Connecticut Museum Opens New Bug ExhibitApr 24, 2014
Learn about the creepy, crawly study of bugs with Backyard Monsters: The World of Insects. On display now through May 17, this interactive exhibit at Connecticut’s Mashantucket Pequot Museum
Humans were never meant to hibernate in winter. There’s too much fun to be had in the snow, whether you want to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, cross-country ski, sled, build snowmen or snow forts or make snow angels.
Winter is a great time to find packages and deals, too. Travel portals like Hotwire let you shop for flights, cars and lodging all in one spot. Instead of flying or driving, why not take the bus and leave dangerous winter driving to them?
Instead of a hotel or condo, consider a renting a house — Wyndham Vacation Rentals offers choices at dozens of resorts, in every price range and for every size group. Of course, some families want to mix their snowsports with urban sightseeing for a two-in-one vacation that really appeals to multigenerational groups. It’s easy to start in San Francisco and drive to Lake Tahoe; tour Seattle before skiing at WhistlerBlackcomb; head to Maine and New Hampshire via Boston – all fun cities for all ages. Treat the family to affordable luxury with the On a Whim package at Omni Hotels & Resorts — stay two nights and get 15% off — or book a romantic getaway specially arranged by Cupid (the concierge). Be sure to pick up CityPASS ticket booklets in advance so you can skip the lines at the top attractions, meanwhile saving up to half off on individual admission prices. Beginning December 15, CityPASS is waiving their nine-day rule and extending the passes’ usage period, so that travelers to Boston, Houston, New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle will have until February 28, 2014 to redeem all the included attraction tickets. That means if you cut out early to ski, you can come back through President’s Day and have admission tickets all sewn up.
Teach the Whole Family to Enjoy Snow sports
Take the Bring a Friend Challenge, a new element of Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month (LSSM). It’s open to all current skiers and snowboarders including members of the industry. The Challenge offers incentives for current skiers and snowboarders who introduce newcomers to lessons from professional instructors this winter. The Challenge starts December 1, 2013 and ends March 14, 2014. Details are located at bringafriend.org. You can win prizes and even a free trip to a snow resort.
January, of course is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month in 2014. Special Features offers a quick overview with all of the places where you can get discounted—or possibly even free lessons and rentals. You can also follow the deals on Twitter and Facebook.
Look for new opportunities to explore new mountains– like the Mountain Collective– an unprecedented collaboration between the four top independent resorts: Alta, Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows that offers 50% off on lift tickets and 25% on lodging. Find Mountain Collective packages and deals.
You can snowshoe in national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Teton. See what I wrote about snowshoeing with kids and what I wrote about visiting Yellowstone in Winter.
You can also experience winter at a dude ranch like the C Lazy U and Vista Verde Ranch in Colorado where you can snowshoe, horseback ride in the snow, XC ski and even back country ski with a snow cat taking you up the hills so you can ski or snowboard down on private land. And you won’t need to cook a single meal either! See what I wrote about visiting Vista Verde in winter.
Many snow sports resorts are pulling out all the stops for families this season with increased programming, free lift tickets and free flights. Look for deals from companies like www.ski.com that can package lifts, lessons, lodging and air and can tell you where and when your kids can hit the slopes with free lift tickets. Here’s what I wrote about kids-free programs this season.
Check out companies like Black Tie Rentals that will deliver gear right to where you are staying and adjust it on the spot. (I loved the convenience at Aspen last year.) Many locations offer a kids-rent-free package throughout the season for kids 12 and under. Ski Butlers has deals in Steamboat and Telluride where kids rent free if you do an adult rental for five or more days.
Values at Resorts that Cater to Beginners
If everyone in your gang is a beginner, consider smaller mountains near where you live – Hunter Mountain in New York, for example, Crystal Mountain in Michigan, Brian Head Resort in Utah, Bolton Valley in Vermont and Mount Rose on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. They will invariably be cheaper and less overwhelming for the kids — and you.
Check what snow sports resorts near your home are offering for families this season:
Several states also offer “passports” for kids of certain ages allowing them to ski free — once you have filled out the paperwork and paid a small processing fee — all season. They include:
The Colorado 2013/2014 School of Shred Pass provides 4 free days of skiing or riding at each of the state’s top-ranked resorts: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin for all Colorado fifth and sixth grade students who register. Lessons and rentals are provided from December 2-15, as well as January 5-31, 2014 as part of “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month.”
Check with your state to see what they are offering for your grade schoolers.
The Canadian Ski Council’s SnowPass allows 4th and 5th graders living in Canada to ski and ride three times at each participating ski area all across Canada for less than CDN$30 — the pass processing fee valid for two years.
There are also many adaptive programs around the country for those with physical and mental challenges including the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, CO; the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center also in Colorado; the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah, and Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports.
