The weather forecast is for fun in the snow with Family Travel Forum’s annual Ski and Snow family resorts and vacations guide.
Plan now for fun on an icy tubing run, watching wildlife at a national park, dogsledding or ice fishing. Go snowmobiling, cross-country ski on powder, snowshoe or hike on local trails. Enjoy gourmet eats, a roaring fireplace and a plush mattress after a day outdoors.
Our annual snow vacations guide is produced in partnership with Taking the Kids. As family travel experts, we help you select a family ski and snow vacation from among North America’s top large and small mountain resorts. Read on for news and resort reviews, organized by region for easy planning. We’ve covered California, Colorado, the Eastern states, Utah and Western resorts.
- TRENDS IN THE WORLD OF SNOWSPORTS
- STRETCH YOUR FAMILY SKI & SNOW RESORT BUDGET THIS YEAR
- FAVORITE CALIFORNIA FAMILY MOUNTAIN RESORTS FOR FUN IN THE SNOW
- SOME FAVORITE FAMILY SKI AND SNOW RESORTS & VACATIONS IN COLORADO
- EASTERN SKI AND SNOW MOUNTAIN RESORTS FOR FAMILIES
- NORTHWEST TOP SNOW AND SKI FAMILY MOUNTAIN RESORTS
- TOP FAMILY SKI AND SNOW RESORTS IN UTAH
- WESTERN AND MIDWESTERN FAMILY SKI AND SNOW VACATION RESORTS
TRENDS IN THE WORLD OF SNOWSPORTS
There’s a lot new for the 2023-2024 season. Some mountain resorts got snow before Halloween and opened in early November. Safety for beginners tops the latest industry trends we watch. Several resorts are segregating green slopes and learning parks and adding progressive terrain to ease the way onto intermediate runs.
On Mountain, Off Slope Investments
Several kid-friendly, family ski and snow resorts are touting everything from new lifts to safer beginner terrain, to more restaurants. One aspect of a snow vacation that’s getting a lot of attention is off the slope activities for everyone. This year, non-skiers and non-snowboarders are the focus.
Think Big, Ski Local At Family Ski And Snow Resorts
Many industry insiders believe that smaller resorts, which flourished during the pandemic, will continue to attract families. Those in the Midwest and Pennsylvania, for example, are a quick drive for families who prefer to stay closer to home. Smaller and cheaper but higher altitude mountain resorts in the West also are gaining in popularity. Check out affordable options with regional pass programs and kids ski free deals in several states.
Family Ski and Snow Resort Passes & Lift Ticket Options
Whether the season or a week, multi-day passes are the way to go. They are the season’s best value in lift tickets. Here are the three major pass options.
- For a short getaway, get an Epic Day Pass or IKON Pass valid for just a few days. Both passes (for Vail and Alterra-managed resorts respectively) come in dozens of flavors to suit your budget.
- If you plan a vacation regionally, the Northeast Value Pass offers access to eight Vail resorts in the Northeast. Plus, kids under age 4 ski free at Vail owned properties. Kids ages 5-12 are discounted with the EPIC Local Pass. Also consider a pass for just one resort.
- Dreaming of skiing the heights from Alta to Aspen to Jackson Hole, Revelstoke in Canada or Chamonix in France? Focusing on some of the world’s most iconic slopes, The Mountain Collective gives you two days at each resort and unlimited half-price days after that. Tip: Several resorts overlap with the Vail or Alterra passes so shop carefully.
STRETCH YOUR FAMILY SKI & SNOW RESORT BUDGET THIS YEAR
Several kid-friendly places offer early and late lodging discounts. Some include kids’ lift tickets deals and even meal plans to make skiing and snowboarding as affordable as non-Alpine mountain sports.
Kids Free Passes Or Nearly Free
Many states including California, Utah, New Hampshire, Maine and New York have kids’ ski free deals to promote a lifelong love of the sport. Each is slightly different but most cover two school years between grades 3 and 6. You need to apply in advance and rates range from free to about $65 per season.
Have Fun In the Snow Off The Traditional Slopes
Why not head to Yellowstone to snowshoe or snowmobile? An alternative is one of America’s snowiest cities, Marquette, Michigan – the perfect place to try fat tire snow biking. Visit a dude ranch like Vista Verde in Colorado and ride horses in the snow. Backcountry ski the YMCA of the Rockies and snowshoe or dog sled.
More Tips For An Affordable Family Ski and Snow Mountain Resort
There are many lodging options in condos and houses with kitchens and room to spread out. Inquire about resort deals, especially if you opt to stay longer, at places like at The Antlers at Vail. More tips from the pro’s:
- Book non-holiday and midweek at the more affordable ski and snow family vacations to save big. January is always a bargain except for Martin Luther King weekend.
- With more families driving rather than flying, stay regional and save on airfare.
- Explore remote work and school options so you aren’t as tied to traditional school vacation weeks.
- Don’t head to the mountains when the resorts are most crowded and expensive, regardless of snow conditions. If you can, let the snow be your guide!
Overcome Disabilities This Family Winter Vacation
Include every family member on your ski and snow vacation. Many ski areas around the country offer special adaptive program for those with physical and mental challenges. Most are volunteer-led learning programs. Value rates are typically based on a sliding income scale.
