December 7, 2015
Ready for some fun in the snow?
Even if you don’t ski or ride, there are lots of opportunities to have some fun in the snow—dog sledding, snowshoeing or cross country skiing, zip-lining above snow-covered trees, even exploring Niagara Falls’ famous waterfalls when they are frozen. You can ride horseback in the snow at dude ranches like at Vista Verde outside Steamboat Springs, CO or others in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.
The snow sports industry is full of big improvements and news this season. Vail Resorts now oversees both the Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort in Utah, making $50 million renovations as it opens the doors for the largest snow resort in the country.
Kids and adults can learn a lot faster thanks to Terrain Based Learning, which contours beginner terrain in such a way that novices learn technique they will use on steeper trails. Many resorts have invested in snow forts, sculpted trails with banked turns, mini-pipes and rollers that enable beginners to challenge themselves and learn without being on terrain that is too difficult. A tip: never teach your own kids, spouse or significant other. Let the experts do the job they are trained for!
WAYS TO SAVE AND LEARN!
Ski.com can customize a trip to the snow for your family, choosing from the largest inventory of mountain accommodations and the best lodging and lift ticket deals for families, Another great tool for families interested in heading to the mountains this winter is the new Mountain Vacation Specialist-Powered Resort Finder (where you can click on the things that are most important to you, then select the country, region or state you would like to visit. The Resort Finder will recommend the perfect resort for you.
Save even more if you opt to bunk in a city near to the slopes. According to the mega hotel search trivago , you should be able to find a hotel room for under $140 this winter in Salt Lake City, under $100 in Burlington, VT or Reno. Some families like to save at local ski hostels, an easy way to save if you don’t crave a Jacuzzi for après-ski.
January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month when U.S. ski and snowboard venues offer special deals for beginners of all ages who want to take lessons — from professional instructors. Most packages include the lesson, lift ticket and rental equipment. More than 600,000 children and adults have learned through this program. Beginners should join the “World’s Largest Ski and Snowboard Lesson” on January 8, 2016; Use #firstdayfaces of your first day on the snow on social media for the chance to win fun prizes. Bring a friend or family member along and register for the Bring a Friend Challenge and you could win new skis or a snowboard.
Ski.com can help you get the most bang for your dollar with packages that will include discounted lodging, lift tickets and flights. It’s a lofty goal to please adults, children, tweens, teens and everyone in between, but Ski.com’s Mountain Vacation Specialists are experts when it comes to customizing perfect family ski vacation experiences around the world. In addition to having access to the largest inventory of mountain accommodations and the best lodging and lift ticket deals for families, they have the know-how to match each family with the most desirable resort and lodging accommodations based on things like ski school meeting locations, off mountain activities, family-friendly dining and more. Check out Ski.com’s new Mountain Vacation Specialist-Powered Resort finder.
A Wyndham Vacation Rentals-managed rental property at the Stonewood Townhomes community in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
If Steamboat Springs, CO is where you’re heading for a family ski trip this winter, then check out the vast selection of properties by Wyndham Vacation Rentals – the world’s largest manager of vacation rental homes. Wyndham Vacation Rentals has over 800 units in Steamboat, each providing a one-of-a-kind experience and offering the services and amenities of a hotel with the comforts and conveniences of home. This includes extra space, full kitchens, washer/dryers – plus a way for the entire family to spend time together under one roof. And, when staying at a Wyndham Vacation Rentals® property, families will be taken care of by a local hospitality professional before, during and after their stay – making sure expectations are surpassed and no question goes unanswered.
January is also Winter Trails month, presented by SnowSports Industries America with special programs designed to encourage families to get outdoors to try cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, sometimes at a nominal fee.
FUN IN THE SNOW IN THE BIG CITIES
A lot of families take the opportunity to tack a few days in a city onto their snow adventure. There’s also something to be said for grabbing the kids and exploring destinations like New York City, Southern California, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Toronto in winter when there are fewer tourists. CityPASS ticket booklets make it easy, not only enabling you to enjoy significant savings of up to 50 per cent on attractions but also bypassing the lines to top attractions in 12 North American destinations that also include Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Southern California.
If you’re avid skiers, you’ve probably got a season pass to your local mountain. But nomads and powder hounds can find even better deals like Vail’s Epic Pass that allows you to ski at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin and Eldora in Colorado; Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Afton Alps in Minnesota; Mt. Brighton in Michigan and, for reciprocal days, at several top European resorts and at Niseko, Japan.
Perhaps you want to sample some of the world-class resorts represented by the Mountain Collective. This option with limited availability has become affordable thanks to the classy collaboration between top independent resorts including: Alta in Utah, Aspen/Snowmass in Colorado, Jackson Hole Wyoming and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows and Mammoth in California, Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, among others. Passholders get 22 days for just $409, and special lodging deals as well as other savings noted on their website. Passes for kids 12 and under are available for just $99.
