Okemo, Vermont by Dana White
One of the few small privately owned resorts left on the East Coast, Ludlow, Vermont's Okemo (554 acres, 2,150 vertical feet) does everything to make a family ski trip a breeze. Besides specialized instruction for kids of every age—from preschoolers to the Clearasil set—it's the little things here that mean a lot. A "basket room" in the base lodge gives parents all-day access to bags and dry clothes for a flat rate of $2. There are free lift tickets for skiers six and under. And the hard-charging college crowd tends to head elsewhere, which gives you peace of mind to let the kids explore by themselves.
Best places to stay: The 50-room, 40-villa Hawk Inn & Mountain Resort (800/685-4295; doubles from $250, kids free) is a Colonial-style hotel in Plymouth, 10 minutes from the slopes. With an indoor-outdoor pool and fitness center, ice skating, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and cross-country skiing on the 1,200 acre property, it won't be tough to fill your time there. On the mountain, you can rent from Okemo Mountain Condos (800/786-5366; from $421 a night, kids under 12 free) and have a kitchen, washer and dryer, and the all-important VCR. Best cruising run: Sapphire, with spectacular views of the Black River Valley and New Hampshire's Mount Washington on the horizon. Best new sport: SnowBlading, like ice-skating on snow (the blades resemble mini-skis). Every Friday, you can try a pair of SnowBlades free at the Salomon Oasis Demo Center next to the Sugar House Lodge (802/228-1615; all-day rentals $20). Best on-mountain lunch: The Gables (lunch for four $50), an airy dining spot in the Solitude Day Lodge with a great portobello mushroom sandwich and crab cakes. Best chances of finding your kid at 4 p.m.: Head to the Zone, an après-ski hangout with a yurt where kids can warm up and grab a snack. Local way to stay in touch: The Snow Stars Center and Penguin Playground (802/228-1780) rents pagers for $10 a day. Best New England moment: On the way to Okemo via Route 103 you'll pass through Chester, a quaint village with a row of stone houses that date back to the 1830's. Best place to buy maple syrup: The Green Mountain Sugar House (820 Rte. 100 N.; 802/228-7151) four miles from Okemo. You can also watch them make the sweet stuff. General information: 800/786-5366 or 802/228-4041; www.okemo.com.