Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring-Time for Child to Think about Camping

I know it's crazy isn't it.  My daughter's locals ski program just ended and we just got a storm last weekend that dumped nearly 4 feet at the Summit of Alpine Meadows that had us skiing powder all day Sunday, but we just hit the panic button.  Spring sprung on us last Friday and with the snowflakes we barely even noticed.  Except on Saturday evening when we all gathered around the table for some serious carbo-loading to ensure energy for the next days pow and summer planning.

We pulled out our calendars of or old-school paper and started plotting out our camping weekends.  See actually we are LATE!  Late you say...  YES!  So now we are hitting full tilt rush mode as we also have the school year to start thinking about as our daughter enters kindergarten.  So summer or alas the one where you can hit the open road at any point on Friday will actually end on August 13 with the first day of the public school year.  And then add on top that many of the major national parks started accepting reservations for the summer months nearly 4 months ago and yes, we are behind.  For instance any shot at camping inside Yosemite is dashed as the next window to open will be April 15 for scheduling of camping dates between August 15 (after school starts) and September 14. 

Being in northern California and having access to such amazing differences in climate, topography, etc. we really try to keep our camping trips varied.  Generally one to the coast, one to the high country, and one "just because."  The "just because" one is reserved for the "because I know a family who has gone there for years and love it," "because it will be our wine country destination this year," "because it has an available campsite,"....

So we have our 3 weekends picked.  And we have an idea as to where we would like to go.  For our high country this year we are thinking to Calaveras and our "just is in the a great wine tasting area"....Santa Cruz/Monterey area for the coastal visit....and then one more TBD.  But now we start our biggest obstacle...finding a campground.

So when finding a campground you also need to be prepared...and know your needs or restrictions.  For instance we need some of the following items:
> Pets allowed, at least on 2 out of 3 of our families have dogs
> Trailers allowed, we can forgo hook-ups, but 2 out of 3 of our families have pop-ups
> Takes reservations...don't want to go all that way for a walk-in and find it's full
> Kid-friendly least some hikes, perhaps a water feature, or interpretive program
> ...

Now the hunt begins.  You may already have some ideas or specific campgrounds...if so you can go straight to some of the web-based booking tools such as:
Otherwise just a general Internet search might suffice.

If you don't have a good jumping in point it may be helpful to ask around.  Of course the first stop should be friends or family, then head to a Visitor's Bureau or Chamber of Commerce for the area you wish to visit.  Also with the Internet age the networking/social websites such as Facebook or Twitter (by the way...I twitter as norcalskimom) are other good places to gather recommendations.

When booking ensure you understand all the fees as well as cancellation policies, then book away and look forward to a summer of your child on the go in nature.

Other related posts:

Please feel free to leave your families favorite campground and why in a comment.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Professional help to go on skis....

Living in northern California and close to Lake Tahoe there is a abundant amount of ski resorts to pick from...and with that means an abundant amount of kid's programs as well. Everything from your standard ski school to the 1 hr private...all the way up to Squaw Valley Academy which is a College Prep School for grades 6-12 and Sugar Bowl's Academy. Honestly it is all a little overwhelming. So with our daughter turning 4 years old and starting to qualify for some programs we went with...the most talked about for this age group...Alpine Meadows' Locals Program. And having just completed the program...we have to say all the hype and expectations were met...if not exceeded.

Alpine's Locals Program is designed for children 4-12 years old who don't necessarily want to be in a team/competition situation, but still get the incredible instruction and coaching to progress their skiing/snowboarding abilities. This program is offered on half day, 2 half days, full day, or 2 full days on the weekends from early January through early March for 8 weeks (avoiding the holiday weekends). Class sizes are generally 4 or less except for the first week when there are larger groupings with several instructors while they ski/board off to determine exact abilities. From the second week on the child has the same instructor and classmates. For my 4yo this was huge! She looked forward every weekend to seeing her ski friends and teacher.

