Best ski resorts for families in North America
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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, many mountain resorts across North America know how to cater to families.
With skiing itself being one of the best winter socially distanced activities there is, ski resorts are making many accommodations this year to ensure families have a fun — but safe — experience. Of course, some ski resorts are still trying to finalize their plans — and things can change on a moment’s notice — but you’ll notice that the charm of skiing on the slopes has not gone away.
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Before you book your vacation, check-in with the mountain on specific ski-school questions. Some resorts have already announced their plans to have — or not have — group ski school lessons, while others are offering just private or family-only ski lessons.
You’ll also find some resorts running just half-day programs to avoid being indoors. If ski school — or even day care — is a must-need for your vacation, double-check the offerings as they are reduced this particular year, especially for the four-and-under age group.
Also check travel restrictions a few weeks out. If you’ll cross state lines, make sure to check our state-by-state guide to see if quarantining or a COVID-19 test is required. And if that planned ski trip takes you to another country, it is even more important to check specific country-by-country restrictions to avoid any surprises.
Once you figure out the best resort for your family, look into lift ticket and pass options.
Many resorts will require you to purchase tickets ahead of time — and some might even hit capacity in advance — while others are going to limit the mountain to pass holders at the beginning and require advance reservation throughout. For example, the Epic Pass, will require you to make advance reservations — and you can only have up to seven advance days booked at a given time. That said, you are allowed unlimited week-of bookings in addition to your advance reservations.
With all of those nuances being what they are, if you are trying to figure out where to take the family skiing this winter, check out all of the current offerings at these top-rated North America mountaintops. Just understand that exact activities could change, but these are some of the best spots for families who are craving time out on the mountain.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Perhaps one of the friendliest slopes for kids is Colorado’s Beaver Creek. Just about two hours from Denver International Airport (DEN) (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 23 ski lifts, plus kid-friendly amenities. The Red Buffalo Park offers a 200-acre, 13-slope “family learning area” where you can access the top in just 4.3 minutes.
Typically, their après ski events such as pizza parties and their free 3 p.m. cookie trays are a big hit but, unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until next year for those special goodies. Off the mountain, you’ll still enjoy snowshoe treks, ice skating in the village and snow tubing and dog sledding nearby.
In future years — post-COVID-19 — one fun activity is the open-air sleigh ride to Allie’s Cabin Family Dinners where you can have a great restaurant experience.
Where to stay: Park Hyatt Beaver Creek (30,000 World of Hyatt Points), Hyatt Residence Club Beaver Creek (25,000 World of Hyatt Points), The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch (from 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points), The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and Beaver Creek Lodge (from 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points), the Sheraton Lakeside Terrace Villas at Mountain Vista (from 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points), the Sheraton Mountain Vista Villas (from 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points or use your 35k free night certificate) or Comfort Inn Near Vail Beaver Creek (20,000 Choice Privileges points)
Of all the Colorado ski resorts (of which there are plenty), Keystone is the hot spot 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. Unfortunately, Kidtopia itself will not be open this year, but in normal years it is a giant snow fort where kids can enjoy fresh après-ski cookies or stay indoors with a variety of games, crafts and activities located within the Expedition Station headquarters.
Although this year will be different, in normal years, you’ll want to plan your visit to be there over a Saturday night as you’ll be able to watch fireworks and enjoy family fondue events.
With 3,000 acres of ski terrain during the day, your family will be able to experience a ton of terrain. And best of all, kids 12 and under ski free when you stay at one of the resort’s properties for two nights or more, with no blackout dates.
Where exactly 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 showy 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: Westin Snowmass (from 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points or use your 50k free night certificate), Laurelwood Condominiums and Stonebridge Inn (20,000 World of Hyatt points), Lichenhearth (25,000 World of Hyatt points) or Villas at Snowmass Club (30,000 World of Hyatt points)
Related: How to save money on a trip to Aspen
Copper Mountain, Colorado
If you are looking for a ski resort experience but lower prices than some neighbors, Copper is a great choice. This resort has family-friendly written all over it with a ton of activities.