FAVORITE CALIFORNIA FAMILY MOUNTAIN RESORTS FOR FUN IN THE SNOW
California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains provide some of the best snow conditions, weather and resort facilities. Plus, nothing anywhere beats the views of emerald-green Lake Tahoe. South Lake Tahoe area resorts straddle the California and Nevada borders. They offer some relative bargains too, compared with Colorado and Utah’s top destinations. Check them out, bring your sunblock and revel in introducing kids to the new sport on those glorious, soft powder spring skiing days.
It’s called Heavenly because it tops the Sierra Nevada — straddling two states — and provides a one-of-a-kind skiing experience. With nearly 5,000 acres of skiable terrain and 97 trails ranging from groomers to chutes, you won’t get bored. Treat the kids to unbelievable panoramic views of Lake Tahoe on the California side and Carson on the Nevada side. Heavenly’s top instructors and coaches are another plus. Make time to explore restaurants, casinos, nightlife and shops in Heavenly Village and South Lake Tahoe.
KIRKWOOD MOUNTAIN RESORT
Kirkwood is a Lake Tahoe area resort for adrenaline seekers. Book it if you want hair-raising cliff drops, bumps and open bowls that ensure your legs feel like Jell-O when lifts close. With 2,300 acres of terrain and over 2,000 feet of vertical, Kirkwood is an outdoor playground. Shredders discover rugged terrain and prolific deep snowpack which creates steep lines they won’t soon forget. The skiing and riding in the Timber Creek base area offers an ideal place to progress your skills and enjoy perfect groomers, moderately-pitched tree runs, and small gullies.
Mammoth, California’s highest resort, is the closest big resort experience to Los Angeles. It tops out at just over 11,000 feet, with more than 150 trails and 3,100 vertical feet. Mammoth has dedicated learning centers for kids and myriad off-slope activities including tubing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. At Woolly’s Adventure Summit, families with young kids can build a snowman, hit the six lift-accessed, groomed tubing lanes, and try out the all-new mountain coaster. Deal Alert: Use your Ikon Pass and road trip to combine a stay with play at Palisades Tahoe and Big Bear Mountain Resorts. Together, save 20% midweek and 15% off weekends.
Northstar at Lake Tahoe invites you to play in the diverse terrain on Mt. Pluto, an extinct volcano that last erupted more than two million years ago. Now, it is the perfect place for exploratory cruising with its moderate pitch, sweeping views of Lake Tahoe, and wide-open runs that allow guests the chance to create an on-mountain adventure that everyone will love. With more than 3,000 acres, families can progress together in family-designated learning zones, the Kids’ Adventure Zones, progressive terrain parks off Vista, or over 400 acres of advanced terrain on Lookout Mountain and the Backside, then kick back after a fun-filled day with fireside s’mores and hot cocoa (or a specialty cocktail from Vous) in the Village. Awe-inspiring mountain views, an average of 350″ of annual snowfall, and decades’ worth of history and traditions add up to unforgettable memories. Northstar is the place for the passionate family snowboarder.
Palisades (formerly Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows) is Lake Tahoe’s largest destination spanning 6,000 skiable acres across eight peaks, now linked by the new Base to Base Gondola. Hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics and home mountain to esteemed Olympic and World Cup athletes, the 74-year-old resort enjoys an average annual snowfall of 400″. A noted Spring Skiing Capital, expect skiing and riding through Memorial Day and sometimes until the 4th of July. The Village at Palisades Tahoe hosts year-round events, entertainment, and a plethora of bars, restaurants, boutiques and slope side lodging. Palisades Tahoe will make its return to the Men’s World Cup circuit, eagerly welcoming back the Stifel Palisades Tahoe Cup for the second consecutive year on February 23-25, 2024. Ski at Palisades Tahoe like never before with the Ikon Pass, granting access to 50+ top destinations worldwide.
SOME FAVORITE FAMILY SKI AND SNOW RESORTS & VACATIONS IN COLORADO
Colorado is a favorite destination for snow lovers of all interests. As the country’s first ski bum destination more than 70 years ago, the pool of ski and snowboard instructors is broad and deep. Denver is a great hub served by most major airlines so airfares are always reasonable. Dozens of mountain towns near the major resorts have bargain rental equipment shops and vacation rentals. The only drawback is that most resorts are a hefty drive from the airport.
Ever chic Aspen’s four home resorts have has a full events lineup and a $23 million renovation at Buttermilk. Check out the transformed base area complete with a new 9,000+ square-foot fully electric skier services building with ski school, rentals and ticketing all in one location. Look for a renovated Buttermilk Mountain Lodge restaurant and an expanded bar and outdoor patio. Aspen Snowmass welcomes the 2024 Stifel Aspen Winternational scheduled for March 1-3, 2024. International racers will compete in slalom and giant slalom on Aspen Mountain, and Aspen Snowmass will host spectating, ceremonies and events surrounding the races as part of the Winternational celebration. Deal Alert: Rent equipment for kids aged 7-12 from Four Mountain sports and get a free lift ticket for the same amount of days on their rental with a package that includes two nights of lodging. (Younger kids always ski free.)
The high-touch, upscale BC is smaller than Vail, offers unparalleled service, a terrific ski school, and experiences geared towards families. McCoy Park is in its third season, offering beginner and intermediate natural, groomed and gladed runs for all adventurers. The beloved Cookie Time is a decades-old tradition in the intimate, luxury base village. Allie’s, Zach’s, and Beano’s fine dining cabins on the mountain offer snowcat-drawn sleigh rides to elevated epicurean escapes. (Just check out the destination’s inclusion in the illustrious MICHELIN Guide Colorado.) Beaver Creek offers terrain for all types of adventurers, from the Signature Parks collection to the renowned Birds of Prey World Cup racecourse. Consider a stay at the Westin Riverfront Resort, a good bet with or without kids.
