You’ve dreamed of epic ski vacations with your kids since the day they were born. Now they’re ready to practice their pizza wedges at ski school while you and your better half race down black diamonds before hitting a family-friendly après ski. Scroll down to discover the most awesome ski resorts to take your kids, even if they are just a beginner.
Brundage Mountain—McCall, ID
While skiing doesn’t have a reputation for being a thrifty sport, the folks at Brundage Mountain are doing their best to add affordability to the ski vocabulary. Since 2015, they’ve offered free lift tickets on the beginning chairlift, all season long, to every skier. Plus, this season, they’ve added an easy-to-use conveyer lift to the Easy Street Beginner area that won’t cost skiers a thing. That means parents can focus their green on lessons, like the ones offered through the Kinder Club (ages 3-6), including morning and full day options. Or invest in private lessons offered on the mountain too.
Once your crew has graduated from the bunny hill, the Family Fun Pack is the way to keep them skiing. For $199, a family of four can get rentals and lift tickets to access the Bear Chair that deposits skiers mid-mountain, giving them access to five green runs, a blue and three blacks, as well as a beginner terrain park.
Good to know: Take a 90-minute sleigh ride to break up your day on the mountain.
Whistler Blackcomb—B.C., Canada
Host to the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics games, this destination ski village is the ultimate place to hunker down and learn to ski, full immersion style. The resort is known for their Adventure Camps (for kids ages 3-4 & 5-12) that are packed with activities, games and time on the mountain to learn the basics or hone developing skills. Kids work in small groups, with the same instructor all week long, but if you haven’t got all week to stay and play, daily lessons are available too, for kids ages 3-12. You can expect the same perks here (lift line priority, small class ratios, and hot lunch to boot) as kids get in the week-long program, but for a shorter duration.
There’s more to Whistler than just skiing and boarding. Your kids will also love cruising down the Coca-Cola Tube Park, exploring the Magic Castle and Tree Fort adventure playscapes and watching the pros go all out on the mountain during the weekly Fire & Ice Show. Add in après ski that’s family friendly until 10 p.m. and an entire Olympic Village to explore, and you’ll be hard-pressed to leave.
Good to know: Take advantage of Whistler Days to get the most bang for your buck on kids adventure camp programming (hint: the savings are in the early and late seasons!).
Bretton Woods—Bretton Woods, NH
There are lots of reasons why families on the East coast flock to Bretton Woods with their beginners. It's New Hampshire’s largest ski area and a consistent contender in Ski Magazine’s Top Ten Kid-Friendly resorts in the East category—and even kids as young as three can learn how to carve here. At that age, they can participate in the Ski & Snowplay program, where they’ll play inside and out, learning all about snow sports and how much fun yucking it up in the white stuff can be. From there, they graduate to the Hobbit program, designed to teach kids ages 4-12 how to ski, and ages 6-12 how to snowboard. Choose from a full day of ski school or a half, and meet up with your crew after they’ve learned a thing or two.
There's more: Families can also check out the kid’s snowmobile park or reserve time on the ice rink when they need a break from the mountain. The tubing hill is another hot spot that calls to those young and old on a beautiful winter day.
Good to know: January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard month, and in celebration, Bretton Woods offers discounts for first-time skiers ages 13 & up.
Smugglers’ Notch—Smugglers’ Notch, VT
There’s a reason Smugglers' Notch has so many 2018 Ski Magazine feathers to stick in its cap (they were voted Best Overall, Best Service, and Most Kid-Friendly)—families love to ride here! And when it comes to learning to ski or snowboard, it’s all about options. Starting as young as two (Little Rascals on Snow), kids can begin the process of learning to ski or snowboard through exciting games and activities that get them used to the movements and balance needed to truly shred. Then it’s on to Discovery Dynamos (ages 3 & 4), Trailblazers (ages 5 & 6) and Adventure Rangers (ages 7-10), to keep building the skills they need to keep them skiing for life.