If your kids are in grade school and middle school, check out the special passports available in different snowy states that offer free and deeply discounted access to the slopes. Each state’s program is slightly different and may apply to different ages from third grade through seventh, but you don’t necessarily have to live in that state:
Don’t let a family member with special needs miss out on an unforgettable winter vacation. There are many adaptive programs around the country for those with physical and mental challenges including the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park and the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center in Colorado; the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah, Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports and White Mountain Adaptive Ski School at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire.
There are lots of opportunities for moms and grandmas to learn with friends or just hone their skills at women’s ski clinics around the country. At the same time, a growing number of resorts are offering special women’s classes—a great way to spend a stress-free few hours!
Compiled in partnership with The Family Travel Forum, here is our annual guide to where you can have FUN IN THE SNOW this winter of 2015-16:
ALTA SKI AREA is adjacent to the contemporary, upscale Snowbird but its vibe is a little more natural, with the idea that the experience offered is all about skiing (no snowboarding at Alta). You can purchase a combined ticket to ski more than 2,700 acres in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon and stay in one of five traditional, European style Alta lodges where staff will entertain your kids after ski school and feed them early. Each have a great dining room (breakfast and dinner are all part of the room package) and cozy bars scene that draw many repeat visitors. Lift ticket prices are priced competitively and the three base area rope tows (Grizzly tow, Transfer tow and Alta Lodge tow) are free all day so beginners can save, too. Don’t miss the spa at Snowbird!
APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN CLUB in the White Mountains of New Hampshire provides instruction in cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and other skills, plus guided custom adventures at both AMC’s Joe Dodge Lodge at Pinkham Notch and Highland Lodge at Crawford Notch. The AMC’s 100 square miles of conservation and recreation land in Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness region can be toured via groomed, backcountry ski trails on guided or self-guided trips. Many families enjoy multi-day trips, skiing between AMC’s rustic lodges and private cabins, where home-cooked meals are served to overnight guests, and lodging is provided in private cabins.
ASPEN/SNOWMASS has a long, rich history as a mining town, even before it struck gold with Hollywood celebrities and international athletes drawn to its pristine terrain, gourmet restaurants and shops, world-class hotels and annual X-Games glamor. This four-mountain resort offers plenty of terrain options for skiers and riders of all abilities. SNOWMASS, by far the largest of the four mountains in Aspen, has long been rated one of the best family
ski areas in North America because of its wide-open, groomed cruising and family-friendly activities. Don’t
miss dash-through-the-woods fun for kids on the winding Prospector’s Trail off Adams Avenue or the recently added tubing area at Elk Camp Meadows and Friday night Ullr Nights at the top of the mountain. Aspen Mountain, with its famous black-diamond terrain for experts, promises a variety of glades, bumps and steeps; Aspen Highlands, said to be the hidden jewel of Aspen Snowmass, offers experienced skiers/riders the opportunity to test their ability in the epic Highland Bowl while still taking advantage of rolling blue trails for the more casual run down the slopes. Buttermilk has a new Hideout childrens center, as well as a 22-foot super pipe. To encourage the newest generation of winter enthusiasts, there’s a great offer: Rent your kids equipment (ages 7 to 12) from Four Mountain Sports, and they’ll get a free lift ticket. Rent as often as you like and we’ll provide complimentary lift tickets for the same amount of days on their rental. Additionally, T there’s an Aspen Snowmass family deal that provides a free kids lift ticket (ages 7-12) for every day they rent gear from Four Mountain Sports; minimum two-day rental required. You also get 30% off Child group lessons if you book 7 days or more. Book by February 22 for arrivals from March 1 to April 17, 2016; also available at the most family-focused of resorts, Snowmass.
BEAVER CREEK Colorado is a favorite of well-heeled families because it’s more intimate than Vail while offering famed, first-class service and signature Ivy League ski school. Families appreciate extra little touches (fresh-baked cookies served daily at 3 p.m. throughout the Beaver Creek Village, the base of Centennial Express and the base of Buckaroo Express – the dedicated children’s ski school gondola). The pedestrian base village’s ice skating, casual dining options, and fireworks are a welcoming tradition at day’s end. Moms will find terrific spas at the Beaver Creek hotels (the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek and the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch, as well as “me” time on the Women’s Social Ski Tour, a complimentary two-hour mountain tour followed by a sociable group hot cocoa break. The new White Carpet Club, an exclusive, private retreat within the heart of Beaver Creek Village, welcomes resort guests to join for the duration of a vacation. Located steps from the escalator leading to Centennial Express Lift, the White Carpet Club hosts spacious lockers for storing apparel and accessories; boot dryers; a continental service island offering coffees, teas, cocoa, and decadent morsels; intimate lounge adorned with soft, cozy seating, and personalized concierge services. There’s extra family programming during “Beaver Creek Loves Kids” weeks: Winterfest December 19, 2015 – January 31, 2016, President’s Day Weekend Festival February 13 – 15, and SpringFest March 12-April 9.
