5 Mountain Resorts to Merge Bunny slope, Moguls and Merlot

Skiing as a family ranks high on the vacation hot list. But, how you transition your fearful kid into a fearless downhill Ninja is as important as where this milestone takes place. Newsflash: Snow is only part of the equation. You need to think about lift lines and crowds. Whether ski in/ski out accommodations-and ski valet- are a possibility. And, investigate the quality of the ski school. Professional instructors that know how to engage and charm your child into conquering the mountain are the special sauce of a successful alpine getaway.

Professional instructors that know how to engage and charm your child into conquering the mountain are the special sauce of a successful alpine getaway. Also of value is a kicky village with an apres ski scene; ice skating, fire pits and cozy spots for mom and dad to enjoy some well-deserved vino. Bonus points for the resorts that incorporate kids clubs and teen programming into property programming. This keeps kids engaged and offers mogul loving parents a chance to squeeze in an extra run.  Our list cherry picks the destinations that fold all of these ingredients-and stellar food options- into getaways that will teach the kids to ski and offer top notch amenities to parents.

Beaver Creek Atk

Courtesy Beaver Creek


There is family friendly. And, there is family fabulous. With hot cocoa served at chairlifts, platters of just-baked cookies at the mountain base each afternoon and ski runs that take kids (or, young-at heart adults) through a mythical, tree and teepee studded  mountainscape, it’s not hard to see which camp Beaver Creek falls into. Though locals and loyalists will describe the prevailing vibe as low key. Beaver Creek is glitzy. Not furs and diamonds glitzy. Here, the luxury lies in the insane level of service. Escalators throughout the village (it’s easier to traverse in ski boots), Ski valets, an in-hotel rental process and thoughtful anticipate -every -need minutiae like warmed slippers (in your size, natch) provided during your fireside lunch effectively blunt the hassle of the sport. The ski program is a huge draw. Dubbed  the “Ivy League of ski schools,” kids learn from the pros on North America’s World Cup mountain in a gently sloping area called The Ranch complete with it’s own gondola. After mastering balance, Ninjas-in-training head up to green runs on top of the mountain where panoramic vistas and singular instructor interaction feed confidence. The village is another draw. Sophisticated dining options and an ice skating rink (there are weekly jukebox skate nights) make it a perfect post-ski hangout. For nonski days, guests can go dog sledding, snow shoeing and tubing.  Teens have their own happenings. The resort organizes a weekly sunset snowshoe trek capped off with a pizza party at the Nordic Center. Don’t miss a visit to the Beaver Creek Candy Cabin, an old fashioned candy shop on top of Strawberry Park Express lift.

Stay: The Osprey, A Rock Resort
The small boutique hotel boasts the closest location (26 feet away!) to a chairlift in North America. This means less schlepping, more skiing. The hotel can organize  RentSkis Gold, a private fitting and delivery service to come to the hotel to fit the family for gear. In house ski valets will walk your child to ski school. The hotel’s new “Fondue + Shoe” experience is a blast for families with older children,

Compared to the buzz of Beaver Creek, Telluride feels like a well-kept secret. And, to it’s faithful flock, this a good thing.  Hotels are luxe but low key. Lift lines are nonexistent. And there is a noticeable lack of crowds (it’s far from any metropolitan area so there aren’t a glut of day skiers) in and around the slopes. But, let’s be clear. A lack of crowds does not translate into a lack of vibrancy. There are 50 restaurants, espresso bars, three skating rinks and dozens of shops between Mountain Village and historic Telluride. The two towns are linked by gondola, which, to kids, is much a form of entertainment than transport. But, skiing is the main attraction. 24% of the mountain is devoted to beginner skiing and boarding, a key selling point for parents. Ski school divides children by age and has classes in the morning or all day. The icy adventures continue off the slope. Families go sledding, snowshoeing, and ice skate. Teens can go ice climbing. Even winter horseback riding-or, a sleigh ride- can be arranged. Should parents want to extend their ski time (or, have a champagne-fueled apres at swanky alpine boîte Bon Vivant),  the resort offers Kids Happy Hour, an afternoon of indoor arts and crafts.

