Author: Laura Sutherland
Tags : Adventure Trip, Baby, Christmas Holiday, Family-Friendly Hotels, Kids, Kids Club, North America, Snowsports, Spa & Wellness, Spring Break, Teens, USA, Utah, Winter Getaway
Snowbird, Utah is one of our top recommendations for skiing families because of its excellent children's learning programs, but it's a wonderful mountain resort for families in summer, too. It doesn't hurt that the average annual snowfall is 500" (that's 70% more than Park City, and twice as much as Aspen), and powder conditions just don't get any better except maybe in Tibet. When that snow melts, however, the wild flowers bloom, the lakes and rivers fill and the locals head up the slopes to enjoy hiking, mountain biking, picnicking and warmer temperatures.
"The Bird" boasts four slopeside lodges,15 restaurants, a number of souvenir and specialty shops, and a full service spa with views of the surrounding landscape that will take your breath away. Parents with tiny travelers will also appreciate that this resort has award-winning daycare for ages 6 weeks and up, all year long.
Snowbird Winter: Great Intermediate Terrain & Quality Groomers
Snowsports fans appreciate that 45 minutes after your plane lands in Salt Lake City you'll be strapping on your skis or boards and thrashing your thighs on some of the best slopes in the United States. Not to mention the Olympic-caliber steeps; the International Olympic Committee offered the 2002 downhill event to Snowbird as part of the Salt Lake City games, but the resort had to pass it up, as the Olympic-sized traffic would have posed too great a risk to Snowbird's federally-protected habitat.
Known for its dramatic glacier-cut terrain topped by mounds of light fluffy powder, we think Snowbird is best-suited for the family of intermediate or better skiers and boarders.
The Snowbird Mountain School offers a first-rate snowsports learning program for kids of every ability -- Kinderbirds (age 4-6) get one instructor for every three skiers and the Mountain Adventure carries on for ages 7-15. Snowboard instruction starts only at age 7, when this school feels children's muscle structure and coordination are ready, but the instruction is just as good.
Snowbird's Award-Winning Ski & Ride School for Beginners
Snowbird Mountain School starts at age 3 and caters to beginners of every age. (The mountain daycare's licensed, bonded and C.P.R.-trained staff is available for ages 6 weeks and up.)
Toddlers age 3 each get a dedicated instructor for their intro to snowsports; older kids and adults may join group lessons. The resort's "Magic Carpet" is a specially-designed mat with foot placements diagrammed so kids can put on their boots and practice the wedge movements that will keep them in control later, on the hill. Once they do get on skis or boards, and in the snow, the Chickadee Run is where they head. This gently-sloping beginner area sits right next to The Cliff Lodge, so parents, taking a break from the steeps, shoots, bowls and moguls at the 11,000-foot peak can ski down and watch their kids take their "first steps" on the way back to the lift.
In one of the cutest moments of my Snowbird visit, tired children fresh off the mountain were being tugged into the lodge and down the hall on a sled by one of the staff. The young ones were thrilled with the ride at the end of an eventful afternoon.
A special treat for advanced skiers and riders ages 8 and up at our visit was the Dawn Patrol. Kids get to experience the Ski Patrol morning routine, meet the avalanche dogs and tour the artillery setups used for avalanche patrol.
Another fun free event is movies at The Forklift in the Snowbird Center; weekend evenings throughout the season the top ski and rider films are shown. Other than that, this place is all about skiing; night life and off-slope activities are secondary.
Snowbird Family Activities in Summer
In winter as in summer, the 125-passenger tram whisks riders up to the 4,450-foot Snowbird summit in just eight minutes, which means your time is spent mastering the mountain as a hiker or biker rather than riding the lifts. Warm weather brings an equally active clientele, because mountain bikers and serious hikers flock to these hills. In Snowbird's valley and nearby there are also places to try horseback riding.
For many families, summer at Snowbird can be more mellow and a better value than winter, but high style is still prized amongst the upscale clientele who relish the resort's top-notch service. All around the base are classy condominiums, restaurants, and shops -- just steps from the slopes.
There is a daily kid’s camp program in the base of The Cliff Lodge run by the same, state-licensed winter team that caters to children 12 weeks-12 years. Additionally, families who base themselve at the resort will find many local vendors offering daytrips, special excursions and instruction in the various land and water opportunities.
Last summer families could partake in the fun on Snowbird's Alpine Slide (a long winding sled journey), try the Mountain Flyer, do the Bungee Trampoline, scale a climbing wall or try the kid's inflatables. The aerial tram provides great sightseeing for the less physically active in your group. The exhilarating recreation options leave you spent but satisfied by the end of the day.
Non-ski daycare, awarded FTF's Tiny Travelers top honors, is available throughout the summer season for little ones from 6 weeks to 12 years. In the nursery, the staff-child ratio never tops 3-1, and usually comes out better. High chairs, rockers, and cribs all appeared to be safe and comfortable, and the eating area was clean and well stocked with an assortment of baby-friendly foods. Special dietary arrangements can be made with the nursery staff, also.
The Cliff Lodge is a Favorite Family Hotel at Snowbird
The Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, as its name implies, has varied family programs in full swing, ready to challenge all ages, in summer. Here is a review by Seth Gladstone of The Cliff Lodge, his favorite on-mountain family hideaway.
The 11-story Cliff Lodge (800/232-9542, 801/933-2222) topped by a full-service spa, is the resort's premier ski in/ski out accommodation, featuring a beautiful nine-story atrium overlooking the mountain, with gorgeous Oriental rugs draped over every available space.
Of the four restaurants and three lounges, the top floor's classy lounge offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, complete with evening sushi bar. Rooms include flat-screen TVs, minifridges and WiFi, as well contemporary beige decor (some still have their own Oriental rug, of course). Cliff Club condos, though, will appeal to families who want a bit more room and a functional kitchen to tide them over at day's end.
And the ski locker room down on the first floor is anything but standard. When my family and I pulled up to the lodge, attendants made note of our room number and whisked our skis away. Where did we find them? In our own locker, which corresponded to the room we were staying in. We programmed our own personal security code, grabbed our skis, and walked out the back door, past the ice skating rink, and onto the slopes. Couldn't have been more convenient.
In addition to the great service, there's the sky-high two-floor spa at Cliff Lodge which is world-renowned. A full plate of cutting-edge holistic treatments and classes, from yoga, to dance fitness, to trendy Pilates workouts is offered. Even the peaceful mountain views from the spa make this an extra relaxing place for mom and dad. The hotel has two heated pools, four hot tubs, steam rooms, dry saunas, and an exercise room that can be used by all guests.
Trip Planning Details for a Snowbird Family Vacation
The Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort is located at Highway 210, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Snowbird, Utah 84092. Room rates run $$$ - $$$$$ depending on season. Multi-day lift tickets and kids <12 stay/ski free deals make it affordable in winter; bargains abound in summer.