BIG SKY RESORT in Montana now is one huge mountain now that it has added adjacent Moonlight Basin Resort, offering more than 5,800 skiable acres and endless ways to navigate 4,350 feet of vertical drop with rarely another skier in sight. Runs up to 6 miles long, glades and bowls, seven terrain parks ranging from novice to big air, all covered in 400+” of annual snowfall make a day on the slopes something different for everyone. Off slope adventures suited to teens include a Giant Swing, Bungee Trampoline, climbing wall, guided snowshoes tours, a challenging High Ropes Course, and Zipline tours. Nearby, families can snowmobile or snow coach through Yellowstone National Park, try Nordic skiing or horse-drawn sleigh rides through Lone Mountain Ranch, and test their skills at winter fly fishing, rock and ice climbing throughout the Gallatin Valley. I love Montana in the winter!
BOLTON VALLEY RESORT offers Vermont’s most extensive night skiing and riding, and is teen central Wednesday through Saturday nights with local youth coming up for the after school programs. Its 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 because everything is within walking distance — lodging, lifts, pool – making it easy to navigate with kids. Powder Passes are great for families too; for just $199/ adults and $149/ youth-college-seniors, you’ll get five lift tickets that you can use any day during the 2015-16 season — with no blackout dates. Here’s what TakingtheKids.com wrote about Bolton Valley and how snow sports can change kids’ lives.
BOYNE RESORTS, Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain, are Michigan’s largest ski areas with a combined 850 skiable acres and 115 trails. At Boyne Mountain, the 2015/16 season brings the First Class Lesson Program, additional lift hours for the Ramshead chairlift, as well as an expanded fat tire snow biking trail, new rental equipment, and a seasonal treatment at Solace Spa. At Boyne Mountain’s Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark kids are sure to love the Extreme Body Slide, and at Boyne Highlands there’s a winter zip-line. Resort lodging guests receive discounted waterpark admission but anyone can buy a ski and splash ticket providing all-day access to slope gliding and waterpark sliding.
BRETTON WOODS, NH has 464 acres of alpine trails and glades, over 100 kilometers of Nordic trails, ziplining over the snow covered trees and the chance to stay in the historic Omni Mount Washington Hotel where you’ll also have a spa, indoor pool and the chance to go dog sledding, among other adventures. Recognized for the third year in a row for the Best Grooming in the East by readers of SKI magazine, Bretton Woods remains a top choice for skiers and riders in New Hampshire and among the best in Service, Scenery and Kid Friendly offerings. The Omni Mt. Washington is offering a Stay Here, Ski Free package that includes two ski lift tickets each day plus meal options. Consider an Omni for adventures in the snow elsewhere: They guarantee that if you find a better rate for the same accommodation on another website, they’ll match the rate and give you a 20 per cent discount!
BRECKENRIDGE SKI RESORT is celebrating more than 50 years of skiing (and was the country’s first major resort to accept snowboarders). It’s still ideal for anyone who will appreciate the Peak 6 expansion that includes 400 acres of lift-served terrain and 143 acres of hike-to terrain, giving Breck high-alpine, intermediate level bowl skiing and more black and double black diamond terrain. It’s set in the middle of a historic Colorado town of the same name, where heated sidewalks make it easy to stroll for hours past more than 200 restaurants, shops and après ski hangouts. Around the town are off-slope activities such as dogsledding, winter zip lining, larger-than-life snow sculptures and ice play on the Riverwalk Center lawn (International Snow Sculpture Championships takes place Jan. 26-30, 2016.
BROMLEY MOUNTAIN RESORT is the only ski area in Vermont that faces totally south which means it could be warmer at your visit. Families love this top value, small mountain because it has variety: three terrain parks and plenty of off-the-slopes action including outlet shopping, ice skating, sleigh riding, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing! Combine a $73 midweek/non-holiday ticket with Bromley’s fantastic Family Friday deal, where each paying adult pays just $20 per kid for up to three kids, except for holidays, and a family of four skis for just $186. Other great deals: 2-fer Tuesdays (non holiday) so you and a guest ski for less than $37 when you purchase your ticket at the windeow, or buy a Multi-Day pass and save $15 on each consecutive day when you purchase your Multi-Day ticket online (one day advance purchase required.)
CAMELBACK RESORT in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania welcomes families this winter to stay, surf, slide and ski. The 453 room Camelback Lodge is located at the base of the Camelback Mountain and features 453 guest suites in 16 different room styles. The 84-degree year-round Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark is home to 13 slides, seven pools, and a myriad of water play including surfing and a giant wave pool. Just outdoors, families can hit the 34 slopes or learn to ski with the Terrain Based Learning program. If skiing and snowboarding isn’t your think, Camelback features the the largest snowtubing park in the country and plenty of other outdoor activities including zip lines and the longest tandem Zip-Flyer in North America.
