Park Bark and Fly, your favorite Orlando airport parking spot, would like to share some ideas of places to go on a ski vacation with your family. There are many choices when it comes to ski resorts that offer great skiing, but it’s a little different when looking for the top ski resorts for a family vacation.
There are many things that make a ski resort “family friendly”. The best resorts offer private and group instruction geared towards children of all ages and have designated teaching slopes. They also may have discounted lift tickets, equipment rental and lessons for the children. And for the kids that don’t ski, they should have day care or kid’s camps with activities to keep them entertained.
The ski resort should be family friendly off the slopes as well. You want to have family entertainment options like roller coasters or zip lining for those times you aren’t on the slopes. You should also have the option of reasonably priced restaurants and lodging that caters to families such as condos with multiple bedrooms and kitchen for eating in when desired. Here are some of the top ski resorts for families.
Steamboat, CO For four decades Steamboat has been one of the best family resorts, and on the cutting edge. They invented the first Kids Ski Free program in 1982 and have since added Grandkids Ski Free, Kids Rent Free, and Kids Fly Free programs, all geared at those 12 and under. They also offer discounted Teen Tickets. On the mountain, visitors will find special kids terrain and lifts, plus a newly remodeled and expanded Kids’ Vacation and Children’s Center. The ski school is very family oriented, and every enrolled child gets to use a Steamboat Mountain Watch, a GPS location system that tracks vertical feet skied, speed, and shows where the child went that day. Fun family dining options include an all-you-can-eat Western BBQ on the top of the mountain. The very authentic Old West town of Steamboat Springs is also a pleasure for families, as are the nearby hot springs.
Aspen/Snowmass, CO Aspen mountain (Ajax) itself is not especially family friendly, as the only major ski mountain in North America with no green runs, but on the other hand, there are few places better for kids to learn than at Aspen’s Buttermilk, just outside of town. Buttermilk is an easy mountain with lots of green and blue terrain, but is also the home of the X Games, so teens and tweens love to go where their idols ski and ride. It has a mini-terrain park, plus the Panda Peak learning area with a dedicated beginner’s lift and no traffic from higher level skiers. Buttermilk is served by free shuttle bus from town. All four of Aspen’s mountains can be skied on one ticket, and all four share an award-winning children’s ski school. Over at Snowmass, the largest, there are hundreds of family friendly condos for rent, and Snowmass is also home to the finest children’s facility in all of skiing, the three-story, 25,000 square foot Treehouse complex with a variety of supervised programs for kids from 8 weeks to 14 years old. The luxurious Viceroy hotel here also offers an amazing children’s camp program. Finally, Aspen/Snowmass resorts offer “Kids Ski & Stay Free” programs for all of March and April.
Okemo, VT Long the most family focused ski resort in the East, family-owned Okemo has won loyal fans for its hundreds of ski-in/ski-out slopeside condos and rental homes. This is very unusual in Vermont, where most ski resorts are on land leased from the National Forest Service or State with no residential construction allowed. At Okemo, families can enjoy meals in and avoid the schlepping of equipment common to skiing by going right from their doors. The mountain is also laid out for beginners and intermediates, and has one of the largest superpipes in the East, plus six terrain parks. They offer free skiing and riding for children 6 and under, and always have six free beginner surface lifts. Okemo was the first resort to offer significant savings in a young adult lift ticket for ages 13-18. Off the slopes, family activities include alpine coaster rides, ice skating, and snow tubing.
Northstar-at-Tahoe, CA Northstar has enjoyed a huge renaissance in recent years with the construction of an entirely new pedestrian village at its base, with a skating rink and lots of family friendly interactive opportunities from pottery painting to candle making, plus bungee jumping, s’mores around fire pits, and more. The ski mountain is very easy to navigate, and has lots of groomed slopes with perfect beginner and intermediate terrain for learning. A very unique Northstar offering is the “Parent Predicament ticket” - for the same price as a regular adult lift ticket it lets two parents switch off skiing responsibilities throughout the day. In addition to the regular terrain park for those who enjoy tricks, the Star Park is a special scaled-down terrain park for kids. And to make it easier for equipment laden families, Northstar offers wagons at the skier drop off area so families can haul all of their equipment – and sometimes kids - around the Village and to the lifts.
Big Sky, MO Aside from Big Sky’s three mountains of skiing, there’s plenty to soak in after the lifts close too: the outdoor pool, the live après ski music at the Carabiner bar in cozy cowhide chairs, the Crazy Austrians at Chet’s, fresh pasta at stylish Andiamo’s.
Big Sky lodging ranges from the swank slopeside Summit Hotel, The Shoshone and Huntley Lodge, or spacious mountainside condos like Big Horn. For young families, kids 10 and under ski and stay free at Big Sky (with paying parents – don’t just ship your kids out), and there’s free Kids Club in the evening. You can take time off the slopes for dog sledding, zip lining, or a winter tour of nearby Yellowstone National Park. For extreme skiers, Lone Peak is a beacon for big mountain steep and deep. And you can access neighboring Moonlight Basin for a combined 5,512 acres with “the Biggest Skiing in America” ticket. Big Sky is beautiful, big and off the beaten path of most skiers (read: no crowds). We met friendly Montanans everywhere we roamed in the Big Sky state, plus the occasional big horn sheep on the roadside. The snow and the scenery are amazing.
Wherever you decide to vacation with on your next family ski trip is up to you, but don't forget to use the services of Park Bark and Fly to make your traveling a little easier.