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If your family loves all things snow, you naturally want your kids to learn how to ski and have a blast in the process. At the end of the trip, you want to look back on a memorable family vacation during which everybody had fun, nobody cried (too much), nobody got hurt and nobody got lost. A few criteria can help make that happen at some of the best ski schools around: being the right age, access to high-quality teachers, convenient in/out mountain access, GPS trackers on the kids for safety and fun extras like tubing parks and ice forts.
With ski season starting a bit early with a wintery-bang, here are 10 of the best ski schools in the United States and Canada that exceed expectations in these areas, and many more.
1. Beaver Creek, Colorado
Unlike most resorts, where the higher slopes are accessible only to more advanced skiers, Beaver Creek‘s expansive mountaintop setting allows kids to ski the higher slopes — and enjoy stunning views — as soon as they progress beyond the beginner level. And for beginners, this winter Beaver Creek debuts Haymeadow Park, the largest dedicated learning area in the state. Kids even get their own gondola: the Buckaroo Express. Meanwhile, parents tired from lugging gear and little ones will appreciate the presence of escalators alongside the stairs.
Beaver Creek wins on lodging convenience available on points, too, with the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek (30,000 World of Hyatt points per night) located just 50 yards from the ski slopes and ski school. Beaver Creek Lodge (60,000 Marriott Rewards points), Sheraton Mountain and Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas all also located in the area.
2. Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Low-key Steamboat is a Colorado family favorite, with plenty of price-saving packages and perks. Kids can get on the slopes early here, too, with group lessons for kids as young as two and a half years old. Mommy Points took her daughter to ski school at 3 years old, so it’s definitely possible to start them out young if they have the disposition and interest.
Steamboat doesn’t skimp on food or fun, either; the Taco Beast delivers grilled steak, chicken and pork tacos straight to the slopes on a snowcat. At the base, Timber & Torch restaurant, new this season, features two indoor/outdoor bars and a heated patio with fireplace and outdoor barbecue. And don’t forget the nearby hot springs, where families love to soak post-ski.
A big plus for cost-conscious families: nearby hotels include the Hampton Inn Steamboat Springs, slope-side Sheraton Steamboat Villas (where you can get a free night by using a Marriott 35,000 point certificate available with cards like the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card) and Homewood Suites by Hilton Steamboat Springs.
3. Park City Mountain, Utah
There’s big news for families this winter with the opening of Park City Mountain’s new High Meadow Family Fun Zone at Canyons Village, which includes a dedicated learning area created exclusively for beginning skiers (along with a Candy Cabin). Kids will also love whizzing along on the brand-new high-speed High Meadow four-passenger lift that whisks you to the top of the slope in just three minutes.
Park City’s highly regarded ski and snowboard school limits classes for 6 to 12 year olds to just five children. And they offer a family ski lesson that lets the whole family learn together, accommodating different ages and skill levels. Kids will love the clever wooden animals that adorn three new adventure trails that progress in difficulty.
Lodging is a breeze at Park City, with a wealth of options, including Holiday Inn Express (30,000 IHG Rewards Club points) and a plethora of Marriott properties (St. Regis Deer Valley available this year for 60k Marriott points, the Category 6 Hotel Park City and Category 5 Park City Marriott). Hilton point options include DoubleTree Park City and Waldorf Astoria Park City. Mommy Points enjoyed the Hyatt Centric Park City with her family, located right next to Canyons.
4. Keystone, Colorado
Keystone makes every list of top ski schools thanks to Camp Keystone, its dedicated kids’ clubhouse and lift complete with a giant 24-foot slide that lands kids straight into the snow. Lugging gear and small children is easier at Keystone is easier with the aid of free red gear wagons. And there is free skiing for kids up to age 12 with a two-night stay to make things easier on your wallet.
But perhaps the biggest draw is the Kidtopia extravaganza, which claims to be the world’s biggest ice fort, featuring climbing nets, towers and slides. You don’t have to be in ski school to access this amazing ice fort, you just need to have a ticket up the mountain. Keystone isn’t just family friendly, they really are family-focused.
Hyatt Place Keystone makes for a perfect home base for all the fun on a points-fueled budget, bookable for just 15,000 World of Hyatt points or a Category 1–4 award available with the World of Hyatt Credit Card. There are also plenty of Keystone-area vacation home rentals if you’re traveling with a big family or group.
5. Aspen Snowmass, Colorado
All-around excellence is the hallmark of the Aspen Snowmass ski school, but what really makes it stand out are special programs like Kids Mountain Explorers, a weeklong adventure camp for Levels 5 skiers and up that keeps the same group of kids skiing or snowboarding together under a single coach. Older kids who are already adept will love Teen Park and Pipe Camp, which teaches jumps and other skilled moves.
For resort-side fun, Aspen’s indoor play area is a favorite of families with small children. Nearby Aspen Buttermilk is reopening a rebuilt Fort Frog, a frontier-style wooden climbing fort complete with towers, a jail, a swinging bridge and a snowball-launcher. Aspen Snowmass also offers an indoor Treehouse Adventure Center for kids 8 weeks to 4 years and hybrid Cubs on Skis program to get little skiers as young as 2.5 years outside on skis for a portion of the day, while keeping them entertained indoors the rest of the time.