Family Sledding at Club Med in the Alps
CLUB MED—Take your pick of 20 French, Swiss and Italian upscale mountain resorts with Club Med, the pioneer of all-inclusive vacations with everything from lift tickets to instruction to meals, drinks and a variety of winter sports like snowshoeing and tobogganing. Look for special offers that include significant discounts for kids. Each resort is ski-in ski out. In the French Alps, Club Med Val Thorens, the newest ski resort which opened last December, boasts access to the highest and largest ski peak in the world and a e menu designed by two-Michelin starred chef Edouard Loubet. Club Med Valmorel offers two bedroom family suites and luxe multi-bedroom chalets as well as plenty of slopes for all ages and abilities and a heated indoor pool. Club Med Peisey-Vallandry has 264 miles of trails while Club Med Méribel l’Antarès features Club Med Spa by CARITA. Club Med Pragelato Vialattea boasts the Club Med Spa Payot.
COPPER MOUNTAIN terrain is naturally divided for all abilities and families can take advantage of fantastic bowl skiing, free snowcat rides to Tucker Mountain, FreeRide electric car service and free snowshoe tours daily. 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 Copper has the Barn, the first indoor ski and snowboard training facility with trampolines, foam pits, and jumps dedicated to terrain park and pipe progression. (It also accommodates skateboards, BMX and slopestyle mountain bikes.) Sherpa, Copper’s on-mountain intelligence mobile app, now offers trail recommendations, stat tracking and gift cards based on in-app achievements. Check out the Youth Four Pack from Copper Mountain’s Ski and Ride School and Woodward Copper Freestyle Lessons.
CRESTED BUTTE MOUNTAIN RESORT is in the heart of Gunnison-Crested Butte Valley, Colorado, and both towns, founded in 1880, are known for their Victorian-era charm and friendly Western hospitality. Crested Butte combines plenty of steeps and deeps with their new 40 acres of extreme terrain in Teocalli 2 that opened last winter. In addition to the magic carpet at the kids tubing hill, Camp CB for kids, and intermediate glades, there are bungee trampolines, a climbing wall, and a zip-line that you can ski to. Those with special challenges have terrific opportunities for fun in the snow at Crested Butte’s Adaptive Sports Center. Gunnison Getaways provides value lodging and lift ticket options all season; for example, three days lodging and lift tickets earns you a 4th day free between January 1-March 15, 2016. Also, kids 12 and under ski for free November 26, 2015 – December 18, 2015. As well as ski and stay free packages from March 19 to April 5, 2015.
DEER VALLEY in Park City, Utah (more about Park City below) does it again, winning top awards from Ski Magazine, World Ski Awards, OntheSnow.com, you name it, for their excellent service and on-mountain experience. Snowboards are not allowed – a big plus for some – and limiting the number of lift tickets sold guarantees no lift lines. You’ll find plenty of great terrain, ski valets, perfect service and gourmet meals (especially at the famous Montage Hotel.) Don’t miss a visit to Park City’s Historic Main Street with its great shops and restaurants; you can even ask your kids to hunt for the Banksy mural on the side of an ice cream shop.
HEAVENLY RESORT is so big that when you’re at the peak overlooking Lake Tahoe, you can ski or ride down into California or Nevada, so be sure the kids have their cells turned on. As at other Vail owned resorts, there are kids-only learning zones like the Enchanted Forest at the California base and the Bear Cave at the top of the gondola. The 500-foot-long tubing hill at an altitude of 9,100 feet, Adventure Peak, makes snow fun easy for the non-skiers in your group. Athletes love the 34 miles of wide-open, groomed cruisers; dedicated backcountry guides; inbound tree skiing off every lift, as well as sightseeing, and ski bikes. The 2015 Heavenly Holidays features professional ice sculptors, carolers, local artists and a 16-foot interactive snow globe – a huge Santa photo op – followed by a New Year’s blowout, complete with a free concert, fireworks and a Gondola ‘ball drop.’ The 2015-2016 Season marks 60 years for Heavenly Resort. Make sure to check out the different events throughout the year to celebrate.
JACKSON HOLE in Wyoming is celebrating its 50th anniversary with more air series, special activities and Kids 14 and under SKI FREE. There’s great skiing and snowboarding, but also the authentically “cowboy” town of Jackson as well as Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks nearby, which offers unparalleled opportunities to see wildlife in the winter as does the National Elk Refuge. First-timers should take the free Mountain Host tour of JHMR’s 2,500 acres (there’s 5,000 acres of backcountry) to find the groomers among the deep, fresh powder, then board the red aerial tram for an overview during the 10-minute uphill ride. Their pro teaching staff guarantee that beginners will be able to ski after one lesson (repeat lessons free) and their state-of-the-art Kids Ranch offers age-specific activities and lessons for ages 6-months to 17-years when they’re not out at the Fort Wyoming and Wild West Woods snow zones. JHMR has four Burton Stash Parks, which use natural elements to build terrain park-like features, as well as beginner and expert terrain parks. Winning consistent awards has brought the crowds who have brought the airlift, and for 2014-2015, Jackson’s expanded airport supports non-stop flights from 13 cities.
