For our family, skiing and traveling go together. We love to explore new parts of the US while we’re sampling the slopes. I advocate taking even very young children on a family ski trip, which is made easier by resorts with activities especially for kids. Here are my picks for the best ski resorts with kid-friendly activities in the US.
1. Keystone Resort, Colorado:
Keystone is #1 for kids amid top Colorado ski resorts, and it’s no wonder why. First of all, there’s an abundance of lodging options in all price ranges at Keystone. We like to stay in the River Run village for ski-in, ski-out convenience and proximity to the ski school, rentals, ice skating, and pools, but families can get deals elsewhere as well.
Keystone’s legendary Kidtopia offers kid-friendly fun every afternoon from 3 pm to 5 pm as kids get off the slopes. These planned activities range from live DJs to face painting, and always include a free cookie hour afterward. Families can also ice skate in two locations at Keystone, take sleigh rides, and try out snowshoeing or nordic skiing.
2. Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont:
Smuggler’s Notch, or ‘Smuggs’, has — hands down — the best ski resort child care in any resort we’ve visited. What makes them special? Their excellent care givers, of course, and the fact that they take babies and toddlers, which many resort cannot. Smuggs also has a huge indoor Play Zone for all kids after skiing (trust me, they’ll be ready for bed at night!), and many kid-friendly restaurants. The village at Smuggs is within walking distance of almost all lodging, which means families can park their car and forget about it for the length of their ski vacation.
We love the way Smuggs packages their ski vacations in a way that allows parents to purchase child care, lessons (or ski ‘camp days’), lodging, and tickets all at once, for a reasonable price. No more worrying about what things cost while on the mountain, or deciding at the last minute whether to spring for a lesson.
3. Northstar California Resort, CA:
Even though we live in Oregon, we consider Northstar California to be our ‘home’ resort. We love this Tahoe skiing destination due to the friendly, easy-to-navigate pedestrian village, great snow-making (which means kids are never disappointed by poor snow conditions), and proximity to beautiful and bustling-with-activities Lake Tahoe.
When at Northstar, we make sure we stay in or near the village, so we can take advantage of ski-in, ski-out accommodations and quick dining. After meals in the village, we walk over to the outdoor ice skating rink for free skating and s’mores roasted in one of many communal fire pits. In fact, s’mores is a nightly ritual at Northstar: you’ll see their mountain employees handing out chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows to all families coming off the slopes each afternoon.
Northstar has two athletic clubs with heated outdoor pools and hot tubs, and most of its lodging offers private hot tubs as well. The village candy shops and ice cream parlors make kids happy, and frequent family-friendly events overtake the village center many times per winter.
4. Snow Basin Resort, Utah:
In general, family-friendly ski resorts offer large base villages where families can dine, stay, and play, but there are exceptions, such as Snow Basin. What this Utah resort lacks in a ‘village life’, it more than makes up for in low crowds and a fast car-to-lift commute. Best of all, the ski school, gear rental shop, and child care are all located in the same building, making the pre-ski day easy on parents.
Even though Snow Basin doesn’t offer an array of base activities for kids, I recommend them for their great pricing. Kids can get outfitted, enroll in ski school, and ski all day for only $40! Parents will enjoy the tougher terrain at the top while kids learn, and then families can meet up for group runs until the lifts close.
5. Silver Mountain Resort, Idaho:
Bring your swimsuits for a ski vacation to Silver Mountain! Yes, Silver Mountain has one of the biggest indoor water parks we’ve ever seen (think Great Wolf Lodge big) attached to its resort, allowing families to take a day off of the slopes to splash indoors during bad weather (or every day, after skiing). We’ve tried their surf simulator, and let’s just say we’ll stick to skiing!
There’s also a full spa at Silver Mountain, and great package deals for families: stay, swim, and ski for as low as $49 per person in the winter. On the slopes, it’s an easy gondola ride from the resort to the base of the mountain, and families can simply return to their lodging for nap time.
Where to do ski as a family? What makes it kid-friendly?