In addition to skiing on some great snow conditions, you have the Rocky Mountain Roller Coaster, snow tubing and even complimentary snowshoe tours (paused this year). And normally, there’s also snow playground — though for this year that will be replaced by a snow maze.
Another unique experience at Copper is the Kids Night Out program right in the village. While it is suspended this particular year, in a normal year it typically gives parents an opportunity for a kid-free evening. With this program, you can drop your kids (ages 3- to 12-years-old) at the Copper Mountain Child Care at Center Village (select days of the week between 5:30–10 p.m.).
Where to stay: Copper has a new hotel opening this season called Element 29.(Photo by chapin31/Getty Images)
Deer Valley, Utah
When kids are just getting their bearings making big side-to-side turns down an incline, snowboarders, speeding straight for the bottom, can be scary.
Thankfully, there are no boarders to heed at Deer Valley, which is a ski-only resort. There’s also a children’s adventure area on the mountain, where your kids will have 14 pint-sized trails allowing them to work on new techniques — although their favorite part will probably be the tiny cabin hidden in the woods. The mountain also limits its ticket sales each day, which keeps crowds (and lift line waits) at a minimum.
On-mountain activities also include the NASTAR care course and snowmobiling at Summit Meadows Adventures.
If you want to head down the street, you can also experience the fully revamped Woodward Park City. Here kids can enjoy a seven-lane tubing park as well as an indoor facility with trampolines, foam pits and a skatepark.
Northstar California Resort, California
California’s Northstar Resort, along the California–Nevada border on Lake Tahoe, is one of the best for families. You 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.
This year specifically, Northstar will have a smaller winter footprint with more simplified, focused operations for non-skiing activities. The primary focus will be to ensure a phenomenal ski and snowboard experience — which you’ll have as long as the weather cooperates.
With that being said, the Nordic Center will be open, offering 35 kilometers of scenic trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat-tire biking. But, you’ll have to wait till next year for on-mountain and village activities, such as Tōst (Lake Tahoe’s only ski-up, mountain view bubbly experience), après live music, snow tubing and s’mores.
Where to stay: The Ritz Carlton, Lake Tahoe (from 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points), Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort (25,000 World of Hyatt points) or Hampton Inn & Suites Tahoe-Truckee (from 30,000 Hilton Honors points)
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, you can choose from daily bonfires, weekly carnivals, fat tire biking, snowshoeing, ice skating, tubing and night skiing for all ages to enjoy. And, at least in normal years, you won’t want to miss the special evening fireworks!
Normally, Smuggs also offers great ski lessons for kids starting at just 2.5 years old. While some programs might require parents’ presence or be different this year, it is a great opportunity to get the young ones on the mountain early to experience the snow.
Rather hide away from the cold? Visit the Family Fun Complex for 26,000 square feet of indoor fun activities for non-skiers, such as inflatable axe-throwing, mini-golf, giant slides and an arcade center.
As of right now, Smuggs will also offer unrestricted mountain access guarantee with any ski and stay packages — a guaranteed way to ensure you can ski during your 2020/2021 ski vacation.
Stowe has a world-class ski school and plenty of long beautiful blues to keep your not-yet-expert skiers and boarders engaged. New this year is their Adventure Zone, which gives kids and families the opportunity to easily access gentle and well-marked skiing trails.
After a great family day on the slopes, take in a free pre-dinner skate at the Spruce Peak outdoor ice rink or do a guided twilight snowshoe tour through the woods.
Want to skip the “are we there yet?” choruses in the car? Jump on a Tradewind Aviation flight from Westchester County Airport directly to Stowe Morrisville State Airport (December through March). Flights are limited to just Fridays and Sundays, and while the cost might burn a hole in your wallet, you can purchase a ticket book to lessen the cost slightly. On the plus side, there is no extra charge for all of your ski gear.