There are lots of opportunities for moms and grandmas to hone their skills at women’s clinics around the country. Here’s what I wrote about my experience at The Canyons in Utah.
Eileen’s Favorite Family Ski and Snow Resorts:
I’ve written extensively about many of the top ski areas in North America (just search my columns and travel diaries for more information). Here are resorts and lodges in alphabetical order that are good bets for families this winter:
ALTA SKI AREA in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon is adjacent to the chic Snowbird (you can purchase a combined ticket) but its retro style, lack of commercial development, and ban on snowboarding transport families back to the days before ski areas were all about glitz. Stay in an old-fashioned lodge that will entertain your kids after ski school and feed them early so you can enjoy a gourmet meal after hitting some of the best expert terrain in Utah. Lift ticket prices are less than at other major ski resorts, too, and the three base area tow ropes (Grizzly tow, Transfer tow and Alta Lodge tow) are free all day, every day.
APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN CLUB in New England offers snow-loving families a different kind of winter outdoor adventure, cross country skiing, snow-shoeing, and ice-skating. You can even plan a winter cross-country skiing adventure; AMC offers self-guided and guided tours on its 80+ mile network of lodge-served, groomed, back-country ski trails in the 100-mile wilderness region of Maine. Guests can ski from lodge-to-lodge and enjoy home-cooked meals, private cabins, and gear shuttling between adventures. Custom adventures are available at both AMC’s Joe Dodge Lodge and Highland Lodge in the White Mountains and families can pick the activity, time and skill level at and a guide for the family. For information on backcountry skiing from lodge-to-lodge can be found here.
ASPEN I love Aspen for its history (this was a bona fide mining town after all), its quaint downtown, restaurants, nightlife and the fact that, although this is a celebrity playground, you and your family can enjoy yourselves amidst the glitz and glamour without a Hollywood star’s budget. You have your choice of four mountains — Aspen, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass which is family-central (see separate listing about Snowmass below). Aspen Mountain, with its famous black-diamond terrain, promises a variety of glades, bumps and steeps. Here’s what I wrote about first tracks on Aspen Mountain. With 360º views of the Maroon Bells and plenty of expert terrain as well as groomed cruisers, Aspen Highlands has been the locals’ favorite for over 50 years. Hike the 12,392 feet to the summit of Highland Bowl for the ultimate inbounds backcountry rush. Buttermilk built its 50-year legacy on wide-open and gently rolling trails that cater to beginners and families. Today it’s famous for hosting the ESPN Winter X Games through 2014 and being voted #1 by Transworld Snowboarding Magazine Reader’s Poll for best park. The 22-foot superpipe in the legendary terrain park does not disappoint.
BEAVER CREEK Colorado is a great resort for mixing luxury and winter activities. Well-heeled families love this Vail resort because it is smaller than Vail and more laid back while offering first-class service and a terrific ski school, not to mention the free fresh-baked cookies offered at 3 pm every day at the bottom of lift #6 (a great way to end the ski day!) Moms looking for some special “me” time can look forward to the Women’s Social Ski Tour, a complimentary two-hour women’s tours led by a dynamic female ski school instructor Tuesdays-Fridays. Following the tour, the group enjoys a hot cocoa break at one of Beaver Creek’s on-mountain cabins; this is a great opportunity for a mom who, after getting the family off on day one of their ski trip, can take a few moments for herself and socialize with other women around the resort. The Ultimate 4 offers kids a lesson with only four kids per instructor while the resort promises plenty of complimentary activities after the lifts close from rail jams and disco skating to family snowshoe tours and fireworks. Don’t forget the lift-served tubing hill that opened three years ago. Enjoy special family programming during “Beaver Creek Loves Kids” weeks, making the Mountains come to life during peak times of the season. This includes Winterfest from Dec. 21 – January 4, PrezFest February 15-21, and SpringFest March 8-April 19 (Closing day is April 20).
BIG SKY RESORT Montana The Big Sky Resort has completed its merger with nearby Moonlight Basin to offer the biggest ski terrain in the United States — you can now access 5,750 skiable acres and endless ways to navigate 4,350 feet of vertical drop. At 11,166 feet it’s easy to see Lone Peak’s appeal to every age and level of skier and boarder. Runs up to six miles long and glades and bowls covered in 400 plus inches of annual snowfall make a day on the slopes something different for everyone. Basecamp, located front and center in the Mountain Village offers information on all the exciting attractions like Zipline, High Ropes Course, Laser Tag, Bungee Trampoline and Tube Park. All activities are offered. See what I wrote about doing the zipline. Another plus: You are only an hour from Yellowstone National Park.
