A family of beginner or intermediate skiers might consider vacationing at Silver Star, British Columbia, Steamboat, Colorado, or Schweitzer, Idaho, but it can’t do better than Northstar, located an hour from Reno. The terrain is just as inviting, but the slopeside Village nails the details. It offers complimentary Radio Flyer-style wagons to help parents transport kids and mountains of gear over the snow. All on-mountain restaurants offer healthy meals clocking in at 500 calories or less. After skiing, you can roast S’mores over a fire in the center of the village, ice skate, or toss the kids on the trampoline. And it’s impossible to get lost in, or intimidated by, the 3,000 acres of mostly gentle groomers and glades.
The Canyons, Utah
Each of the eight resorts within an hour of Salt Lake City offers wonderfully light snow and sunny skies, but the massive Canyons, three miles outside Park City, is the best for most families. Stay at the slopeside Grand Summit Hotel, for example, and you’re just a few dozen feet from the overnight ski check, the swimming pool, and Canyon’s Kids, where junior can spend his savings in a ski store that caters just to him. Walk out the back door, ride the only heated-seat chairlift in North America, and you’re soon exploring the largest resort in Utah, with 4,000 acres of ridges and valleys. Because kids still have energy left over after a day of skiing, the resort hosts snow graffiti sessions, tug-of-war competitions, and demonstrations with hawks and other birds of prey.
Robert Redford’s “resort” in secluded Provo Canyon, an hour southeast of Salt Lake City, is intimate, rustically styled, and family-friendly, especially if the “kids” in the family are old enough to be parents themselves. Four lifts offer just 450 acres of skiing, but the steep shots off the scenic summit appease any Downhill Racers, and liftlines are rare. At the base, wood cabins with open fire places nestle in the forest. A spa offers a classic array of massages and body treatments. Two restaurants serve some of the best food in Utah, from homemade sausage pizza to an elk loin with a huckleberry soubise. And an Art Shack offers daily classes in pottery, water color painting, photography, and more. Sundance feels like your family’s own luxurious ski hill.
Jackson Hole might be more challenging and Whistler might be bigger, but everything at Snowmass, located just 20 minutes from the Aspen airport, is set up for the go-getter family. The Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center, a 24,000-square-foot building at the base of the mountain, acts as mission control. Infants and toddlers can be left at the daycare facility with themed playrooms (fox den, miner’s cabin, etc.), while young skiers or boarders can rent equipment, check into classes, or head for the superpipe and three parks, which are arguably the best in America. While half the resort is intermediate, parents who rip can head for the undersung chutes at the Cirque, a steep ridgeline near the summit. And if that isn’t enough, there’s of course Aspen and Aspen Highlands just up the valley.
Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont
Smuggs, as its known, is the family resort in the East because the resort treats kids like kings. Located 45 minutes from the Burlington airport, a large slopeside childcare center caters to infants and toddlers, with heated floors and age-specific playrooms. Kids as young as three learn to snowboard in a terrain park with mini half pipes and jumps designed in conjunction with experts from Burton Snowboards. Two teen centers—one for ages 13 to 15, the other for ages 16 and older—offer Xbox and Wii, ping pong and pool, WiFi and stereos. The seven lifts on three adjacent mountains won’t cause your heart to stop. Indeed, the “triple-black diamond” groomers might barely qualify as single-black diamonds in the West. But then Smuggs isn’t about just you.