The Best Ski Resorts for Families

To raise a little ripper — and shred some pow yourself — you need to find the resort that meets the needs of the whole family. Look no further.

by Lily Krass
Originally Published: 
Collage of family photos at ski resorts

Few slopes are swarming with kids. It’s an odd observation if you think about it: What’s more fun than skiing or snowboarding down a mountain? What kid wouldn’t want to strap on a plank or two to their feet, be lifted to the top of a massive hill, and have at it? Still, the mountains are primarily populated by itinerant twenty-somethings, weekending couples, and parents with generous in-laws. It doesn’t have to be that way. Skiing with kids is a truly special experience that, sure, is up there in price with a Disney Land vacation, but is so much more rewarding. It just takes the right resort, and yeah, a lot of planning.

“Skiing with kids takes work,” says Tess Weaver, who skis with her 8-year-old son at Aspen Snowmass. “There will be tears (from them, too). But eventually, the fun outweighs the work. Passing along a love for skiing means passing along a love for the natural world, for mountains, snow, winter, community, physical activity, travel and more.”

Whether you’re itching to get your kids into boots for their first turns or can barely keep up with them (just tell yourself, it’s the low center of gravity), these family-friendly resorts boast a variety of terrain, great ski schools, convenient childcare programs, and amenities to make your family vacation a breeze.

Northstar, CA

Of all the resorts in the Tahoe area, Northstar is a favorite amongst families for its variety of lessons for kids 3-18. If your kids aren’t ready to ski, the Minors Camp Day Care is just a short shuttle ride from the mountain, available for kids 2-6 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After the ski day, there are tons of activities kiddos will love like bungee trampolines, ice skating, and s’mores toasting at the various fire pits around the base village.

Pow for parents: The Backside Express is tree skiing heaven, with endless stashes and well-spaced steep glades.

Sun Valley, ID

Dollar Mountain, adjacent to the main hill at Bald Mountain, is about as family-friendly as it gets, with a variety of beginner runs and some short blue and black trails, as well as a terrain park that will keep older kids entertained for hours. Kids 4 and under ski free all season long, and Idaho’s 5th and 6th grade Peak Season Passport Program gives kids three free days of skiing at all Idaho ski resorts for just $18.

Pow for parents: Take the Mayday lift up to access Lookout Bowl and Easter Bowl, some of the steep wide-open bowl skiing Sun Valley is known for.

Solitude, UT

Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort

Nestled in Big Cottonwood Canyon just 40 minutes from Salt Lake City, the aptly named Solitude Mountain is a break from the powder-crazed crowds on the other side of the canyon at Snowbird and Alta. This quiet resort has 1,200 acres of ski terrain to explore, including the Moonbeam base area, a mecca of beginner terrain with options for 4 and 5 year-olds to take small-group half day lessons with Junior Explorers and full day Explorers lessons for kids 6-13.

Pow for parents: The Summit Chair has moderate blue trails, wide open black bowls, and some steeper double black terrain. While the rest of the family takes Dynamite to the bottom, hop into the steep trees in the Headwall Forest or the Evergreen Chutes for a little excitement.

Aspen Snowmass, CO

Aside from world-class instructors and coaches, the four mountains across Aspen Snowmass have a ton of kid-friendly terrain and beginner progression for both new skiers and adventure-seeking kids. Small amenities take stress off for parents, like stuffed animals on the lifts, wagons in the parking lot to carry gear, and hot chocolate kiosks all over the mountain.

Pow for parents: Hike Highlands bowl for long fall-line skiing and powder stashes days after a storm.

Winter Park, CO

Just a two-hour drive from Denver, Winter Park is a favorite for its chill vibe, great ski school, and learn-to-ski area, Discovery Park. Discovery has wide open green runs and a few spaced out tree runs, the perfect place to let your kids roam in a safe and secure area without worrying about expert skiers flying through.

Pow for parents: Check out the Mary Jane side of the mountain for steep tree runs and challenging bumps.

Keystone, CO

Keystone Ski Resort

Keystone is consistently one of the top-ranked family resorts in Colorado, and for good reason. The Schoolyard, a unique family ski trail right at the heart of the mountain, an engaging green trail for kids and parents to practice rolling over bumps and weaving in and out of features.

Free parking at the base along with free gear wagons make it easy to drag skis (or kids) across the snowy parking lot to the base village and the Kids Ski Free Program offers free lift tickets for any kids 12 and under when you book your lodging directly through the resort. Check out the Adventure Point Tubing Park and Kidtopia Snow Fort when the kids need a break from skiing.

Pow for parents: Hike Keystone’s many back bowls for fresh turns days after a storm. Hike to Wapiti Peak from the top of the Outback Chair, or access Bergman Bowl via a short bootpack from the Outpost.

Mammoth, CA

Mammoth Mountain

With full and half-day lessons for kids three and up, adventure zones hidden in the woods, and free lift tickets for kids four and under, Mammoth does right by families. With over 3,500 acres of skiable terrain, beginner, intermediate, and expert skiers have endless terrain to choose from.

Pow for parents: The Upper Panorama Gondola accesses some of the steepest ridgeline terrain Mammoth has to offer, with wide open bowls and steep chutes.

