Come on, you can’t stay inside all winter! Embrace the chilly temperatures and take the kids to a ski resort near NYC for some snowy fun, (even if it might be mostly faux snow). There are plenty of ski slopes perfect for introducing kids to the sport, whether you want to make a day of it or have a quick winter vacation with the kids. Here are our top picks, all less than a 3-hour drive away (Tappan Zee Bridge backups and Holland Tunnel traffic jams not accounted for). P.S. Looking for a snow-tubing spot near NYC? Click here to see our favorites!
For Full-On Winter Adventure: Windham Mountain
Drive time: 2 hours 45 minutes
The Children’s Learning Center makes this one of the most kid-friendly slopes around for three to 12 year olds. Starting at three years old, kids can get a private lesson or learn the ropes at ski school. If your 2 to 6-year-old isn’t up for skiing, she can enjoy indoor playtime, activities and lunch while you hit the slopes. Beyond skiing, the Windham Mountain Adventure Park offers ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing and more. Kids over age six can even feel the speed with a quick snowmobile ride. Windham is a nice alternative, and sometimes less busy option, to nearby Hunter Mountain. We aren’t going to lie—weekends are still packed, so we recommend getting there early. And since this is one of the few ski areas that offers weekday lessons, if you can sneak away for a midweek escape, you’ll be rewarded with short lift lines and smaller classes.
33 Clarence D. Lane Rd.
To Stay Close to Home: Campgaw Mountain
Drive time: 50 minutes
Located just 20 miles north of the George Washington Bridge in Mahwah, New Jersey, you won’t find another ski area closer to the city. If you’re interested in skiing yourself, it probably won’t do much to pique your interest, but it’s an easy day trip and a good spot for kids to learn. Beginner snowboarders can also build skills here. Private ski and snowboard lessons are available for kids of all ages, and group lessons are offered for kids ages 4 and older. If they still have energy to burn apres ski, you can also go tubing at Campgaw.
200 Campgaw Rd.
For a Weekend Getaway: Ski Big Bear
Drive time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Don’t forget about Pennsylvania and this Poconos Mountains option. Kids ages 4 and older can take part in private lessons, and kids ages six and up can do group lessons for skiing or snowboarding. (Group lessons are on weekends only. You must register at least one day in advance for any kind of lesson. Call 570-226-8585 to do so.) Big Bear will hold its Winter Carnival on January 26; the event includes ski and snowboard races, a lollipop scavenger hunt, ski trivia, s'mores and other activities. Make it a weekend and take advantage of a ski and stay package at the all-inclusive Woodloch nearby, which was named one of the ten best U.S. snow resorts by Parents magazine. You’ll find an indoor pool, tubing, ice skating, nightly entertainment and fun daily activities like winter Olympic-themed family competitions. (Note that Big Bear is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.)
Ski Big Bear
192 Karl Hope Blvd.
731 Welcome Lake Rd.
To Avoid the Crowds: Belleayre
Drive time: 2 hours 30 minutes
It’s not the biggest ski hill in the Catskills, but its more relaxed vibe, lack of crowds and kids ski school more than makes up for it smaller size. Kids Camp is a full-day instructional program – kids ages 4 to 12 can learn to ski or snowboard. Your stress level won’t spike (as much) here either, because the lower part of the mountain is separated from the main area—which means out-of-control skiers and snowboarders won’t accidentally crash into your junior skiiers. If you've got really little ones or kids who don't like the snow, book either a half- or full-day at the Tiger Den, the mountain's childcare center for children six months to six years old, where the kids will craft and play while you hit the slopes. (You pack the lunch.) Note: You must make reservations at least three days in advance for lessons. Call 845-254-6245 to do so.)
Belleayre Mountain Road
Pine Hill, NY
For Skiing & Swimming: Camelback Resort
Drive time: two hours
A spot that also makes a nice winter vacation for the family, Pennsylvania's Camelback Mountain will keep you and the kids busy from dawn until dusk (and actually, well beyond that). Hit the slopes and the impressive snowtubing hill in the day, then pop into Aquatopia, the giant indoor waterpark where it's always 84 degrees. (Stay overnight at Camelback Lodge and the waterpark is included in your stay!) For the 2019/2020 season, Camelback just opened a new trail this year, the curvy "Basilisk", bringing its trail count to 39, the most in the state. Plus, they've upgraded their fleet of 377 snow guns, which now make more snow with less energy.
Camelback Resort Lodge and Aquatopia Indoor Water Park
301 Resort Dr.
To Ski Inside: Big SNOW
Drive time: 30-45 minutes
It's true! You can hit the slopes indoors at Big SNOW, North America’s first real-snow, year-round, indoor ski and snowboard resort. Part of the massive American Dream complex (which also includes retail shops, an indoor Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park, ice rink, and soon, a DreamWorks indoor water park) the 180,000- square-foot snow center provides ideal snow conditions year-round within climate-controlled slopes. Owned by the same company that operated Mountain Creek in Vernon, New Jersey, Big SNOW offers instruction for kids and beginners using Terrain-based Learning.
Big SNOW American Dream
1 American Dream Way
East Rutherford NJ
Ready to go? Don’t forget to read our 5 tips for preparing your kids for the ski slopes first!
— Mimi O’Connor & Julie Seguss