When we think about the holidays, a pile of presents surrounding a tree is often one of the first images to pop into our heads. It's not that presents aren't fun to give or get - sometimes, there are more creative ways to show you care about someone. By taking the time to add a personal touch, you're not just giving a gift but a special experience that they'll remember long after the holiday season ends. Coming up with original gifts in place of presents can be a challenge, so here's a guide to get you brainstorming about how to make those great gifts happen locally.
Handmade gifts always come from the heart, but not everyone was born with the skills to create something Martha Stewart-worthy. Here are some gift ideas for both the talented crafter and the domestically challenged:
• The Alpine Arts Center in Edwards is offering a variety of classes and workshops this month to help you make something that might not be mantle-worthy, but will at the very least shine.
The best part is that you can take a class with the person you're making the present for.
"It's much more memorable when you have an experience of doing a creative project together than opening up a gift," said Lauren Merrill, owner of Alpine Arts Center. "When you see it, you'll always remember when you made it and who you made it with."
This month, the Arts Center is offering Cocktails and Canvas and Cocktails and Clay every Wednesday and Saturday night, starting at 6:30 p.m. There are also art vacation camps for kids from Dec. 24 to Jan. 4. For a complete list of classes and events, visit www.alpineartscenter.org or call 970-926-2732.
• For those who have trouble drawing a stick figure, knitting a gift can be as simple as knit, purl, knit, repeat. Alpaca LLC in Eagle holds a knitter's night every other Tuesday, starting at 5 p.m., as well as workshops all day on Saturdays.
"(Something knitted) lasts forever," said Alpaca LLC owner Cass Galloway. "People really appreciate that because time is so short. (The workshops) are fun for kids because the parents don't know what they've made."
For more information about Alpaca LLC, call 970-328-1211.
• Baked goods are gifts that can be enjoyed immediately. Colorado Mountain College in Edwards is holding its third annual Holiday Bakeshop on Dec. 14 and 15. Culinary assistant Heather Weems said the class is a great bargain, because for $80 dollars you go home with at least seven to eight dozen cookies.
"I feel like everyone has so much stuff in their lives, " Weems said. "Food is such a temporary space taker-upper in your pantry. It's not something that you end up dusting for the rest of your life."
To register for the Holiday Bakeshop, call 970-569-2900.
Here in the Vail Valley, many wish lists include wanting the latest snowsports gear or equipment. But what do you get for the outdoor enthusiast who has everything? Give them an experience they'll remember, even after the snow melts.
• If you want to go all out for your ski or snowboard buddies, Double Diamond general manager Matt Carroll suggests planning a snowcat tour.
"You're riding in a ski cat as opposed to hiking, so you get a ride up instead of working for it," Carroll said. "It's in between a regular back country touring trip and a (helicopter) trip. You get a little more terrain and it's more challenging than an inbounds ski trip."
For more information on snowcat tours near Vail Pass, visit www.vailsnowcat.com.
• If your friend or family member is more into tricks than terrain, take them to the Woodward at Copper Barn for a day. An indoor facility complete with trampolines, foam pits and Snowflex jumps, the Barn is the perfect place to practice and perfect moves before the next powder day hits. This month, Woodward is holding a three-day holiday camp for intermediate skiers and snowboarders ages 10 and up from Dec. 27 to 29. To register, or for more information about Woodward, call 888-350-1544 or visit the website at www.woodwardatcooper.com.
One present that works for athletic types and those who are simply stressed out is a massage or a day spent at a luxury spa.
• For the physically stressed, Neysha Gibson, a massage therapist at Simply Massage, recommends the sports massage, which is designed to target muscles most used while doing mountain activities.
"A massage is one of the best experiences that someone can have," Gibson said. "The benefits that it gives you after, (it allows you to be) able to have those muscles loosen up and get back on the hill the next day."
Services at Simply Massage range in price from $40 to $95 dollars depending on length. For more information, visit www.simplymassage.com.
• Most local spas in the area offer day passes, with which you can soak in the hot tub, unwind in the steam room and take advantage of the great views. Paying for your friend of family member is sure to be one present they'll enjoy and appreciate.
Day passes at places such as Anjali Spa, Allegria Spa, the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch spa, the Sonnenalp Spa and the Vail Athletic Club Vitality Center range in price from $35 to $55 dollars.
Individual gifts are great, but sometimes it's more fun to do something together, instead of struggling to find the perfect gift for every single member of your family. Avon resident Kelly Billingsley always plans a fun activity for the holidays in lieu of gifts.
"It becomes something more than a gift," Billingsley said. "It becomes something we can do together as a family. A lot of times we're doing something new and different we've never done before, and it allows us to experience (it together)."
Here are a few suggestions for some festive family time:
• Arrange a private group snowshoe tour, or partake in the free one at the Beaver Creek Nordic Center when it opens up in mid-December. (www.beavercreek.com).
• Hike or ski to the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse, located at the Nordic Center at the base of Ski Cooper, nine miles west of Leadville ( www.tennesseepass.com).
• Take a sleigh ride to dine at Zach's Cabin, located in Beaver Creek above Bachelor Gulch. Opens Dec. 14, weather permitting (visit www.zachscabinbeavercreek.com).
• Sleigh ride dinners are also offered at 4 Eagle Ranch in Eagle, starting Dec. 17 (4eagleranch.com).
The first thing on many children's wish lists is the newest gaming system or popular electronic gadget. The owner of Minturn Music, Shawn McKeown, thinks purchasing a musical instrument is a great alternative to giving kids another digital distraction, and can even cost less.
"We have decent guitars between $150 to $250 dollars, and that's less than game consoles or consumer electronics." McKeown said. "There's so much more you can get out of it. (Instead of) playing a video game, if you invested that same time in playing guitar, you'd be able to play guitar".
If you have young children and aren't sure how musically inclined they are, Minturn Music is hosting a free "mini music makers" event on Dec. 22 from 2 to 3 p.m. Led by local singer-songwriter Elli Gauthier, the jam session gives kids the chance to try different instruments. For more information about Minturn Music events or private instrument lessons, call 970-949-7976.
It's hard to let go of the idea of presents under the tree and watching someone's face light up when they find out what's underneath the wrapping paper. But the holidays aren't only about gifts. This time of year is also a reminder to be grateful for the things, and people, we already have in our lives. When giving a gift, remember that it's not so much about what you give, but who you give it to and why.