My family indeed had an epic summer filled with all sorts of amazing vacation experiences, from our first (awesome!) stay at a dude ranch to a lengthy, activity-filled trip to New Hampshire. We took short getaways to luxury properties not far from home and spent five nights camping at Utah’s Lake Powell. But that’s not all! Smack dab in the middle of the kids’ summer break from school, we sampled a brand-new type of family adventure from Vail Resorts that’s called, appropriately, Epic Summer.
These 3- or 6-night trips are all-inclusive vacations that introduce families to all of the incredible outdoor activities and the amazing mountain scenery that are associated with some of my state’s best resort areas. Because all of your meals, accommodations, activities and transportation are included, you know the price of your family vacation up front. The value is incredible — if you arranged all of the logistics yourself you’d pay about twice as much as the packaged Epic Summer trips.
And that’s the other great benefit: the daily itinerary is all planned for you! No arguing about who wants to do what that day, no fighting over which restaurant to eat at. Plus, you don’t have to negotiate unfamiliar roads and high mountain passes in a rental car; Epic Summer guests travel between resorts and activities in a comfortable 10-passenger van. Your driver also serves as your tour guide, and the Epic Summer guides are fantastic. These are outdoor enthusiasts who live, work and play in the mountains, and they’re so eager to share their slice of paradise with visitors. They are ultra-friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating folks.
My family participated in the 3-night Epic Summer trip, as I had an assignment to cover the vacation for Vail Resorts’ PEAKS magazine. Our home base was at the Keystone Lodge & Spa, in a comfortable and spacious 2-bedroom condominium. This is where we rested our weary heads each night and enjoyed breakfast (a generous buffet spread) each morning.
Highlights of the 4-day itinerary were driving up to the Continental Divide (Loveland Pass) for some photo ops and a short high-alpine stroll; riding the gondola up to the top of Keystone Mountain for a hike and picnic; touring the Country Boy Mine in Breckenridge; whitewater rafting on the Upper Colorado River; and horseback riding in the aspen groves around Keystone Stables. My 7- and 9-year-olds were the perfect ages to enjoy these active adventures (minimum age for kids is 6); my young son is still raving about how much fun he had engaging other rafts in a water fight on the river.
We had some free time to browse the shops (or grab a beer) in the mountain towns of Breckenridge and Vail, and two of our evening meals were at local town restaurants — again, all of our food was included in the package price.
Truly, our family had a ball on this activity-centric trip. We’re a family who like to explore the outdoors and try new things and do stuff, as opposed to simply visit museums, tour attractions or shop. It was fun for us to get to know other ski resorts in the summertime, and the other participants on our trip (from Texas and New Jersey) were blown away by Colorado’s beauty, climate and opportunities for outdoor fun in the summertime.
This was the first season for Epic Summer, and like any new product, it will likely be tweaked a bit before the adventures are rolled out in 2010. In my post-trip feedback, I recommended that planners alter the itinerary a bit to include more time, if possible, at the Keystone Lodge. This is a fabulous hotel for families in the summertime, with its two pools, its location on a lake with paddleboats and canoe rentals, as well as a paved bike path that weaves past the resort. We actually arranged for a late check-out just so we could enjoy some of the resort’s amenities before we had to pack up and head home. The days were fairlyregimented, and if families could enjoy some “down time” just to chill out at the hotel, I think everyone would feel more refreshed. (Free time chilling out in the middle of Vail Village is not the same as lying down for a quick cat nap on your hotel bed.)
That said, I’d highly recommend Epic Summer for any out-of-state visitors who are interested in getting to know some of Colorado’s top mountain resort areas — and have a lot of fun and adventures along the way.