The Best Family Ski Resorts – USA

You both love skiing. Before the children came along, you’d go on skiing vacations together. Now it seems so much harder. It’s more expensive, more difficult to organise, and you risk suffering screaming, upset, tearful kids. But get a grip of yourself. Plan slowly, pick carefully, budget wisely, and a skiing vacation can be amazingly successful for the whole family. For show me a 5 year old that doesn’t get a kick out of sliding down the snow, and I’ll introduce you to the real Father Christmas. Family-friendly resorts are not that hard to find – avoid the double-black obsessed, the luxury hotel centered, or the limited ‘things to do’ resorts. Here are 3 possibilites that tick all the boxes to make a truly memorable family vacation.

#1 Big Sky, Montana

Big Sky is located in the spectacular wilderness area of South Western Montana, just a few miles from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. There’s a good range of terrain to suit all skiing abilities, all the way from first-timers to experienced double-black addicts.

 Accomodation in the ski village is convenient and modern, and for the most part of the ski season, ski-in, ski-out. Thanks to its small quiet ski village, wide uncrowded slopes, and great kids’ ski school, Big Sky is a big hit with families.



 #2 Steamboat, Colorado

When you decide to Ski Steamboat Colorado, you’ve made a great choice. The town has the nickname ‘Ski Town USA’, and it’s well-earned, because many say the skiing is better than anywhere. The town is split into two, the old downtown section, dating back to the 19th century, with an authentic cowboy ambiance, and the more modern ‘Mountain Area’ village higher up the valley, spread out in front of the gondola area. There’s a free shuttle bus that connects the two which takes about 10 minutes.

Steamboat pioneered ‘Kids Ski Free’ concessions – these now can even include rental gear and accomodation. Next to the base area the large Kid’s Vacation Center offers comprehensive daycare and starter skiing lessons on an adjoining gentle slope. Non-skiing care for 6 months – 6 year olds is handled by Kiddie Corral. Most kids though will want to try out skiing – they can join the Buckaroos (2-3yrs), the Sundance Kids (3 to 5yrs), or Jackalopes (5 to 6yrs) – all these programmes include short skiing sessions. From 7 years onward, your kids can join tailored sessions run by the proper ski-school. In the evening, the fun’s not over. There’s a large skating rink – always very popular with kids. And if you’re not already cold to the bones after a day on the slopes, take them swimming – the pool complex has a brilliant water slide.

#3 Vail

Vail is a pleasant pedestrianised village, built mostly in Swiss-chalet style. The resort’s accomodation spreads along the highway, so when arranging your vacation, make sure to book within walking distance of the center. This way it’s a pleasant stroll to town as a family, or if your kids are in their teens, they can make their own way there.


The skiing is perfect for kids learning to ski, with a large number of suitably-graded slopes within easy access of the village. The ski school runs a fully structured programme from Mini Mice (3-4 yr), Mogul Mice (4-6yrs) and Superstars (7 and older). In the evenings, younger kids are well catered for by the Fort Whippersnapper area – they’ll love its ski-through Lost Mine. Older kids head for Adventure Ridge (a short gondola ride from the village – free in the evening) which offers night skiing and snowboarding, ice skating, tubing and laser tag. The whole atmosphere is very child-friendly – nobody bats an eyelid when a snowball fight breaks out amongst your little ones.

#4 Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont

Smuggler’s Notch (or Smuggs as it is affectionatley nicknamed) is located in the heart of Vermont’s beautiful Green Mountains, about 10 miles south from Jeffersonville. The resort is spread over two centers. Firstly the village, nestled at the foot of the slopes of Morse Mountain, and secondly a second separate base area, a short distance from the village, serving the larger Madonna and Sterling Peaks.

The ski village at Smuggs takes family-friendliness to the next level. Day child-care is provided at the excellent (and fully licensed) Treasures center, where capable staff will care for your child in an large and colorful kindergarten with attached and fully secured outdoor area. From the age of 2 1/2, kids can start to learn to ski with the Little Rascals on Snow group.

Older kids are catered for by a comprehensive range of ski lessons, provided on a day camp, or extended day camp basis. For 3-5 year-olds there’s Discovery Dynamos, 6-10 Adventure Rangers, 11-15 Notch Squad, and 16-17 Mountain Explorer.

But it’s really off the slopes that Smuggs excels. There’s a huge Fun Zone, an indoor play area, complete with inflatable play structures like slides and ramps, fuzzball tables, table-tennis tables and electronic games. Nearby is a good-sized heated pool with hot-tubs.

Accommodation at Smuggs is based on ski-in ski-out condos, which are close to the village center and ski-slopes – very convenient and so much better than sheperding all your kids into a shuttle bus with miles to go to reach the slopes.

Smuggs claim’s itself to be America’s Family Resort, with some justification since most familes have an enormously enjoyable vacation. But be warned – you may find the camp atmosphere a little overwhelming.

Other Resources

Nothing beats a little research when it comes to picking a suitable ski resort. A great resource is

Best Ski Resorts A useful roundup of the best ski resorts.

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