Beyond good snow, the recipe for the perfect family ski vacation includes a well-balanced mix of ambiance, activities for everyone and, if possible, a certain walkability, so you don’t have to pile into a car all the time. From New England villages big on charm to resorts out West that pile on the glitz, North America is loaded with ski resorts that are great for families.
Check out our picks for the continent’s best family-friendly ski resorts.
Buttermilk Ski Resort, Aspen/Snowmass, Colorado
The Rockies are loaded with great skiing possibilities, and the Aspen area, in particular, can be epic. Buttermilk Ski Resort is the most family-friendly mountain in the Aspen foursome, which also includes Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass. Like its sweet name, Buttermilk offers terrain geared toward beginner and intermediate skiers. Snowboarders love it, too, for the wide-open runs across a vertical drop of 2,000 feet. Camps and childcare facilities make it easy for mom and dad to steal away to the more challenging downhill terrain at nearby Aspen Highlands.
Badger Pass, California
Located within beautiful Yosemite National Park, Badger Pass is that rare unpretentious West Coast resort where skiing feels accessible to everyone. Some 85 percent of the terrain is suitable for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. And with lift tickets priced at less than half the cost of bigger California and Colorado resorts, you can stretch your vacation dollars further. You can find lodging for all price ranges, and fireside storytelling in the village and full-moon snowshoe tours add to the all-ages fun.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
At this family-friendly Colorado resort, wandering chefs proffer hot-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies to skiers exiting the lifts at the end of the day. What's more, The Ranch, the resort’s just-for-kids ski school, is surrounded by beginner terrain and has a dedicated gondola just for young riders.
The Osprey hotel offers families the closest ski-in/ski-out access in North America (the lift is almost literally right out the door). And, in Beaver Creek’s cozy village, you’ll find ice-skating, sleigh rides and other family activities, such as disco skate nights, nighttime skiing sessions (accompanied by glow sticks) and free snowshoe tours.
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
The north-facing slant at Bretton Woods resort means the snow often lasts later in the season here than at many other New England resorts. Stay at the historic Mount Washington Hotel, right across from the mountain, and take advantage of Bretton Woods’ fun snow park for young kids. (Kids can put on skis and schuss through outdoor sculptures on flat terrain without ever hitting the slopes.) There’s even a playground at the base of the mountain. Add to that winter canopy tours, dog sledding and sleigh rides, and you’ve got the makings of a great family resort.
Deer Valley, Utah
One of the country’s last resorts open only to skiers, Deer Valley has wide-open slopes that make it a great choice for families in search of a relaxed scene and terrain — as long as you and your kids aren’t snowboarders, of course. The runs on Bald Eagle Mountain offer the gentlest slopes for families. “Magic carpets” transport little skiers up the bunny slopes; you'll find different ski schools for varying age groups, starting with the Reindeer Club for preschool-aged kids. From the slopes, it’s a short shuttle ride to Park City’s happening Main Street, with lots of restaurants and shops. You'll find plenty of dining options for families and fun non-ski offerings, too, including sleigh rides.
Mont Tremblant, Quebec
There’s no need to cross the ocean for a family ski vacation with a French twist. Picture croissants for breakfast and fireside fondue dinners in a setting that’s slightly Disneyfied, with brightly colored condominiums in the village and lots of themed restaurants for nights out. Intrawest owns the resort, so the amenities are modern, with scores of lifts and a gondola to carry you across 654 acres of skiable terrain. As a bonus for guests staying at the resort, there’s free ice skating and nightly sledding, too.
Red River, New Mexico
Families in Texas have long had this former mining village in New Mexico’s Sangre de Christo range on their radar, but the funky town of Red River remains largely unknown to the rest of the country. There’s just one road through the village and you can walk from the nearest barbecue joint to the lifts. Once there, you'll find primarily intermediate terrain. Family activities include snowmobiling through the backcountry, watching the torchlight parades on the slopes on Saturday nights and snowshoe trips that end with Texas-style cookouts.
One of New England’s classic winter towns, Stowe has Vermont's highest-elevation ski slopes. Some say skiing here is the closest you’ll get to West Coast-style skiing back East. The town also has the distinction of having no chain stores or chain restaurants. The mix of independent shops and restaurants in a walkable winter-wonderland setting makes Stowe particularly appealing for families. Be sure to stop for cider donuts at one of the local bakeries during a post-ski stroll. And if you're looking for other family-friendly activities, check out the dog sledding and dog cart tours.
Sunday River, Maine
Family tube runs, free shuttle rides into town and a slew of condos for rent right on the ski slopes make this popular Central Maine resort particularly appealing for families. The fact that Sunday River has excellent snowmaking capabilities, too, means you don’t have to worry about dismal East Coast forecasts putting a damper on your slope time. After Killington, Sunday River has the East Coast’s largest skiable terrain, spread across eight picturesque peaks. And, outside of holiday weekends, crowds are rarely an issue. The resort’s overall affordability compared to West Coast destinations is just one more perk for those traveling with an entourage.
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Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia
The sprawling British Columbia resort may be renowned for its international nightlife scene, but it’s a family-friendly place for a ski vacation, too. Put the kids in a weeklong ski camp or bring them to the mountain’s Kids Adventure Zones, with cool forts and castles to traipse through. You'll find designated Family Zones on the mountain, designed to slow traffic, as well as a tubing park. What's more, free fire and ice shows with high-flying skiers and snowboarders take place every Sunday. The resort is dog friendly, too, so even Fido’s welcome at nearly all hotels here.