The main issue with Stowe Mountain is the ticket prices, compared to other East Coast resorts, although the Epic Ski Pass could come in handy and potentially save your family money. You can even look at Epic’s Northeast Value Pass if you are limiting yourself to just East Coast mountains this winter.
Jay Peak, Vermont
People love Jay Peak due to its indoor waterpark. For those families who want to take a day off from skiing or for something to do after morning ski school, the Jay Peak Pump House indoor waterpark is ideal. The waterpark features slides, a Flowrider surf simulator and an entire kids play area. There are many lodging packages that include waterpark access or you can purchase a day pass (purchasing in advance is recommended).
Aside from the waterpark, there are two arcades, a climbing gym, an ice skating rink, an indoor ropes course and a movie theater. Even if there some adjustments this year, there is more than enough to keep your kids occupied in addition to a day of skiing.
Where to stay: Jay Peak Resort
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 fat-tire snow biking trails, sleigh rides and a sports center with indoor, heated swimming facilities. While you won’t get to experience the cool kids’ snowmobile park this year, it is a fun activity for future years.
Unfortunately, many of the après-ski programs will be closed this year, along with the kid’s adventure center, there are many fun activities for the entire family for future years. With over 102 trails, there should be no shortage of on-mountain fun.
Where to stay: Omni Mount Washington Resort
Related: Family-friendly New England ski resorts.
Whiteface, New York
Lake Placid is such a perfect winter destination that it 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. Of course, this year might be slightly different as Whiteface is still determining how their ski school programs will operate this winter.
On your non-skiing dates, make sure to check out the Olympic sites and activities, including a chance to experience bobsledding like the athletes.
With New York State’s Learn to Ski or Ride Passport program, 3rd and 4th graders can typically receive up to three free ski days at this resort. However, that program is still being determined for the 2020/2021 ski season, so it might look slightly different this particular year — if it happens at all.
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, Camelback Mountain Resort or Great Wolf Lodge
If (or when) you can cross the border to Quebec’s Mont-Tremblant, just a couple of hours outside Montreal, 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, sleigh rides and even ice climbing. Kids 3- to 5-years old can play in the Mother Nature Camp, which combines ski school with daily activities, while older family members explore the high peak of Mont-Tremblant.
Although the indoor/outdoor Aqualab La Source waterpark is currently closed, you can still enjoy many indoor activities, such as laser tag and a virtual reality arcade.
Where to stay: Fairmont Tremblant, Residence Inn Mont Tremblant Manoir Labelle (from 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points), Le Westin Resort & Spa, Tremblant (from 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) or Homewood Suites by Hilton Mont-Tremblant Resort (from 36,000 Hilton Honors points)
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
British Columbia’s Whistler is another Canadian ski hot spot for families. With a family-friendly focus, your kids will love the pint-sized skiing that is provided at the resort’s Enchanted Woods — free and clear of more experienced (aka faster) skiers.
And while the mountain is still finalizing entertainment and operational details for this winter, fingers crossed for the Magic Castle and Tree Fort outdoor playlands at both Whistler and its sister Blackcomb mountains. Normal years also include after-ski parties, including tons of fun and activities for kids.
Where to stay: Four Seasons Resort, Delta Hotels Whistler Villages Suites (from 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) or The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler (from 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) or Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa (from 43,000 Hilton Honors points)
Dreaming of a winter getaway with your family? Read more of TPG’s tips for planning your ski trip with points and miles.
- Everything you need to know to pack for a ski trip
- Best US ski towns
- Plan your ski trip with points and miles
- Best ski schools for kids
- Tips to make your best ski trip better
- Best credit cards to use on ski trips
- Kids ski free: Save on your family’s next ski vacation
- Kids ski free in Colorado and Utah with Epic Ski Days
Additional reporting by Jennifer Yellin
Featured image by Getty Images / Imgorthand
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