At these old-fashioned ski resorts, the prices are prehistoric, the T-bar's still operating, and kids have the run of the place.

November 04, 2013

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.

SolVista Basin
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.

Boreal Inn

Soda Springs Winter Resort

Snow King Resort

Inn at Silvercreek

Catering to skiers and outdoor adventurers, the Inn at Silvercreek comprises approximately 350 guest rooms, studios, and suites, some of which are privately owned. Accommodations can be rented from the resort or directly from their owners, and most rooms have a private balcony with mountain views. Public spaces are lodge-like, with exposed-beam ceilings and mounted wild animals, and the property also includes an indoor-outdoor heated pool, three hot tubs, on-site ski rentals, and Harry Lemon’s Bar & Grill, which serves casual pub fare for dinner. Lake Granby, Solvista Basin, and Winter Park Ski Resort are all within a 20-minute drive.

Devil's Thumb Ranch

At the recently updated 5,000-acre ranch just 65 miles from Denver, kids can go candlepin bowling and play billiards while parents unwind in the new earth-toned Ranch Creek Spa, built from reclaimed pine and rockslide stones. Nordic ski trails cater to all levels—even the family dog can join—and movies play nightly in the intimate 37-seat theater. The ranch offers 70 miles of groomed cross-country trails, 12 miles of marked snowshoe trails, and a terrific restaurant for a big meal out. Instead of high-density (and -profit) single-family houses, they built only 16 airy timber cabins, all of them heated and cooled entirely with fireplaces (the wood is harvested on the property, often from beetle-infested pine trees) and geothermal energy.

SolVista Basin

Part of the year-round Granby Ranch mountain community, SolVista Basin is one of Colorado’s most affordable and family-friendly ski areas. The two mountains—each with a vertical drop of approximately 1,000 feet—have a total of 37 trails, 80 percent of which cater to beginner or intermediate-level skiers. In addition, the resort provides professional ski instruction, slope-side lodging, and a variety of family-oriented programs, such as night skiing and tubing, movies, live music, and an annual children’s festival. At the base of the mountains, a deck with a fire pit provides great views of the action on the slopes.

Woodstock Inn & Resort

The 142-room hotel on the town's historic green features working fireplaces and private ski trails.

Quechee Lakes Ski Area

From late October through May, this planned community near the New Hampshire border, which dates to 1969, hosts downhill and cross-country skiing, showshoeing, snowboarding, and horse-drawn sleigh rides. Home buyers in the development gain access to the Quechee Club, a sprawling red, barn-like structure with an outdoor pool, a pair of Geoffrey Cornish golf courses, 12 tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool, and the Grille Room Restaurant. In warmer weather, Lake Pinneo has a life-guarded beach, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and fishing.

Bethel Inn

Located in the western Maine town of Bethel, this Broad Street Historic District inn offers opportunities to golf in the summer, watch the leaves change color in the autumn, and ski, dogsled, or snowmobile in the winter at the nearby Sunday River Ski Resort. The three-building, Colonial-style inn, which dates from 1913, features a health club with a heated pool, whirlpool, and hot tub, and guest suites that include separate living rooms and fireplaces. Chef Robert Bates oversees the dining room, which showcases mountain views and regional New England cuisine, including crab cakes, boneless duck, and Maine lobster stuffed with Bay scallops and rock crab. There’s also a more casual tavern on-site.

Mount Abram Family Resort

This mountain in western Maine features 550 acres of trails for skiing and snowboarding. The mountain promises a few easy runs for beginners, like Weisner’s Way, but the more adventurous can take the Way Back Machine lift to the summit, where double-black diamond runs like The Zone provide more than enough downward velocity. The mountain's terrain park features jumps that allow people to get airborne, and beginners have the option of attending Snow School. The small town of Bethel is only six miles away and provides several lodging and restaurant choices. That said, the lodge at Mt. Abram does have a cafeteria that delivers burgers, pizza, and French fries, as well as a full-service restaurant that serves "sit down" fare.

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