Few slopes are teeming with children. It’s a strange observation when you think about it: What’s more enjoyable than skiing or snowboarding down a mountain? What kid wouldn’t want to tie a plank or two to their feet, be lifted to the top of a massive hill, and want it? Yet the mountains are populated mainly by traveling twenties, weekend couples and parents with generous in-laws. It does not have to be this way. Skiing with kids is a truly special experience that, surely, is priced with a Disney Land vacation, but is so much more rewarding. It just takes the right resort, and yes, a lot of planning.
“Skiing with kids requires work,” says Tess Weaver, who skis with her 8-year-old son at Aspen Snowmass. “There will be tears (of them too). But in the end, the fun outweighs the work. To pass on a love for skiing means to pass on a love for the natural world, for mountains, snow, winter, community, physical activity, travel and more. ”
Whether you’re itching to get your kids in boots for their first turns or can barely keep up with them (just say to yourself, this is the low center of gravity), these family-friendly resorts boast a variety of terrain, great ski schools, convenient child care programs and amenities to make your family vacation a breeze.
Of all the resorts in the Tahoe area, Northstar is a favorite among families for its variety of lessons for children 3-18. If your kids are not ready to ski, the Minors Camp Day Care is just a short shuttle ride from the mountain, available for kids 2-6 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After the ski day, there are tons of activities that kids will love such as bungee trampolines, ice skating and s’mores toast at the various fire pits around the base village.
Pow for parents: The Backside Express is tree-lined skies, with endless storage and well-spaced steep openings.
Dollar Mountain, next to the main hill at Bald Mountain, is about as family-friendly as it can be, with a variety of beginner runs and a few short blue and black trails, as well as a terrain park that will keep older kids entertained for hours. Kids 4 and under ski for free all season long, and Idaho’s 5th and 6th grade Peak Season Passport Program give kids three free days of skiing at all Idaho ski resorts for only $ 18.
Pow for parents: Take the Mayday lift to access Lookout Bowl and Easter Bowl, some of the steep wide-open bowl skis for which Sun Valley is famous.
Located in Big Cottonwood Canyon, just 40 minutes from Salt Lake City, the aptly named Solitude Mountain is a getaway from the powder-squeezed crowds on the other side of the canyon at Snowbird and Alta. This quiet resort has 1,200 acres of ski area to explore, including the Moonbeam base area, a mecca of beginner terrain with options for 4- and 5-year-olds to take small group half-day lessons Junior explorers a full day Scouts lessons for children 6-13.
Pow for parents: The Summit Chair has moderate blue walkways, wide open black bowls, and some steeper double-black terrain. While the rest of the family takes Dynamite to the bottom, jump into the steep trees in the Headwall Forest or the Evergreen Gutters for a little excitement.
Aside from world-class instructors and coaches, the four mountains across Aspen Snowmass have a ton of kid-friendly terrain and beginner advancement for both new skiers and adventure-seeking kids. Small amenities reduce stress for parents, such as stuffed animals on elevators, wagons in the parking lot to carry equipment, and hot chocolate kiosks all over the mountain.
Pow for parents: Hike Highlands pickup for long fall line skiing and powder stories days after a storm.
Just two hours drive from Denver, Winter Park is a favorite for its cold atmosphere, wonderful ski school and learn-to-ski area, Discovery Park. Discovery has wide open green runs and a few secluded tree runs, the perfect place to keep your kids walking around in a safe and secure area without worrying about expert skiers flying through.
Pow for parents: Look at the Mary Jane side of the mountain for steep tree runs and challenging bumps.
Keystone is consistently one of the top-rated family resorts in Colorado, and with good reason. The Schoolyard, a unique family-ski trail right in the heart of the mountain, a captivating green trail for kids and parents to practice rolling over bumps and weaving in and out features.
Free parking at the base along with free gear carts make it easy to ski (or kids) across the snow car park to the base village and the Kids Ski Free Program offers free lift tickets for any children 12 and under when you book your stay directly through the resort. Check out the Adventure Point Tubing Park and Kidtopia Snow Fort when the kids need a break from skiing.
Pow for parents: Walk days after a storm on Keystone’s many backyards for fresh turns. Walk to Wapiti Peak from the top of the Outback Chair, or access Bergman Bowl via a short boot from the Outpost.
With full- and half-day lessons for kids three and older, adventure zones tucked away in the woods, and free ride tickets for kids four and younger, Mammoth does right with families. With over 3,500 acres of skiable terrain, beginner, intermediate and expert skiers have endless terrain to choose from.
Pow for parents: The Upper Panorama Gondola has access to some of the steepest ridge terrain Mammoth has to offer, with wide open bowls and steep gutters.