BRECKENRIDGE SKI RESORT is in the middle of a historic Colorado town and has been a family-adored destination for over 50 years. With over 200 restaurants, shops and more, Breckenridge is often dubbed the perfect mountain town. Check out One Ski Hill Place, a newer Rock Resort complete with its own bowling alley. Here’s what I wrote about our visit there. Also Breckenridge fans will be excited to know that the resort will release the largest ski expansion in over a decade. This season, Breckenridge will have one of its most exciting years ever, as the resort adds over 540 acres to its famous landscape via the Peak 6 are just north of Peak 7. Peak 6 will include 400 acres of lift-served terrain and 143 acres of hike-to terrain, and will feature high-alpine, intermediate bowl skiing – a rare find in North America. If you visit between Dec 3-7, you will be able to catch The Annual Hartford Ski Spectacular, an event of Disabled Sports USA. With the “Breck for a Buck” deal you score a free lift ticket and a free night of lodging if you stay and ski three days!
BOLTON VALLEY RESORT is the only Vermont resort to offer night skiing and riding (Wed, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights) when tweens and teens rule. You can also give your kids a lesson in being green—the wind turbine near the top of Vista quad produces an eighth of the resort’s energy needs. You’ll run into a lot of locals from Burlington here and because everything is within walking distance-lodging, lifts, pool- it is an easy place to navigate with kids. Bolton’s three terrain parks, the 300 acres of trails and glades are divided almost equally for novice, intermediate and advanced skiers and riders. Bolton Valley, having partnered with Burton in 2006, offers a unique “Learn to Ride” program, combining the most advanced equipment, instruction, and learning environments to provide an excellent snowboarding experience and bring your skills to a new level. Powder Passes are great for families that enjoy skiing but don’t need the commitment of full season passes. For just $199 for adults and $149 for youth/college/seniors, you’ll get five lift tickets that you can use any day during the 2013-14 season — with no blackout dates. Here’s what I wrote about Bolton Valley and how snow sports can change kids’ lives.
BOYNE Boyne Highlands Resort and Boyne Mountain Resort are Michigan’s two largest ski areas with a combined 850 skiable acres and 115 trails, the 2013-14 winter season brings on-hill investments, new Burton Riglet Parks and Burton Store, spa facility, hotel renovations, winter fly fishing trips and an expanded Tubing Park. There’s an indoor water park the kids are sure to love and a winter zipline at Boyne Highlands that’s guaranteed to please tweens, teens—and adventurous parents. New this year is the Extreme Body Slide at Boyne Mountain’s Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark. The hair-raising ride named The Big Couloir features a trap door plummeting riders into the extreme body slide and traveling at speeds up to 38 feet per second before finishing with a splash. Resort lodging guests receive discounted waterpark admission, and guests can also purchase Michigan’s only ski and splash ticket providing all-day access to slope gliding and waterpark sliding.
BROMLEY MOUNTAIN RESORT is the only ski area in Vermont that faces totally south which means it could be warmer. Families love this mountain because it is more intimate with varied terrain including four terrain parks (one just for kids) and plenty of off-the-slopes action including outlet shopping, ice skating, sleigh riding, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing! Combine Bromley’s $49 midweek/non-holiday ticket with Bromley’s fantastic Family Friday deal, where each paying adult pays just $15 per kid for up to three kids, except for holidays, and a family of four skis for just $128. Enjoy 2-fer Tuesdays by purchasing your lift ticket online. You’ll get a 2 for 1 deal on Tuesdays (non holiday) and you and a guest ski for less than $25! Another perk — save $15 on each consecutive day when you purchase your Multi-Day ticket online. Purchase tickets one calendar day in advance on Bromley.com to enjoy these deals.
COPPER MOUNTAIN in Colorado. Copper’s terrain is naturally divided for all abilities and includes fantastic bowl skiing. Off slope, three base villages have redefined the Copper experience with accommodations, restaurants, bars and shops. Copper is also home to the only year-round ski and snowboard program in the state. Offering winter day camps and week-long summer camps, Woodward at Copper has the Barn, the first indoor ski and snowboard training facility with trampolines, foam pits, and Snowflex jumps dedicated to terrain park and pipe progression. In Summer 2013, the Woodward at Copper Barn underwent a half-million dollar renovation which opened the door far beyond snowboards and skis to now include skateboards, BMX and slopestyle mountain bikes. All Snowflex surfaces were replaced with a surface designed for wheels called Skatelite. Families and amateurs alike are invited to experience the renovations expanded offerings for never-evers with additions including a new beginner foam pit with a 2-foot and 4-foot jumps, a pump track designed for the development of park skills, and new programming to bridge the gap and see results on snow. There are also free snow cat rides to Tucker Mountain, FreeRide electric car service and free snow-shoe tours daily. Check out the Youth Four Pack – a new offering from Copper Mountain’s Ski and Ride School and Woodward at Copper. Buy 4 lessons at once and use them later. Mix and match what kind of lessons to book, between Ski and Ride Lessons or Woodward Freestyle Lessons with total flexibility. Visit CopperColorado.com for more information.