Both resort and hometown are affectionately known as ‘Breck’ to locals and visitors alike. Breck serves up big mountain views and 3,000 skiable acres of terrain (about 1,000 are above tree line). From its Five Peaks to the charmingly Western Main Street, this vintage village is practically ski-in, ski-out. This season, the Peak 8 base area continues its evolution with an upgrade of the Five SuperChair to a high-speed quad, a new and improved learning area, and last season’s upgrade of the family-favorite Rip’s Ride to a quad lift. This year Breck plans to operate into May or as long as the snow lasts. Check out the après scene or one of the numerous community events and festivals including Ullr Fest, the Breckenridge Snow Sculpture Championships and much more.
COLORADO GEMS – ALL BARGAIN FAMILY SKI AND SNOW RESORTS
Looking to save? Don’t miss these 11 smaller Colorado snow resorts that are less expensive and less crowded than the big resorts. A bonus: For younger families, they are much easier to navigate. The Gems include:
- Arapahoe Basin
- Cooper (Eileen Ogintz said this about a visit)
- Echo Mountain (Denver’s closest ski area less than an hour away)
- Granby Ranch
- Hesperus (11 miles west of Durango)
- Monarch Mountain (near Salida)
- Kendall Mountain Ski Area (walking distance from historic downtown Silverton)
- Powderhorn (in the heart of the Grand Mesa)
- Sunlight (in Glenwood Springs where you can enjoy the world’s biggest hot springs pool.)
For just $48, the GEMS Card provides your choice of either two 2-for-1 lift tickets or two 30% off lift tickets. It can be used twice at each ski area for 22 total uses and pays for itself after one use. There is a new Gems Teen Pass (two full day tickets to 11 different resorts for $199.) The Kids’ Ski Passport ($65) covers those in grades 3 to 6 for 80 days on the slopes (four days at 20 different ski areas). The new Gems parent pass (one per household with a purchase of a Kids Ski Passport or Gems Teen Pass) give you two days each at 11 Gems ski areas for $299.
A longtime favorite of our family of expert skiers, Crested Butte challenges skiers and riders with untouched powder, towering peaks, heart-pounding terrain and a vibrant town with a mountain culture all its own. With 561 acres of double-black-diamond terrain, CBMR is known as the North American birthplace of inbound extreme skiing and riding. That doesn’t mean it’s not for beginners. Now entering its third season, the three-person, fixed-grip Peachtree lift serves beginner terrain at the base of the resort. Newly-widened sections of some of the most popular beginner trails give guests more space to make turns while learning.
This small ski area is popular with locals from the Front Range for a day trip because it’s just 21 miles from Boulder and less than 50 miles from Denver. Eldora has what they like to call “naturally progressive” terrain popular with beginners and more advanced skiers and boarders. Its seasoned instructors are ready to help anyone learn the basics or up their game. It offers day passes, season passes and four-packs.
Keystone is a veritable winter wonderland with more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain. A top family ski and snow resort, it has three peaks and three base villages, five above-tree-line bowls and night skiing. Sample 550 acres of newly lift-serviced high alpine terrain via the new Bergman Express. Keystone is bringing back the World’s Largest Mountaintop Snow Fort and building another one at the Mountain House Base Area. Plan for non-stop activities including high-speed snow tubing, scenic horse-drawn sleigh rides and ice-skating on the 5-acre Keystone Lake. The expanded Timber Ridge Lodge is the place for guests to rest and refuel before hitting North Peak. Deal Alert: Ask about the Kids Ski Free Program. They have free designated family parking and wagons that help parents tote gear (and excited kiddos) to and from the slopes.
Located near Salida close to Collegiate Peaks (the “College Range”), Monarch is perched atop the Continental Divide on Scenic Highway 50. The ski area, one of our favorites in the Colorado GEMS collection, is a hidden jewel with something for everyone. Diverse terrain accommodates skiers and boarders of all levels.
This small, authentic resort with uncrowded slopes has the most affordable day passes in Colorado. Just outside of high-altitude Leadville, Cooper (10,500 to 11,700 feet) has 64 trails and five lifts spanning 480 lift-served acres. Families like it here because there are no lift lines, and it is easy to navigate and keep the family together on a ski day. Expert skiers can try out the steep tree skiing of the Tennessee Creek Basin area. Cooper has a rich history as this is where the 10th Mountain Division trained during World War II. Since the war, the ski area has been run as a non-profit organization, which makes it different from most ski resorts. We visited Ski Cooper on a blue-sky day. Deal Alert: Day passes are as ultra-cheap on the famed $30 Thursdays (Jan. 11 to Feb. 29), if purchased at least 48 hours in advance online.
Celebrating 60 years,the ever-popular Steamboat is wrapping up the second phase of a multi-year, multi-million-dollar redevelopment project. Steamboat Resort opens the 2022/23 winter season with a reimagined base area with better crowd flow and a second gondola to a new learning facility on mountain.
This southwestern mountain town is a long-time favorite. Go for the century-old architecture, free pedestrian-friendly gondola between resort and town, and striking mountain views in every direction. While tough to reach, it’s easy to navigate. The ski school is right next to the gondola in the middle of the Mountain Village. More than 60% of the terrain is for beginners and intermediates. Having at least one blue run from every lift makes it a perfect mountain for groups with different abilities. Repeat guests appreciate that the vast majority of instructors are veterans who remember their kids from previous visits. Backcountry fans love Black Iron Bowl. The hike-to playground is set against the dramatic backdrop of Palmyra Peak and encompasses eight runs, European-style faces, open glades and steep chutes. Skiing down the “Galloping Goose,” it hit Chris Yemma — Telluride has something for everyone, even the 1% A-listers.