A family enjoys Keystone’s Kidtopia Saturday night fireworks from River Run Village
KEYSTONE, just two hours drive from downtown Denver and Vail resort’s dedicated family mountain with the largest night skiing operation in the country. Keystone has provided nearly 100,000 Kids’ Lift Tickets as a part of Keystone’s Kids Ski Free Program. Come the last week in January and join the celebration—you might win a golden ticket! Here’s what I wrote about a visit. Every day, all season long, kids 12 and younger ski for free at Keystone with no blackout dates. All guests need to do to qualify is stay two or more nights in one of Keystone’s numerous accommodation options, which span from luxury hotel rooms to cozy ski-in, ski-out condominiums. There’s as much fun off the slopes with Keystone’s Kidtopia mostly free activities all winter long. Test your aim and compete with family members at the Giant Snowball Launch, hunt for the elusive sasquatch during the Bigfoot Adventure Walk, create a masterpiece and keepsake at Cupcakes and Canvases and experience the world’s largest snow fort (beginning Dec. 12). Test your mettle with a new Private Family Lesson with instructors who specialize in working with the whole family: Grab some adult time confident the kids are having un at Camp Keystone: Keystone’s Unique Ski & Ride School Experience with three designated teaching areas. We love the 24-foot slide that propels kids from inside the building to the adventure that awaits on the snow.
LAKE PLACID, home to the Winter Olympics in both 1932 and 1980, has a long history as a snow sports mecca in upstate New York. Today, the steeps of Whiteface Mountain, standing 5,000-feet tall in the heart of the Adirondacks, attract skiers, riders and outdoors-lovers from the region. There’s great hiking, cross-country ski centers, dogsledding, snowmobiling on mountain bike trails, and ice skating on area lakes or at 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-caliber ski jumps, bobsleds, and toboggan chutes for the spectators in your group. Roam Main Street’s outdoor gear and fashion boutiques, variety of farm-to-table foodie options, and a fun bar scene when 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 is California’s highest resort, topping out at just over 11,000 feet, with 150 trails and 3,100 feet of vertical. Sharing the scenic beauty of nearby Yosemite National Park (hard to reach during the winter snows), Mammoth has three learning centers for kids, special clinics and myriad off slope activities including sledding, tubing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and snowshoeing. At Woolly’s Tube Park and Snow Play, families with young kids can build a snowman and enjoy the snow play area. With Mammoth’s recent acquisition of Bear Mountain and Snow Summit mountains in southern California, area families will get even more season pass bargains and upgrades.
MT. BACHELOR outside the very hip town of Bend, Oregon is the largest ski resort in the Cascade Range, boasting 3,683 acres and more than 370” of dry, light powder each season. Tucked into the verdant Deschutes National Forest are two tubing lifts and two beginner carpets, five terrain parks, 56kms of groomed and tracked crosscountry trails, snowshoeing, tubing, sled dog rides and more. Kids, 12 and under, can ski free if an adult with them purchases a 3 or more day ticket. For families who have never skied or snowboarded before, their value ‘Ski or Ride in 5’program ($199 per person) gives the whole family five lessons, five rental packages, five lift tickets and reserved parking spot close to the lodge. Upon completing the program, ages 6-18 earn a free season pass (adults get a free 12-day pass), 50% off the following season’s full time Winter Season Pass, and a 25% discount the second year after graduation.
MOUNT SNOW RESORT in southern Vermont has been working hard to ensure that the mountain lives up to its name. In addition to record snowfall two Februarys straight, Mount Snow has a massive fleet of high output fan guns and miles of new snowmaking pipe across the mountain. This family-friendly resort has a trail system that keeps the entire family together whether they’re racing down its largely intermediate terrain or exploring Carinthia, the only all-terrain-park face in the East equipped with 125 freestyle features in eight parks complete with obstacles like rock jibs and truck tires. Young riders and skiers will appreciate the beginner park and tubing park for afternoon fun. Mount Snow is also home to North America’s first six-passenger bubble lift, the Bluebird Express. Check their site for specials such as Youth Pay Their Age Days (first oneJanuary 10, 2016) for everyone age 6 to 18, and Kids Ski & Learn Free Weeks.
NIAGARA FALLS. Winter brings a unique dimension to Niagara Falls USA. The mist and spray from the falls combine with the winds to spray nearby ornamental walls, lamp posts, trees and buildings creating natural ice sculptures. If you are lucky, you’ll get t o see the falls frozen! Fireworks will take place on Fridays at 9 p.m. from November 27 through January 29.
