If your children are anything like ours, their eyes glimmer at the prospect of snow, and their faces light up entirely when they awake to find a heavy white powder covering the ground. So treat the kids — and yourselves — to winter wonderland fun by visiting these great destinations, sure to be drenched in white all winter long. Each destination is a ski resort, but even if your family isn’t full of ski bunnies, you’ll find plenty of outdoor fun, as well as cozy resorts to warm up in at the end of the day.
Aptly named after the trees that envelope its mountains, Aspen is one of the West's oldest towns. Booming in the 1800's during the Gold Rush and becoming a ski mountain in the 1940's, Aspen now attracts the outdoor-loving set, whom hit its mountains for skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling, as well as summer and fall hiking, biking, whitewater rafting and horseback riding adventures. Located in Fork Valley, the city is close to Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk Mountain and Snowmass Mountain. At its base, Aspen Mountain is nearly 8,000 feet, climbing to 11,212 feet at the summit. Seventy-six trails keep powder lovers occupied from late November through mid-April. However, Aspen is not for beginners -- there aren't any green trails on this mountain. Instead, new skiers and boarders should traverse the trails at Buttermilk and Snowmass, the two most family-friendly mountains of the four.
Snowmass is comprised of two entities: the world-renowned ski area and the Town of Snowmass Village. Together, they offer visiting families a wealth of outdoor activities, lots of condominium lodging options and casual spots to eat. Unlike some other Colorado resorts, Snowmass doesn't have a sense of Old West history. Snowmass first opened to skiers in 1967; one original ski lodge for budget-minded travelers, the Snowmass Inn, is still in business. The Snowmass Village Mall has historically been the center of activity with its slopeside shops and restaurants. Families flock to Snowmass in the winter months because of the mountain's incredibly varied ski terrain -- 91 trails on more than 3,000 acres with an incredible 4,406-foot vertical drop. That's higher than four Eiffel Towers! A stellar ski school introduces the sport to children as young as 2.5 years in a safe and fun environment at the Treehouse Kids Adventure Center. Snowmass is also incredibly appealing in the summertime, with Colorado's temperate climate, low humidity and blue-sky days.
With 4,200 skiable acres, Lake Louise Ski Area & Mountain Resort features 139 green, blue, black diamond and double-black diamond ski trails. The resort's terrain park provides an assortment of rails, jumps and jibs for all skiing and snowboarding levels. For those who are just starting out or looking to fine-tune their skills, Lake Louise Ski Area offers a ski and snowboarding school. KinderSki offers one- and two-hour ski and play programs for kids ages 3 and 4, and the Lake Louise Ski Area Daycare offers supervised activities for kids ages 6 and under. If you are in need of rental equipment, the resort offers skis, snowboards, boots, helmets and children's equipment. Ski and snowboarding rental packages are also available. With plenty of lodging throughout the area, families can easily find something to meet their needs. From cozy lodges and hotel rooms to rustic chalets and spacious condo units, the Banff-Lake Louise area has it all.
What makes this city so special, you ask? It's the fact that Park City is an authentic community -- not a prefabricated resort area like Whistler or Beaver Creek -- made with skiers in mind. Though it's where many athletes earned gold medals at the 2002 Winter Olympics, the city originally gained fame for silver, discovered in the late 1860's. The mineral yielded 23 millionaires, including the father of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. When mineral prices fell in the 1930's, Park City turned its focus to what would become the area's next form of currency -- skiing. Today, Mother Nature blesses the city's mountains with a seemingly endless supply of snow. Seasoned skiers and snowboarders frequent the popular Park City Mountain Resort. Visitors also enjoy All Seasons Adventures, which leads hour-long dogsledding trips through the Wasatch and Uinta Mountain ranges. Tubers especially love Gorgoza Park, and families enjoy trips to Utah Olympic Park or Park City Ice Arena, an indoor skating rink.
Especially fun is One Steamboat Place, which offers stores, restaurants and resort services, such as the convenient Ski & Snowboard School ticket office. Steamboat Ski Resort features 165 trails on nearly 3,000 acres of land. While it challenges the most adept skiers, the resort is also known for its top-notch children's ski school. The Kids' Vacation Center provides child care for kids ages 6 months to 6 years. The slopeside center is also where children meet for ski and boarding lessons; kids as young as 30 months (and potty trained) can strap on skis for an hour-long introduction to the sport. Preschoolers through teenagers can choose from half-, full- and multi-day learning programs for all ability levels, including race camps and terrain-park training. Of course, lessons and rentals are offered for grown-ups, too! Not a skiing family? Other outdoor winter activities in Steamboat Springs include snowmobiling, tubing, ice skating and snowshoeing.
With major real estate on Vermont's largest mountain, the Stowe Mountain Resort features 485 acres of terrain for skiing and snowboarding newbies, enthusiasts and experts. Stowe features 116 trails, with a total of 13 lifts, and two freestyle terrain parks. Although the terrain park features an 18-inch wall, a halfpipe and variety of other challenging features, there are small and medium size jumps and rails for those looking to try it out or build up their skills. Stowe offers several lessons and programs at their ski and snowboarding school for adults and children. Choose from private and group lessons, full-day programs for kids, or lift and lesson packages for adults. Childcare services are available at the Cubs Day Care for kids 13 months to 3 years.
