant size holiday cookies, or a fully assembled gingerbread house. A full container of colorful candies are provided and a brief lesson on how to get the best results from your bag of icing and the rest is up to your imagination! It took my kids about 45 minutes to fully decorate their houses and left with two securely wrapped houses and certificates of completion!

Gingerbread University Long Island

All of the fixings provided at Gingerbread University on Long Island

Prices range from under $10 to $35. It can get pricey if you are visiting with multiple kids but it was a very “sweet” way to start the season! Tip – make sure to make a reservation because spot do fill up quickly. Open on the weekends but check the website for specific hours as they do vary. Continue reading

Passports with Purpose 2014 – Win a Trip to Killington Resort from Ski Vermont

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Passports with Purpose kicks off today and I’m thrilled to take part in it this year!  Passports with Purpose is a non-profit organization that began in 2008 by a group of travel bloggers as a fundraiser to held communities in the developing world.  The fundraiser is now an annual event held during a two-week period in November/December that largely focuses on helping those in poverty, specially women and children.   To date, Passports with Purpose has raised nearly $400,000 to help communities in Haiti, Cambodia, India, Mali, Zambia, and other international non-profit organizations. This year’s campaign will go towards Sustainable Harvest International.

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For every $5,000 Passports with Purpose raises during the fundraiser, Sustainable Harvest International will help a family in Honduras learn to farm sustainably and feed their family with training and support lasting for five years.   With a commitment like this, the benefits for the entire community will continue well beyond the five years. In my early 20’s I gave up my corporate job to volunteer for a year with Habitat for Humanity International who also encourage the same hand-up not hand-out philosophy and their impact can be witnessed in communities across the globe. Plus, all donations (minus small fees associated with Pay Pal) go directly to Sustainable Harvest International.  Organizations like these make lasting contributions to communities and here’s how you can help!

The 2014 online fundraising event will run from Monday, December 1 to Wednesday, December 17, 2014. During that time you will be able to place a $10 bid on amazing prized through the Passports with Purpose catalog of prizes.  Travel bloggers from all over the world have secured travel prizes and related gear that YOU can bid on.  Bid as many times as you would like for more chances to win! 

I’m truly excited to host a fantastic vacation package, generously donated by Ski Vermont as part of this year’s Passports with Purpose campaign!  The lucky winner and a guest can take a dream ski vacation at Killington Resort in Vermont. Killington, commonly known as “The Beast of East” is the largest ski resort in Vermont!  The package includes accommodations and lift tickets for 5 nights for two guests (mid-week non-holiday). Enjoy long days on the slopes and wind down at one of many après-ski destinations at Killington. Then get cozy for the night in one of the lodges or condos at Killington.  This would make a great parent getaway or upgrade and bring the whole family!

Passports with Purpose Killington

As many who read this blog know, my family started skiing together last season and Vermont was our go-to destination. Killington is massive and has already been open for the 2014-15 season for about a month now!

This is a great package and your bid of $10 to Passports with Purpose is your access card to win! I sincerely hope during this holiday season that you too can give a little to benefit those desperately in need while giving yourself the chance to win a great getaway in Vermont!  Follow the campaign using hashtag #PwP on social media!

I would like to extend a very grateful hand to Ski Vermont for signing on to Passports with Purpose this year and donating this incredibly generous prize.  I would also like to thank the PwP sponsors, TBEX and Home Away for their continued support of Passports with Purpose.

Exploring The Wild Center of the Adirondacks

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The Wild Center, the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, is a fascinating museum that strives to educate and expand the knowledge of visitors of all ages about the uniqueness of New York’s Adirondack Mountains.  Located on over 80 acres in Tupper Lake, the heart of the Adirondacks, its location is an ideal spot for a day trip for those camping nearby, skiing, or exploring the Lake Placid region and Olympic Center.  My family had the chance to visit after a very fun, long weekend camping at nearby Rollins Ponds.

The Wild Center is more of an experiential center that lets visitors use of all of the senses to learn about the sites, smells, animal markings, and people who make the Adirondacks home.  After entering the almost rotunda like entrance, visitors walk along a Living River Trail, complete with river otters and freshwater lake fish and end through experiencing a winter tree line summit.

The Wild Center

During our visit, kids and adults could touch, feel, freeze, and witness the beauty of the changing landscape of the Adirondacks.  The kids were able to step inside a maple sugar shack and naturalist cabin to explore more through interacting with the exhibit.  The Wild Center provides the right mix of hands-on exhibit space with educational material to keep kids enthralled and adults interested in learning more.

The Wild Center

Kids can see, touch, smell, and feel the Adirondacks at The Wild Center.

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The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze – The Tri-State’s Biggest Halloween Event

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Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze

Get your spook on at the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze

During the summer months, a visit to Van Cortlandt Manor includes a tour of the stone manor house, brick ferry house, the heritage gardens, and a stroll down a quiet country road along the Croton River. For fall and Halloween enthusiasts, check out the manor during October and November when the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze transforms the grounds with more than 5,000 hand carved, illuminated jack o’lanterns for the tri-state’s biggest, most electrifying Halloween event.

For the first time in 2005, Van Cortlandt Manor was illuminated by thousands of hand carved jack o’lanterns throughout the month of October at the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. The Blaze’s Executive Director, Michael Natiello, said the true inspiration for Blaze is the landscape of Van Cortlandt Manor. The work of artists Michael Heizer, Robert Smithson, Donald Judd, and Andy Goldsworthy complement and draw attention to the site’s architecture, history, and landscape. Celebrating it’s 10th year in 2014, the Blaze embraces Washington Irving’s Spirit of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, boasts an anniversary pumpkin cake, turning acrobats, a springing jack-in-the-box, giant spider web, dinosaurs, witches, and more!

Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze

The great pumpkin arch that welcomes guests to the Blaze

 

Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze

10th anniversary pumpkin, the Headless Horseman, and Tumbling Acrobats and Circus Characters

Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze

Giant Spider Web, Witches Around the Cauldron, Grand Father Clock, and a Field of Dinosaurs

Complete with sound effects, elaborate synchronized lighting and the second volume of an all-original soundtrack by recording artist Richard Christy, the Blaze is one Halloween event you do not want to miss! Recommended for ALL ages.

Tickets are still available for November 5, 9, 14, and 16. The Blaze sells out quickly, so get your tickets now! Click HERE for tickets.

Happy Halloween!