With tons of beginner and intermediate terrain and Old West cowboy charm, Steamboat’s friendly feel stands out among Colorado resorts. The brand new Happy Camp Kids Program Center makes it easy to get kids on snow, with lessons available for kids 2 and older, and rentals available on-site for a one-stop-shop experience.
Pow for parents: Cross the back to gain access to the Morningside area, for soft snow and quiet kitchen skiing. From the top of Morningside you can also access Christmas tree basins and gutters 1-3 if you want to add a little more spice.
Jackson Hole is known for its extreme terrain, but what is not often mentioned is the variety of intermediate and child-friendly amenities that the Wyoming resort also offers. The Solitude Station Learning Center (which opened in 2018) is a dedicated beginner area, with a soft undulating terrain, a magic carpet, ski school cabinets and outdoor fireplaces to warm up between laps.
Pow for parents: Take the famous air tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain and peek into Corbet’s (fall if you dare) before braiding through calcareous bumps in Rendezvous Bowl.
Crystal Mountain in Michigan (just two hours from Grand Rapids) is a favorite among Midwesterners for its variety of terrain, friendly staff, comfortable accommodations and designated learning area, an ideal family vacation. Each elevator has a variety of terrain, so families with children on multiple levels can ride the elevator up and then choose their own adventure for the road down.
Pow for parents: The smooth runs from Crystal Clipper and Buck are a fun adventure for advanced skiers.
Angel Fire, a quiet resort in northern New Mexico, is a great place for kids to learn to ski. Angel Fire’s ski school offers group lessons for children 3-12, and with 21 percent beginner and 56 percent intermediate terrain, progress feels natural and less intimidating than neighboring Taos. Night skiing, sledding and tubing provide wonderful after-hours activities when the children are not yet ready to go inside.
Pow for parents: If you’re looking for a challenge, head out to the Nitro, Detonator and Baa-da-Bing trails from the Southwest Flyer seat for steep slippery terrain.
As New Hampshire’s largest ski area, Bretton Woods is known for some of the best care in the East, reducing the icy and treacherous feeling that can make east coast skiing difficult for children. For the 2021/2022 season, Bretton Woods offers private lessons only, with Beginner Private lessons for kids 7 and older (up to four per group), or one-hour Snow Play Private lessons for kids 4-6 to teach them the basic movement patterns of skiing.
Pow for parents: Ski the Mount Stickney Glades off the Telegraph T-Bar for some classic New England tree skiing.
The caption at Smuggler’s is “America’s Family Resort,” so it’s no surprise that the Vermont resort has tons of beginner and intermediate terrain, cute good luck charms on the hill, a convenient child care center for children as young as 6 weeks, snow lessons for toddlers, and all-day lessons for children 3-15.
Pow for parents: Go to the top of Madonna for a striking view of Mount Mansfield, and drop in at Upper Liftline and Freefall if you’re looking for a challenge.
From the Enchanted Forest to the Waffle Hut, the slopes of Sunday River are chock-full of kid-friendly adventures. The sprawling resort is a fun place for kids to walk around, with designated beginner terrain (more than 75 percent of the trails are beginner or intermediate) and relatively few crowds as skiers are spread across the resort’s eight peaks.
Pow for parents: Advanced skiers must go to Oz, where steep New England fields await.
With undulating beginner terrain low and more advanced terrain high, Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks is a great place for kids to progress. Sign up your kids in the morning for Mountain Adventure Class, two- or four-hour lessons for kids 4-12, and explore the resort’s 448-acre ski area together as a family in the afternoon.
Pow for parents: If you fancy the cliffs, withdraw your family time for a few laps along Rumor and Lies off the Straight Brook Quad.
Just two hours north of New York City in the Northern Catskills, Hunter Mountain’s incredible ski school, designated beginner area (Hunter One), and even the setting of beginner, intermediate, and advanced terrain make it an ideal place for first-time families and devotees skiers alike. Sign up children 3-14 for full or half day group lessons, and stay on the mountain or drive back to town for an easy weekend getaway.
Pow for parents: While kids are in ski school, hop on F Lift to access some of the most technical terrain on the mountain, where K27 and Milky Glades will test your gravel.
Okemo is a favorite for East Coast families. An easy ride from Boston, Albany or New York City, Okemo has excellent instructors and tons of smooth cruiser runs. Okemo’s ski school offers group lessons for children of all ages, with day care facilities just a short distance from the slopes, and accommodation along the slope so you don’t have to deal with shuttles and overcrowded parking lots.
Pow for parents: Okemo is known for its incredible grooming infrastructure, but for steeper, uncared-for trails, the South Face will get your blood pumping.