Family is at the heart of this ski resort. Each week’s litany of activities is all about togetherness, whether its playing broomball or belting out the tunes during Family Karaoke.
Good to know: Take a break from the snowy slopes and chill out at the Fun Zone 2.0 Family Complex. This 26,000 square foot play space includes The Ozone, where you’ll find mini golf and ping-pong and The Go Zone, with laser tag and a warrior course.
Wilmot Mountain—Wilmot, WI
Midwesterners have been hitting the slopes at Wilmot Mountain for generations. And this year they have 13 million more reasons to do so. That’s how much was invested in improvements to the park for this season. Now riders can expect more chairlifts and a totally transformed Base Area, which includes 400 new seats for dining and new food options. Kids will dig the new terrain park for snowboarders, where they'll find a high-speed rope tow to help them get back up the slope even faster.
But the most important improvement, as far as beginners are concerned, is the new Kid’s Ski and Snowboard School and enhanced Play Area that includes playful fun spaces outside and spacious lunchroom quarters inside. Little skiers can learn the ropes during full or half day lessons that let families come up for a quick day trip excursion. Or they can sign up for multi-week sessions, starting at three weeks and maxing out at six that’ll take your kids from novice to advanced in one season
Good to know: Don’t forget to take a few runs down one of Wilmot’s 22 tubing lanes. It’s a great way to end your ski vacay!
Wild Mountain—Taylor Falls, MN
At Wild Mountain, skiing and snowboarding is truly a family affair.Amy and Dan Frischmon, the brother-sister team, are second generation owners and they still hit the slopes with their kids and their parents at every chance they get. They work to instill this same passion in the kids who come to the mountain ready to learn. Guests can strap in for ski or snowboard lessons seven days a week, starting at age four for skiing and six for snowboarding. And by providing a parent-tot lesson option, Wild Mountain gives younger kids or kids who are hesitant to leave a parent’s side a chance to get in on the action too. If you live in the area, we recommend the Wild Cat Club as a way to build skills all season long.
Good to know: Starlight Tubing at the Wild Chutes Snow Tubing runs is a great way to top off a snowy day on the slopes.
Dollar Mountain – Sun Valley, ID
This Idaho town has been a gem of a ski community for decades and it keeps getting better. For families, the ideal spot is Dollar Mountain, where you'll find Carol's Lodge. Designed with small kids in mind, the lodge offers eats like mac ‘n’ cheese and oven-fired pizza. The ski and snowboard programs range from Little Spuds (ages 3-5) to Spuds Alpine and Snowboard (ages 5-12).
There’s a world-class terrain park and lengthened Family Cross Course. The treeless terrain and easy slopes are perfect for beginners, and the magic carpet is ideal for those who’d rather be snow tubing. If you’ve got family members who would prefer to watch the action from afar, there’s the option of enjoying a ⅓ mile jaunt from Carol’s to Sun Valley village.
Good to Know: If Dollar Mountain seems too tame, world-famous Bald Mountain is down the road and also offers ski packages for kids.
Ski Santa Fe – Santa Fe, NM
Located 16 miles from all the art and food in the city center is Ski Santa Fe, a mountain resort where kids 46 inches and under can ski for free and lift tickets for paying skiers and snowboarders are extremely reasonable (Think under $100 a day with even better deals on multi-day passes.). There are all kinds of options for ski school, including the Never Ever (for first-timers of any age) and the adaptive ski program for kids and young adults with disabilities.
The tiniest members of your family can hang in the Chipmunk Corner, where the daycare takes kids ages three months-3 years. The Snow Play section offers fun snow games, movies, and lunch to tykes ages 3-4, and the Chipmunk Packages offer half-day and all-day ski and snowboard school for kids ages 3-11. There’s a ton of cultural events happening in Santa Fe year-round, so once you’ve had your fill of the mountain, be sure to explore the nation’s oldest state capital city.
Good to Know The new-this-season Snow Sports Passport adds up to plenty of savings on lift tickets, lessons, and rentals after you complete a lesson package.
