Don’t pack up the family for a ski trip without a plan. That might invite an on-mountain meltdown — from the parents or the kids. Instead, find a ski resort that’s prepared for your entire family. Look for reliable snowmaking and grooming, well-organized lessons if needed and maybe even ski in, ski out lodging. And don’t forget the après ski activities like torchlight parades and snow tubing.
When it comes to accommodating skiers of all ages, New England resorts have stepped up their game in recent years. Here are 10 New England ski resorts that are ready to help you create a memorable and fun experience for everyone in the family:
Okemo knows families. This Vermont ski resort has a friendly staff, tons of terrain, serious snowmaking and a slew of mountainside condos to go along with the massive Jackson Gore Inn. Snow Stars Ski Camp and Kids’ Night Out provide parents the opportunity to ski freely and indulge in Okemo’s exceptional on-mountain cuisine (Check out Epic, it’s just that). Riding Okemo’s two bubble-covered high-speed lifts is almost as fun as cruising down the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster after skiing. The Ice House and Spring House for skating and swimming will have your little rippers tuckered out in time for bed, a perfect ski day.
Sunday River, Maine
Sunday River rolls out a big white carpet for parents and kids on eight interconnected peaks, thanks to the most advanced snowmaking and grooming in the biz. Two on-mountain hotels bookend Sunday River’s 870 acres of terrain; each has an inviting outdoor heated pool and hot tub. The River puts out a roster of events: night skiing, fireworks and evening entertainment like family dinners via the Chondola at North Peak with mascots Eddy and Betty the Yetis. Put your kids in Mogul Munchkin or Meisters ski camp and they’ll graduate from pizza pie to french fries in no time.
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s largest ski area is also home to the most ego-pleasing terrain for learning families, and the award-winning Hobbit Ski and Snowboard School for 4-12 year olds. It even has the Babes in the Woods Nursery offering slopeside daycare for those as young as 2 months old. Parents, meanwhile, should be wowed by the stunning views of Mount Washington and the elegant Omni Mount Washington Hotel — first opened in 1902 — for après ski and grand old-world lodging. Take the family on a sleigh ride, snowshoeing or snowmobiling around the castle-like resort property. It’s a winter wonderland.
Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont
Why is Smugglers’ Notch continuously awarded the No. 1 kid-friendly resort? Simple: It puts kids first, which makes parents happy too. Smuggs’ Snow Sport University starts kids skiing as early as 2 ½. To help parents keep track of their adventurous youngsters, Smuggs’ equips each child with a Flaik GPS that shows their location at every moment. It also includes their miles, trails skied and vertical at day’s end. Smuggs is part Disney with their fuzzy mascots, and part cruise ship with the slew of family activities, from tubing to talent shows and kid karaoke. On the flip side, Smuggs’ upper mountain ski terrain is some of the most challenging around for parents who are old pros. The only thing they haven’t smuggled in to Smugglers is high-speed lifts, so sit back, relax and enjoy quality family time and the Notch view on the deliberate double chairs.
Seemingly plucked from a ski postcard, Sugarbush is set against pastoral Mad River Valley scenery and boasts plentiful snow and a slopeside village of red barns and a schoolhouse where kids’ lessons start. My kids were “Sugar Bears” when they were little, and the Bush’s ski and ride school has only gotten better. It’s motto: “Be better here.” Staying at the Clay Brook Hotel, you are steps to the lifts, lessons, outdoor pool and hot tubs, and the Skinny Pancake for a yummy breakfast. For parents in pursuit of powder, get on the Lincoln Limo for first tracks, or sign up for an adventure with extreme ski film star John Egan.
Sugarloaf is a big mountain, with a big following of families. The Loaf fosters a sense of loyalty like no other ski resort. It’s a long drive, but the exceptional Mountain Magic ski camps, the compact ski village, and family events like glow light parades, fireworks and mascot dinners with Amos the Moose and Blueberry Bear make it worthwhile. Warning: Sugarloaf can be chilly, and the terrain is hearty. Don’t rule out an April family ski vacation at the Loaf, when it really shines.
Jay Peak, Vermont
Knowing kids love water perhaps more than snow, Jay Peak built a 60,000-square foot indoor waterpark, The Pump House. Kids will be pumped to ski then après ski on waterslides, a lazy river, and flow rider surf simulator. Parents can soak in hot tubs, or enjoy beverages at The Drink. Jay Peak also has three ski in, ski out hotels. Parents will love staying at the posh Hotel Jay — with complimentary valet, suites with fireplaces, huge slope-view windows, and RFID room keys that work as lift tickets. The alpine-themed Tram Haus offers authentic Vermont décor lodging, while Stateside Hotel is the most affordable and closest to the Mountain Kids Adventure Center. What hasn’t changed at Jay Peak amid the upgrades through the years is the classic trail skiing and bounteous glades, from mellow to moderate to gnarly to suit everyone’s skills.
Burke Mountain, Vermont
Burke Mountain may be Vermont’s best kept ski secret. It’s easy to get to (take I-93 all the way, one hour beyond Loon), yet relatively few families seem to find it. Sister resort to Jay Peak, Burke has also seen big investment in recent years. The Burke Mountain Hotel is beautifully appointed, steps to the slopes, with everything you need: ski lockers, outdoor pool and hot tub, the Vertical Drop ski shop, an arcade for kids, the casual View Pub, and more formal dining in Willoughby’s Restaurant. Burke has reasonable ski-and-stay packages. The ski terrain at Burke is authentic Vermont trails, served by two overlapping high-speed quads, and stellar views of the North East kingdom. Burke is small enough that you don’t have to worry about losing track of your kids, but big enough to get some serious turns in.
Loon Mountain, New Hampshire
Loon Mountain Resort is easy to reach, just off I-93, and particularly popular with teens. Loon has pumped up terrain parks, zip lining over the Pemigewasset River, ice skating, a climbing wall and spider web, plus some of the best trail skiing in New Hampshire. Add in the amusing town of Lincoln with movie theaters, shopping, loads of condo lodging and the annual Ice Castles (very cool, literally), Loon is a good call.
Once your kids are ripping up black diamonds respectably, Stowe is the place to go. Sure, it’s pricier than others, but for true skiers it’s worth it. It boasts the Front Four: Goat, Starr, National and Nose Dive. Be ready for some of the most challenging drops in the East. On the softer side, the Stowe Mountain Lodge is Rocky Mountain regal — think Beaver Creek without the flight. Twirl on the ice rink, soak in the stellar outdoor pool, sip cocktails in the sophisticated birch tree-lined lobby. Your ski concierge will fetch your skis and have your ski boots warm and fluffy for first gondola in the morning.
Contact Heather Burke @FamilySkiTrips.