This Year's Best Ski And Snow Family Vacations

Author: Family Travel Forum Staff

Tags : Christmas Holiday, Kids, Multigen, North America, Snowsports, Spring Break, Teens, USA, Winter Getaway

With a snow-packed season ahead, it’s time to warm up to snowsports family vacations. You can introduce the kids to the great outdoors at North America’s finest ski and snowboard resorts, where even weekend getaways are filled with fun and learning.  And we mean for every ability and fitness level. Review this guide to the top family destinations, lay out your school calendars next to some resort calendars, and you’ll see how easy it is to book a value winter mountain vacation.

Plan the Right Mountain Vacation for Lodging & Activity Savings

Are you looking for snow without the rigors of alpine skiing? Sundance Bear Lodge (866/529-2480) in Mancos, Colorado along the San Juan Skyway is a winter reunion destination that sleeps 20 in three different buildings. No need to fight about who gets which room; there’s a Western style three-bedroom house and a romantic log cabin that both accept pets. Be sure the elders in your clan reserve the peaceful lodge rooms. In addition to nearby Mesa Verde National Park, you can visit the Ute Tribal Parkand ride the colorful, historic Durango Silverton train. Skiers in your group can visit Telluride, Purgatory, or Wolf Creek Pass.

Traveling with a mix of snowsports abilities? Avid skiers who want to pack in extra runs will prefer ski in/ski out accommodations on the mountain slopes, but this more expensive lodging isn’t necessary if you’re traveling with little novices.

To save money and guarantee the comforts of home -- such as a kitchen, dining area, laundry, separate bedrooms, ski storage and usually a fireplace – rent a condo or private vacation home.  Wyndham Vacation Rentals has properties ranging from luxurious mountain houses to ski-in/ski-out and other condos, making vacations to ski towns such as Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, Beaver Creek, Park City and Sun Valley affordable.  We like their “Vacation Rental Bill of Rights,” a service pledge from the world’s largest professionally managed vacation rentals business, so you don’t have to worry about broken appliances or being locked out if you arrive late at night. (It’s happened to us!)

Of course, some families want to mix their snowsports with urban sightseeing for a two-in-one vacation that really appeals to multigenerational groups.  It’s easy to start in San Francisco and drive to Lake Tahoe; tour Seattle before skiing at WhistlerBlackcomb; head to Maine and New Hampshire via Boston – all fun cities for all ages. Treat a loved one to a romantic getaway: champagne, a special turndown service, a $100 food and beverage credit and a late checkout (so you can sleep in) are all included in Omni Hotels' Romance package, supervised by each hotel's concierge. Be sure to pick up CityPASS ticket booklets in advance so you can skip the lines at the top attractions, meanwhile saving up to half off on individual admission prices. 

CityPASS is waiving their nine-day rule and extending the passes’ usage period, so that travelers to Boston, Houston, New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle will have until February 28, 2014 to redeem all the included attraction tickets. That means if you cut out early to ski, you can come back through President’s Day and have admission tickets all sewn up.

Ski & Ride Discounts, Tour Packages & Special Services

If you’re avid skiers, you’ve probably got a season pass to your local mountain, or one like Vail’s Epic Pass that allows you to ski at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin and Eldora in Colorado; Canyons in Park City, Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Afton Alps in Minnesota; Mt. Brighton in Michigan and, for five free days each, at several top European resorts.

Perhaps you want to sample some of the world-class resorts represented by the Mountain Collective. This option has become affordable thanks to the classy collaboration between four top independent resorts: Alta in Utah, Aspen/Snowmass in Colorado, Jackson Hole Wyoming and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows in California. Passholders get 50% off on lift tickets and 25% off on lodging as well as other savings noted on their website.
If you know what type of experience you want but aren’t sure where to find it, turn to the experts at who keep up with the latest developments and deals at dozens of destination resorts.  For example, if you’re interested in Aspen’s Perfect Storm deal that offers discounts for advance booking, Mountain Vacation Specialists can find the best participating hotel or condo to meet your family’s needs.  We talked to Alex de l’Arbre recently about her top family picks for the 2013-2014 winter season; you can see her video below.

