Winter Resorts for Families

Last year’s pitiful snow season left skiers and boarders starving for the white stuff. Which is why we’ve dug up a smorgasbord of new terrain, fresh trips, and killer deals that will have you ripping all winter long.

Jan 3, 2013
Outside Magazine

Entrance to the Olympic House at Squaw Valley Resort.    Photo: Gary Allard

For years, Okemo, Vermont, has had a firm grip on the title Best Family Resort in the East. But this year, consider Stratton. It’s a little pricier, but there are reasons for that. For one, Stratton’s village, full of upscale lodging and a wide variety of restaurant choices, offers the convenience that Okemo’s sprawl does not. Stratton also serves up miles of intermediate and beginner terrain and a state-of-the-art ski school, complete with a lightly trafficked learning area and a mini terrain park. For the older kids, there are new rails and jumps in the Sun Bowl portion of the mountain, as well as a new boardercross course that will host a snowboarding camp run by Olympians Ross Powers and Lindsey Jacobellis. At night, opt for dog-sledding, full-moon snowshoe hikes, snowmobile tours, or tubing. The best part: kids 17 and younger ski and stay free when two adults purchase a lift and lodging package for $111 per adult per night.

There are lots of resorts on the I-70 corridor, but no place merges fun for the kids and relaxation like Keystone. There’s the access—it’s the closest major resort to Denver. And the deals are tough to beat: grab a room for two nights or more in a place like River Run Village (condos from $255) and kids 12 or younger ski free. That means pro bono rides down the brand-new Burton Riglet Park (built for younger groms, featuring miniature rollers, bank turns, and flat boxes), as well as concerts, parties, and parades, all of which are part of Keystone’s Kidtopia program. For you there’s cat skiing with Keystone Adventure Tours ($240 per day), which delivers a surprisingly rugged backcountry journey down moderately pitched, powdery bowls. Afterward, opt for one of the finest meals in any ski town at the Ski Tip Lodge, five minutes from town.

No, seriously. Though Squallywood’s reputation as a haven for hardcore ski bros hunting powder off the KT-22 chairlift may endure, CEO Andy Wirth, formerly of family-friendly Steamboat Springs, has been pushing for a serious transformation at Tahoe’s most famous resort. This summer Squaw added three new lifts, all of which access intermediate and beginner terrain. They also increased snowmaking on those trails, ensuring that parents always have a mellow area to ski alongside the kids. In addition, Squaw added the SnoVentures Activity Zone, where everyone can tube and kids can race mini snowmobiles along a quarter-mile course. And last fall, Squaw merged with nearby Alpine Meadows (hop between the two on a free 15-minute shuttle), a marriage that gives jibbers access to a new mile-long terrain park. At night, families can regroup at the Village at Squaw Valley, one of the resort’s newest hotels, complete with fire pits for roasting marsh-mallows (doubles from $189).

Though it’s flush with luxury lodging, exquisitely groomed trails, and five-star restaurants (try the seared bison fillet at the Mariposa), let’s be honest: Deer Valley caters to kids. Youngsters even have their own trail map, which charts the candy-cane-gated race course and the rolls, dips, and mini half-pipes of Bucky’s Backyard and Frontyard. Children 12 and under ski free with purchase of a lodging package. The ski school offers obstacle courses for little ones and group lessons for teens. At night, indulge in the pinot noir at the Lodges at Deer Valley while the kids sled, roast s’mores, and guzzle hot chocolate (doubles from $395).