NORTHSTAR CALIFORNIA RESORT, located in the historical logging town of Truckee CA, is a 45 minute drive from the Reno/Tahoe International Airport. The most family-oriented among the many Lake Tahoe area resorts, Northstar California has 3,170 acres of skiing and riding featuring seven award-winning progressive terrain parks including the Riperoo Riglet Park for snowboarders 4 to 6-years-old, and offers sculpted snow features that allow children to learn to ride through muscle memory. Northstar is also home to an 18-foot superpipe – the largest in Northern California, and the only Burton Snowboard Academy in the country, which uses terrain-based learning for a customized experience tailored to ability and unique learning styles of each snowboarder; this is the place for little shredders. Kids and kids-at-heart are invited to enjoy the 9,000-square-foot ice skating rink, surrounded by cabanas and fire pits for relaxing, roasting s’mores and telling stories about mountain adventures in the heart of The Village at Northstar – which is conveniently located, allowing families to park their cars and leave them until the conclusion of their vacation. The Ski and Snowboard School at Northstar California incorporates the Company-wide EpicMix platform, featuring professional photographers on the mountain and in The Village as well as an app which tracks vertical feet skied, the number of runs guests get in a day, and also allows for guests to earn virtual pins and for instructors to track student’s progress so they may pick up where they left off at any mountain in the Vail Resorts family. Head out on snowshoes or pamper yourself at the Ritz- Carlton Lake Tahoe.
OKEMO, located in southern Vermont with easy access from Boston, New York and other East Coast points, is an upscale family-focused choice with the country’s first six-passenger high-speed lift with a retractable dome and heated seats. Okemo is installing a second bubble chair this season. If you’re not ready for that, take advantage of free carpet lifts all season long, They always offer $89 (including equipment rental and lesson). Beginner packages and allow children 6 and under to ski or ride free if you ask at the ticket window with your child present. Okemo also has plenty of other snow fun options, such as tubing, ice skating, kid-sized snowmobile rides, swimming, an alpine coaster and even a giant snow mound where kids like to play king of the hill, in addition to posh base camp lodging and rec facilities.
PARK CITY, Utah is one of the easiest-to-reach and best Western ski areas with more than 9,000 skiable acres. Just a short shuttle ride from Salt Lake City airport are two major kid-friendly resorts. Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) and Canyons Resort merged this season and will open this winter as Park City Mountain (the largest ski resort in America). Park City Mountain is owned and operated by Vail under its Epic Pass, and have all of the terrain features your riders and free skiers could want. (The second resort, Deer Valley, is reviewed above.) Home to the 2002 Winter Olympics, Park City offers families a chance to try an Olympic bobsled run at the Utah Olympic Park. You’ll also find plenty to do in the Western town, as well as hotel bargains. The chic Canyons Resort Village at Park City Mountain has its own premium base lodging, including a Kosher restaurant that makes box lunches for ski-schoolers on the slopes, plus a beautiful Waldorf-Astoria Resort & Spa. The National Ability Center designed to help those with special challenges.
Ski Liberty in Pennsylvania
PENNSYLVANIA makes it easy by using the Pennsylvania Ski Association to promote 20 member resorts (Camelback is one, see above) by highlighting their bargain rates — especially in the January Learn to Ski and Snowboard month. The state welcomes 4th and 5th graders to ski free all season with a paying adult, and novices of any age are open season, so to speak. Guests from toddlers to grandparents can learn to ski in Pennsylvania with the PSAA’s First-Time Ski or Snowboard Program, which gets you a beginner lesson, beginner lift ticket and all the rentals you need, at any resort, for just $49. That’s what we call a bargain.
SMUGGLERS’ NOTCH in Northern Vermont, not far from Burlington and Montreal, is known for its top-notch children’s facilities (including infant care) and off-the-slope activities including a zip line canopy tour. Club Smugglers’ 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. Smugglers’ Winter Experience package includes a variety of indoor and outdoor activities ideal for families seeking a winter wonderland experience without skiing or snowboarding. SuperSaver value weeks throughout the winter season offer savings to budget conscious families. Snow Sport University provides expert instruction for children and adults in skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing with 1,000 acres of all terrain access across three mountains. Conveniently located on the Green in the center of the resort Village, a new learning area for children ages 3-6 will accelerate skill development with sculpted snow features like a 100-foot mini halfpipe, rollers, banked turns and obstacle courses, and Burton Riglet Park for young snowboarders with unique Treehouse.
SQUAW VALLEY ALPINE MEADOWS is one of the largest ski resorts in California, but it’s great for beginners because they rule the mountaintop at their own Belmont Terrain Park complete with kid-friendly jumps, mini cross-course and more. Kids 4 and under ski free, and have mini snowmobiles and snow tubing to play at the resort’s base area. Families have tons of other activities, including yoga, sky jumping and climbing walls if you don’t want to remain on the slopes. The nearly 450” of annual snowfall makes it possible to guarantee great spring skiing, with warm temperatures, fresh powder and a mountaintop pool that opens in the spring. Spring 2016 will bring the return of the FIS Alpine World Cup to Squaw Valley, where guests can watch athletes race against each other head-to-head down a course of bumps, jumps, and berms.
