14 Incredible Family Ski Resorts for 2014
Families are already hitting the slopes this season, and there's no shortage of phenomenal ski experiences crafted just for kids of all ages across North America. Ski resorts are continuing to add amenities and services that guarantee fun and excitement on and off the mountain.
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Ski enthusiast family travel experts from around the country have joined forces to recommend the best family ski resorts for the 2014 season:
Aspen/Snowmass is fab for families because they can ski or board four distinctly different mountains with one lift ticket. Teens might head to the steep powder at Aspen Highlands, while 10-year-old snowboarders hit the terrain parks at Snowmass. Novices of all ages will appreciate gentle Panda Hill at Buttermilk. If the entire family is experienced on the slopes, head for in-town, intermediate Aspen Mountain. New for the 2013/2014 season: gladed terrain in the hike-to Highland Bowl for extreme-skiing families; Slopeside Lanes bowling alley in Snowmass; a design-your-own salad bar at Buttermilk; and M&M Catering & Cooking School with fun classes for kids.
Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado pampers all ages. Their new Ski School Ambassadors ensure there's zero struggle to figure out mountain and lesson logistics. Families love the Buckaroo Gondola and The Ranch, a state-of-the-art ski and snowboard school designed just for little learners. The plethora of upscale accommodations from The Osprey to The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch paired with guest-centric services and activities including daily Cookie Time at 3 p.m. in Beaver Creek Village to the Family FunFest Carnival on Saturdays, create a dream ski destination for luxury-loving families.
Big White, located deep in the Okanagan of British Columbia, is one of the best-kept secrets of family skiing. With a pedestrian-only village and 100 percent ski-in, ski-out lodging, kids rule at Big White. The resort offers more family-friendly activities than an average cruise ship, including weekly carnivals, hockey nights, bonfires, and tubing. Their adventure center features ice climbing, dog sledding, and snowmobiling, and their slopes have terrain to keep everyone happy.
As if snow enthusiasts needed another reason to book a family trip to Breckenridge Ski Resort this season, Peak 6 the biggest terrain expansion worldwide in the past decade opened on Christmas day. This project has been years in the making, and includes two new lifts, 540 new acres, and high-alpine, intermediate bowl skiing which is unusual in North America. Besides family-friendly terrain, the resort has a world-class ski school, four terrain parks, and an authentic, hip mountain town with over 200 restaurants, bars, and shops just two hours from Denver.
After closing for the 2012-13 ski season, June Mountain reopened with a family focus. Kids 12 and under ski and ride free without blackout dates or restrictions, and lift tickets from nearby Mammoth Mountain are honored at June's lifts, making this small, community ski resort a great deal for vacationers. June Mountain offers some of the best off-piste terrain in the west, but nearly half of it's trails are intermediate terrain for learners and cruisers. June's iconic Meadow Chalet reminds skiers of a bygone age, and the views from the wrap-around deck include the not-so-distant boundary of Yosemite National Park.
Keystone Resort, an easy shuttle ride from the Denver International Airport, caters to families with an array of condominium options; many of which are just steps away from the gondola. Camp Keystone is a colorful, upbeat home base for young children in the excellent ski school program. Kids 12 and under ski free if families book Keystone Resort lodging for a minimum of just two nights, with no blackout dates. Family fun includes a steep tubing hill, two outdoor ice skating rinks, and a giant snow fort. New for 2013-14: a learning family ski trail on green cruiser Schoolmarm, dubbed the Schoolyard; it has gentle Rockin Rollers that mimic the natural hills that occur on the slopes, as well as banks in Tornado Alley that help kids develop their turn shape.
Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort has long been a family favorite for winter skiing. With it's bluebird skies and powdery snow, Mt. Bachelor makes it worth the drive over the pass from Portland, Oregon. The mountain has ample runs for every level and great restaurants to warm up and enjoy local microbrews. At Mt. Bachelor, kids 12 and under ski free with the purchase of an adult lift ticket of three days or more. Nearby Sunriver Resort is the ultimate family destination with accommodations to fit every family, including the luxurious Sunriver Lodge and various homes and condos.