CRESTED BUTTE MOUNTAIN RESORT in Colorado combines a friendly, picturesque small town (just a few blocks long!), plenty of steeps and deeps and a new base area Adventure Park for a guaranteed-to-please experience. This mountain has long been one of my family’s favorites. We think the fact that CB is harder to reach than some other resorts adds to the appeal. There’s plenty to do at CB including: bungee trampolines a climbing wall, and a zip-line that you can ski to, as well as the Coke Zero Gravity BagJump, where you can jump from 20 or 30 feet into a big bag of air for an adrenaline-inducing experience. Families love the Children’s Center and beginner learning area. This year save big on a Crested Butte vacation with the exciting Grandest Christmas Package; spend $999 for the whole family with 4 nights of lodging and 3 days of skiing for up to a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children 17 years and younger) on stays from December 13th to the 26th. Or take up CB on its special airline credit offer that will save up to $400/person on airfare. Also take advantage of CB’s special 4th night and 4th day free option: purchase three nights of lodging and three days of lift tickets between January 3 and March 8, 2014 and receive a fourth night of lodging and fourth day of skiing free. And also note that kids 12 and under ski and stay free when you book lodging and lift tickets from March 14 to April 6, 2014.
HEAVENLY RESORT in California overlooks Lake Tahoe. You can ski in California or Nevada! The kids will love the all new, 500-foot tubing hill at Adventure Peak. Kids enjoy the adventure zone called Black Bear Hollow at the top of the Gondola. Right next to the Hollow is an entry-level terrain park with small rails, gentle jumps and boxes meant for youngsters to explore. You’ll love the 34 miles of wide-open, groomed cruisers, and the option for tree skiing off of every lift, as well as sightseeing, ski bikes and snowshoeing. If your teens are angling to go in the back country, you can hire a guide from Heavenly’s Adventure Sessions program, check out and find out what the locals know about. Pay for five nights lodging at Heavenly and receive the sixth and seventh nights free when you book by November 15. Also, if you pay for four days lodging and three days of lift, your fifth night and fourth day are free. From December 19 to January 5, experience “Heavenly Holidays,” a holiday winter wonderland in Heavenly Village with lights, decorations, carolers, magicians, jugglers, live ice sculpture making, a Ripperoo Parade, and more family-friendly events.
JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming not only offers the chance to ski and ride but to explore an authentic Cowboy town and Yellowstone National Park in winter when the crowds are gone. If it is your first time to the mountain, you can take a complimentary Mountain Host tour. This will help you get to know the mountain on groomed terrain with friendly hosts. There is a special Beginner Center where pros guarantee that you’ll be able to ski after your first beginner class, and you can repeat the First Day Learn to Turn class as often as you like. And you can take a guided snowshoe tour at the base of the Tetons. Try out the Rockies’ only Stash Park. Created by Burton Snowboards and unique to only five other resorts in the world, the Stash uses natural elements to build terrain park-like features, giving riders a completely different kind of resort riding experience. The Stash has four different runs and over 50 total features. Fly roundtrip to Jackson Hole with any airline and receive a $200 credit per person when booking a package with lodging and activities.
KEYSTONE RESORT An easy hour drive from downtown Denver, with three mountains where families can snag an inexpensive condo. Keystone is a Vail Resort, which means that its ski and snowboard school is first rate. Your kids will love the huge snow fort, the Kidtopia Festival daily programming throughout the season, Disco tubing and more. Look for a variety of free night deals, even during peak times as well as discounts on a second person’s lessons. This year, stay two nights and kids 12 and under ski free. For 2013 Keystone has added additional amenities for families with the addition of a “family ski trail”; called “the SchoolYard”, this portion of the famed Schoolmarm trail will include a special entrance, on-snow features like rollers and magic moguls to promote skills progression and plenty of special touches including a family “break zone” for resting tired little legs and ski with Ripperoo events. Keystone has also introduced free family parking in the front rows of the River Run Parking Lot and more than 100 wagons throughout the resort for easy transport of gear. Here’s what I wrote about Keystone’s ice fort.