STEAMBOAT, Colorado is recognized as a top family ski resort thanks to its Wild West themed play area and well-trained children’s staff at the Kids’ Vacation Center. There are five kids-only lifts and two 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 Check out the special Billy Kidd Race Camps held throughout the winter; the STARS Kids’ Adaptive Camp in March 2015 is a fun ski camp for youth (age 6-20) with physical disabilities, whether they’re new skiers, beginner skiers who need private lessons, or intermediates. Since it has the ambiance of an authentic Western town and The Old Town Hot Springs pool and slides, there’s just as much to do off the mountain as on, making it a good choice for the family with mixed interests.
STOWE is home to Vermont’s highest Peak, Mt. Mansfield and one of New England’s prettiest towns. Infamous for its Famous Front Four trails (double-blacks), Mt. Mansfield also has some of the longest intermediate cruisers in the East and a group of beginner trails in the Toll House area. This Winter Stowe Mountain Resort and Spruce Peak Realty will unveil their latest development. The new building will advance and expand the family amenities and services at Spruce Peak. Several new facilities are opening around a new outdoor ice rink that will double as a community plaza and green in the summer. These amenities include a new state-of-the-art children’s Adventure Center with ski / ride school, year-round daycare facilities, climbing gym and children’s activities center. A new Stowe Mountain Club Alpine Clubhouse will also be delivered as a part of the expansion. New retail shops, restaurants, food markets and a parking garage for Club members, furthermore enhance the Spruce Peak Plaza and base area.
STRATTON Mountain, the tallest peak in southern Vermont, is a favorite for East Coast families for its tree-lined, well-groomed slopes and pedestrian village base area. Parents love the 45-acre Learning Zone with a 580-foot Magic Carpet and EZ Street, a 3-mile green run from the summit that all ability levels can take together. Kids love the tubing hill and when they’re 8 or older, they can drive a mini snowmobile in the Sun Bowl Base Area. Stratton offers big-mountain skiing and riding from the summit of southern Vermont’s highest peak with terrain for the whole family — Mountain Safety Ambassadors are stationed at the top to remind everyone to take it easy. Also perfect for families and beginners is the Learning Zone with a 580-foot covered Magic Carpet. With a range of accommodations at the resort and a slopeside Village – there’s no need to bring out the car. There’s childcare for ages 6 weeks and older, full day learning ski and snowboard instruction programs, Fitness Center with indoor salt water pool, snowshoe tours to snowtubing, fireside yoga and more. Check out Kids Ski and Stay Free (ages 12 and under) available during select periods – perfect for the weeks before Christmas.
SUGARBUSH. There’s nothing prettier than winter to show off the privately owned Sugarbush resort because of its scenic, small town base in the Mad River Valley of Vermont. You can expect lots of snow, naturally, and from the more than 350 new snowguns that guarantee great conditions over 70% of the terrain. We love the family apartments at the classy, barn-like Clay Brook, where you can cook and dine “at home” – slopeside — after their concierge has stocked your refrigerator as requested. Sugarbush is a big proponent of terrain-based learning, with programs at Schoolhouse starting at age 3.
SUNDAY RIVER in Maine boasts a 56-year history, eight interconnected peaks, 12 hour skiing and riding Fridays, Saturdays and select holidays, a tubing park, ziplines, fireworks most weekends and holidays, and family-friendly entertainment for the little ones. Many families come to Sunday River because of the Perfect Turn Ski and Ride School manned by friendly local staff. The annual Children’s Festival Week (January 11-15 in 2015) fills the calendar with PJ parties, scavenger hunts, live entertainment, movies and teen events, and themed Perfect Turn kid’s clinics.
TELLURIDE, a tiny southwestern Colorado mountain town, is a favorite snow sports destination because of its century-old downtown architecture and mountain views in every direction. It’s also an easy ski resort to navigate since the ski school is right next to the town gondola in the middle of the Mountain Village. At least 60% of the terrain is for beginners and intermediates, and there is at least 1 intermediate run down from every lift, making it a perfect mountain for families. Repeat guests appreciate that the vast majority of instructors are veterans who remember their kids from previous visits. Backcountry fans love Black Iron Bowl, a hike-to playground set against the dramatic backdrop of Palmyra Peak, which encompasses eight runs, European-style faces, open glades and steep chutes. Great spa too! I loved our visit to Telluride.