It's no secret that Northstar Resort is Shaun White's home mountain. Even if kids aren't quite ready to try the massive half pipe, they'll love the Burton Progression Park where elements start at just inches off the ground and get tougher from there. Other perks include the large number of blue trails and some of the best glades skiing west of the Rockies, plus the chill California atmosphere in the ski-in, ski-out village where the kids can skate or bungee jump while adults lounge in cabanas and soak up the sun. Northstar is an easy drive from the Reno-Tahoe Airport and is close to both Lake Tahoe and the vibrant town of Truckee where the first Friday of every month sees participating downtown shops and restaurants offer complimentary art, food, drinks, and music.
Park City Mountain Resort
A trip to Park City, Utah, is a powder hounds dream come true. This year all three ski resorts, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort, and The Canyons, we're voted top 10 ski resorts by Ski Magazine. Families can wear long johns on the plane since it's only a 30-minute drive from Salt Lake City to the slopes. Park City Mountain Resort guarantees a maximum of five students per ski school class, making it a favorite among moms and tots. After ski school take a thrill ride on the Alpine Coaster or a sky high ride on the Flying Eagle ZipLine, which is safe and fun for even little ones.
Ski areas just don't come more family-friendly than Smuggs. From the Treasures slopeside daycare center with it's own tiny carpet lift to the Burton Riglet Park, the youngest children can learn to ski or board here. The ski school programs are second to none, with experienced instructors and an entire area of the mountain dedicated to kid-friendly fun (elements here include a schoolhouse that kids can ski through and ring the bell). The FunZone is a huge indoor play area with a giant slide, obstacle course, and more. And keep your eye out for Rockin Ron the friendly pirate, who serenades guests with his fun songs daily.
Stratton Mountain is one of Vermonts most family-friendly resorts with a range of accommodations including condominiums and the newly remodeled Black Bear Lodge where guests enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast, a short shuttle to the slopes. Stratton has childcare for ages 6 weeks and older, full-day ski and snowboard programs for ages 4 to 14, and even options for teens to join seasonal programs for camaraderie and coaching. New for 2013-14 is the Firetower Restaurant and Tavern where families can order take-away from the chairlift on a smartphone, pay with PayPal, and pick it all up on the way back to their mountain home. Visit Stratton.com for more information. Dana Freeman, FindandGoSeek.net
Sugar Bowl Resort gets more white fluffy goodness than any other resort in the Lake Tahoe basin and it's prime location before Donner Summit on Highway 80 means families can save themselves hours in the car when driving conditions are poor. Its one of the best family ski resorts in the country with a variety of terrain for all abilities, an outstanding ski school program that offers a 3:1 ratio for all levels, and an old-school "no attitude" atmosphere. Theyve invested millions in the resort this year, including the addition of the new Crows Peak chairlift to what was previously hike-only expert terrain.
Families that have skied at Sun Valley Resort are hooked for life. The resorts dedicated learn-to-ski mountain, Dollar Mountain, has pint-sized everything for kids, including a gorgeous day lodge. The addition of North Americas biggest super pipe this season 620 feet long with 22-foot walls is bringing Olympic fever to Sun Valley. And the resorts signature mountain, Baldy, never disappoints, as it offers 2,900 acres and over 3,100 feet of vertical bliss paired with notoriously non-existent lift lines.
Whistler may be known worldwide for hosting the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, but for those living in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, it's an easy ski destination for the whole family no matter what your skill level is. Since the resort is just an hour north of the Vancouver Airport and about a four-hour drive from Seattle, it's convenient to come for the weekend or spend a week downhill skiing, snowboarding, and Nordic skiing Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains 200 trails with 37 lifts. Fifteen on-mountain restaurants allow guests to fuel up and warm up between runs, but it's the village restaurants that really shine. As always, children six and under ski free with a paying adult.
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