Family ski trips (Part 3): The best ski resorts for families in North America

Family ski holidays continue to become more and more prevalent during the winter months. These kinds of ski vacations are for families looking to trade in their Disney passes for ski lift tickets and crisp mountain air. This is why we’ve dedicated an entire series to family ski trips.

In Part 1 of the “Family ski trips” blog series, we talked about family ski trips from a generic sense. What to look for, what to avoid, lessons learned, and more. You heard from parents who have done trips like this many times before, and they’ve done them successfully. If you have not read that blog post yet, it is a good place to start. Click this link to read “Family ski trips (Part 1): Tips and lessons learned from parents who have done it successfully”.

In Part 2 of this series, we turned our attention to ski destinations in Europe. What are the best ski resorts in Europe for families and why? Click this link to read “Family ski trips (Part 3): The best ski resorts in Europe for families”. Spoiler alert: it’s not just because of the amazing skiing and epic scenery that destinations in the European Alps have to offer. Skiing in Europe brings a fuller, more cultural experience than many other destinations you might take your family during the winter.

North America as a ski destination

In Part 3 of the “Family ski trips” blog series, let’s focus on our own backyard. We want you to know the best ski resorts for families in North America. We’ll cover skiing in the United States and skiing in Canada. 

Skiing in the United States

When it comes to skiing in the United States, you have two sides of the coin. There’s the east, where the most prominent skiing and the most natural snowfall falls in the New England states of Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. Many people associate skiing in New England to skiing on ice. I live in Boston and spend most of my ski days in Vermont and Maine. I think New England gets a bad rap. You just have to pay attention to the forecast and be a little flexible. You also can’t go into it expecting powder every weekend. Roll with the punches and enjoy the glory days out there! There is still great skiing to be had. And when the conditions are right, it’s hard to beat the tree skiing Vermont has to offer.

And then you have the west. Here, you’ll find snow from the Rockies to California and from the Pacific Northwest down to New Mexico. Many people associate the skiing in the western United States with powder. Yes, they get more snow than the east, but you also cannot expect to be skiing powder every day or even every weekend. One of the best parts about the western US is that typically, when it is not snowing, it’s a blue bird day. How perfect is that?!

Skiing in Canada

When considering skiing in Canada, you can also split the country into an eastern and western region. In the east, you have Mont-Tremblant in the French speaking province of Quebec. This mountain has a quaint, fairytale village at its base. It gives residents of North America a taste of Europe without having to cross an ocean. In western Canada, there’s the country’s flagship resort and the largest ski area in North America, Whistler Blackcomb. Just east of the border between British Columbia and Alberta, you have an area known for some of the best snow and best scenery in Canada, Banff and Lake Louise.

Interview with the experts

So, what are the best ski resorts for families in North America? I sat down with global ski specialists Alpine Adventures to see what they had to say on the matter. We (Journey Bound) have partnered with Alpine Adventures to help design custom ski vacations for our clients. They have become such a valuable resource for us and other like-minded travel agencies in the luxury adventure travel space.

Their deep knowledge and connections with ski destinations worldwide gives us the confidence that you’ll take your best family ski trip yet. You’ll get the best rates and the highest quality across the board. This means accommodations, equipment rentals, lift tickets, transportation, lessons, and guides. It all adds up to more value and a better ski vacation for you!

Let’s dive in and see what Alpine Adventures had to say about family friendly skiing in the United States and family friendly skiing in Canada. 

When is the best time to go skiing in the United States and Canada, in terms of conditions and crowds? 

For ski conditions and crowds, most dates in March will be a great bet. In the western US and Canada, the conditions will typically either be sunny and blue bird or snowing and powder. In the northeastern US and Canada, March often brings the most snow of the season. These are all great factors for family ski trips.

March will also avoid the Festive holidays in December and January as well as many school holidays that take place in February. Be aware that spring break for US colleges and Canadian schools often falls in mid-March. Though, these travel dates are not quite as hectic as the Festive holidays and February breaks. 

Some of the best ski resorts for families in North America can even have good conditions through April. Sometimes decent conditions hold into May if it’s a really great season! This is when you can really get the best deals and avoid the crowds. You just have to be prepared for spring conditions (aka soft snow, warmer blue bird days, and goggle tans). These aren’t necessarily bad things!

