For my husband and some of my friends, camp was a life transforming experience. The memories they share and stories they tell–of camaraderie and cabin antics, of end-of-camp olympics, of singing every morning in the dining hall–have always made me wish I’d gone as well and whenever I look at the fabulous descriptions of kids’ overnight camps I find myself wondering why there aren’t places like that for grownups. So when I heard that Mount Snow, one of Southern Vermont’s leading ski destinations, was launching a brand new family camp for the 2014 summer season, I was delighted that my camp ship had not totally sailed. My oldest daughter and I quickly signed up for the Mount Snow Family Camp inaugural week, looking forward to a week of relaxation, bonding and outdoor adventure.
Mount Snow’s family camp philosophy of “unplug and reconnect” is perfectly in tune with my own as Unplugged Traveling Mom. We all spend plenty of time, too much in fact, more in sync with our busy schedules and our electronic devices than with the humans we love the most. Mount Snow’s Family Camp seeks to remedy that syndrome, helping families reunite with one another in the spectacular, natural environment of summertime in Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest.
What is Family Camp?
Family Camp is exactly what it sounds like–sleep-away camp for families–and options run the gamut from camps with rustic accommodations and limited amenities to full, resort-style experiences. Family camp packages are often all-inclusive, with 3-meals served family-style daily and an abundance of activities from which to choose. Some camps offer separate children’s and adult’s programs with time built into the schedule for families to do things together as well, the model to which Mount Snow adheres. And best of all, exploring nature and adventuring outdoors tends to be an integral focus of many family camps.
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Why Mount Snow Family Camp?
The brand new family camp at Mount Snow is the perfect marriage of off-the-grid, yet comfortable, adventurous, yet nurturing and the camp’s friendly staff are brimming with positive energy and a spirit of enthusiasm that is completely contagious. A great deal of thought and care went into the creation of the family camp and the friendly folks at Mount Snow are deeply invested in providing families with an authentic, rewarding experience.
Accommodations are in the resort’s lovely Seasons Condominiums, just a short walk from the Sundance Lodge which serves as camp’s home base throughout your stay. Seasons has it’s own sports center complete with an outdoor pool, tennis courts, regulation basketball court, indoor pool, hot tubs, sauna, full exercise room and a recreation room. The condos where campers stay are spacious and cozy with a large, comfortable living room, full kitchen with breakfast bar, dining area, private patio or balcony, two full baths, and two inviting bedrooms.
Because we were so busy with camp activities, we didn’t spend that much time in our condo, yet I found myself imagining returning to ski in the winter, a roaring fire in the fireplace, a bit pork butt simmering away in the crockpot I found in the kitchen. My daughter did bring along the last three Harry Potter movies (her sisters are still too young for these) and we watched them over the course of the week, snuggled on the sofa in the evenings for a smidgeon of “plugged” time. Everything in moderation, right?
As with many family camps, a family-style breakfast and dinner were served daily in Sundance and were both healthy and delicious throughout the week. Families were greeted each morning with fresh orange juice, hot coffee and tea, eggs, sausage, bacon, yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, cereals, and oatmeal and every morning there was another special item on the buffet from french toast to blueberry blintzes. Dinner was equally abundant and rather than a buffet, large platters were presented all along the table. We enjoyed lasagna and baked ziti, Mediterranean chicken, roast beef with mushroom gravy, and sweet and sour pork. There was always a vegetarian option available and platters of sautéed vegetables and bowls of beautiful mixed greens were served every night. Taco night was met with particular enthusiasm by all the campers, adults and kids alike. At dinner each evening we completed our box-lunch orders for the next day that consisted of a variety of sandwiches, fruit, chips and yummy cookies. Several times the camp staff packed up our lunches to bring along to that day’s “field trip” and we enjoyed plenty of picnics during the week.
Adventures Abound at Mount Snow Family Camp
The possibilities for outdoor fun at Mount Snow are endless and campers had the opportunity to challenge themselves in myriad ways with hiking, mountain biking, tubing, kayaking or paddle boarding on a gorgeous lake and zip-lining through the forest. At the same time, there were plenty of options for those feeling a bit less adventurous whether that meant relaxing pool side, playing ping pong in Sundance Base or enjoying a massage in the spa at the Grand Summit Lodge.
What really stood out at Mount Snow was the fantastic way the staff was there to support and encourage all of the campers, helping us to push beyond our comfort levels in ways we might not have done otherwise. Perhaps the most moving example of this was with one young woman who had been in a devastating car accident only 18-months earlier. After intensive rehabilitation she was back on her feet but tired easily and was apprehensive about any activities that seemed somewhat risky. Throughout the week we all watched as she hiked along an uneven, wetland trail in the wood, balanced on a series of dangling elements at a high-ropes course in the Berkshires and rode gleefully aboard a huge tube as it was pulled through the wake of a pontoon boat on Lake Whitingham.
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Other campers had similar experiences and I looked on with pleasure as my own daughter took her own risks, both physically and socially, throughout the week. Watching her determination in conquering slack line walking and goofing around with the other kids in the group as comfortably as if she’d known them for years was a happy surprise as she’s usually on the shy side. The vibe of acceptance and inclusion was tangible to us all and camaraderie grew, between both campers and staff, very quickly.
Phone? What Phone?
It’s rare these days that you don’t see someone looking down, a handheld, electronic window to the internet and social media in the palm of their hands. I am delighted to report that throughout our time at Family Camp, phone sightings were extremely rare and tablets and laptops were virtually nonexistent. The few times a phone did appear the culprit said that he or she just wanted to share some of the gorgeous photos they’d taken with family and friends in the outside world.
It was such a pleasure to see everyone so completely engaged, in activities and in each other, that the pull of technology waned almost completely during the week. Epic four-square battles, raging games of capture the flag, a kickball match by the light of the tiki torches, ping pong or pool in the base lodge, boisterous daily recaps at dinner each night–these were the activities that prevailed. We shared stories, made incredible peanut butter cup s’mores, and laughed at the events of the day. We were in tune with each other. Unplugged and connected in the best possible way.