LAKE PLACID, NY: Home to the Winter Olympics in both 1932 and 1980, the region has a long history as a snowsports mecca. Today, the steeps of Whiteface Mountain, nearly 5,000 feet tall in the heart of the Adirondacks, and its new Rand’s Last Stand glade, attract skiers and riders. But we love this town for its variety of outdoor recreational activities. There’s great hiking, cross-country ski centers, dogsledding, snowmobiling on mountain bike trails, and ice skating on area lakes or the indoor arena. You can join the ice fishermen and even compete in popular fishing derbies throughout the winter. This scenic region features snowshoeing at High Falls Gorge and Ausable Chasm for active families, and a bird’s-eye view of Olympic-calibre ski jumps, bobsleds, and toboggan chutes for the spectators in your group. And throughout the day and night there are outdoor gear and fashion boutiques, a wide variety of farm-to-table foodie options and a fun bar scene if you want to come in out of the cold. Check out Lake Placid value packages online for the many inns, B&Bs, condos and hotel specials available in winter.
MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN California. Some people come to Mammoth for the 150 trails, others for its 3,100 feet of vertical. At the highest ski resort in California with a peak elevation of 11,053 feet, there’s plenty of snow, sun (300 days a year), three learning centers for kids, special clinics and the chance to sled and tube, snowmobile, go for a dog sled ride or snow shoe. There’s even a snow play area at Woolly’s Adventure Summit Tube Park where families with young kids can build a snowman and enjoy the snow play area.
MT BACHELOR in Bend, Oregon is the largest ski resort in the Cascade Range, offering 3,683 acres and 360 degrees of lift-accessible terrain. The mountain also boasts two tubing lifts and two beginner carpets, five terrain parks, 56k of groomed and tracked cross country trails, snowshoeing, tubing, sled dog rides and more. Kids, 12 and under, can ski free if an adult in their family purchases a multi-day ticket! If you are new to skiing or riding, check out the ‘Ski or Ride in 5′ program: For $199 you or your kids get five lessons, five rental packages, and five lift tickets and reserved parking spot close to the lodge. Upon ‘graduation’ from the program, students ages 6-18 get a free season pass; adults get a free 12-day pass, in addition graduates receive 50% on the following season’s full time Winter Season Pass, and a 25% discount the second year after graduation!
MOUNT SNOW RESORT provides a unique “back-to-base” trail system that keeps the entire family together. Mount Snow, in southern VT, is a draw for young freestyle skiers and snowboarders who come for the only all-park mountain face in the east, Carinthia, equipped with 125 freestyle features in eight parks complete with natural obstacles (rock jibs) as well as recycled pieces (giant tires). For beginner park skiers, there is also The Grommet Park that has small jumps. Don’t miss the Tubing Park. January 5, 2014 is the annual Youth Pay Their Age Day for everyone age 6 to 18! Get 10% off lift tickets during Martin Luther King Weekend and President’s Week with the Fan Fare Card and check out the Kids Ski & Learn Free Weeks. Stay Sunday-Thursday nights for 3-5 nights, purchase an adult 3-5 day lift ticket and children 4-12 years old get a free 3-5 day lift ticket and half-day morning clinics; dates for 2014 TBD. Mount Snow is also home to North America’s only six-passenger bubble lift – Bluebird Express – and a powerful snowmaking system that includes 253 high output fan guns.
NORTHSTAR CALIFORNIA RESORT, located between the historic town of Truckee, California and Lake Tahoe, is a short drive from the Reno/Tahoe International Airport and is easily accessible from San Francisco or Sacramento. The most family friendly resort in the Tahoe region, Northstar has 3,170 acres of skiing and riding featuring seven award winning progressive terrain parks and the RiperooRiglet Park for snowboarders 3-6 years old. Northstar combines California sophistication with the laid back atmosphere of mountain retreats and is known for its signature s’mores served in the base area every day at 3pm. The gathering place for the resort is the Ice Arena in the Village at Northstar, surrounded by cabanas and fire pits for relaxing, roasting s’mores and tell stories about mountain adventures. Northstar provides experiences for families that can’t be found anywhere else like the Burton Snowboard Academy, a terrain-based method for teaching beginner snowboarders and the Adventure, Guiding, Learning Center which takes the mountain experience beyond teaching to exploring. Children can also learn to ski and snowboard in smaller classes with the Ultimate 4 Lesson, a guarantee of four students maximum per each instructor providing more one-on-one attention and improvement. For more information about Northstar California’s family programs, packages and amenities visit www.northstarcalifornia.com.
OFF THE SLOPES: Some families are looking for snow without the rigors of alpine skiing. Sundance Bear Lodge in Mancos, Colorado along the San Juan Skyway is a winter reunion destination that sleeps 20 in three different buildings. No need to fight about who gets which room; there’s a Western style three-bedroom house and a romantic log cabin that both accept pets. The elders in your clan will want the peaceful lodge rooms. In addition to nearby Mesa Verde National Park, you can arrange to visit the Ute Tribal Park and ride the colorful, historic Durango Silverton train. Any skiers can visit Telluride, Purgatory, or Wolf Creek Pass. Call for reservations and availability at 866-529-2480.
