When you’re looking for a ski resort getaway for the whole family, you want to know that your kids are going to have as awesome a time as their parents and that everyone in the family is going to make lasting memories on the trip. These are the top five ski resorts for kids rated by safety guidelines, quality of the instructor, ability to include and work with children with exceptionalities, powder, length of ski runs and the ability for everyone in the family to enjoy the experience.
Forbes made a list of the top places to ski for powder and of course, Jackson Hole is at the top of the list. And very well deserved, too. When it comes to amazing skiing conditions where you feel like you are gliding, there is no place better that I’ve experienced than Jackson Hole.
If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said that Jackson Hole is for expert skiers and a place for hubby and his friends to go for a weekend trip. As it turns out, this place is wonderful for families. This year they opened up a new area for kids and adult beginner lessons called Solitude Station. What I loved about the lessons at Jackson Hole is how they accommodate kids with special needs into their snow school. This means my little guy with ADHD didn’t have to go to a different area of the mountain for the lesson. I could drop both kids off in one place and their lessons were integrated. If you have a child that might need some extra help to participate in the ski school program, you’ll jump for joy when you hear that there is no extra fee if they need to add another instructor for your child. You pay the normal group lesson fee and if needed your little one can have extra support without a crazy price tag attached to it. You can learn more about their adaptive program here.
The ski conditions are phenomenal because they have so many runs (over 130 named ski trails on the map). This place is huge! They have lots of different options of getting you up the mountain which means no long wait. Even though there was constant activity on the lifts and gondolas, once on the mountain it felt like there were just a few people going down the run. This is made for excellent skiing.
When it comes to deals nothing beats 'kids stay and ski free!' But there are lots of deals on classes and other amenities online so check before you go.
Where To Stay
Budget conscious families have some options through the central reservation service and there are at par pricing for Canadians. If you are looking for the ultimate vacation with a home away from home, you’ll want to check out Shooting Star Properties. These luxury rentals managed by The Clear Creek Group offer the benefits of luxury lodging accommodations with the privacy and convenience of a well-appointed villa.
Holiday Valley is a wonderful resort for first-time ski vacationers. There is a lot more to do there than just downhill ski. Your family can try Nordic skiing, tubing, the Sky Flyer Mountain Coaster, visit the spa and enjoy the convenience of slopeside lodging and dining. The beginner hills are fairly short and the lessons all happen in the same area. I loved that you can pick up the kids rental equipment fairly close to the lessons. We found the instructors were extremely knowledgeable and friendly — so much so that the kids made their instructor a drawing outlining how much fun they were having and thanking them for being so awesome.
Whether you are an avid skier or just trying it out for the first time you will find something for everyone here. Not a skier at all but want to have fun together? The mountain coaster and tube park make it an excellent option for a winter vacay that is not ski/snowboard centric, while still having enough good runs to keep the skiers in the family happy.
Where To Stay
There are many options on the resort itself. One offsite option at a great price is Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino. This property has a spa, indoor heated pool, outdoor jacuzzi, and even fine dining restaurants. With only a 15 minute drive to Holiday Valley, this is a great base. Your family may want to go to the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum and learn more about the local community and culture.
I have a long-standing love affair with Blue Mountain Resort. It might be because it’s within 1.5 hours from Toronto and fairly easy for us to get to, but I love this place for families. This is the ideal destination if you are just starting out with winter sports for your family and you are in Ontario. There is so much to do on the resort from Crock A Doodle, to walking around the picturesque village, to Plunge! indoor aquatic centrer. If you love to treat yourself at the spa you have to stop by Iwa spa, which provides a variety of treatments from massages to Ganban’yoku volcanic rock therapy. If you already like snow, this is the place that winter dreams about. If you want to go away for a few days and you are not really into skiing but think that you might want to try, this is the place to do it. I was very impressed with the quantity and variety of rentals available. Snowshoes, ski boots, snowboards and helmets – this place has got you covered.
The people at Blue Mountain make the experience even more wonderful. The customer service is excellent! The best part is everyone treats you like making your day amazing brings them joy. There is consistently amazing service no matter where you are on the resort. As far as villages go, this one is the best for families with small kids.