Beaver Creek – Avon, CO
With full childcare options, top of the line ski school for beginners, and the incredible Rocky Mountains at your ski tips, Beaver Creek is an ideal spot for a family snow-cation. For the tiniest tots and kids who aren’t quite ready to hit the slopes, the Small World Play School is a fully certified childcare facility with three groups taking kids ages two months-6 years. For beginning snow bunnies, Beaver Creek offers lessons and schools for ages 6 & up.
While you're there, check out the new-this-season 200-acre family learning area, Red Buffalo Park. In true Colorado fashion, it’s all about the elevation at this park, accessed by a high-speed quad lift. At 11, 440 feet, all the views are breathtaking. Families will find snow sculptures along the 13 trails that make up the beginning and intermediate terrain here. Add in a Ski School Skills Zone, dedicated Kids Adventure Zone and a Cookie Cabin (exclusive for Beaver Creek Ski School students to enjoy) and you may never want to get off this mountain!
Good to Know: Every afternoon at 3 p.m., it's Cookie Time—chefs serve from heaped trays of warm, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies!
Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows — Lake Tahoe, CA
Voted "Best Ski Resort" in North America in 2016 by USA Today, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is nestled into the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. These two resorts share the same pass, a free shuttle, and miles of terrain (6,000 acres to be exact) for both the beginner and advanced skier. Got a beginner on your hands? The Take 5 Group Lessons, Get 1 Free is the way to go. Just sign your Squaw or Alpine Kid (ages 3-13) up for five full day lessons and get one free.
If you notice the resort looking a little shinier, it's probably due to 1.7 million dollars worth of upgrades at High Camp, which includes a redesign of the Terrace Restaurant & Bar, the area’s most scenic eating spot, and the addition of the High Camp Marketplace, where skiers can find healthy grab-and-go selections to keep them fueled on their runs.
Good to Know If you plan to hit the slopes here, be sure to download the Squaw Valley Alpine app before hitching a ride in the gondola. It not only allows you to pinpoint others' location and send messages to family members and friends, it also offers a performance dashboard, which tracks hours and miles skied and average and maximum speed, among other stats.
Park City Mountain Resort — Park City, UT
Only about a 45-minute drive from the airport, Park City, Utah is a haven for families looking to hit the slopes. The city is home to Deer Valley Resort, the Canyons, and Park City Mountain Resort, which is one of our favorite mountains for beginners. Their Ultimate Ski Lesson packages are the perfect way for kids ages 3 & up to learn the ropes on skis (or a snowboard once they’re four). Plus, new this year, the resort added an enclosed surface lift and designated a sweet trail for beginner use only. It’s the perfect spot for your newbie to take everything he learned and put it to practice under the watchful guise of mom or dad.
Good to Know: Start planning your trip to Park City now for the 2018-19 season because that’s when the resort will debut the High Meadow Family Fun Zone at Canyons Village. We’re talking new lifts and snowmaking capabilities to totally trick out this ideal terrain for beginners. And did we mention the Candy Cabin where everyone in the family can tempt their sweet tooth? It’s sure to be worth the trip!
Stowe Mountain Resort – Stowe, VT
Vermont is famous for Ben & Jerry’s, maple syrup, and Bernie Sanders, but did you know the state also offers first-rate ski slopes? Enter Stowe Mountain Resort. Tiny tykes can check-in at the Adventure Center, which is home to the Cubs Childcare—offered for ages three months to 3 years. It’ll also be home to Stowe Mountain Ski and Ride School, where Pathfinders (ages 3-4), Trailblazers (ages 5-6) and Mountaineers (ages 7-14) can get first-rate lessons in a full-day adventure program.
There are six terrain parks at Stowe, for varying ability levels and there’s a Cross Country trail system for families with kids ages six & up. For those looking for warmer thrills be sure to check out Stowe Rocks, an indoor rock climbing gym inside the Adventure Center.
Good to Know: Hungry kiddos will enjoy the yummy comfort food and friendly atmosphere at The Bench.