If you prefer to travel with your own gear (and expert families usually carry boots but often leave behind skis which can be rented), consider United Airlines, which transports equipment free f charge to its major hubs. You can also pre-order rental equipment online with services like Black Tie Rentals so it’s delivered right to your accommodation and adjusted to fit on the spot. Many locations offer a kids-rent-free package throughout the season for kids 12 and under; check out See n’ Ski in Utah or Ski Butlers in Colorado, where kids rent free if you do an adult rental for five or more days.

The Whole Family Can Learn to Ski or Snowboard Free

January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month (LSSM), a nationwide program that encourages snowsports with reduced price and even free lessons, lift tickets, and rental gear. 

Last year, we sampled beginner programs at three Utah resorts, had a great time, and even learned something as you can see in our video. LSSM Special Features offers a quick overview of all of the resorts that participate, and you can also follow their deals on Twitter and Facebook.

Don’t forget the Bring a Friend Challenge, open to all current skiers and snowboarders (including members of the industry) from December 1 to March 14, 2014. The Challenge offers incentives for snowsports lovers who introduce newcomers to lessons from professional instructors this winter; you can win prizes and even a free trip.

Several states have programs that introduce snowsports to grade school children free of charge to support that next generation of resident snowsports fans. See “Free Learn To Ski Passes And Statewide Programs” for more information about these and how to find one near you.

Don’t let a family member with special needs miss out on an unforgettable winter vacation. There are many adaptive programs around the country for those with physical and mental challenges including the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park and the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center in Colorado; the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah, Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports and White Mountain Adaptive Ski School at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire.
There are lots of opportunities for moms and grandmas to learn with friends or just hone their skills at women’s ski clinics around the country.



The Top Family Ski and Snow Resorts - A

Our thanks to Eileen Ogintz at and Alex at for their input on the top ski areas in North America. In alphabetical order, we recommend:

ALTA SKI AREA in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon is adjacent to the chic Snowbird (you can purchase a combined ticket) but its retro style, lack of commercial development, and ban on snowboarding transport families back to the days before ski areas were all about glitz. Stay in an old-fashioned Alta Lodge that will entertain your kids after ski school and feed them early so you can enjoy a gourmet meal after hitting some of the best expert terrain in Utah. Lift ticket prices are less than at other major ski resorts, too, and the three base area tow ropes (Grizzly tow, Transfer tow and Alta Lodge tow) are free all day, every day. 
APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN CLUB in New Hampshire offers snow-loving families cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice-skating are the winter sports here. Custom adventures are available at both AMC’s Joe Dodge Lodge and Highland Lodge in the White Mountains, where families pick the activity, time and skill level and take off with their own guide. AMC offers self-guided and guided cross-country skiing tours on its groomed, backcountry ski trails in a 100-mile wilderness region of Maine. Guests can ski from lodge-to-lodge and enjoy home-cooked meals, private cabins, and gear shuttles; more information can be found here
ASPEN has a long, rich history as a mining town, even before it struck gold with Hollywood celebrities and international athletes drawn to its pristine terrain, gourmet restaurants and shops, world-class hotels and annual X-Games glamor. This four-mountain resort offers plenty of terrain options for skiers and riders of all abilities.Aspen Mountain, with its famous black-diamond terrain for experts, promises a variety of glades, bumps and steeps; Aspen Highlands has plenty of backcountry and is the locals’ favorite. Buttermilk has terrific beginner terrain as well as a 22-foot superpipe. There’sendless fun on Snowmass’ dashing-through-the-woods kids’ trails(see separate listing for Snowmass below). Good to hear there’s a Kids Ski Free promotion in March and April, but you’ll have to book soon for the popular Spring Jam if you’re planning a March visit.