It’s time to book a family ski trip, but where should you go? There are so many ski locations around the country, but do you know how to find the best ski resort for your family? If you're a first-time skier or you're taking the tadpoles skiing for the first time, you may not know the best places to go. Here are a few factors to consider so you can plan that epic ski trip that your family will hoppily beg to repeat.
9 Things You Should Consider to Find the Best Ski Resort for Your Family
1. Location and distance from airports
When looking to find the best ski resort for your family, location is an important detail to consider. When choosing a mountain, we consider the amount of time and money it will take to travel there. Can we drive there and save money on flights and rental cars? If we do fly there, how far is the airport from the mountain? Are there shuttles? If we rent a car, will we need 4-wheel drive? While larger airports may offer a wider variety of flights and the best fares, a local airport can save hours of driving.
If you are planning to visit ski resorts in Colorado, the large Denver airport can be subject to delays. It can also take longer to get your bags and car rental. Depending on where your resort is, the shuttle or ride sharing prices vary. But if you are planning to visit Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen, Breckenridge, Steamboat and other resorts, you might consider flying into Eagle Vail, which is a smaller and faster airport to get in and out of. Plus, it is much more centrally located for these Colorado ski resorts, which can save you a lot of travel time.
If you are visiting Park City or many other Utah ski areas, flying into Salt Lake City and driving to your destination is surprisingly easy. The roads are easy to navigate, and all the ski areas are well marked with large signs.
If you are hitting the Lake Tahoe area resorts, there are two airports to consider. The Reno-Tahoe airport is about 40 minutes to many resorts. There are ski resort shuttles if you do not want to rent a car. Be sure to look into Ski Free the Day You Arrive offers. The drive from Sacramento airport to most Lake Tahoe resorts is about two hours.
2. Time of year you are visiting
When are you planning to ski? If you are going early in the season, research the resort’s seasonal snowfall to find a resort that tends to get early snow. Whistler Blackcomb is likely to have plenty of snow on top early in the season. If you are planning a spring break trip, look for high-elevation, north-facing mountains (which melt down slower) such as Squaw Valley and resorts in areas that tend to get later snowfall or have had an epic snowfall season leading up to spring. Most ski resorts have plenty of snow late December into March.
3. Terrain and mountain size
What type of terrain are you looking for? If you are beginners or intermediate skiers, look for resorts with plenty of green and blue runs. More advanced skiers will want some black diamond or even double black diamond runs. Many families with a mix of experienced skiers and some newer skiers want a larger resort such as Vail, Heavenly or Park City with a healthy variety of terrain so that everyone’s needs are met. Snowboarders are going to toadally leap for a resort that is known for its powder and that offers a terrain park. If you are all beginners, a smaller, inexpensive resort might be a great fit for your abilities and budget.
Do you have an elevation in mind? The higher the elevation, the better the conditions can be (snow at lower elevations can melt down and get slushy). But high elevation can also put you at risk for altitude sickness. If you choose a resort with a base at high elevation (over 8,000 feet), be sure to drink a lot of water and get plenty of rest. It can help to take a day to acclimate to the altitude before hitting the mountain. Don’t immediately race up the mountain. Pro-tip: If you are visiting a resort with very high altitude, choose a ski hotel that is much lower on the mountain. Try to sleep below 8,000 feet if you can.
4. If the price is right
One factor that can affect how to find the best ski resort for your family is price. If you purchase an Epic Pass you can ski at a number of great family ski resorts. We have a number of tips on saving money on your family ski trip. Buying multi-day lift tickets and lodging in advance is one way to lower costs. Another is to find resorts that offer deals for kids to ski free or that allow children under ages 5 or 6 to ski free.
5. Ski school
While all resorts offer lessons, ski school and/or child care can be a big factor in deciding the best ski resort for your family. If you have younger tadpoles, you'll want to make sure they are old enough for ski lessons and/or child care. Most offer lessons starting at age 3, but a handful offer lessons for ages 2 and up. The age ranges for on-site child care range by resort and not all offer child care.
You'll also want to know if the ski lessons are half day or full day. Some offer both. Some of the larger ski schools offer programs targeted at more tailored demographics, such as the Ski Girls Rock program at Beaver Creek that is geared toward girls ages 7 to 14. Some also offer private family lessons.
6. Après ski and non-ski fun
What do you like to do after a day of skiing? Curl up in front of a fire with some cocoa, splash in a pool or hot tub, start a new adventure on the mountain (like tubing) or hit the town? However you like to do après with kids, find out what mountains are just your speed when picking a ski resort.
If you have non-skiers in your group, you'll want to find a ski resort with plenty of non-ski activities. You may want to find a ski resort close to town such as Park City or Breckenridge. Larger villages such as Vail will also offer a great mix of off-the-slope activities such as shopping, dining, ice skating, bowling and more. Many offer reduced or free gondola rides to the top of the mountain in the afternoons.
7. Variety of ski resorts in an area
Are you looking to stay and ski at one resort your whole trip, or do you wish to hop about and check out multiple resorts in an area? That can affect where you choose to go. It can be easier to just stay put (and staying in one place can provide consistency in lessons). If you are new to a ski area, you might like visiting a location with other resorts nearby. The adventure of exploring several resorts can give you a sense of which ski resorts you might like to visit again.
8. Family friendliness
How do you know if a mountain is family friendly? Look at the activities calendar for prospective ski resorts. Do they offer fun kid programming both on and off the mountain? Do they have on-site daycare for your littlest tadpoles? Do they offer tubing, sledding, ice-skating, fireworks or dress-up parties? A great family ski resort can make life much easier on parents.
Northstar in North Lake Tahoe offers family-friendly features such as wagons to pull gear around, plenty of easy and intermediate terrain, snow play areas for kids, an ice skating rink in the middle of the village, bungee trampolines, fire pits for warming cold hands and one of our favorites features — free afternoon s’mores!
9. Ambience of the ski town
Are you looking for a ski resort and simply that? Do you want to be near a big city such as Salt Lake that is close to many ski resorts? Do you want a ritzy ski town like Aspen? Or maybe a historic feel like Breckenridge? If you want nightlife, a south Lake Tahoe ski resort like Heavenly puts you in the heart of town, with casinos within walking distance.
To find the best ski resort for your family, it comes down to what is important to you! Now that you know what to look for, use our handy ski resort decision matrix to help you compare ski resorts at a glance.