Vail is the flagship mountain of a snowsports empire that just reached its goal of 100% renewable electricity across North America. The original Vail has more than 5,300 skiable acres including the seven legendary Back Bowls spanning 7 miles. Take one of the complimentary mountain tours that introduce its expansive terrain so Vail’s size does not intimidate you. Add high-touch service to a terrific ski school, massive snowmaking upgrade, intermediate and expert moguls, tree skiing and even some cliffs, to see how quality rules. The multi-lane tubing hill at Adventure Ridge is as popular as ever. Families can try the 50-foot-long, ski-through Coyote’s Den cave. Checkout the teepee in Sherwood Forest and join the Nature Discovery Center at Eagle’s Nest for frequent snowshoe tours and naturalist programs. Deal Alert: Three base villages have lodging in several price points. Family Private Lessons enable you to experience the mountain together and may save on pricey kids’ classes. Note that Vail is close enough to Denver for avid athletes to make a day trip.
One alternative for lovers of Steamboat’s Wild West vibe is Vista Verde, a notable dude ranch open year-round. It’s the ideal place for families – especially those with a mix of non-athletes in their group — to relax, ride horses, go snowshoeing or X-country skiing. As part of their semi-inclusive rates, Vista Verde serves great food. By the end of your stay, you are sure to know everyone there.
The city-owned ski resort is one of the closest to Denver, easily accessed by the Winter Park Express. Weekends, the train leaves Union Station early in the morning and chugs through the scenic foothills to the Continental Divide, through the historic Moffat Tunnel and to the doorstep of the ski resort. The incredbile National Sports Center for the Disabled has many programs for those with physical and mental challenges,
YMCA of the Rockies comprises two year-round mountain resorts and family camps. Estes Park Centeris located on more than 850 acres in the super popular mountain town of Estes Park. Explore dozens of restaurants, coffee bars and shops. Stop in at the famous Hotel Stanley, filming site for Stephen King’s terrifying novel, “The Shining.” Enjoy easy access to adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park and dozens of on-site family friendly winter activities.
The other YMCA of the Rockies, Snow Mountain Ranch, is near Winter Park Ski Resort. It’s larger and quieter than Estes Park. Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center is the place to explore more than 120 kms of award-winning, groomed trails. Go cross country skiing, snowshoeing and try other adventures. Snow Mountain Ranch has an amazing mountain coaster (minimal fee.) It’s dog-friendly, too, so the whole family can join in on the fun.
Deal Alert: Both properties boast a variety of cozy and affordable, rustic lodging ranging from cabins to lodges. There’s so much camp-style activity at indoor that the kids will never be restless, regardless of weather. New sports included in rates range from guided winter wildlife ecology hikes, to indoor pickleball, snowshoe trips, mountain biking, campfires, ice skating, sledding and more.
EASTERN SKI AND SNOW MOUNTAIN RESORTS FOR FAMILIES
Eastern ski and snow family mountains deserve their reputation for being expensive, crowded and icy most of the winter. Nonetheless, a lot of families live in Canada, New England and the mid-Atlantic states who enjoy fun in the snow. For them, we present our regional favorite, kid-friendly ski and snow destinations.
APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN CLUB, MAINE AND NEW HAMPSHIRE
AMC in the White Mountains of New Hampshire provides hundreds of miles of trails to hike or snowshoe. Try guided custom adventures at AMC’s Joe Dodge Lodge at Pinkham Notch and Highland Center Lodge at Crawford Notch. Try cross-country skiing between rustic lodges and private cabins, where home-cooked meals are served to overnight guests. Alternatively, the AMC’s 100-square-mile wilderness in Maine can be toured via groomed, backcountry ski trails on day trips.
ATTITASH MOUNTAIN, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Just outside the historic village and outlet shopping center of North Conway, Attitash offers 68 trails across two mountain peaks. Steep and winding trails deliver beautiful views of Mount Washington and the neighboring Presidential Mountain Range. Other amenities include 60+ acres of hand-cleared tree skiing, progressive skiing and terrain parks, and a vibrant and active ski racing culture. This year, Attitash will open The Mountaineer, a brand-new high-speed quad replacing the Summit Triple. Named to honor the historic railway that travels through the Mount Washington Valley, The Mountaineer is a high-speed 4-passenger Leitner-Poma chairlift that will reduce ride time to the Attitash summit by more than half, increase uphill capacity and improve the flow of the Attitash base area.
CLUB MED QUÉBEC, QUEBEC PROVINCE, CANADA
Club Med Quebec is the brand’s first resort in Canada. For the third season, take a stress-free, all-inclusive ski and snow sports vacation while also experiencing French Canadian culture. There is unlimited ski-in/ski-out access, lift tickets and group ski and snowboard lessons at no added cost. Sign up for ski workshops or year-round mountain adventures in the densely wooded ski domains of Le Massif de Charlevoix. Expect plenty of on-site resort activities and Club Med’s famous, friendly GOs. The family restaurant Terroir & Co, for example, encourages kids and parents to prepare fondue, raclette and other dishes together. Sample the apres-ski including a spa and day and night entertainment including kids’ clubs for children ages 4-17.
