With the first fall of snowflakes from gray skies, winter-loving families head for the hills to enjoy the snow-covered splendor found at ski resorts. Whether your child is a shredding, snowboarding teen or a ski bunny newbie going to ski school for the very first time, mountain resorts across North America are catering to families, whether they prefer to enjoy the snow from the comfort of the heated indoors or on the slopes. When it comes to the best ski resorts for kids, check out all of the offerings at these top-rated North America mountaintops, as well as the best accommodations for your ski vacation.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Perhaps one of the friendliest slopes for kids is Colorado’s Beaver Creek. Located just about two hours from Denver International Airport (or 30 minutes from Vail – Eagle) — this resort is relatively easy to access from East and West Coast destinations. This ski resort features 150 trails and 24 ski lifts, plus kid-friendly amenities. Teens and families can attend special events like an après ski pizza party; fresh, free warm cookie time at 3pm; and weekly sunset snowshoe treks. There’s also sleigh rides to dinner, a slope-side Candy Cabin, ice skating, snow tubing and dog sledding available at or close to the resort. The Ski Girls Rock self-esteem-building ski program is an especially cool treat for girls, ages 7 to 14.
Where to stay: Park Hyatt Beaver Creek (on points, of course!) Right now you can also fly right into Vail for fewer United miles thanks to an award sale.
Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont
This über kid-friendly ski resort, found just across the mountain divide from its more famous neighbor Stowe, is a favorite of New England families who return to “Smuggs” again and again. Beyond the ski school for kids, choose from daily bonfires, weekly carnivals, snowshoeing, ice skating, tubing and night skiing for all ages to enjoy. Rather hide away from the cold? Visit the Family Fun Complex for 26,000 square feet of indoor fun activities for non-skiers. Smuggs also offers an official kids club with daily programming. Oh yes, and don’t miss the special evening fireworks!
Where to stay: Smugglers’ Notch
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Just over the Vermont border is New Hampshire’s answer to family-oriented skiing: Bretton Woods. Home to the equally family-friendly Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods features a cool kids’ snowmobile park, fat-tire snow biking trails, sleigh rides and a sports center with indoor, heated swimming facilities. Kids will enjoy the après-ski programs with fun weekly themes such as Lunar New Year and Wildlife Encounters.
Where to stay: Omni Mount Washington Resort
Of all the Colorado ski resorts (of which there are plenty), Keystone is the hotspot for kids of all ages. Sure, there are the highlights like dog sledding, snow tubing, ice skating and sleigh rides, but the pièce de résistance is Kidtopia. Kids can play in its giant snow fort, enjoy fresh après-ski cookies or stay indoors with a variety of games, crafts and activities located within the Expedition Station headquarters. Saturday nights feature fireworks, along with family fondue events. If that’s not enough, did we mention the 3,000 acres of ski terrain during the day?
Where to stay: Use World of Hyatt points at the Hyatt Place Keystone or rent a house nearby for the whole family.
Where is Snowmass, you ask? It’s one of the mountains that comprise the swanky Aspen ski area in Colorado. Check a high-end ski resort visit off your bucket list, and entertain the kids in one vacation. A bit less pretentious than its big sister Aspen, Snowmass includes the Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center, an all-inclusive kids club for children between 8 weeks to 4 years. The center can occupy little ones, while older kids take part in ski school and you enjoy multiple terrains. Yes, there is snow tubing, snowshoeing and even snowcat rides to dinner on the mountain at Elk Camp.
Where to stay: Viceroy Snowmass or use your Marriott Rewards points or 35k certificates at the Westin Snowmass.
Whiteface, New York
Lake Placid is such a perfect winter destination that has not once, but twice hosted the Winter Olympic Games. The town of Lake Placid offers a plethora of kid-friendly activities and dining, but it’s Whiteface Mountain that offers non-skiing young kids a camp with arts, crafts and more. Beyond the offerings for ages 6 and younger, Whiteface combines ski lessons and off-slope activities for children, while parents enjoy more than 300 skiable acres in the upstate New York mountain resort. In the spare time you have left, check out the Olympic sites and activities, including a chance to experience bobsledding like the athletes.
Where to stay: Whiteface Lodge and Resort
Although the Eastern Pennsylvania slopes may not offer as many runs as the other destinations on this list, the Poconos are home to Great Wolf Lodge and Kalahari Resort, where kids are treated to (gigantic!) indoor waterparks, arcades and daily festivities. Nearby, Camelback Mountain ski resort has its own indoor waterpark at Aquatopia, creating a trifecta for a non-skier paradise. For those who do love the powder, there’s Camelback’s adventure park, snow tubing and, of course, skiing and snowboarding.
Where to stay: Kalahari Resort
California’s Northstar Resort, along the California–Nevada border on Lake Tahoe, is one of the best for families. Enjoy the sleigh rides, snowshoe tours and snow tubing, as well as s’mores and a hot cocoa bar after getting your runs in for the day. Families can ski together in the new Kids Adventure Zone, where two mountain areas with blue trails are safely tucked away from bigger, faster skiers and snowboarders. Another treat is the ice skating, day or night, which is often accompanied by live music.
Where to stay: Use Marriott Rewards points at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe or Marriott’s Timber Lodge
Cross the border to Quebec’s Mont-Tremblant, just outside Quebec City, and you’ll be blessed with a French-inspired getaway. Grab the kids for snow-covered trails ripe for fat-tire biking, winter dune buggy rides, ice fishing and even ice climbing. Kids 6 and younger can play in the Kidz Club, while older family members explore the high peak of Mont-Tremblant. Come together again to play at the indoor/outdoor Aqualab La Source waterpark.
Where to stay: Fairmont Tremblant or use Marriott Rewards points at the Westin Tremblant
Photo courtesy of Mont Tremblant Resort
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
Another Canadian ski hotspot for families is British Columbia’s Whistler. Kid-friendly after-ski parties include entertainment and activities, and your brood will go crazy for the Magic Castle and Tree Fort outdoor playlands at both Whistler and its sister Blackcomb mountains. Pint-sized skiing is provided at the resort’s Enchanted Woods, free and clear of more experienced (aka faster) skiers.
Where to stay: Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler or use Marriott Rewards points at the Westin Whistler. (Here’s how to use miles and points to fund your Whistler vacation.)
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