Surrounded by Maine's Western Mountains, this resort is a great year-round family destination. Avid skiers and snowboarding families flock to this family-friendly resort, located on 900 developed acres of skiable area with 139 trails and glades. There are a variety of riding trails to choose from, ranging from easy to expert, as well as three terrain parks for beginners, intermediate and advanced riders. Great for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities, Sugarloaf offers group programs and private lessons for adults and children. Other winter activities for families include tubing, ice skating, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Take advantage of the scheduled activities for children, which are offered daily. Kids can start the weekend with the special Kids' Night Out program for ages 5 to 10, featuring movies, pizza, games and more. Sugarloaf offers a full assortment of lodging options and accommodations. From standard hotel rooms to three-bedroom suites and four-bedroom condo units, families of all sizes can be accommodated.
With gorgeous trails, fresh mountain powder, winter activities galore and perfect ski weather, it's no wonder the resort offers some of the best skiing and snowboarding around. The main mountain at Sun Valley stretches over 2,000 acres, offering miles upon miles of endless terrain for riders. Full of trails for all skill levels, the resort features green, blue and black diamond trails, as well as a ski and snowboard half-pipe. Catering to the needs of beginners, the resort provides a smaller mountain for those that are just starting out. With more than 10 runs and five lifts, this mountain offers gently groomed slopes for a great beginners' experience. This mountain also offers two progression parks and a world-class terrain park with rails and jumps for more experienced riders. Private and group lessons are available on both mountains for adults and children. Private lessons are available for kids 3 and up while children's group lessons are available for skiers ages 4 to 12 and for snowboarders ages 6 to 12. Adult and children's sessions are tailored to each rider's specific needs and abilities for an ultimate fun learning experience. Sun Valley Resort features four day-lodge facilities at the base of the mountains, perfect for grabbing a bite to eat. Munch on pizza, pastas and deli favorites while you warm up chilly fingers and toes.
Rich with history and historical prevalence, Taos Ski Valley is one of the few family owned and operated ski resorts in America. Originally a ski-exclusive resort, Taos opened its doors to snowboarding for the first time in 2008. Today, avid skiers and snowboarders flock to this snow-covered mountain for some of the best trails and riding experiences around. With more than 1,200 acres, 110 trails and 13 lifts, this New Mexico ski resort features a variety of terrains for all skill levels. The resort's trails are evenly dispersed, with beginner and intermediate terrains making up 50 percent, and the other 50 percent dedicated to advanced and expert terrain. The resort features a children's center with a variety of fun-filled activities for kids of all ages. The nursery staff offers childcare to children 6 weeks to 1 year. Indoor activities, snow play and tasty snacks are provided for children ages 1 to 3, with half-, full- and multiple-day sessions available. Kids 3 and up can participate in a variety of ski and snowboarding programs, allowing them to learn the basics of riding and work on new skills and abilities. With plenty of lodging throughout the area, families can easily find something that will fit their needs and budget.
With charming White Mountains surrounding this picturesque New Hampshire resort, families will enjoy all Waterville Valley has to offer. In the winter, Waterville Valley turns into a skiing and snowboarding haven with 259 acres of skiable terrain, 52 trails and 12 lifts. Snowmaking covers 100 percent of Waterville's skiable acres, so families can enjoy each of the beginner, intermediate and advanced trails throughout the resort. Whether it's your first day on the slopes, or you're looking to perfect your boarding skills, there are private and group lessons for adults and children. Kids' Venture Kamps offer full-day skiing and snowboarding lessons for children 3 to 12. Lunch, snacks and lift tickets are included in most lesson packages. Rentals are also available at a discounted rate, along with half- and multiple-day lessons. Whether you are looking for a cozy and comfortable hotel stay, or for some extra room for the family in a condo, this mountain village has it all. Choose from an assortment of family-friendly accommodations including all-suite lodges, full service hotels or one- and two-bedroom units with full kitchens and spacious living areas. Make use of rooms with fully equipped kitchens, or choose from a variety of family dining options nearby.
There are many reasons why Whistler is consistently ranked among the best ski resorts. First and foremost, Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are huge. Together, they make up the biggest ski domain this side of the Alps. With more than 5,000 vertical feet of skiing and a gigantic number of skiable chutes, bowls, and tree-lined cruisers, you are just beginning to know your way around these mountains after a week's stay. Add a mind-boggling panorama from the summit and a modern base village with excellent dining choices, and you get the full picture. At the base of Whistler, pedestrian plazas are connected by cobblestone walkways with low-lying boutique shops and restaurants that don't obstruct the view of the twin peaks. Top-level hoteliers like the Fairmont and Four Seasons have found their way to the slippery slopes and will do almost anything to make sure your stay is a comfortable one. Whistler is also home to one of the longest ski and snowboarding seasons in North America. The resort opens in mid-November and closes in mid-June. Not merely content to offer some 200-plus trails on more than 7,000 acres of terrain, Whistler also has backcountry skiing, beyond the boundaries of the ski area. Professional guides take intermediate and advanced skiers on full-day adventures through pristine powder.