For ski families, Thanksgiving is about more than the turkey feast | SummitDaily.com

For ski families, Thanksgiving is about more than the turkey feast

John LaConte
jlaconte@vaildaily.com

BEAVER CREEK — Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, was also the first sunny day of the ski season, as clear skies and warm temperatures made for pleasant conditions on the mountain.

Families celebrating the holiday at Beaver Creek Resort enjoyed soft snow on more than 60 surface acres available for skiing and snowboarding.

While it's not much in comparison to the thousands of acres the mountain will eventually open this season, it was enough for many of the parents seeking some on-snow time with their children.

Visiting from Denver, Chad McGovern visited both Vail and Beaver Creek with his kids on Thursday. Callen McGovern, 6, and his friend Lucas Schultz, 11, said they preferred the afternoon on Gold Dust at Beaver Creek over the morning on Born Free at Vail.

"If you take the chondola all the way up, you get a pretty long run in," Schultz said of Beaver Creek's alternating chairlift and gondola lift.

In addition to Vail and Beaver Creek, Schultz said he has also snowboarded at Keystone Resort and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area this season.

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"The park at Keystone is pretty good," he said.

While Chad and Callen McGovern were out riding on Thursday, Callen's grandmother was back at the condo they rented in Simba Run preparing the turkey.

"We got in yesterday and are staying through the weekend," Chad McGovern said. "We're trying to make it a family tradition."

CHEAPER THAN DAY CARE

Callen started snowboarding at the age of 3 and is now enjoying his fourth year in the sport. By staying through the weekend, "we're trying to get them as much on-snow time as we can," Chad McGovern said.

The desire to expose kids to snowsports was a common theme expressed by many of the parents spending Thanksgiving Day at Beaver Creek.

Visiting from Texas, Todd Dixon said he has been spending holidays at Beaver Creek since 2003. He started bringing his daughter Taylor, who is now 15, and is now bringing Taylor's siblings, Todd, 12, and Tanner, 9.

"We come for Christmas and spring break, and Thanksgiving when we can," Todd Dixon said. "We're try to get the kids at least 10 or 15 days on the snow each season."

Golden resident Matthew Hall brought his 6-year old son Hayden out to get some on-snow time.

"The skiing's not all that yet, but it's good for him," Matthew said of Hayden, who has been skiing since the age of 2. "He's coming along."

The Eisenman brothers, 11-year-old Finn and 7-year-old Eli, were having fun, but as locals, they're really looking forward to a terrain park opening up in Eagle County. Their father, Spike Eisenman, said he can always count on riding Beaver Creek on Thanksgiving.

"Here, it's pretty consistent," he said.

Eisenman said he has had his kids in snowboarding school since they were toddlers.

"The cheapest day care is to put them in ski school," he said.

'THE TIME WE INVEST'

For other local families, Thanksgiving Day on the mountain was just another day of practice.

Eli Stroker is just 4 years old (he turns 5 next week) and already starting his fourth year of snowboarding.

His mother, Rachael Stroker, has been living in Eagle County for 16 years and said snowboarding is an important part of life for her. She tried to get Eli to start skiing at age 2, which is common, but Eli didn't want to.

"He starting talking early, so he could articulate what he wanted pretty well by age 2," she said.

One of the first snowsport-related thoughts Eli communicated to his mother?

"I don't want to ski," he told her. "I want to snowboard."

She purchased him a 100-centimeter Burton board, which was too big for him at the time, and used Burton's Riglet Reel pull cord to pull him around.

"I spent two and a half seasons with him in that area right there," she said of Beaver Creek's Buckaroo Gondola and magic carpet area, which was also seeing good crowds at on Thursday.

"It was a lot of work," she said. "People don't realize that teaching a kid to ski or snowboard can be very exhausting for a parent."

Stroker did not snowboard herself during this time, she only ran alongside Eli, helping him stay upright using the Riglet Reel.

"I wore crampons over my shoes and went up and down that bunny slope all day long," she said. "I had maybe one or two personal days to myself all winter during those two and a half seasons. Otherwise, all of my time and energy was spent out here with him."

Cruising along with Eli on Thursday, (he is finally big enough for that 100 centimeter board,) Rachael Stroker was reaping the rewards of all that time spent.

Eli rode with the proficiency of an adult, taking on all manner of terrain and making it look easy. Other people seeing him were amazed.

"He will be better than me soon," Rachael said. "The time we invest in teaching our kids — it's priceless."