TAOS SKI VALLEY is near the artsy, northern New Mexico pueblo of Taos, and not far from Albuquerque or Santa Fe. Long an alpine favorite, Taos now has a new lift to 12,400’ Kachina Peak, making it one of the highest altitude skiing and snowboarding destinations in the country. Owned by noted conservationist Louis Bacon, who is making multi-million dollars investments in the resort, Taos is undergoing a major facelift. But two things that won’t change: the unbelievable value of the lift tickets, and resort’s world-renowned children’s center and ski-and-ride-school. There’s plenty for the non-snow sports lovers in the group to do. Experience the Strawberry Hill tubing park where a magic carpet transports kids up several lanes of tubing. Take a moderate-level snowshoe to Williams Lake (particularly appealing at night during a full moon) or hit the local hot springs which often offers discounts with lift tickets. Culture vultures will love the unique cuisine of the area, as well as the opportunity to explore Native American dwellings nearby at the Taos Pueblo, the only living Native American community designated both as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark.
VAIL thinks big; the flagship mountain resort of this snowsports empire has more than 5,200 skiable acres including the seven famous Back Bowls spanning 7 miles. Add high-touch service to a terrific ski school, intermediate and expert moguls, tree skiing, and even some cliffs to see how quality rules and why prices are high. There is a zip line and multi-lane tubing hill at Adventure Ridge (big expansion plans are underway) above the base village of Lionshead, as well as kids snowmobiling and ski biking. On mountain, kids love Coyote’s Den, 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. When it comes to lessons, the resort is offering a variety of programs for kids and adults, including a new Women’s Ultimate 4 lesson, and the return of the popular Ski Girls Rock program.
A family sleigh ride at Vista Verde Ranch
VISTA VERDE RANCH. Just 25 miles north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Vista Verde offers all-inclusive vacation packages in a secluded and quiet setting. A family vacation at Vista Verde Ranch is a unique way to experience the snow away from the crowds of the slopes with over 600 acres of winter wonderland, surrounded by millions of acres of the Routt National Forest. Guides take guests on a variety of outdoor adventures such as backcountry skiing, horseback riding, snowshoeing, tubing (with a snowmobile ride back up the hill), and sleigh rides. An engaging kids program provides hours of fun and snow play for the kids while parents get a chance to get out at their own pace, or families can participate in activities together. For those looking for a less active or indoor option daily horsemanship clinics are held in the heated indoor arena and each week the chefs host a cooking class and a wine tasting. Yoga and Pilates classes as well as massage round out the options. All meals are included as well as beer and wine for the adults. The ranch is open until March 24 for those looking for a snowy Spring Break.
WATERVILLE VALLEY RESORT in New Hampshire offers 220 acres for downhill skiing or riding. The Adventure Center features Nordic skiing and Fat Bike rentals for use on one of New Hampshire’s largest Nordic trail systems, which is groomed daily. Town Square is just a short walk from most of the resort accommodations and features tubing, dogsled and sleigh rides, and an indoor ice rink to guarantee fun no matter what the weather. Look for seasonal programs like the Junior Instruction Programs given 13 weekends this season, plus the Christmas holiday week, designed for ages 4-12 and 13-16 who enjoy skiing or snowboarding. The resort also offers special programs on the fundamentals of competitive racing and freestyle skiing. Guests 5 and under or 80+ get in free every day, and childcare is available for ages 6 months to 4 years. Look for weekly Town Square events that include live music and fireworks.
WHISTLER BLACKCOMB, a few hours from Vancouver, towers over British Columbia with its two side-by-side mountains connected by the long, scenic traversing Peak2Peak Gondola. Perhaps best known as the official alpine skiing venue for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympics Winter Games, this long popular resort has 200 marked runs, 8,171 acres of terrain, 16 alpine bowls, and three glaciers that enable late spring visitors to ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon. Spring is a great time to find vacation packages, including discounted airfare from certain cities and lodging deals. The winter of 2015.2016 will mark Whistler Blackcomb’s 50 years since the resort was open for winter skiing and since then has gone above and beyond to leave its mark on the ski and snowboard industry. There’s also plenty to see and do beyond the slopes, such as the seven-lane Coca-Cola Tube Park, a wide variety of restaurant options, and several top après ski destinations including the popular GLC, where live music and people watching come together. To explore BC, check out how Destination BC is using very cool Oculus Rift technology to virtually showcase their region.
WINTER PARK RESORT is only an hour from Denver and, at 76, is Colorado’s longest continuously-operated ski area and boasts the state’s oldest professional ski school. The Private Lesson Center allows families to learn together, and prepare to tackle the resort’s 3,000 skiable acres. Real snowsports fans enjoy this mountain’s seven unique territories: steeps can be found on The Cirque, huge bumps over at Mary Jane, and groomers on Winter Park mountain where the majority of the beginner terrain is centered. Freestylers will find six terrain parks including the limited access park, Dark Territory. Look for packages that include free nights and free lift tickets. Winter Park Resort is also home to the National Sports Center for the Disabled, the largest adaptive snow sports organization in the world, which offers a variety of programs for those with special mental and physical challenges.
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