I am not sure if our results were normal, above, or below....but the important piece to me the paying parent (which this program is a steal if you calc it out) was it more than met my expectations and my daughter had a great time. In 8 half day sessions (and really 7 as we missed one for our Park City trip)...she went from wedge turns, assisted on/off the chairlift, and never used a poma or went through a terrain park to...parallel turns on more graduated slopes (we still wedge on the steeps), getting on/off the chairlift with no assistance (we still ride with an adult though), using the poma, and going off the rollers in the terrain park. Laura (her instructor) if you are reading this...we went to Homewood Sunday and she was laying them over carving. My husband said if he would have seen this prior to us giving you your tip he would have doubled it!

The instructors were always prompt and very communicative and friendly. They would discuss with each parent after class what was done during class and their child's progress. Kids generally got a break halfway through for nature's call and a little hot chocolate and graham crackers in the Kids' Camp area. The director of the program was very much on top of things...communicating out schedule changes due to weather, class/instructor changes, etc.. It was an impressively run program.

So I noted we are finished and will have choices again next year....Ally could continue in Locals and increase to a full day, 2 half days, or 2 full days. Or if we/she desires move into the Mountain Rangers program which is more money, but includes their season pass if they are 5 or older when they have to start purchasing one. Mountain Rangers is a lot more days starting in December and going into April. It also is held during all the holiday periods. And is perfect at half days for the 4-6yr old stamina and maturity. It is seen as a stepping stone non-competitive development teams which start at age 6.

But we have until approx Sept 1 to figure that all out and get the early bird discounts. Until then we hope to enjoy some spring skiing with our little parallel skier. We also apparently need to have a talk with the Easter Bunny about some poles....
If you know a great children's ski program or an instructor in your area...please leave a comment.
Other related blog entries:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Our first "child" on the go leaves us...

What is it folks say? A dog is a stepping stone to children.

Back in June of 1999 after months of research, including taking numerous dog breed selector surveys that is supposed to base upon your lifestyle help match you with a breed for which you are suited for them and them for you. Alaskan Malamute was to be our first child and after researching and meeting an incredible breeder couple in our area we were 100% sure. This couple did not breed because they needed the money for selling the pups it was truly because they wanted one of the pups or a couple in fact for themselves. And we were lucky they had some pups on the way. June 12, 1999 the next litter of Canusa's Alaskan Malamutes were born. We visited the pups at 6 weeks and selected our little boy, which we would bring home two weeks later. During the 2 weeks until he came home though we scoured maps of Alaska, Canada, and ski areas trying to find the perfect name for this hard-working snow breed. Finally when we picked him up..."Summit" after one of our favorite ski chairs, Summit Six at Alpine Meadows is what stuck. It seemed very fitting as this chair boasts one of the best views in the world at a resort well known for their love of their incredible ski patrol rescue dogs.

Summit grew quickly and we quickly found out just what it meant that a dog is the stepping stone to a child. We wanted to continue our active lifestyle, but knew we had seen plenty of "No Dog" or "Leashed Dog Only" signs during our travels as a couple. So we went to books and internet to help us go with our first "child." And here's some of the most useful resources:

Through well-researched trips Summit enjoyed travels all over the Northern California coast, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe including Kirkwood Ski Resort for snow play, hanging in the back lot or LotA at Sierra at Tahoe, snow camping off Hwy89 south of Meyers, skijoring at Royal Gorge, sunsets on Incline Village's beaches during the winter (dogs not allowed during the summer), and chasing balls, sticks, kayakers, rafters on the South Fork of the American River

Planning trips for us and Summit was a definitely a step in preparing us for children. Destinations were well planned out as were supplies. So if you are at the stepping stone...know you can still GO with that first "child." Summit enjoyed nearly 10 years of going with us before leaving us quite unexpectedly Feb 12, 2009. He was our children's big brother and most definitely our first Child on the Go with whom we enjoyed many adventures and whose footsteps will be missed on the trails of our travels to come.

Canusa Summit Jolly

June 12, 1999 - February 12, 2009