OKEMO located in Southern Vermont with easy access from Boston, New York and other East Coast points. Okemo offers free use of its carpet lifts all season long and kids ski free on select days throughout the season when parents buy a regular priced lift ticket in advance—up to age 18! Children 6 & under ski or ride free ((Ask for a free lift ticket at the ticket window. Child must be present at ticket window). Okemo also has plenty of other options for fun in the snow right at the mountain—skating, tubing, skating, swimming, an alpine coaster and even a giant snow mound where kids like to play king of the mountain.
PENNSYLVANIA. The 22 member resorts of the Pennsylvania Ski Area Association are offering a $5 coupon off all Learn a Snowsport packages in January. At Ski Sawmill in North Central Pa, families enjoy special savings on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons with adult lifts for just $17; kids tickets (ages 6-11) for $15 and rentals for $15. Check out Hidden Valley, with its Highlands Pass.
PARK CITY Located in Utah, Park City is a short shuttle ride from Salt Lake City airport, which is home to three major kid-friendly resorts. Canyons Resort and Deer Valley Resort, is where the luxe Montage aims to cater to well-heeled families (no snowboarders at Deer Valley!) See what I wrote about our stay there as well as at Park City Mountain Resort, which promises there will be no more than 5 kids or adults in your group lessons. I’ve helped them develop a website for snow loving parents – please visit Snowmamas.com. You’ll find plenty of bargains (especially at the Canyons), service and gourmet meals (especially at Deer Valley) and all of the terrain features your riders and free skiers could want (Park City Mountain Resort) which also offers night skiing and riding. You’ll also have fun exploring the historic mountain town chock full of shops and restaurants. The National Ability Center is designed to help all those in your family with special challenges. You can also have the chance to test your mettle on an Olympic bobsled run at the Utah Olympic Park. Here’s what I wrote about Park City Mountain Resort’s Ladies’ Club dedicated to getting moms back on the slopes. With so much choice in slope style, we suggest staying in the heart of Park City at the Hyatt Escala Lodge, a AAA four-diamond resort with ski-in, ski-out access to the Canyons and just a short ride from the others. Accommodations range from guest rooms with kitchenettes to four-bedroom suites sleeping 12. A good choice for multigenerational travelers, this luxurious lodge features an outdoor heated pool and hot tubs, underground valet parking, and complimentary scheduled transportation to Historic Main Street.
SMUGGLERS’ NOTCH in Northern Vermont, not far from Burlington or Montreal, is known in New England for its top-notch children’s facilities (including infant care) and off the slope activities including a zip line canopy tour. The resort’s Club Smugglers’ vacation packages include lift tickets, lodging, use of the indoor pool and hot tubs, unlimited use of cross country and snowshoe trails as well as the FunZone Family Entertainment Center, tubing and more. Expert instruction for children and adults is provided by the Resort’s Snow Sport University in skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. For young snowboarders ages 3-6, Smugglers’ Notch has the Burton Riglet Park, an on-snow play area on Sir Henry’s Learning Hill with fun learning features. One of the most exciting parts of the park is the “treehouse,” an elevated platform with ramps that children can ride down, a balance area inside the treehouse and a lift chair that swings to help kids practice getting on and off the lift. Smuggler’s three mountains encompass 1,000 acres of terrain.
SNOWMASS, by far the largest of the four mountains in Aspen, is family snow sports central with its $17 million Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center featuring a climbing gym, themed rooms, and teen activities. From March 8-April 20, kids ages 7-12 ski and stay free with purchase of lodging and adult lift tickets for three or more days. Reserve three nights at the Westin, Snowmass’ newest resort, and enjoy a fourth night free. Check the Snowmass website for other deals, and also don’t miss the resident Golden Eagle at the free Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. Take a guided snowshoe tour at Snowmass or Aspen Mountains. Visit the Snowmass Ice Age Discovery Center that showcases the terrific find of prehistoric mastodons. Here’s what I wrote about the discovery.
SOLITUDE MOUNTAIN Located just 30 miles outside Salt Lake City, Solitude Mountain Resort boasts over 1,200 skiable acres including 65 trails, three bowls, and groomers for all ability levels. There’s also a Nordic Center with 20 kilometers of trails and an extra 10 kilometers designated for snowshoeing. Famously short lift lines and the relative quiet of the mountain make it an ideal spot for families looking to avoid the more crowded resorts in the area. Ski lessons are available for both adults and children with a special MoonBeam Ski and Snowboard Academy for kids ages 5-12. The resort also offers a Play N Ski lesson program for children ages 2-5, and a childcare center for kids under the age of 5. Kids ski free when booking a stay for two nights or more- one free kid’s ticket per paid adult, up to two free tickets per day. Visit Solitude’s European-style village to enjoy family activities like ice skating, shopping, and S’more making by one of the fire pits.