CROTCHED MOUNTAIN, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Fans of this small, Bennington ski area celebrate 60 years of its 1,000-foot vertical drop and five lifts. Crotched has 100 energy-efficient, snowmaking fan guns that boast the greatest per-acre snow production capability in the country. Night ski on out-of-this-world trails such as Galaxy, Milky Way, Shooting Star and Comet. The Rocket is a high-speed detachable four-person chairlift that serves four terrain parks, glade skiing and more. Crotched Mountain and the Vail Resorts family are committed to growing the sport through the Epic for Everyone Youth Access Program. Last season, Vail hosted more than 8,000 youth who otherwise might not have had access to skiing and snowboarding.
HOLIDAY VALLEY, NEW YORK
One of New York state’s best value family ski and snow resort vacations is in tiny Ellicottville. ISkiNY.com notes the historic, ca. 1938 town encourages strolling past antique shops and lounging in cafes, a favorite apres-ski or non-snowsports lover pastime. Since it’s almost equidistant to Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Holiday Valley gets crowded weekends. Friendly instructors guide you to cool trails marked with “treasures” from the local Seneca Nation. Learn more about the history of Native Americans in the region. Deal Alert: Holiday Valley discounts include half-priced learn to ski or snowboard packages every weekday in January plus four different housing deals.
HUNTER MOUNTAIN, NEW YORK
Drive 2½ hours north of Manhattan to find hordes of metro area travelers and a few hotdogging students. With a history marked by weekend party-goers that began in 1960, Hunter has matured. Go for a state-of-the-art learning center, consistent snowmaking and grooming, and dedicated children’s areas. Hunter Mountain is one of Vail’s Northeast resorts to provide special access to youth groups from the National Brotherhood of Skiers. The company’s Epic Lift Upgrade initiative is planned for the 2024/25 season to introduce new chairlifts, new lift-served terrain, and exciting new guest experiences. Deal Alert: This part of the Catskills has several funky roadside motels and vacation rentals to suit any budget. For a more refined experience, enjoy luxury, your own cooking facilities, a heated pool and easy access to the slopes and base village from the The Kaatskill Mountain Club.
LOON MOUNTAIN, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Loon is one of the state’s 32 alpine and cross-country resorts, many of them small and local for greater New England families. Expect improved snowmaking, grooming, lifts, and lodging, thanks to extensive capital investment across the state. At this homey resort in Lincoln, experience a quicker ride than ever on the Kancamagus 8 chairlift and 30 additional acres of varied terrain. Meanwhile, the mountain continues growing its summr mountain bike park and adaptive ski and snow sports programs. Deal Alert: Loon is one of three New England Boyne resorts within 2½ hours’ drive of Boston, with Sugar Loaf in Maine and Sunday River in New Hampshire. Ski and ride all three with the top value New England Pass or fan out with an IKON Pass.
MOUNT SNOW, VERMONT
As Vermont’s closest destination ski resort to Boston and New York City, Mount Snow provides easy access to varied terrain. The Carinthia terrain park boasts more than 100 acres of features providing a virtually endless playground of progression and adventure. Recent Epic Lift Upgrades ski season changed the dynamic of the mountain with increased uphill capacity and efficiency. A new six-pack replaced two triples, a fixed-grip quad became a high-speed quad, and a double chair was upgraded to a triple. Part of the Vail Resorts family, expect robust snowmaking, fine dining, upscale lodging and plenty of off-mountain attractions and activities for families.
MOUNT SUNAPEE, NEW HAMPSHIRE
One of Boston’s closest and most accessible mountains, little Mount Sunapee has been a family favorite for generations – 75 years’ worth. Mount Sunapee’s South Peak is reputedly the best learning terrain in the East. This beginners’ enclave provides easy access to the main mountain, with its great variety of lifts and terrain, plus a protected area with multiple user-friendly magic-carpet lifts in the base area. An overhead chairlift is there when new skiers are ready to stretch their wings. New this ski season, is New Hampshire’s only ski-through lighthouse, inspired by Lake Sunapee’s three iconic lighthouses. Interactive signage creates an Instagrammable moment.
MONTREAL EN LUMIÈRE CELEBRATES SNOW, ICE, ALL THINGS WINTER
We know that residents of Montreal and Quebec province have long embraced their winter season. What’s special this year is the 25th edition of the Montréal en Lumière Festival. During the event running Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024, join more than 600,000 bundled up visitors for a spectacular winter celebration of the city’s multicultural-inspired cuisine, a multitude of free outdoor activities and endless shows. During the unmissable Nuit Blanche, explore events and live performances across the entire city.
Free outdoors family activities, day and night, include ice skating on the Skating Loop overlooking the Place des Festivals while immersed in a colorful light show. If you can’t get enough, there’s also free skating at the esplanade Tranquille. Enjoy hot cocoa and a spin on the night-lit Ferris wheel. Stay warm to the beat of the DJ Booth, explore more than 150 activities and discover dozens of Instagram-worthy illuminated artworks and projections. Yes, there are indoor shows as well. Deal Alert: For more information on programming, hotel deals and entertainment schedules, visit MontrealenLumiere.com
OKEMO MOUNTAIN RESORT, VERMONT
This upscale, family-focused southern Vermont resort is easily accessed from Boston, New York and other East Coast points. More of a year-round mountain resort than an experts’ ski destination, Okemo covers 98% of its trails with snowmaking. With 122 trails and glades, and 20 lifts, Okemo offers six express lifts, two of which access the summit and are outfitted with retractable, transparent domes to keep passengers comfortable and protected from the elements. Okemo offers plenty of alternative activities too, like ice skating, the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster, Gore Snowground, and signature events. Most of all, though, Okemo is known for its staff friendliness and warm welcome to all. Deal Alert: As a Vail Resorts property, Okemo uses the Epic Pass to provide discounts on food and drink, rentals, lodging and more through Epic Mountain Rewards.
