So, it’s August. You recently opened a closet to toss something in and saw your kids’ ski jackets hanging there. Aside from momentary visions of skiing hardpack or fresh powder, you realize it’s time to plan the family ski-cation!
But, before you run headlong and pack up your children’s ski clothes, you need to consider what type of ski resort is best for families – a place where kids and adults can both have a good time. In my experience, you’ve got to have the whole package, including slopes for varied skill levels, alternative activities, quality child care, and restaurants and lodging that cater to kids.
So, with that in mind, here are my top five kid-friendly ski resort recommendations:
Keystone, Colorado, one of the closest major resorts to Denver, is just 90 minutes from Denver International Airport. In addition to great skiing, Keystone is home to the largest ice skating rink in North America (five acres) and offers snowmobiling, snowshoeing and indoor tennis. It also provides child care for children ages two months and up, and the ski school has learn-to-ski programs beginning at age three. Keystone University offers lessons to skiers and snowboarders at all levels of ability. They also have handicapped programs available if reservations are made ahead of time.
Smugglers Notch, Vermont, is only 30 miles from Burlington International Airport. It has been rated one of the top family destinations in the East several years in a row. Its FunZone indoor family center includes a crawl-through train express, a 22-ft. giant double lane slide and a 45-ft. giant obstacle course, as well as activities like miniature golf, shuffleboard and an arcade.
Smugglers Notch also has two teen centers and offers a variety of group activities for teens like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, indoor swimming and volleyball. It also has organized teen center activities in the evenings. Child care is available for ages three weeks and up, and ski instruction is offered for children ages 2½ and older. The resort also has an adaptive program (SNAP) available for all ages with advanced reservations.
Northstar at Tahoe, California, is located only 23 miles from Reno-Tahoe International Airport and three miles from Trukee-Tahoe Airport. The size of the beginner teaching area has doubled, and there is a new Burton Snowboard Academy to instruct little snowboarders ages four to 12.
Northstar also has an array of activities for families to participate in together, including an ice skating rink with a nearby fire pit, a tubing center, a movie theatre and craft stores that provide organized activities and entertainment. It offers child care for children age two and older, as well as individual and family ski lessons.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is located less than 19 miles from Yampa Valley Airport and offers a cool “Kids Ski Free” program, allowing children 12 years of age and under to ski free for the same number of days as their parents or grandparents when an adult purchases a lift ticket for five days or more at the regular price. The program also includes free ski rentals for kids and discounted rentals for teens. In addition, Steamboat offers childcare for kids ages six months and older and “Rough Rider” lessons to children and teens ages six to 18. Off the slopes, the Kids Adventure Club for kids ages three to 12 offers supervision, movies, games and snacks at night so mom and dad can get away!
Park City, Utah, is located 37 miles from Salt Lake International Airport, and its mountain resort offers snowshoeing, tubing and exploration of the Utah Olympic Center. Kids will also love the Old Town district, which transports kids to the days of the Wild West. Plus, Park City boasts “Kids Signature Programs,” which are designed to give personalized instruction to children ages 3½ to five years old.
While planning your vacation, Park City can put you in touch with a “snowmama,” who writes about family events and activities and can answer your questions. To get in touch with a snowmama, visit http://www.parkcitymountain.com/winter/snowmamas.
After you get done reviewing and possibly booking one of these kid-friendly ski resorts, don’t forget to make sure your kids’ winter clothing – including jackets, pants, gloves, hats and scarves – fits and is ready to go for your next family ski adventure.