Many mountain resorts across North America excel at catering to families, whether your child is a shredding, snowboarding teen or a newbie headed to ski school for the very first time.
Skiing is one of the best socially distanced winter activities there is – and if this year is anything like last winter, skiing can absolutely be done in an incredibly fun and safe manner. In fact, my family skied more last year than any year in the past.
While some ski resorts are still trying to finalize their plans — and things can change at a moment’s notice — you’ll find if you do take a family ski trip that the charm of the slopes has not gone away.
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Before you book your vacation, check in with the mountain for any specific ski school questions. Similar to last year, some resorts have altered their offerings (or still might not offer group ski school programs at all), and lessons can book up well in advance. You’ll also find some resorts running just half-day programs to avoid bringing groups of people indoors. If ski school — or even on-mountain day care — is a must-have for your vacation, double-check the options to ensure they fit your ski vacation goals.
Also be sure to check any vaccine or testing requirements a few weeks out. With many businesses starting to mandate one of the two, there’s always the possibility for some ski resorts to follow suit. If a planned ski trip will take you to another country, it is extremely important to check specific country-by-country restrictions to avoid any surprises. And remember that any requirements can become more or less restrictive at a moment’s notice.
Once you decide on the best resort for your family, research its lift ticket and pass options. While many ski resorts haven’t yet announced yet how they will handle lift ticket purchasing and reservations, last year we saw many resorts hit capacity well in advance. Note, however, that many mountain operators, such as Vail resorts, have stated that advance reservations will not be needed this year.
With all of those nuances in mind, check out the current offerings at these top-rated North American mountains that are some of the best spots for families:
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. For the 2021-2022 winter season, Beaver Creek will open a brand new, 250-acre, lift-served expansion called McCoy Park. This will offer even more terrain for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders, elevating the mountain experience and offering 17 new trails of naturally gladed, groomable terrain plus two new chairlifts. Along with Haymeadow Park and Red Buffalo Park, McCoy Park solidifies Beaver Creek Kids Ski and Snowboard School as the industry leader.
In normal years, après ski events such as pizza parties and free 3 p.m. cookie trays were a big hit with families. Last year these perks weren’t offered, but there’s hope we will see those special goodies return. Off the mountain, you can enjoy snowshoe treks, ice skating in the village, snow tubing and dog sledding.
Returning for this winter are the open-air sleigh rides to Allie’s Cabin, although it won’t have dedicated family dinners this season as it has in the past.
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 (30,000 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 is the usual dog sledding, snow tubing, ice skating and sleigh rides, but the pièce de résistance is their kid programs. The Kidtopia programming will, unfortunately, be phased out, but the mountain is bringing back their on-mountain Snow Fort at the top of the River Run Gondola and is introducing a completely new Snow Fort experience at the Mountain House base area. Additionally, there will be other fun on-mountain experiences this season, such as the return of snowcat skiing and weekend (and holiday) night skiing.
In addition, with Keystone planning to open as early as possible in October, the resort is looking forward to celebrating the early season with some fun activities as a part of the Keystone Kickoff, including a Halloween Hunt featuring costumes and an on-mountain scavenger hunt, plus a new Mtn Dew Rise & Shine Pass Holder First Tracks on Nov. 12, 19 and Dec. 3. On these First Tracks days, pass holders receive access to the mountain an hour before the general public and the first 100 guests receive free breakfast.
With the resort’s 3,000 acres, 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, so you can 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 and four years old. The center can occupy little ones while older kids take part in ski school and you enjoy multiple terrains. Other activities include snow tubing, alpine coasters, ice skating, 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 with lower prices than some neighbors such as Breckenridge, Copper is a great choice. This resort has family-friendly written all over it, with a ton of activities.
In addition to skiing in some great snow conditions, you have the Rocky Mountain Roller Coaster, snow tubing and even complimentary snowshoe tours. For this season, Copper is planning (by Christmas) on opening a new Copper Maze, built entirely of snow, near the base of the Super Bee lift in East Village.