SQUAW VALLEY USA in California has a mountaintop beginner area perfect for kids including the Belmont Terrain Park complete with kid-friendly jumps, mini cross-course and more. Kids 4 and under ski free and the resort recently added new mini snowmobiles and revamped snow tubing at the resort’s base area. At Squaw, you can hit the slopes until 8pm on weekends and holidays. Come for spring skiing and enjoy the warm temps, great spring snow and the resort’s kid-friendly mountaintop pool that opens in March. The near 500″ of snowfall each season make it possible for the resort to remain open through late April. Spring 2014 will bring the return of the US Alpine Championships to Squaw Valley, where guests can join Julia Mancuso, Jonny Moseley, Tamara McKinney, Travis Ganong along with other favorite skiers and snowboarders.
STEAMBOAT In Northern Colorado, Steamboat is recognized as a top family ski resort in North America thanks to its dedicated Kids’ Vacation Center with its western themed play area and well-trained children’s staff. The resort has long been an innovator for families with Kids Ski Free, Kids Fly Free and Kids Rent Free programs. Plus, with the ambiance of an authentic Western town known for breeding Olympians and its Old Town Hot Springs pool and slides, there’s just as much to do off the mountain as on. There are Five kids-only lifts and two special beginner-teaching areas with special Magic Carpet lifts. More advanced kids access the entire mountain, including kids-only terrain at Rough Rider Basin, complete with dedicated lift plus teepees, a frontier-style fort and the Beehive – a kids’ terrain park. Check out the special Billy Kidd Race Camps–Dec. 16-18, 23-25, Jan. 20-22, Feb. 17-19 & March 10-12, 17-19, 2014 and the STARS Kids’ Adaptive Camp –March 2014 is a fun ski camp for youth (age 6-20) with physical disabilities, new skiers, beginner skiers who need private lessons, intermediate. Visit Steamboat Stars for more information.
STRATTON in Southern Vermont is a favorite for East Coast families. Special packages are available at select times throughout the season, such as: kids 17 and younger are invited to ski and stay free when two adults purchase a (2 night minimum) lift and lodging package. Kids can get free rentals too, when an adult purchases a rental. Kids love the tubing hill and that once they are eight, they can drive a mini snowmobile in the Sun Bowl Base Area. There are also other activities ranging from dog sled tours, yoga, and more. Parents love the village atmosphere of the base area, the 45 acre Learning Park and EZ Street, a three mile green run from the summit. Teens like the Wreck teen club with indoor skate ramp. The old Inn at Stratton Mountain is now known as the Black Bear Lodge and features a new look with classic Vermont ski lodge vibes. We logged a lot of weekends at Stratton when my youngest was on a ski team there and never got bored. Check out the Long Weekend Deal — when you book three nights — Thursday, Friday and Saturday or Friday, Saturday and Sunday, guests can ski Friday or Monday for free. Available weekends, non-holiday all season in select properties. Starting from $169* for the Stratton long weekend.
STOWE is home to Vermont’s highest Peak, Mt. Mansfield and is known for it’s postcard-pretty New England town, its “Famous Front Four trails” double-blacks, some of the longest intermediate cruisers in the East, and a group of beginner trails in the Toll House area. Spruce Peak is geared toward beginner and intermediate skiers and riders. Lower Spruce – the area nearest the Spruce Base Are Complex – is a great place to learn. Stowe has invested over 8 million dollars in new snowmaking in the past two years, more than every other resort in the East combined. Take time to visit the Ski Museum, or take a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory! Stowe Mountain Lodge welcomes dogs as well as kids and is known for its farm-to-table cuisine. Check Go Stowe for lodging deals;. Snowshoe or cross country ski at the Von Trapp Family Lodge.
SUNDAY RIVER in Maine boasts a 50-plus year history, eight interconnected peaks, 12 hour skiing and riding Fridays, Saturdays and select holidays, a White Cap Fun Center with a tubing park, and a Sugaring House so you get an up close and personal look of exactly how maple syrup is made—complete with samples. Many families come to Sunday River because of the Perfect Turn Ski and Ride School. During Children’s Festival Week (1/13 – 1/17), there will be scavenger hunts, live entertainment, movies, pajama parties, teen parties, and themed Perfect Turn kid’s lessons – with ids ski, snowboard, stay, rent, and learn – all for free when families stay three nights or longer!
