Ski vacations can be a great option for the whole family, but when it comes to figuring out when to go, where to go, how much to spend, and how to prepare the kids, it can all get overwhelming.
To help you and your family enjoy a memorable ski getaway, we've pulled together our top tips, from resorts where you'll find kid-friendly amenities to the best gear for bundling up properly.
When to Go
Since school holidays typically line up with national holidays, they tend to be some of the more expensive and busier weeks on the slopes. Taking the kids out of school to go skiing may not be the most responsible parenting maneuver, but we won't tell if you do.
According to Ski.com, you'll typically find cheaper rates at popular hotels during the third week of January and the second week of February, according to ski package comparison website, Snowpak, while the number of bookings also drop towards the end of April, particularly the week of April 17, giving you the chance to ski crowds free with prime weather conditions at resorts that remain open.
Where to Go
You’ll want to consider how close the resort’s access is to the slopes and whether it offers family-friendly activities. Look for resorts that have slope side accommodations, as this will make it easier to carry your equipment and get to the action faster, and for those that offer fun both on and off the slopes.
Les Arcs 1950 in France is a pedestrian-only ski resort that's ski-in and ski-out, giving you access to Paradiski, the world's second largest ski area, in a calm atmosphere where beginner runs are just steps away from the accommodations.
Colorado's Keystone includes face painting, fort building, scavenger hunts, cookie hours, and disco tubing and their kids ski free promotion, where kids 12 and under can ski free with a two-nights stay, while Beaver Creek treats kids to free hot cocoa served on lifts, freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies, and what's been dubbed “The Ivy League of ski schools.”
Big Sky in Montana is also a great choice, as its Moonlight Basin's entire bottom left-half consists green trails for beginners and a Family Fun Zone at the base of the mountain invites kids to enjoy tubing and a terrain park at the end of the day.
Despite its more challenging ski terrain, Whistler Blackcomb in Canada has various child care programs, adventure zones on the mountain, indoor Nintendo gaming lounges, and activities like indoor rock climbing and a trampoline park to enjoy.
Finally, for families looking to wander through a charming mountain village, California's Lake Tahoe is ideal, with plenty of kid's activities that include sleigh rides, skating rinks, tubing, snow play zones, an array of ski school options, and an on-resort childcare facility for when parents want to take an extra run.
Resorts’ rules in regards to ski schools and lessons can vary greatly, so be sure to look into factors like what their minimum age requirements are, whether they offer both half day and full day lessons, and how many people they allow in a private session.
You might be surprised to learn that if you’re trying to get lessons as a family, taking a private lesson can sometimes be cheaper since most resorts, like Sun Valley and Homewood, will accept as many as five people per lesson.
Parents can also take advantage of the Learn to Ski Passport program and the Kids Ski Free Passport program, which gives third and fourth graders a lift ticket, lesson, and equipment rental for free at over 20 participating ski areas in New York (though there’s a $26 processing free).
Finally, a mountain tour is a great way to get to know the lay of the land and see what different trails offer.
What to Buy
“Helmet use to prevent head injuries is the most important aspect of ski safety,” Mindy Brittner, Postdoctoral Clinical Fellow in the Department of Pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, told Travel + Leisure. “You’ll also want to make sure kids have equipment that fits them properly and is waterproof; otherwise, kids are very resilient,” Brittner added.
Mittens also provide more warmth than gloves, according to Brittner.
Liftopia recommends going for waterproof jacket that is breathable, with removable hoods like this insulated winter jacket from Columbia, which also comes with a snap-back powder skirt. If the jacket has an integral hood, ensure that it can fit over your helmet. Pants should also be waterproof and insulated, with high-waist and bib-style options with a detachable strap, like this number from Arctix Youth, providing warmth and ease for younger children, according to REI.
Finally, helmets not only provide warmth, but they also help prevent head-related injuries—the most common cause of death on the mountains, according to Brittner.