Another unique experience usually available at Copper is the Kids Night Out program in the village. While it, unfortunately, is expected to remain suspended again this year due to the pandemic, in a normal year it gives parents an opportunity for a kid-free evening. With this program, you can drop your kids (ages 3 to 12) at the Copper Mountain Child Care at Center Village on select days of the week between 5:30–10 p.m.
Copper is also undertaking a multi-year project called the Western Territory Expansion. This area is on the western-most side of the mountain and is being designed to inspire beginner skiers, kids and families to connect with Copper’s history and heritage. For this season, there will be two new family-friendly adventure zones, two new trails and a connector trail that offers skill development along with animation connected to the history of western exploration in the area.
Where to stay: Element 29 is a brand new hotel where you can use your flexible credit card points and miles.
Deer Valley, Utah
When kids are just getting their bearings making big side-to-side turns down an incline, it can be scary for them to interact with snowboarders or others speeding straight for the bottom.
There are no snowboarders to heed at Deer Valley, which is a ski-only resort. There’s also a children’s adventure area on the mountain. There, 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.
If you are looking for a ski resort that can also entertain a non-skiing child, the Deer Valley Children’s center offers full-day child care with many activities, as well as outdoor and indoor playgrounds.
On-mountain activities include a NASTAR race course and snowmobiling at Summit Meadows Adventures. You can also ski with an Olympic snowsport athlete (though participants must be at least 7 years old).
If you head down the street, you can 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 excellent for families. They 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.
While non-ski activities have yet to be set for this winter, there should be more on-mountain and village activities than last year, including après ski live music. Hopefully, they’ll bring back Tōst (Lake Tahoe’s only ski-up, mountain view bubbly experience), snow tubing and s’mores.
If cross-country skiing is your activity of choice, the Nordic Center offers nearly 22 miles of scenic trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat-tire biking.
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
An über kid-friendly ski resort, Smugglers’ Notch focuses on the entire family experience, which is why it’s well known as “America’s Family Resort.” Smuggs, as it’s called by those who know and love it, offers an award-winning Snow Sport University that starts lessons with little ones as young as 2.5 years old. Sir Henry’s Learning and Fun Park has two Magic Carpet Rides that gently guide new skiers to the top. Families return year after year and request the same instructors.
For those who already know how to ski and board, the mountain has everything they could want: 78 trails, eight lifts, the highest vertical drop in northern Vermont, at 2,610 feet, and more than 300 inches of natural snow each year. Add to that the multiple terrain parks and 1,000 acres of skiing and riding.
For those staying at the resort, everything is a few steps away, with an on-demand shuttle that will take you where you need to go.
Not a skier or snowboarder? No problem. Smuggs offers many non-skiing activities, including snowshoeing, tubing, cross country skiing, swimming and ice skating. Or, experience the updated Fun Zone 2.0, with 26,000 square feet of indoor fun activities such as a Ninja Warrior Course, laser tag, miniature golf, large inflatable slides and more.
The day doesn’t end at Smuggs when the sun goes down. There are family fun activities every night, including bingo, “Hungry, Hungry Humans,” family gaga ball and a Winter Carnival with fireworks each Thursday. You’ll also find night skiing, glow tubing and night lessons for learning snowboarding and jibbing (freestyle snowboard tricks).
New this season, Smuggs will offer Snowshoeing and S’mores, where you can snowshoe on a lantern-lit trail to a bonfire and make s’mores before heading back – the ultimate way to end a winter day.
Where to stay: Smugglers’ Notch (use your flexible points to wipe away the cost) or Club Wyndham Smugglers’ Notch (15,000 points per bedroom per night, but limited availability).
Stowe has a world-class ski school and plenty of long beautiful blue trails to keep your not-yet-expert skiers and snowboarders engaged. The newly created Adventure Zone was a hit last year and will continue to be improved and expanded. These low-angle, gladed areas are appropriate for anyone in the family looking for a fun experience skiing or boarding through the trees on Mount Mansfield.
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. The resort’s Adventure Center also will be back open to the public this winter, with its Stowe Rocks climbing gym available.