Stevens Pass Washington Ski Resort — Leavenworth, WA
While Seattle families luckily have different options when it comes to winter snow sports, many choose Stevens Pass for its family-friendly atmosphere and top-notch ski school where the instructors not only teach, but also relate to the kids. Located just 30 minutes from Leavenworth, Stevens Pass does its part to be eco-conscious with its recycling and composting programs and use of wind power. And, if you head to the lodge and need to sign online to get some work done, Stevens Pass offers free wi-fi for the ultimate WFM (work from mountain) experience.
Good to Know: Got a 5th grader and live in the area? For the 2017-2018 season, all 5th graders ski for free!
tips courtesy of Kristina Moy & Marcy Grantor
Aspen Snowmass — Aspen, CO
The largest of the four Aspen-area ski mountains, Snowmass is one of the most family-friendly mountains with all kids skiing free up to age seven. This Aspen hot spot comes in at over 3,300 acres of terrain with 91 trails of groomies, halfpipes, terrain parks and more. Families flock here for their state-of-the-art Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center, a gigantic childcare facility for kids ages eight weeks to four years old. With a nurse on staff and themed rooms, this is where your kids will get introduced to skiing. And, once your kids turn two, they’re welcome to enroll in Snowmass’ Cubs on Skis program, a mix of early childhood education and skiing based out of this nature-themed adventure center.
Good to Know: The Treehouse at Snowmass isn’t the only spot your kid will love. Pay a visit to nearby Buttermilk Mountain to experience The Hideout, a 7,500 square foot facility just for kids. Don’t blame your kids if they forget they’re in the mountains and get lost in The Hideout’s custom-designed play features like a lookout tower and interactive play room.
Big Sky Resort — Big Sky, MT
Off the beaten path (read: less crowded than the populous resort towns in Colorado and Utah), Big Sky Resort is now the largest skiing area in the country located only 15 miles from the border of Yellowstone National Park. Besides stunning views and tons of wildlife, Big Sky offers a bevy of childcare and ski school options. Their Kids Club, for ages four & up, includes themed days like Tye Dye Tuesdays and Snow Time Saturdays when participants get to meet and see a demo from ski patrol dogs. Their childcare offerings (with ski lessons or not) start as early as six months old so you can enjoy some time on the slopes while your kids play.
Good to Know: Beyond the slopes, kids will have a blast on the giant swing and bungee trampoline, both found in the plaza.
Whiteface — Lake Placid, NY
While Lake Placid played host to two Olympics and now serves as a training destination for Olympic hopefuls, the town’s Whiteface Mountain is not just for pro skiers. This mountain in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains has something for everyone. Got a little shredder on your hands? Try one of their signature lesson packages that start at age four and go through age 14. Or, if you’d rather cruise down the mountain, be sure to practice your pie down Wilmington Trail, a 2.1 mile stretch of blues and greens, the Mountain’s longest run.
Good to Know: In the winter, Lake Placid is a magnet for snow sporting enthusiasts—not just skiers. Don your coats and hats (it’s not abnormal for temps to dip in the negatives) and step into a real bobsled to careen down the ice on a real Olympic track.
Mt. Hood Meadows—Mt. Hood, OR
The Meadows has much to celebrate during its 50th season! And their commitment to the mountain, through stewardship, fellowship and just plain fun is only the beginning. It all starts with the largest group of PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) ski instructors in the Northwest and continues with thoughtful perks like streamlined ski lessons that include rentals and an advance reservation system, so parents can sign their kids up for that just-right lesson. The Children’s Learning Center is where kids as young as four can sign up for lessons. And the maximum 3:1 student/teacher ratio means your little skier will get the attention she needs to do well and feel comfortable. Add in nutritionally balanced lunches, and parents can rest easy on the slopes themselves.
Good to know: Plan a special evening ski lesson for your kids, while you and your favorite ski partner sneak away for a quiet dinner.
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Do you have a great beginners spot to add to this list? Share it in a comment.