Every family-friendly ski resort has a sweet spot—you know, that mix of offerings that speaks perfectly to your children and your family at this exact moment in time. With this in mind, we sussed out the best in North America for every age and stage in the game, whether it’s your first time on the slopes together or your first time following your kids into a black-diamond bowl.
Wilmot Mountain: Wilmot, Wisconsin
Best for: Newbies of all ages
Why we love it: Vail’s latest acquisition is fresh off a $13-million revamp that includes an expanded ski and snowboard learning area with a new kid’s center, plus three new lifts to its 23 gentle runs. All good news for families attempting first forays in skiing that are quality, convenient, and road-trip worthy.
Crystal Mountain: Thompsonville, Michigan
Best for: Ages 3-8, plus parents who want some luxuries
Why we love it: Want to get the kids pumped for the sport? Interesting terrain that’s easy to manage—like playful runs through the woods, zippy racing courses, and fast chairlifts for easy repeats—keep everything fun. That goes for parents, too, who dig the luxury cottage homes at the base, the 18,500-square-foot spa at the resort, and nights out at Thistle Pub, known for its local farm-to-fork ingredients (make sure to claim a seat by the fire and order the parmesan crusted truffle fries).
Deer Valley: Park City, Utah
Best for: First-timers out west, plus big families who need options
Why we love it: A 40-minute shuttle from Salt Lake City airport, superbly groomed and relatively uncrowded ski-only slopes, plus a robust ski school make Deer Valley a dream come true for that first family ski trip out west. Off the mountain, shop on Main Street with its fun Park City Museum, ride a bobsled at Utah Olympic Park, and even do yoga in a crater
Keystone Resort: Keystone, Colorado
Best for: Ages 4-9 and frugal families who want it all
Why we love it: Not only do kids 12 and under ski free with a two-night stay, they get to choose from a daily lineup of free, family-focused activities that include village parades, nighttime Bigfoot adventure walks, and patrol dog meet-and-greets. Check out the weeklong Kidtopia festival (March 5-11) for free programming on overdrive, and stepped-up events like mountaintop tubing, live music, and a gigantic snow fort begging for exploration.
Stowe Mountain: Stowe, Vermont
Best for: Ages 5-10
Why we love it: Stowe’s new 20,000-square-foot Adventure Center serves as the home base for everything budding skiers could possibly need—lift tickets, rentals, a ski school that rolls right out into the snow, a restaurant and movie theater, and an indoor climbing wall. Make life even easier with a stay at the slope-side Stowe Mountain Lodge, where ski valets unload your gear when you arrive and have it waiting by the lift each morning.
Steamboat: Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Best for: Ages 5-12
Why we love it: With large chunks of the resort reserved just for kids (including a terrain park), great family programming and annual events like the Winter Carnival (February 8–12)—plus free lifts and ski and snowboard rentals for kids 12 and under—it’s no wonder Steamboat is a big draw for families. The charming locals, who many say know how to make visitors feel part of the fold, don’t hurt, either.
Sun Valley: Sun Valley, Idaho
Best for: Ages 6-12 and families who like to keep it simple
Why we love it: Hole up like celebrities do in Sun Valley, where wide-open slopes throw back to easier family ski vacations. That doesn’t mean it’s dull: the stacked terrain park has everything from fun rollers and whoopdeedoos for younger kids to a 22’ superpipe masterminded by the X Games designers Call it a day at the revamped Sun Valley Lodge, now with larger rooms and expanded six-lane bowling alley as of June 2015. When the urge to go out strikes, historic Ketchum, with its restaurants and movie theater, is a free five-minute shuttle ride away.
Northstar: North Lake Tahoe, California
Best for: Ages 6-12 and families who like to keep it simple
Why we love it: Big family groups can spread out in one of Northstar’s affordable, well-equipped homes and launch adventures together from there. Hit up Northstar’s long green and blue runs—totally stoked in powder this season—shop the boutiques in Truckee, and ride a new 35-person, open-air sleigh back down after a mountaintop dinner at the resort’s farm-to-table restaurant. For a break from too-much family time, there’s a dreamy spa tucked into the mountain at the nearby Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe.
Whitefish Mountain: Whitefish, Montana
Best for: Ages 8-14 and families with a penchant for wilderness
Why we love it: Young nature and wildlife enthusiasts strike gold at Whitefish, where mostly intermediate and advanced trails unfold like a fascinating science lesson. Dip into cloud inversions, past “snow ghost” trees caked in snowy ice, and through a grizzly habitat (which closes in April to let the hibernating bears wake peacefully). On the elevated Inspiration, take in dizzying views of neighboring Glacier National Park.
Telluride: Telluride, Colorado
Best for: Ages 10-16 and families who want off–mountain adventures
Why we love it: Skiing is a blast for older kids, but so are Telluride’s off-mountain offerings. For example? The roomy residential lodging at the Madeline Hotel, set in its own corner of the mountain village with an ice rink, Dylan’s Candy Bar and the hotel’s supervised kid gaming hangout for ages 5-16; the storied downtown area where Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank; and snowmobile tours with Telluride Outfitters that take you straight into the old Alta Lakes ghost mining camp.
Jackson Hole: Jackson, Wyoming
Best for: Tweens and teens ages 12-17
Why we love it: This bucket-list mountain has a reputation for runs that are both challenging and incredible. Older kids with intermediate or better skills have a shoe in with the Fall Line Camp, a multi-day program exclusively for ages 12–17 that’s led by Jackson’s coolest instructors and athletes like Andrew Whiteford and Rob Kingwill. Recommended for skilled skiers and riders, the program is on offer every season.
Whistler Blackcomb: Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Best for: Older teens and college kids
Why we love it: New improvements to the learning areas this season at this famously tough ski mecca, including regraded terrain and 30-plus new snow guns in the Olympic Zone, make it easier to reward your oldest kids with the ultimate in ski vacation bragging rights. And the fact that you’re in Canada means you can buy a beer for your favorite 18-plus year with a strong American dollar.