June 17, 2011

Your grandchildren are still talking about their vacation at the ski slopes. "Grandma, we can't wait for winter so we can go to the mountains again!" 

Why wait for winter? In the summer, the slopes — as well as the ski towns — have plenty of activities for active grandparents and their grandchildren. Since you don't need to worry about getting them back to school, time is not an issue. Here are three destinations to consider:

If your grandchildren have never been to a foreign country, Canada is a great place to start. They will need a passport, as well as a letter of consent from their parents to travel with you.

Getting there is half the fun. If you don't want to drive, the Whistler Mountaineer train will take you from Vancouver to Whistler in three hours. Perimeter Transportation offers seven daily buses from Vancouver airport. However, driving Highway 99 yourself from Vancouver to Whistler is an experience in itself. The Sea to Sky Highway winds through five distinct ecosystems and the British Columbia scenery is breathtaking.

Once you reach the mountains, there's plenty to do in the Adventure Zone at the base of Blackcomb. The gang can enhance their navigational skills, and maybe win a prize, with a timed run through the Amazen Maze. The Little Mountain Golf Centre provides mini-golf fun for all ages.

If golf is just too tame, snake 1,033 feet down Blackcomb on the Westcoaster Luge track. At the Great Wall Climbing Centre, you can zip across a 250 foot cable on the Flying Fox. Another aerial option — Kiss the Sky Bungy Trampolines where all ages can jump 25 feet in the air and practice flips and other acrobatic maneuvers.

Your grandchildren will never wonder what it's like to join the circus if they get to taste the thrill of the flying Acro-Adix Trapeze. During the past nine years, the folks at Whistler/Blackcomb have helped thousands of first timers strap into the safety harness rigging and soar.

The Spin Cycle Human Gyroscope is modeled after the human gyro that is used by NASA to give astronauts the feeling of launching into space. After her ride on the Gyroscope, Jennie O'Brien told her grandparents that she "wanted to be an astronaut when she grows up!"

Steamboat Springs, Colo., is authentic cowboy country. That in itself is an attraction for some grandkids. Billy Matheson wants to go there so that "Grandma and Grandpa can buy him a real Stetson!" Billy might wear his new cowboy hat horseback riding through the mountains, or to the rodeo Friday and Saturday nights. Grandma Edna Matheson has already taught Carol, Billy's sister, the lyrics to Suzy Bogguss' song about her rodeo lover, Someday Soon.

Cowboy country aside, there are plenty of activities at Steamboat that both grandparents and grandchildren will enjoy. For example, at Howelsen Hill, you can ride the Howler, an alpine slide with a 2,400-foot descent. Susie Carlson told her grandparents, "This is almost as much fun as skiing!"

Steamboat Lake Outfitters provides ATV tours along the many mining roads around Hahn's Peak and the Routt National Forest. Emily Jacobs wants her grandparents to take her back to the Yampa River Botanic Park, so that she can "make Grandma and Grandpa a picture of the butterflies and flowers."

There's no better way to see the high country than from a hot air balloon. Kids must be at least 6 years old and four feet tall to ride with Wild West Balloon Adventures/Pegasus Balloon Tours, which serves a continental breakfast on an hour-long Yampa Valley flight.

You'll also find activities like those featured at Whistler/Blackcomb at Steamboat's own Gondola Square Adventure Zone.

Harriet and Joe Weiner's grandkids could not stop talking about The Sound of Music. One day, while little Molly and Richard were singing a somewhat off-key version of Edelweiss, Harriet had an idea. "How would you like to meet Maria Von Trapp?" she asked. "They own the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont." Maria, one of the original kids pictured in the movie, is in her 90s, still singing and playing the accordion.

Intimate as resorts go, the Trapp Family Lodge has 96 rooms in the Tyrolean-style Main Lodge. You may prefer to book one of the 100 guest houses available on a time-share basis. The two-bedroom chalets can sleep six, and include kitchens.

Located in Stowe, one of the most picturesque towns in Vermont, the lodge offers a variety of activities to entertain you and the grandkids, such as swimming, nature hikes and horse-drawn carriage rides. Music is a specialty at the Trapp Family Lodge, with sing-a-longs and harp classes. You can show your teenage grandchildren that you've still got some moves by taking a hip-hop dance class with them.

Whack some balls around on the clay tennis courts or the croquet lawn. When togetherness wears thin, take a time out by packing the kids off to the Mountain Kids Club Camp. Twice a day, the lodge shows the film, The Real Maria, which is the true story of the novice nun who married the Captain. Afternoon tea and cookies are served on the lawn. Sunday night, spread a blanket in the Meadow to hear a concert under the stars.

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