Which resorts/areas get the most consistent snow year over year? 

This is a tough one. Things change every year. But, the western US and western Canada are known for the most consistent snow in North America. On average, the US and Canadian Rockies, western US, the US and Canadian Pacific Northwest, and Alaska get the most snow year over year. 

That being said, it’s never easy to predict which specific areas in the west will get the most snow in a given season. It certainly varies, and the snow quality can also vary. There’s the light and fluffy blower powder we typically see in Utah. You have the champagne powder that Steamboat is known for. Don’t forget about the wet and heavy snow in Tahoe that some people like to refer to as the “Sierra cement”. And then there’s everything in between!

In the northeast, Jay Peak and its famed “Jay Cloud” up in northern Vermont definitely takes the cake for the most snow in the US. In eastern Canada, Mont-Tremblant brings home the best snowfall numbers year over year.

When all is said and done, we are dealing with Mother Nature. It’s super hard to predict snowfall and conditions season by season let alone month by month or week by week. But, if you choose a destination that gets high seasonal snowfall averages, you’ll give yourself the best chance for great conditions.

Ski schools for kids

Ski school can make or break family ski trips. What are the best ski resorts for families in North America when it comes to ski schools? 

Ski school is a huge factor in considering the best ski resorts for families in North America. Most of the larger resorts are known for having great ski schools, but there are a few in particular to note. Whether it is the emphasis on customer service or their focus on the kids having the best experience in the snow, parents can’t go wrong putting their kids in any of these ski schools!

Aspen Snowmass is probably best set up for childcare and ski school with The Treehouse and The Hideout:

  • The Treehouse in Snowmass Village is a combination indoor adventure center, childcare facility, ski school, and rentals outlet. There is also a registered nurse on staff. This gives parents a seamless experience with everything they need for their kids under one roof.
  • The Hideout at Buttermilk offers a perfect introduction to skiing for kids. With a gentle training hill complete with a magic carpet lift, four interactive indoor learning rooms for children to play during ski breaks, and a complete lunch facility, kids are encouraged to have fun while learning new skills.

Other resorts with notable ski schools include Steamboat, Beaver Creek, and Deer Valley

At these resorts, are there any hotels in particular that have the best ski schools for kids? 

Ski schools are generally run by the resorts themselves, so most hotels don’t have any affiliation. There are certainly hotels that are more family friendly or lie within close proximity to the ski schools. Families should definitely consider this when choosing a hotel.

Family friendly accommodations

Which resorts have the most family friendly hotels in terms of room arrangement, amenities, and service? 

Utah and Colorado take the cake here. Notable resorts include Deer Valley, Aspen, Telluride, Vail, and Beaver Creek.

Montage Deer Valley is a favorite for families. It offers plenty of family friendly amenities, including fire pits where you can make s’mores, a small bowling alley, and a game room (with vintage games as well as the most up-to-date games). They also offer Paintbox, which is a kids program that offers everything from arts and crafts to activities outside. This way, the kids can really enjoy their time in the mountains.

Other resorts to consider include The Peaks at Telluride, Viceroy at Aspen in Snowmass Village, The Arrabelle at Vail in Lionshead Village, and the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch at Beaver Creek.

Sometimes the parents need a date night without the kids. Do any resorts offer babysitting or nannying services? 

Babysitting services are typically offered through a third party provider, but the concierge at most resort hotels like the ones we’ve discussed can arrange this service for an additional cost.

What about families looking for ski-in/ski-out luxury home/condo accommodations. Which resorts should they consider going to?

Deer Valley, Beaver Creek, Telluride, and Aspen all offer plenty of luxury ski-in/ski-out residence style accommodations.

Madeleine at Telluride offers residence style accommodations that are furnished like a rarified ski home, plus you have world-class resort amenities at your fingertips. 

Hayden Lodge at Aspen is located directly above The Treehouse and offers 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom, and 3-bedroom accommodations for families in Snowmass Village. 

Family friendly ski towns and non-skiing activities

Being walking distance to other activities can be crucial for family ski trips. What are the best ski towns for families? 

If we are talking about villages at the mountain, Vail is an excellent pedestrian friendly resort. Guests can have ski-in/ski-out lodging, and there are two villages: Lionshead and Vail Village. They both have an abundance of shops and restaurants, all surrounded by such a picturesque setting.