SMUGGLERS’ NOTCH, VERMONT
Higher elevation makes Smuggs Ski Magazine’s pick for families in the Northeast. Look for great childcare including infant care in a licensed nursery. Off-slope activities include a zipline canopy tour, snowshoeing, hot cocoa by the fire, tubing and glow tubing. The Fun Zone 2.0 is open day and night for laser tag, rock-climbing wall, an arcade and toddler play zone. Snow Sports University provides expert instruction for children and adults in skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. Explore 1,000 acres of across three mountains. The Burton Riglet Park helps ages 3-6 accelerate skills development with a 100-foot mini halfpipe, rollers, banked turns and obstacle courses. Deal Alert: Book midweek for the Winter Carnival with fireworks on Thursdays and check out the value Club Smugglers’ ski and stay packages including lift tickets, lodging, indoor pool and hot tubs and many other extras.
Stowe is the East’s premier resort. The classic northern Vermont village has world class charm that makes it a truly unique skiing destination in the Northeast. Discover experiences that range from carving alpine turns and ice skating to a cross-country outing through pristine forest. Celebrating 90 years of service, the Mount Mansfield Ski Patrol will be sharing its storied history with educational events on health and safety. Last season’s Epic Lift Upgrade replaced a triple with a high-speed, detachable six-passenger lift that originates in the Mansfield Base Lodge parking lot. During its rich, 86-year history, access to beginner and intermediate terrain has significantly increased as have the family Adventure Zones, which are becoming more and more popular as an introduction to tree skiing for kids and first-timers.
There’s nothing prettier than a Vermont winter to show off Sugarbush resort and its scenic, small town base village in the Mad River Valley. The Alterra-owned resort welcomes the IKON Pass to access two mountains complete with everything from beginner terrain to some of the toughest on the East coast. Lessons for all ages and abilities are offered. Beyond skiing, there are several snowshoe trails, Cabin Cat Adventures like candlelit dinners, first tracks experiences and sunset rides. This resort focuses on culinary, with locally sourced meats, dairy, breads and vegetables featured on menus. After a day on the mountain, families settle into the convenient slopeside apartments.
Sugarloaf, one of the East’s largest and most challenging mountains, is expanding by 120 acres of family-friendly trails to welcome beginners. With two peaks, the iconic Sugarload and Burnt Mountains, it’s a favorite destination for reunions of multigenerational, die-hard skiers and snowboarders. Deal Alert: Sugarloaf is a Boyne resort so you can ski and ride with the top value New England Pass or fan out with an IKON Pass.
Within minutes of picturesque Bethel Village, Sunday River is in western Maine’s Mahoosuc Mountains. It’s broad terrain and family-focused, with eight interconnected peaks for skiing and snowboarding at all levels. They sweetened the amenities by adding a heated six-pack chairlift to the friendly ski school, two popular resort hotels and inn at the base. Sunday River has 12-hour skiing and riding Fridays, Saturdays and select holidays. Allow time for the tubing park, fireworks most weekends and holidays, and family-friendly entertainment for the little ones. Deal Alert: Stay local and ski and ride Boyne’s Sunday River with the top value New England Pass.
NORTHWEST TOP SNOW AND SKI FAMILY MOUNTAIN RESORTS
BIG SKY RESORT, MONTANA
Home to the “Biggest Skiing in America,” Big Sky boasts 5,850 skiable acres, 300 acres of skiing off Lone Peak, and 4,350 feet of vertical drop. Expect runs up to 6 miles long, glades, bowls and seven terrain parks covered in 400+” of annual snowfall. Off slope adventures are best suited to teens. Discover a giant swing, bungee trampoline, climbing wall, guided snowshoes tours, and two zipline tours. Nearby, families can snowmobile or snow coach through Yellowstone National Park (read about our visit to Yellowstone in Winter. Try Nordic skiing or horse-drawn sleigh rides through Lone Mountain Ranch. Go dogsledding in nearby Moonlight Basin. Families also test their skills at winter fly fishing or rock and ice climbing throughout the Gallatin Valley. This season, explore Big Sky’s slopes in an all-new way with Headlamp Night Skiing, or a stroll through the Enchanted Forest.
This resort in Alta near the Idaho border is only 50 miles from Jackson Hole but worlds away in style and ease of access. Not so small, Targhee boasts 2,602 acres of fine terrain and a whopping 500” annually of fresh powder. This winter, Targhee’s new Colter Lift provides 30% more terrain previously only open to Cat Ski guests. Families love the moderate rates, friendly staff and tender childcare, open (by reservation) for infants and toddlers 2 months to 5 years. If your little one is ready to learn to love skiing, book childcare + alpine skiing (ages 3-5) or book a private Mini Moose lesson. It’s hard to get lost in the compact base village no matter your age. On-mountain lodging like the just renovated Teewinot Lodge is very casual and reasonably priced. Deal Alert: Note that under-5s always ski free and Grand Targhee sells half and full-day lift tickets.
