Sunday River, Maine
Sunday River rolls out a big white carpet for your family in Maine along with eight interconnected peaks and the most advanced snowmaking and grooming in the biz. The River’s Perfect Turns program will have your small fry making French fries in no time. Two on-mountain hotels bookend Sunday River’s 870 acres of terrain, and each has an inviting outdoor heated pool and hot tub. The resort puts on an array of events, including fireworks and evening dining at North Peak (via the Chondola) with mascots Eddy and Betty the Yetis.
Okemo gets families. This Vermont resort has tons of terrain, serious snowmaking, a super friendly staff and lots of mountainside condos. Don’t forget the massive Jackson Gore Inn. Snow Stars ski camp and Kids’ Night Out program provide parents the opportunity to ski freely and indulge in Okemo’s exceptional culinary services. Riding Okemo’s two bubble-covered, high-speed lifts is almost as fun as cruising down the mountain on the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster. The Ice House and Spring House for skating and swimming will have your little rippers tuckered in time for bed, a perfect ski day.
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Bretton Woods is New Hampshire’s largest ski area. It’s home to ego-pleasing terrain for learning families and the award-winning Hobbit Ski and Snowboard School. Kids can even climb the walls at Bretton Woods’ base lodge. Cap that off with stunning views of Mount Washington while you ski and the elegant Omni Hotel Mount Washington for après-ski and sophisticated lodging. It’s a winter wonderland, complete with family sleigh rides and the option to snowshoe or dog sled around the castle-like resort property.
Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont
Smugglers Notch hauls in family ski resort awards annually for a reason: They put kids first, which makes parents happy. Smuggs has mascots galore, an innovative Snowsports University for small to tall, a slew of slopeside condos and an exhausting series of family-oriented après-ski in Vermont. One caveat: If high-speed lifts are your thing, you won’t find them here. Slow doubles are conducive to quality conversations though, right?
Sugarbush is ski heaven in Vermont. The Mad River scenery, the snow, and the slopeside village are all picturesque. My kids were “Sugarbears’’ when they were little. The Bush’s ski and ride school continues to be a blast for kids—and comforting to parents. Staying at the Clay Brook Hotel, you are steps to the lifts, lessons, the outdoor pool and jacuzzi, and the Skinny Pancake for a yummy breakfast. For parents in pursuit of powder while the kids are happy at ski camp, hop on the Lincoln Limo for first tracks in the morning (perhaps accompanied by owner Win Smith) or sign up for a Slidebrook ski tour with extreme ski film star John Egan.
Sugarloaf is a big mountain, with a correspondingly big following among families. It may be a long drive for most in New England, but the Maine mountain fosters a sense of loyalty like no other ski resort. The exceptional Mountain Magic ski camps for kids, the compact ski village, family events like the glowlight parade and mascot dinners with Amos the Moose and Blueberry Bear make it worthwhile. Warning: Sugarloaf can be chilly, and the terrain here is hearty.
Loon Mountain, New Hampshire
Loon Mountain Resort is easy to get to, just off I-93. Particularly popular with teenagers, Loon boasts pumped up terrain parks, zip lining over the Pemigewasset River, ice skating, a climbing wall and a kid-sized spider web for playing. Don’t forget about some of the best trail skiing in New Hampshire. Add in the amusing town of Lincoln with movie theatres, shopping, loads of condo lodging and the annual Ice Castle (very cool, literally), and Loon is a good call.
Stowe is a special place to go once your kids are skiing black diamonds. The revered “Front Four’’ trails offer the most challenging terrain in the East. On the softer side, the Stowe Mountain Lodge is like a Rocky Mountain retreat in Vermont. This regal slopeside hotel has a stellar outdoor pool, ice rink and a ski concierge that takes the hassle out of hauling your gear. A twilight snowshoe tour is one special Stowe après-ski activity, with snowmobiling and ice climbing also options for those want to up the adrenaline factor.