Whistler Village at Whistler Blackcomb is located in the center of everything. It’s where you’ll find the largest number of attractions and the best restaurants and shops. It’s where everything can be accomplished by foot, including access to the five lifts that lead to the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.

At Aspen Snowmass, the fun goes far beyond the skiing for families of all ages. Snowmass Village features a five-story indoor climbing wall, a village plaza with ice skating rink, new retail and dining options, and The Collective—a collaborative art, music, culture and activities space.

What other non-skiing related activities should families look out for? 

North America is stepping up their game when it comes to non-skiing family friendly activities. Dog sledding, snowmobiling (including mini ones for the kids!), snowshoeing, ice skating, indoor adventure centers, mountain coasters, snow tubing, s’mores making… These are just a few of the many options available at family friendly ski resorts across the US and Canada.

Crowd avoidance

Many families can only travel during school vacations. Where can you go to avoid the crowds during peak dates? 

Most resorts will be crowded during peak dates, especially during Festive and February break. But, families can think about going to some of the resorts a bit off the beaten path to avoid the largest crowds. 

Think about places like Sun Valley in Idaho, Big Sky in Montana, Crested Butte in Colorado, Jackson Hole in Wyoming, and Snowbird and/or Alta in Utah. Even Deer Valley would be worth considering if you plan far enough ahead to get accommodations, because they limit the number of lift tickets sold each day.

Travel logistics

Flying anywhere for a family ski vacation can seem overwhelming. What are the most airport accessible ski resorts in the US and Canada?

Let’s talk direct flights and easy access to the mountain. In this case, for family ski trips, Denver and Salt Lake City are going to be the easiest airports to access some of the best skiing in the United States. Within about two hours of Denver you can get to Vail, Beaver Creek, and Breckenridge, to name a few. Under an hour from Salt Lake City you can get to Deer Valley, Park City, and Snowbird/Alta, among others.

For Canada, you can fly into Vancouver, Calgary, or Montreal. Within two hours you will have access to some of the best skiing in Canada. For Vancouver it’s Whistler Blackcomb. For Calgary it’s Banff and Lake Louise. And for Montreal it’s Mont-Tremblant.

Is there anything else to think about that might take stress off of the travel logistics?

Yes, and this can be especially helpful for family ski trips to logistically challenging destinations that may not offer direct flights. There are a number of luggage shipping service companies out there like Ship Skis or Luggage Free. Both of these are offered from the US to domestic and many international destinations. This helps relieve the stress of dealing with luggage as well as trying to keep track of all family members. At a minimum, you can do this for ski equipment (skis, boots, and snowboards), which can be incredibly difficult to lug around with a young family.

Taking everything into account

Considering all factors, what are the 3 best ski resorts for families in North America? 

I have to choose four here. Deer Valley and Aspen Snowmass are at the top of the list, but Vail and Beaver Creek are both so great for families as well! 

Deer Valley

Let’s start with Deer Valley. It has to be considered as one of the top destinations for families, especially for luxury travelers. You have the Montage, which caters unbelievably well to families with their fire pits and other entertainment options including the Paintbox. They are also extremely accessible from Salt Lake City and limit the number of lift tickets sold per day. This can make a huge difference during peak holiday or vacation dates when most families are traveling.

Aspen Snowmass

Aspen Snowmass would battle for the top spot if it were closer to Denver. Yes, you can fly right into Aspen, but it will not be direct from most airports (especially for travelers coming from the east coast). It’s about a 4 hour drive from Denver in clear weather. Besides that, the family friendly vibe of Snowmass Village and the ski school/childcare setup at The Treehouse and The Hideout is hard to beat.


Vail is only about two hours from Denver, so it’s relatively easy to get to for families. The accessibility of Lionshead and Vail Village make family ski vacations so much more enjoyable, and it’s only a ten minute walk between the two. You have plenty of great options for dining, shopping, and off-mountain entertainment like ice skating. 

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek is also only about two hours from Denver, making it very accessible. Between the family friendly accommodation options of properties like the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch and the top-notch ski school setup, Beaver Creek has to be on this list!

There’s still time to take your family on a ski vacation for the 2019/20 ski season. Planning a ski vacation is overwhelming and time consuming. Let us take care of the details for you. You’ll get a custom ski package and take your best ski holiday yet. Contact us today to start planning!