TELLURIDE, a historic southwestern Colorado mountain town, is so safe that local parents let 10-year-olds run around on their own. Kids will enjoy outdoor adventure programs, a visit to the Climbing Rock, and rides on the free gondola connecting the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village. Visiting kids might learn a little Western history in the process. Nestled in a box canyon, the entire town of Telluride — four blocks long and four blocks wide— is a federally designated historic district, and it couldn’t be prettier with buildings dating back a century and mountain views in every direction. Even during the busiest week of the year, the ski school has small class sizes. Parents like the intimacy and that the vast majority of instructors in the ski school are veterans here who remember their kids from previous visits. It’s also an easy ski school to navigate — right next to the town gondola in the middle of the Mountain Village. Backcountry lovers will love the Black Iron Bowl—a hike-to playground set against the dramatic backdrop of Palmyra Peak, the terrain includes eight runs (like the wide-open Mountain Quail couloirs), European-style faces, open glades and steep chutes. Here’s what I wrote about a visit to Telluride.
TAOS SKI VALLEY, located in northern New Mexico with easy access from Albuquerque or Santa Fe, Taos is one of the last, most pristine, and still somewhat undiscovered ski areas in the country. It is still family owned and run. Not only is there great snow and an 18,000 square foot children’s center, but you have the opportunity to explore Native American culture nearby—right at the Taos Pueblo, the only living Native American community designated both as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. There’s plenty for the non-snow sports lovers in the group to do. And Taos Ski Valley now welcomes snowboarders too. Experience the newly expanded tubing hill, located on Strawberry Hill, open Wed-Sat from 2-6pm. Open to all ages, the tubing hill has multiple lanes and a moving carpet that carries you back to the top each time.
VAIL has more than 5,200 acres to ski, including the famous Back Bowls and another 645 acres in Blue Sky Basin, the huge expanse of wilderness-like terrain that faces Vail’s bowls. This resort offers intermediate and expert skiers moguls, tree skiing, and even some cliffs. No one in your gang will get bored here—even after the slopes close. There is a bungee trampoline and multi-lane tubing hill at Adventure Ridge, as well as kids snowmobiling and ski biking. For some fun on the mountain, check out Coyote’s Escape, a 50-foot long wooden ski-through feature, and the teepee in Sherwood Forest. Also, check out the Nature Discovery Center at Eagle’s Nest with frequent nature walks and programs led by naturalists. You can even take a moonlight snowshoe tour! When it comes to ski lessons, for an extra fee, you can opt for the Ultimate Four, a small group lesson program for kids ages 3-15 with only four children per instructor.
WATERVILLE VALLEY RESORT in New Hampshire offers 250 acres to ski or ride, a big Nordic Center that is groomed daily and a Town Square just a short walk from most of the resort accommodations. This year there are 60 new acres of intermediate, beginner and glade guns — the first expansion of the area in 30 years — and a new tubing experience. There’s even an indoor ice rink. Book online 24 hours in advance and you can get a Learn to Ski or Ride package for just $75 including a two hour-lesson, equipment and a lower mountain lift ticket. Look for “Town Square” events that include fireworks. Look for new seasonal programs like the Junior Instruction Programs for fifteen weekends plus the Christmas holiday week. Programs are designed for kids ages 4-16, who already ski or snowboard, starting at the lower intermediate level. The resort also offers special programs for 4 and 5yr. old skiers, alpine and snowboarding groups for 6–12 year olds and specialized groups for kids ages 8-12 who are interested in learning the fundamentals of competitive racing and freestyle skiing.
WHISTLER BLACKOMB in British Columbia is just 78 miles from Vancouver and was the official alpine skiing venue for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympics Winter Games. Whistler and Blackcomb are two side-by-side mountains, connected by the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, which together offer over 200 marked runs, 8,000 acres of terrain, 14 alpine bowls, and three glaciers. There’s plenty of snow—over 462 inches a year—which means one of the longest ski seasons in North America. Check out the website for deals, including discounted airfare from certain cities and lodging deals. Coca-Cola Tube Parkis located in the Base 2 Zone on Blackcomb Mountain and has eight lanes varying in difficulty. There’s also plenty to see and do besides the slopes, including a wide variety of restaurant options as well as several top après ski destinations. Open from Dec 15- Apr 15; weekdays: noon-7pm and weekends: 11am-7pm.
WINTER PARK RESORT is only 67 miles from Denver and offers the state’s longest continually operating professional ski school. The Private Lesson Center allows your family to learn together. There is an incredible variety of terrain with over 3,000 skiable areas spread out over seven unique territories. Steeps can be found on The Cirque, bumps the size of small VW bugs can be found over at Mary Jane. Groomers are found on Winter Park Mountain with beginner terrain. Terrain Parks come by the handful as the resort has five, including the limited access park, Dark Territory. Look for packages that include free nights and free lift tickets. The Resort is also home to the National Sports Center for the Disabled, which offers a variety of programs for those with special mental and physical challenges.
Special thanks to Andrea Timpano for her research assistance on this story.
This special FamilyTravelConsulting.com travel section contains advertising and some sponsored content. All opinions are based upon the author’s actual travel experience and knowledge.