Want to skip the “are we there yet?” choruses in the car? Hop a Tradewind Aviation flight from Westchester County Airport (HPN) directly to Stowe Morrisville State Airport (MVL). Flights are limited to just Friday and Sunday, December through March – and while the cost might burn a hole in your wallet, you can purchase a ticket book to reduce 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 its ticket prices compared to many other East Coast resorts, although the Epic Ski Pass could potentially save your family money. You could even look at Epic’s Northeast Value Pass if you expect to ski only East Coast mountains this winter.
Where to stay: The Lodge at Spruce Peak (30,000 World of Hyatt points) or Trapp Family Lodge (yes that Trapp family).
Jay Peak, Vermont
People love Jay Peak due to its indoor waterpark, which is ideal for families who want to take a day off from skiing or have something to do after morning ski school. The Jay Peak Pump House 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. Best of all, there’s a surplus of ski-on/ski-off condo and hotel options, giving families the perfect opportunity to stay in accommodations that work best for their needs.
Where to stay: Jay Peak Resort, which offers three hotel options and various condos for lodging accomodations
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Just over the Vermont border is New Hampshire’s answer to family-oriented skiing: Bretton Woods.
Home to the family-friendly Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods features fat-tire snow biking trails, sleigh rides, snow tubing and a sports center with indoor and outdoor heated swimming facilities. From the hotel’s architecture to the incredible views of the top of Mt. Washington, it’s no surprise that the resort is a top destination for families.
My family had the opportunity to stay at the Omni last year and ski at Bretton Woods, and it was one of our favorite ski trips of the season. We truly felt like we were on vacation, and we never had to leave the resort area as all activities and dining experiences were a stone’s throw away.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, you won’t get to experience the cool kids’ snowmobile park again this year and the kids’ adventure center will also remain closed. That being said, there are still many fun activities for the entire family, as we experienced first-hand, and, with over 102 trails, there should be no shortage of on-mountain fun.
Where to stay: Omni Mount Washington Resort
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, and Whiteface Mountain offers non-skiing kids ages 6 and under a camp with arts, crafts and more.
Whiteface is still determining how its ski school programs will operate this winter, but usually offers a combination of ski lessons and off-slope activities for children, allowing parents to fully enjoy more than 300 skiable acres at this upstate New York resort.
On your non-skiing days, make sure to check out the Olympic sites and activities, including a chance to experience bobsledding.
With New York State’s Learn to Ski or Ride Passport program, third and fourth graders traditionally have received up to three free ski days at this resort. The program last season, however, limited users to just one day and weekdays only; information for the upcoming ski season is still being determined.
Where to stay: Whiteface Lodge and Resort or Hampton Inn and Suites Lake Placid (from 35,000 Hilton Honors points).
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. Camelback Mountain ski resort nearby has its own indoor waterpark at Aquatopia, creating a terrific non-skier trifecta.
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
While you might have missed out on skiing in Canada last year, the borders are now open, allowing you to put Quebec’s Mont-Tremblant back on your agenda and enjoy a French-inflected getaway just a couple of hours outside Montreal. 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 can explore the high peak of Mont-Tremblant.
Although the indoor/outdoor Brind’O Aquaclub 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 41,000 Hilton Honors points).
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
British Columbia’s Whistler is another Canadian winter hot spot with a family-friendly focus. Your kids will love the pint-sized skiing at the resort’s Enchanted Woods — free and clear of more experienced and faster skiers.
Fortunately, the Magic Castle and Tree Fort outdoor playlands at both Whistler and its sister mountain, Blackcomb, will be open this year, but you’ll have to wait until next year for the Whistler Kids Live Jam sessions at the base of Blackcomb each day.
And as long as health authorities allow it, the resort will be back to hosting their regular after-ski parties, which are typically a lot of fun for kids and adults alike.
This year, you’ll be able to register for group private lessons with up to five people, which are an excellent way for the family to learn a few tips and skip the lift line.
Where to stay: Four Seasons Resort Whistler, Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Delta Hotels Whistler Village 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 63,000 Hilton Honors points).
Dreaming of a winter getaway with your family? Read more TPG 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
Featured image by Daniel Milchev via Getty Images.