HOODOO SKI AREA, OREGON
This is one of only two Oregon resorts that participate in the Indy Pass program and it’s all about value snowsports. For only $299 for the season, Indy Pass gives winter sports enthusiasts two lift tickets at each of 75+ resorts in the US, Canada, and Japan.
Alternatively, gear up and hit the slopes at Hoodoo Ski Area with FivePine’s Stay & Ski Free Package. Deal Alert: All 2023/2024 lift tickets are valid until the 9pm closing and will be priced for full day, afternoon or evening snowsports. Since Hoodoo is the only Central Oregon ski resort to offer night skiing, it’s great value to ski and ride under the stars.
JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING
Jackson Hole is more popular than ever. The Kids Ranch offers age- and skill-appropriate lessons for ages 3 to 7. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s 2,500 acres of inbound terrain (3,000 backcountry acres) guarantee groomers and deep fresh powder. Access four Burton Stash Parks with natural terrain-like features from the Teton Village base. Families love the authentically cowboy town of Jackson, National Elk Refuge, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for unparalleled winter wildlife. Snow King is Jackson’s hometown hill – and a great bet with fewer people and value rates. The new Cowboy Coaster and Treetop Adventure are can’t-miss activities for visitors and locals. King Tubes is Jackson Hole’s only Snow Tubing Park. Deal Alert: There’s non-stop airlift from 12 major cities (look for early winter and late spring airfares. Special family deals include Kids 14 and Under Ski and Rent Free and base village lodging packages.
MOUNT BACHELOR, OREGON
With over 4,300 acres of lift-accessible terrain, Mt. Bachelor is the largest ski and snow resort in the Pacific Northwest. The eastern flanks of Oregon’s Central Cascades deliver light, dry snow, diverse terrain and family-friendliness. It also has one of the longest seasons in the country. Skiers and snowboarders can drop 360 degrees off the summit to circumnavigate the southernmost volcano in the Cascades. Vanlifers take note that RV (with hookups) and van camping are allowed in the West Village base area. There are 12 direct flights into the area each day. Mt. Bachelor is located just 20 minutes west of the thriving town of Bend, home to top craft breweries, tax-free shopping, and great après-adventure entertainment for all ages, plus 300 days of sunshine. Read more about Mt. Bachelor and Bend Oregon here.
STEVENS PASS, WASHINGTON
With an annual snowfall averaging 460″, Stevens Pass is home to a community of full-time, part-time, and first-time winter crusaders. Take advantage of 1,125 acres of diverse skiable terrain including numerous bowls, glades and faces, plus extensive lighted terrain. They say “families have learned here, and children have grown here and come back with children of their own to pass on the sheer joy of skiing and riding at the crest of the Cascades.”
The crowning jewel of Idaho resorts since 1936, glamorous Sun Valley is still going strong. For its 86th season, the resort has added 380 acres of expert terrain, a new high-speed quad chairlift, snowmaking and enhanced family-friendly activities. Sun Valley’s highly regarded ski and snowboard instruction (ski classes begin at age 4 (snowboarding at age 6). They use contoured terrain that helps kids learn. Posh skiers will like the jetsetters’ refreshed Sun Valley Lodge and luxury boutique hotels, such as the Limelight, in nearby Ketchum. Try the top ski resort in North America (according to SKI Magazine’s 2021/22 Annual Ski Resort Awards and Reader’s Poll) and let us know what you think. Learn more about the region from Family Travel Forum’s recent visit.
WHISTLER BLACKCOMB, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
The king of British Columbia offers big mountain skiing and riding for all ages and skill levels. Powder hounds, glade lovers and groomer aficionados won’t want to miss this. Instructors from Whistler’s world-class snow school help with tips and tweaks for your turns, while guiding you to the best powder stashes among the 16 alpine bowls and 200+ runs of these dual mountains. An added value is that your guides know all the best food and drink locations. Whistler is growing its offering of ski and ride camps for kids and adults this season. Extremely Canadian’s ski and snowboard clinics maximize what the Coast Mountains have to offer including Steeps Clinics, avalanche skills training and more.
TOP FAMILY SKI AND SNOW RESORTS IN UTAH
Utah, with its enviable “greatest snow on earth,” is another of the country’s top winter resort destinations. In addition to a large variety of budget lodging and small resort options, families love that they can stay in Salt Lake City and commute in a green way to several mountains. Check out Salt Lake’s Ski City Super Pass (valid at Alta, Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude) for this year’s discounted lift tickets, gear rentals and free bus or light rail transportation.
This Utah star is adjacent to the contemporary, upscale Snowbird which is celebrating 50 years by putting in glass floors on its iconic red gondola. At quieter Alta — celebrating it’s 86th season! — the vibe is a little more natural. Go and discover that the experience offered is all about skiing (no snowboarding at Alta), community and inclusivity. Stay in the traditional, European style Alta Lodge, hosting guests since 1940. The semi-inclusive Alta offers yoga to start your day, a complimentary kids-club, kid escorts to and from the slopes, a hearty and delicious breakfast and dinner daily so kids can eat early with their pals. Deals Alert: A favorite family ski and snow resort for intermediate and above snowsports athletes, purchase a combined Alta-Snowbird ticket to ski more than 4,700 acres of varied terrain for all abilities in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon. At Alta, take advantage of Kids Stay Free pricing (ages 12 and under) through Dec. 14 and from April 7-20, 2024. Taking the Kids visited Alta in 2021.
