Are you sick of slick, super-sized, staggeringly expensive ski resorts?Wouldn't it be great to find a friendly little ski area where you could set the kids loose, without having to hack into the college fund?Well, these places do exist. In fact, some, like the ﬁve listed here, are down the road from the biggest, best-known resorts. Sure, you may give up vertical feet and speedy lifts, but you also do away with end-of-the-world parking lots and mobbed cafeterias. And what you get is exactly what drove this country's downhill pioneers to rig up those rope tows in the first place—the simple pleasures of playing in the snow.
Mount Abram Family Resort
Greenwood, Maine; 207/875-5000; www.skimtabram.com; adults $41, kids 6–12 $31. Skiers and snowboarders here are treated to summit views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range—and to old-time New England skiing served by two chairlifts, a T-bar, a rope tow, and a tubing lift. The warm, unpretentious base lodge is perfect for brown baggers.
Big-Shot Neighbor Sunday River Resort, 12 miles away.
Best Feature Family members of all abilities will be happy on the 41 trails, which range from easy boulevards to ungroomed glades and narrow bump runs.
Such a Deal Two-for-one lift tickets on Thursdays and Fridays.
Where to Stay The Bethel Inn (800/654-0125; www.bethelinn.com), in its eponymous historic village six miles from the slopes, has traditional rooms in the main building as well as one- to three-bedroom town houses at its extensive cross-country skiing center. Three-day, two-night family ski packages, starting at $599 for four, include Mount Abram lift tickets, cross-country skiing, breakfast, and more.
Quechee Lakes Ski Area
Quechee, Vt.; 802/295-9356; www.quecheeclub.com; adults $35, kids $28, six and under free; open Friday–Sunday and holiday weeks only. Just east of Woodstock, one of Vermont's prettiest, most sophisticated villages, this cozy area has 100 acres of beginner and intermediate slopes suited for those new to skiing and snowboarding.
Big-Shot Neighbor Killington, 27 miles away.
Best Feature The horse-drawn sleigh that delivers you from the base lodge to the ticket booth will make you feel as if you've schussed your way into a Christmas card.
Such a Deal After 2 p.m. adults ski for $10, kids for $8. The beginner-slope rope tow is always free.
Where to Stay The elegant Woodstock Inn & Resort (800/448-7900; www.woodstockinn.com; doubles from $274) has 142 rooms and suites, some with working fireplaces.
Granby, Colo.; 888/283-7458; www.solvista.com; adults $41, kids 6–12 $17, seniors $27, over 70 free. Seventy-nine miles northwest of Denver, in rolling ranch country just below the Continental Divide, this sunny, 400-acre resort has 33 broad beginner and intermediate runs on two interconnected mountains, clusters of slopeside condos, a standout ski school, and 25 miles of Nordic ski trails nearby. In Tabernash, the Devil's Thumb Ranch (www.devilsthumbranch.com) offers another 70 miles of groomed cross-country trails, 12 miles of marked snowshoe trails, and a terrific restaurant for a big meal out.
Big-Shot Neighbor Winter Park Resort, 15 miles away.
Best Feature All runs on both mountains lead to a central lodge; your kids will never wonder where to meet you.
Such a Deal The $99 Get on the Snow package for beginners includes two days of lift tickets, lessons, and rentals, plus a free pass for the rest of the season. Advance purchase required.
Where to Stay The Inn at Silver Creek (800/757-7669; doubles from $139) has 243 rooms and condos, as well as a game room, pool, hot tubs, and health club—all a quick shuttle ride from the slopes.
Snow King Resort
Jackson Hole, Wyo.; 800/522-5464; www.snowking.com; adults $35, children under 14 $25. Jackson Hole's first ski hill has three chairlifts, a rope tow, and plenty to keep your family busy. There's night skiing, a tubing park, a terrain park, snowshoeing, and a skating rink. Save a day to explore nearby Yellowstone National Park.
Big-Shot Neighbor Jackson Hole Mountain, 12 miles away.
Best Feature The ski area is within walking distance of the shops, restaurants, and galleries of Jackson's historic town square.
Such a Deal The resort's Ski Free package (including lodging at the 204-room Snow King Resort Hotel, lift ticket, breakfast, and airport transfers) starts at $55 per adult; kids 13 and under stay and ski free when sharing a room with two adults.
Soda Springs Winter Resort
Truckee, Calif.; 530/426-3901; www.skisodasprings.com; adults $25, kids 8–17 $16, 7 and under $10. Atop snow-smothered Donner Summit, less than two hours from Sacramento, this 1930's-era hill packs a lot into its 200 acres. Five lifts lead to 16 wide, mostly beginner and intermediate trails and two terrain parks, including one scaled down just for kids. Your lift ticket is also good for night skiing at nearby sister resort Boreal.
Big-Shot Neighbor Squaw Valley, about 20 miles away.
Best Feature Tubing is huge here: there's one lift-served park for older kids, one for younger kids, and a tubing carousel ride for the smallest sliders. Thrill seekers ages 6 to 12 can take mini snowmobiles for a spin around a small track.
Such a Deal Children 12 and under can rent gear, get a short lesson, and use the moving-carpet lift for $10.
Where to Stay A few miles from the slopes, the Boreal Motel (530/ 426-1012; www.rideboreal.com; doubles from $90) has clean, basic rooms with microwaves and mini fridges.