Lodging options near Aspen include the slope-side Westin Snowmass (where you can even use your Marriott 35,000 point free night certificate), the in-town and fancy St. Regis Aspen Resort and Residence Club, and the further afield Element Basalt (where you can use a Category 1–4 free night certificate).
6. Heavenly Valley, California
Heavenly boasts not one, not two but three ski school locations: California at the main lodge, Adventure Peak at the top of the gondola and Boulder Lodge on the Nevada side. The “Enchanted Forest” beginners’ program does indeed have a magical feel, and there’s a covered “magic carpet” that kids will love. Heavenly is also known for having more than the usual number of options for intermediate skiers, making it a favorite of families with school-age kids, tweens and teens.
An easy drop-off and pickup program makes life easy for harried parents, with ski instructors taking charge of equipment fitting and returns. And, like at Aspen Snowmass, Heavenly has an on-site nursery for kids too young to ski, including babies as young as 6-weeks-old.
Just 10 minutes from the slopes, the busy town of South Lake Tahoe boasts plenty of affordable lodging options, including the Holiday Inn Express South Lake Tahoe and Marriott’s Timber Lodge South (50,000 Marriott Rewards points for a two-bedroom villa) and Grand Residences.
7. Telluride, Colorado
Like Beaver Creek and Park City, this winter, Telluride is unveiling an upgraded beginner area, The Meadows, with a covered surface lift and expanded programming. A standout at Telluride is the Otters class for kids 3 and 4 years old, which teaches skills through fun games and play. There is also a class for children as young as 2.5 years old.
Don’t like to drive in the snow? Telluride’s got that covered, too, with a free gondola that connects Telluride, with its bustling restaurants and shops, with the many lodging options in Mountain Village. And ski-in, ski-out is easy here, since the slopes continue straight into Mountain Village. Mommy Points loved a recent stay at the small but charming Dunton Town House in Telluride just blocks away fro the gondola. Plus, this winter, United can even fly you right into Telluride via their partner Boutique Air.
8. Stowe, Vermont
The fact that Stowe Ski School is over 80-years-old doesn’t mean its classes are anything less than modern, with private and group lesson areas available for all ages starting at age 3 and ranging to a “Stowked Teen Camp” held a few times a year for experienced teen skiers. But lessons are just the beginning; the fun at and around Stowe also includes dogsledding, ice skating and sleigh rides.
Lodging is available nearby at the Waterbury Stowe Fairfield Inn and Suites, the Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa and in nearby Burlington at the Holiday Inn. In 2019, expect Stowe Mountain Lodge to become bookable with World of Hyatt points. We don’t yet know the redemption rate but keep checking if Stowe is on your must-ski list.
9. Vail, Colorado
There’s a good reason Vail is the best-known ski resort in Colorado: It’s enormous, with 5,000 acres of skiable terrain. And don’t forget the tube park, which is lit after dark for post-skiing fun. In addition to an extensive menu of lessons for all ages at all levels, Vail offers the option to book a private lesson for the whole family together. Depending on the location most convenient to you, you can book ski school lessons at Lionshead or Golden Peak and wait for tales of your kid’s great day skiing through Magic Forrest or fueling up on pizza for lunch at Blue Moose Pizza.
Vail also stands out for its large selection of points-based hotel options across a range of budgets. From the Doubletree by Hilton Vail, there’s something for everyone, including a ski-in luxury property, Hotel Talisa. (Use your 50k annual certificate available with the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card). Additional Marriott properties include the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort and StreamSide Evergreen. Hilton members can use their points at the new DoubleTree by Hilton Vail.
10. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia, Canada
Whistler‘s ski school offers a variety of classes including three- and five-day camps with the same group of kids and instructor progressing together each day. They will also start kids on snowboards as young as 4-years-old, which is younger than some mountains. If you use points to stay at the Westin Whistler, you will be steps from the ski school check-in area. For younger kids, there is also a nursery for children within the Westin for kids starting at 18-months-old. One great element of Whistler’s ski school is that children are immediately strapped with a GPS tracker.
The Family Adventure Center at the foot of Blackcomb Mountain has everything from bungee jumping to mini-golf. Both the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Hilton Whistler are ski-in, ski-out resorts that boast world-class spas to boot. If you need to stretch your points, the Delta Hotels Whistler Village Suites property is just 35,000 Marriott points per night, though availability is tight in peak seasons.
If you love skiing and want to pass down that passion to your children, it’s probably never too early to take them to a ski resort. And, ski school is a rite of passage, but perhaps a more enjoyable if you can make it to one of the best ski schools around. What ski schools have your kids attended and would you recommend them?
Don’t miss these additional ski resources:
- Best US Ski Resorts for Families
- Right Age to Take Kids Skiing and to Ski School
- Maximizing Points and Miles for a Colorado Ski Trip
Know before you go.
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