Steamboat, CO

With tons of beginner and intermediate terrain and Old West cowboy charm, Steamboat’s friendly feel stands out among Colorado resorts. The brand new Happy Camp Children’s Program Center makes getting kids on snow easy, with lessons available for kids 2 and up, and rentals available on-site for a one-stop-shop experience.

Pow for parents: Head over the backside to access the Morningside area, for soft snow and quiet bowl skiing. From the top of Morningside, you can also access Christmas Tree Bowl and Chutes 1-3 if you’re looking to add a little more spice.

Jackson Hole, WY

Jackson Hole is known for its extreme terrain, but what’s not often mentioned is the variety of intermediate and kid-friendly amenities the Wyoming resort also has to offer. The Solitude Station Learning Center (which opened in 2018) is a dedicated beginner area, with mellow rolling terrain, a magic carpet, ski school lockers and outdoor fireplaces to warm up between laps.

Pow for parents: Take the famous aerial tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain and peer into Corbet’s (drop if you dare) before weaving through chalky bumps in Rendezvous Bowl.

Crystal Mountain, MI

Crystal Mountain

A favorite among midwesterners for its variety of terrain, friendly staff, convenient accommodations and designated learning area, Crystal Mountain in Michigan (just two hours from Grand Rapids) is an ideal family vacation. Each lift has a variety of terrain, so families with kids at multiple levels can ride the lift up and then choose their own adventure for the way down.

Pow for parents: The gladed runs off Crystal Clipper and Buck are a fun adventure for advanced skiers.

Angel Fire, NM

Angel Fire Resort

A quiet resort in northern New Mexico, Angel Fire is a great place for kids to learn to ski. Angel Fire’s ski school offers group lessons for kids 3-12, and with 21 percent beginner and 56 percent intermediate terrain, progression feels natural and less intimidating than neighboring Taos. Night skiing, sledding, and tubing make for great after hours activities if the kids aren’t ready to head inside just yet.

Pow for parents: If you’re looking for a challenge, hike out to the Nitro, Detonator, and Baa-da-Bing trails off the Southwest Flyer chair for steep gladed terrain.

Bretton Woods, NH

Bretton Woods

As New Hampshire’s largest ski area, Bretton Woods is known for some of the best grooming in the east, minimizing the icy and treacherous feel that can make east coast skiing tough for kids. For the 2021/2022 season, Bretton Woods is only offering private lessons, with Beginner Private Lessons for kids 7 and up (up to four per group), or one-hour Snow Play Private Lessons for kids 4-6 to introduce them to the basic movement patterns of skiing.

Pow for parents: Ski the Mount Stickney Glades off the Telegraph T-Bar for some classic New England tree skiing.

Smuggler’s Notch, VT

Smuggler’s Notch

The tagline at Smuggler’s is “America’s Family Resort,” so it’s no surprise that the Vermont resort has a tons of beginner and intermediate terrain, cute mascots on the hill, a convenient childcare center for kids as young as 6 weeks, on-snow instruction for toddlers, and all-day lessons for kids 3-15.

Pow for parents: Head to the top of Madonna for a striking view of Mount Mansfield, and drop into Upper Liftline and Freefall if you’re looking for a challenge.

Sunday River, ME

Skier in powder heading downhill at Sunday River ski resort.

From the Enchanted Forest to the Waffle Cabin, the slopes of Sunday River are packed with kid-friendly adventures. The sprawling resort is a fun place for kids to roam, with designated beginner terrain (over 75 percent of the trails are beginner or intermediate) and relatively few crowds since skiers are dispersed throughout the resort’s eight peaks.

Pow for parents: Advanced skiers should head to Oz, where steep New England glades await.

Gore Mountain, NY

With rolling beginner terrain down low and more advanced terrain up high, Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks is a great place for kids to progress. Sign your kids up for Mountain Adventure Class, two or four-hour lessons for kids 4-12, in the morning, and explore the resort’s 448 skiable acres together as a family in the afternoon.

Pow for parents: If you’re craving the steeps, duck out from family time for a few laps down Rumor and Lies off the Straight Brook Quad.

Hunter Mountain, NY

Hunter Mountain

Just two hours north of New York City in the Northern Catskills, Hunter Mountain’s incredible ski school, designated beginner area (Hunter One), and even breakdown of beginner, intermediate, and advanced terrain make it an ideal place for first time families and dedicated skiers alike. Sign kids 3-14 up for full or half-day group lessons, and stay up on the mountain or drive back to the city for an easy weekend trip.

Pow for parents: While kids are in ski school, hop on F Lift to access some of the most technical terrain on the mountain, where K27 and Milky Glades will test your grit.

Okemo, VT

Okemo is a favorite for East Coast families. An easy drive from Boston, Albany, or New York City, Okemo has excellent instructors and tons of mellow cruiser runs. Okemo’s ski school offers group lessons for kids of all ages, with daycare facilities just steps away from the slopes, and slopeside accommodations so you don’t have to deal with shuttles and crowded parking lots.

Pow for parents: Okemo is known for its incredible grooming infrastructure, but for steeper, ungroomed trails, the South Face will get your blood pumping.

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