Looking to take a ski vacation without breaking the bank? Then head to Missouri. Yes, Missouri. There you will find the Hidden Valley Ski Resort, a family-friendly place that offers a variety of trails suitable for different skills levels, as well as the Polar Plunge, the largest snow tubing hill in Missouri.
Hidden Valley is in Wildwood, just outside of St. Louis. Rather than racking up the expense of air travel, just hop in the car for a five-hour drive.
Take the plunge
Hidden Valley's tentative opening date is Dec. 15, and the season typically runs through mid-March. However, always check the resort's online snow report before making your trek because skiing, snowboarding and tubing are weather-dependent activities and conditions and hours are subject to change without notice.
That said, whether you are a seasoned skier or a first-timer, Hidden Valley offers hours of fun. The resort offers lessons and rentals for boots, skis and snowboards. It has trails for three skill levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced), and handle tows, carpet lifts and chair lifts to get you started. There’s also some freestyle terrain for those who are ready to do a little hotdoggin’. And the Polar Plunge Tubing Park is off to the side of the ski runs.
Once you arrive, check in at the main lodge to purchase your tickets (there’s also a seating area with a rustic fireplace, a cafeteria and bar, and a retail shop). With tickets in hand, head to the rental building to pick up your boots, skis or snowboard. If you want a few pointers before taking to the slopes, make a stop at the tubing building and sign up for a lesson or two at the Snowsports Academy. A staff member will teach you everything from how to grab the tow rope to keeping your balance to — and this is really important — how to stop without toppling over.
What to wear
Other things that are important are the clothes you pack. While Hidden Valley is not a ski-and-be-seen resort, it is recommended that skiers don't wear cotton clothing (i.e., jeans and a sweatshirt), because you are likely to become wet, and then cold. Instead, dress in layers to stay warm and dry.
Wear silk or nylon-blend long underwear or footless tights and a single pair of thin wool or acrylic socks (multiple layers of socks will only give you blisters, the website warns).
Your outer layers should be waterproof (winter sports jacket and shell pants). You can also rent snow jackets and waterproof bibs that fit like an overall. For tubing, wear winter boots instead of tennis shoes.
Also, remember to bring your sunglasses or goggles and sunscreen to protect you from the sun’s glare off the snow. Add water-resistant gloves or mittens and a hat to complete your snow-ready attire.
Where to stay
There is no lodging at the resort, but several hotels are located nearby. The hotels listed here offer discounted rates for those visiting Hidden Valley Ski Resort.
The Holiday Inn at Six Flags offers a kids stay and eat free policy, a heated indoor pool, a video arcade and other entertainment including shuffleboard and pool tables. Rates start at $89.95 a room, and ski packages are available that include discounted ski tickets and lift tickets. 636-938-6661, www.hisixflags.com
As a boutique hotel, The Wildwood Hotel offerings include luxurious in-room amenities, Jacuzzi king suites and walking-distance proximity to restaurants, shopping and a movie theater. Rates start at $109, including two free breakfasts. 636-733-9100, www.thewildwoodhotel.com
Comfort Inn & Suites Chesterfield is closer to St. Louis, but still less than 10 miles from the ski resort. Very budget-friendly, this property offers a complimentary hot breakfast and a heated indoor swimming pool. Rates start at $69. 636-530-1200, www.comfortinnchesterfield.com.
Where to eat, drink and be merry
You can find a number of barbecue joints, pizza places and pub-grub eateries near the ski resort. Or head into St. Louis and have your pick of just about any cuisine. But if you want a uniquely local experience, try Blueberry Hill, an eatery filled with nostalgia and musical memorabilia from Chuck Berry; the city’s most famous soda fountain, serving since 1913, Crown Candy Kitchen; Sweetie Pie’s, a soul food restaurant favored by Oprah Winfrey; Fitz’s, offering American grub and views of its vintage bottling line for its brand of root beer and craft sodas like creme, orange and black cherry; and Ted Drewes, where they serve iconic frozen custard.
Take a break
Want to take a break from the slopes? Head to St. Louis. The iconic Gateway Arch is often the first stop for visitors to St. Louis, but another place you won’t want to miss is the City Museum. Quite a wonder to behold, the exhibits at City Museum are mostly made from re-purposed architectural and industrial objects. It offers a great indoor adventure that will keep the entire family entertained.
If you go
How to get there: Point the car westward and make your way towards St. Louis, Mo. From there, pick up I-44 west and follow the signs to Hidden Valley Resort, located 3.5 miles off I-44, at 17409 Hidden Valley Dr, Wildwood, 63025.
When to go: Hours for skiing and tubing vary during the holidays, and are always subject to change according to weather conditions. Visit the website for updated conditions and specific hours before heading to Hidden Valley.
How much does it cost: The cost to ski at Hidden Valley is $49 a person per day and includes ski and lift tickets. Ski rentals are available for $31 a day. Lessons range from $20 for a group lesson to $85 for a private lesson. Tubing is $26 a person for a three-hour stint. Season passes are also available.
Contact: 636-938-5373, www.hiddenvalleyski.com
Let's have fun! (??)