Stay: The Madeline
This season, the ski in/ski out hotel debuts a 10 million renovation featuring three eateries, a kid/teen hangout space, Dylan’s Candy Bar and a 4000 sf sky terrace equipped with fire pits, hot tubs and a heated pool. A new and improved ski valet program makes the gear-up process a breeze.

Home to the Winter Olympics in 2010, Whistler-Blackcomb is North Americas largest ski resort. Its size can be daunting. But, the presence of 4 child care programs, on-mountain adventure zones,  a multi-lane tubing course and indoor Nintendo gaming lounges imbue this massive resort with an inviting vibe. Add the excellent ski school to the mix and Whistler gets high marks on family friendliness. To kids, the mighty peaks and bowls can be overwhelming. After tackling the newbie terrain—with the help of beginner-only lifts, magic carpets and lots of games—kids’ comfort level will attest to the talents of this well regarded (they instruct over 140,000 kids each year!) ski program. When the legs give out, there is sledding, zip lining and every other winter adventure you can imagine. Whistler Village is chock full of activities: indoor rock climbing, a trampoline park, a skateboard park and a movie theater. The resort’s Peak2Peak gondola (the largest and highest lift in the world) affords stunning panoramic views.

Stay: Whistler Fairmont 
Nestled at the foot of Blackcomb’s slopes, the classically elegant, ski-in/ski-out Fairmont Chateau is a best-bet. It offers seven on-site eateries, ski valet, in-hotel equipment rental, an indoor pool and a shuttle service to the village.

Parents-especially Californians-who want the charm of a mountain village paired with snazzy five star amenities -flock to Northstar, the jewel of Lake Tahoe’s alpine crown. There are many ski school options. But, go of the U-4. Your child will have a personalized experience with a small (Ultimate 4 pairs one instructor with no more than four children) group. Full day lesson package includes equipment rental, lift ticket and lunch. Kids start out on the Big Easy beginner area and move on to progression parks to master technique. For younger children who ski half day, or not at all, there is Minor’s Camp,  an on-resort childcare facility. Other perks: Skating rink, tubing, sleigh rides, Bungee Trampoline (year-round, weather permitting), Fire Pits, Snow Play Zone, shops, grocers and  two movie theaters. The nearby Recreation Center has an outdoor heated pool

Stay: The Ritz
Ski in/Ski Out location on Northstar’s “Big Easy” run? Check. Ski Butler service for equipment fittings? Check. Luxurious rooms with fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows? Check. Kids Club? Check. Check. Check. The signature Ritz Kids’ experience offers culture-based programming designed by Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Future Society for children ages 5-12. Parents can organize a split between kids club and ski school and the hotel staff will accompany the kids.

Bonus: An in-house Marshmologist heads up S’mores’ making at the hotel fire pits.

In travel, remote destinations often yield the larger the payoff. Case in point: Big Sky. Located 50 miles south of Bozeman, Big Sky is beloved for it’s small town charm and massive amount of skiable terrain. Here, you won’t find the luxurious extras inherent in, say, Beaver Creek. Or, a rowdy apres ski scene. But, what it lacks in glitz is made up for by lower price tags and an unhurried, uncrowded experience. Moonlight Basin’s, entire bottom, left half of the mountain is green trails only which makes for an excellent beginner experience. The base of the mountain has a Family Fun Zone, tubing and a small terrain park. Ski school is well-run and laid back (Parents can sign their children up for classes on the day-of instead of booking far in advance).  A huge perk for parents is the fact that it works in tandem with The Lone Peak Playhouse, an on resort child care center which is part of Big Sky Resort. Kids can do a half day skiing and then spend the afternoon at the kids’ club. This means a few extra runs for parents.For off ski days, there are Zip-line tours, Snowshoe tours, high ropes course, Dog sledding, family fun zones and tours to nearby Yellowstone National Park.

BONUS: Big Sky offers a la carte pricing — kids can attend for as little as two hours or as long as the full day with pricing based on how many modules are selected.

Stay: The Summit
This traditional, slope side lodge has hosted both President Obama and Joe Biden. On top of a cozy room, guests have perks like complimentary ski valet, complimentary access to the resort kids’ club and, when you book with Big Sky Central Reservations, kids under 10 ski free.


Read the story on Travel+Leisure here.