Where the Little Ones Can Have a Big Time
Young children are great ski buddies.
The stoke level is generally on 10, and every run — every turn almost — can seem like a brand-new adventure.
But continually running up and down the local hill can feel restricting at times, for both you and your little buddy. You guys need to find some place where you can really spread your wings for a week or so.
But not every mountain resort is entirely suitable for a family ski holiday. There are certain criteria that need to be met in order to have a successful vacation, including extensive children’s programs and lessons, great rates — or even free — on lift tickets for youngsters, ski-in ski-out lodging and a varied selection of off-hill activities, such as ice skating, tubing, sleigh and dog-sled rides and the like.
Here are a half-dozen American resorts that fit the bill.
This upscale Colorado resort was built with families in mind. Beaver Creek has two areas dedicated to skiers and snowboarders who are just learning to stretch their wings: Haymeadow Park, with its own gondola and chairlift, and the 250-acre McCoy Park, whose 19 green and blue runs are segregated well away from the main mountain traffic. Elsewhere on the mountain, look for the Candy Cabin and Cookie Cabin for sugar pick-me-ups and Eaton Haus, a warming hut that features an interactive nature display.
Known for some of the most gnarly in-bounds terrain in the country, Big Sky has a gentler side on the Southern Comfort high-speed quad, which provides access to nine mile-long green and easy blue runs. Big Sky’s ski school has two programs dedicated to youngsters, the Small Fry program for kids 2 to 4 years old and Mini Camps for children 4-6.
Being the first winter resort in the U.S. to build a water park — and Michigan’s largest such facility— on its premises, you know Boyne Mountain is the place to bring the family. The 415-acre ski hill has 60 runs, 29 of which are rated green. The ski school offers camps for shredders 3 to 6 years old. Also, check out the slopeside Top Notch Tubing hill for extracurricular activities.
Located above the northeast shore of Lake Tahoe, Diamond Peak (pictured above) offers more than spectacular views of Big Blue, especially where families are concerned. All the trails at the relatively compact ski hill (655 acres) funnel down to the base area, so you don’t have to worry about little ones wandering off. The ski school, which has a 6 to 1 pupil to instructor ratio, has a variety of programs aimed at young shredders, and they will provide gear — helmet and goggles excluded — with lessons. Also, kids 6 and under ski free with paying adult.
For the past 50 years — yes, it’s the resort’s golden anniversary — Northstar has gained a reputation as the Tahoe area’s premier family resort. With a plethora of relatively gentle terrain on its front side, there’s nothing too intimidating for youngsters. The ski school, which maxes out at a 6-to-1 pupil-instructor ratio, is noted for its friendly, energetic staff. And there’s complimentary post-ski s’mores in the village. Also, check out the KidZone Museum, which inspires learning through creative play, in nearby Truckee.
Another hill that has deservedly earned a reputation as a prime family gathering place, Smuggs, as the Vermont resort is affectionately known, is a three mountain resort, with 1,200-foot high Morse Mountain — and its three lifts and a dozen runs — ground zero for the little ones to cavort. The resort’s day care center will accept children as young as 6 weeks, and ski school has an adaptive program for kids. There’s also an indoor complex as the base area that houses such off-hill enticements as mini-golf, a bounce house, climbing walls and laser tag.