Where To Stay
There are quite a few options of places to stay at Blue Mountain Resort, the most luxurious of which is the Westin Trillium House. Along with the view, comfort and elegance of the Westin Trillium House, it is also conveniently located with everything you need accessible without having to step outside if you don’t want to. Oliver and Bonacini, arguable the best restaurant in the village, is located on the main floor of the Westin, and Plunge! is accessible with access off the third floor. Iwa Spa, the slopes and the village are each less than a two-minute walk.
In my opinion, the next best place to stay in the Mosaic which is located right in the village. There are no restaurants in this building, but there is one attached to it, and there is an indoor and outdoor heated pool. The best part? It has indoor access to Iwa Spa.
The Inn is the most economical option, and also houses Jozo’s Bar, the Pottery restaurant and has an indoor pool. The Inn is about a 10 minute walk from the village but with the ease of the shuttle, getting around is seamless, and you don’t ever have to drive after checking in if you don’t want to.
The Mont-Tremblant resort is more of an overall winter experience location than just a ski resort. Of course they are great for skiing and beginners will love the Nansen run. This is where the kids and I took our skiing skills to the next level. What’s great about the Nansen run for families is that it’s one very long run where you get to perfect your turns over and over before getting down the hill. This means instead of going down the hill, getting on the chair lift and heading back up a few times you can be on one hill for much longer. This is great for novice and intermediate skiers who might want a downhill experience but don’t want to keep going up and down the lift (and waiting in lines to do that).
What families will enjoy about Tremblant is that skiing and the on-hill activities are just a part of the experience. They offer many off-hill experiences too, whether that’s a trip to Le Scandinave Spa or a dog sledding family experience the fun happens both on and off the hill.
Where To Stay
There are many options at Tremblant ranging in price. Holiday Inn Express & Suites Tremblant has breakfast included with your stay, so you can get a good breakfast before heading out to the slopes. It's in the lower village which is close to the skating rink, and parking if you are opting for the self-park option.
Sommet des Neiges is in the upper village, and with it being located only 100 feet the gondola, it offers a ski in/ski out option. These suites have been recently renovated and because of its location, it provides direct access to the ski school.
The ultimate in luxury is the Westin Resort & Spa Tremblant which provides the ultimate in comfort, urban luxury embraced by nature and service in the heart of the pedestrian village — conveniently located offering slopeside access to the ski lifts and hiking trails, spa services, an outdoor whirlpool bath and saltwater pool.
At Whistler Blackcomb, you will find something for every type of skier and lots of non-hill activities as well. They have a wicked tube park, and often have free activities in the evenings for the whole family. Whistler is a one-of-a kind experience combining two mountains into one experience. Whistler Blackcomb is one of the largest ski resorts in North America with over 200 runs between the two mountains! Plus there’s the added cachet of being able to tell people you skied on slopes that held the Winter Olympics in 2010 — even if you didn’t do those runs, they were on the same mountain!
There are some amazing off hill experiences to participate in. Have you ever been on zipline in winter? This is a good place to try it. Don’t want to spend the entire time skiing? Why not try out a snowshoe hike with the family? When you do want to ski though, there’s a great ski school with lessons for kids, teens, and adults.
Where to Stay
The are many lodging options at Whistler and searching through their website you can decide if you want to stay in the upper or lower village or close by the amenities you are looking for.
If you are looking for a luxury property there are quite a few to choose from in Whistler. Two brands that have consistently offered fantastic service and value are Westin & Fairmont. A little bit about these properties from their websites:
The Westin Resort & Spa Whistler was renovated in 2018 and is steps away from the gondolas and charming Whistler Village. The Fairmont Chateau Whistler offers ski-in/ski-out lodging with the perfect balance of relaxation and adventure.
Whether you’re looking for fresh powder and complex runs or prefer staying closer to home and having a mix of skiing and non-skiing activities, these five ski resorts that are great for families will open up your winter travel options.
By Claire Kerr-Zlobin