Closest to Las Vegas in Cedar City, Utah, this mountain ensures that the newest skiers and snowboarders on their slopes have the ultimate introduction. Check out their “Free On-Snow Experience.” The step-by-step, self-guided clinic provides learning stations staffed by instructors. They provide tips and information to speed up the acquisition of basic skills and fundamentals. Open to all ages, the program introduces basic mountain safety and relevant tips for a successful first-time skiing or snowboarding. New gladed terrain will debut at Brian Head in the 2023-24 season for guests of all experience levels. The trees underneath the Wildflower Lift and around the Shotgun Trail (cleared as fire breaks) all boast enjoyable tree skiing.
Budget-lovers Brighton has a much-anticipated upgrade: the new Crest6 Chairlift whisks passengers up to the saddle beneath Pioneer Ridge from the base area near Molly Green’s pub. This high-speed, 6-passenger marvel keeps lines shorter and allows night skiing aficionados a higher volume of laps under the lights. Park rats will rejoice at the new, massive 100-foot rail, a spectacular challenge slated for the Brighton Parks. Terrain Park lovers can also expect a handful of new features catering to beginners up to pros. Note that snowboarders will especially feel at home at this family ski and snow resort.
Considered by many to be the best of the best in Park City, Deer Valley is renowned for its exceptional terrain, ski valets, top-tier service, and gourmet dining. In August 2023, the resort made headlines by announcing it was more than doubling in size, starting in the 2025/2026 winter season. Upon completion, Deer Valley will offer a staggering 5,726 acres of skiable terrain accessed via 37 chairlifts. Expect 238 ski runs, all meticulously groomed to meet Deer Valley’s renowned standards, plus a cutting-edge snowmaking system. This season, the second level of Royal Street Cafe at Silver Lake Lodge transforms into an exclusive 21+ après-ski bar. Deal Alert: Many accommodations will issue a $300 Delta Gift Card if you book select nights through April, 2024.
Both the name of a terrific mountain town and a huge family ski and snow resort, Park City is one of the best Western ski areas with several mountain resorts in close proximity. Located only 25 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport, the easy-to-reach town makes a car-free getaway possible with free public buses, shuttles, taxis and ride sharing. Vail’s 7,300-skiable-acre wonderland, Park City Mountain, has six terrain parks with all your riders and free skiers could want. Parents love its two dedicated beginner learning areas at both base areas and the family-friendly Red Tail Grill at the Canyons base area. This winter Park City Mountain celebrates its 60th anniversary with special events and activations. Those with special challenges will find adaptive recreation programming each season at the National Ability Center. Read about a visit here in 2022.
Powder boasts brand new owners who also cater to folks who might not be looking to ski or snowboard. A new network of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing will debut near the Village Lift. Guests can also look to the Launch Pad Yurt for more family activities and fun. Jump start adventures in cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, moonbike tours, snowmobile tours, and more. Families and those prone to chilly toes have a new on-slope warming hut with hot chocolate and snacks. The biggest news this season at Powder is a pending backcountry terrain expansion of over 500 acres of steep terrain. Up your skills now because it will only be available via a guided experience.
Like many family ski and snow mountain resorts this season, Snowbird is developing a new audience to enjoy fun in the snow. Visit the new Mountain Center on Snowbird Plaza to schedule lessons with the Snowbird Mountain School, sell lift tickets and offer information about the mountain. Deal Alert: Snowbird will launch a Kids Freeloader Pass for new and young skiers and snowboarders. Anyone under 18 qualifies for a free Snowbird season pass when linked to an Adult, Military, or Senior Snowbird Summit Pass. This 1:1 free pass program means you can give a Kids Freeloader Pass to a dependent, a family member, or a friend at no cost with zero restrictions.
WOODWARD PARK CITY
Woodward is unlike any other Utah resort. Checkout the 66,000-square foot Adventure Hub and its outdoor wonderland of jumps, rails, halfpipes and progressive features. Their new PistenBully Park Pro Snow Cat keeps their terrain park in tip top shape. The Big Air feature will return, and guests can expect additional upgrades to the High-Performance Terrain Zone. Tubing guests will enjoy an improved lighting system under the night sky. Visit Woodward’s website for various Winter Camp programs, and training with US Ski & Snowboard team athletes as guest coaches.
WESTERN AND MIDWESTERN FAMILY SKI AND SNOW VACATION RESORTS
TAOS SKI VALLEY, NEW MEXICO
Taos is the best known among New Mexico’s eight alpine and three Nordic ski areas. Altitude assures about 300” of snow annually. Look for a more luxurious and intimate on-mountain experience with practically nonexistent lift lines. Taos provides childcare for kids up to age 3 and pre-K lessons at the Rio Hondo Learning Center for ages 3-6. The ice-skating rink is back as are the resort’s ski weeks – including the discounted Shredders Program, which emphasizes the continued growth of local skiers and riders as they develop their skills. Take advantage of a snowcat-pulled sleighride to dine at The Bavarian. There’s a very upscale, stylish hotel, The Blake with larger family-sized condos in the adjacent building. As the only B Corp ski resort in the world, Taos also announced another sustainability milestone last year – the resort is fully certified Carbon Neutral, and on track to be net zero by 2030.
WILMOT MOUNTAIN, WISCONSIN
Just a short drive from Chicago and Milwaukee, Wimot offers true affordability. Families with new skiers also appreciate that there’s less vertical and a smaller footprint to quickly build confidence. The Ski and Ride school caters to newbies so you can learn to ski yourself or give your kids a gift that will last a lifetime.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.