How to Choose the Best Family Ski Resort

Ski vacations are awesome. Family Ski trips are also expensive and vacation time is as limited as your wallet – so you want to pick the best ski resort based on things that matter to you. Your ski ability being #1. You want the ski terrain to be ideal for your ski level and the type of skiing you want to do. If the resort is all tree runs and you don’t enjoy glade skiing – well, that’s not good.

The ski resort base village offerings, lodging and dining and après ski, are also big factors of the quality of your stay. Of course snow is big deal too – but not always easy to know when you book months before you go.

Here are some of our best ski vacation destinations in the East and Out West in order of their terrain, from tame to steep and deep, with base villages, lodging and dining for a weekend or even a week’s stay.

Top Tame Ski Resorts
Bretton Woods in New Hampshire is beautiful , looking up at the stunning Mount Washington summit, but the terrain her is tame – ego pleasing and pretty. Lodging at Hotel Mount Washington is a winner too. In recent years Bretton Woods has added some low angle glades on Mt Stickney and a few more challenging runs for fun. Bretton Wood is a great family ski mountain with excellent learn to ski and snowboard programs.

Gunstock in New Hampshire is a great day trip ski mountain, with magnificent views and mellow groomed runs, served by a top to bottom high speed quad. Add night skiing and zip lining and tubing – Gunstock rocks.

Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont is a sprawling ski resort with lots of fun, tame ski trails. The slopeside lodging, dining and family programs are among the best anywhere. It’s as if the Okemo team is paid to make sure you enjoy yourself – OMG!

Steamboat Colorado is a great cowboy ski town with well tamed skiing and typically barrels of snow. Steamboat has a few wilder glades but this mountain is best for mid level skiers and riders. The on mountain lodging is lovely too, and you can wander into the authentic western town for a great steak house and cowboy boot and hat shopping.

Mid Level Ski Mountains
Sunday River Maine is a great ski resort with plenty of blue squares and well placed lifts across six peaks. There is plenty of terrain for the family, fun terrain parks too, an d few steeps like White Heat and glades for the tree lovers. The River is super reliable for snow conditions, and has plenty of on mountain lodging from hotels to condos, and fun après ski, fireworks and night skiing on weekends.

Stratton Vermont is a classic New England ski resort from the clock tower to the many beautiful groomed wide ski runs. The six pack chairs and gondola keep people moving at Stratton, and the ski village is happening after the lifts stop.

Sugarbush Vermont has two mountains and a terrific variety of skiing from wide ego pleasers to more challenging bumps and steeps. The Lincoln Peak Village now offers ideal lodging at the Clay Brook Inn, and Sugarbush’ ski school is right next door in the School House. With in bounds lift-served backcountry skiing in Slidebrook and earthier terrain off Castlerock – Sugarbush has some edge to it as well. The Mad River Valley is very Vermont, read: quaint for après ski and dining.

Purgatory Colorado, in Durango, is much tamer than the name. Lots of well groomed undulating runs are the specialty at this super scenic ski resort. Purgatory has a nice base village and even cooler downtown, so after crushing cord and cruising a few steeper tree runs and pitches dotted with towering pines, you will feel right at home at his western ski resort.

Big Sky in Montana can actually make every ski list, with mellow well groomed novice runs to fun blue squares on Andesite to steep and serious chutes off the 11,166′ Lone Peak Tram. Our family is big on Big Sky – it’s beautiful, big with over 5,750-acres, with a nice base village, and no big crowds. For off slopes offerings you can visit Yellowstone National Park – very cool, whether via snowmobile or snow coach tour.

Keystone Colorado is easy to reach from Denver and has easy going terrain on the Frontside. A great ski village waits at the base too. Keystone has the key to a great family ski trip – snow, views, a gondola, games for the kids after skiing and posh on mountain dining at Alpenglow Stube at 11,444′ – the highest four diamond dining in North America.

Breckenridge across the Vail valley from Keystone offers lesser pitched trails and great parks for families, with eh exception of the high elevation summit Continental Express chair at 12,840.’ The Breckenridge village is now huge with so many offerings of lodging, shopping and dining – you could stay busy for a winter here.

Vail is the king of Colorado ski resorts and the range of terrain is vast from Front side cruisers to the Back Bowls, there is truly something for everyone. Vail Village is a close second to the European alpine experience with pedestrian streets and a plethora of après ski pubs and shops – Vail is fun for everyone. Nearby sister Beaver Creek is beautiful too for a day during your Vail stay.

Aspen’s Snowmass is the biggest of Aspen’s four resorts and the best for families with broad blue squares, soft snow and excellent children’s programs. There are some steeps glades and get your heart going terrain you can hike to at Snowmass, and you are a short drive to Aspen Highlands and Ajax for more expert terrain. Buttermilk is for beginners, don’t let the XGames host fool you into thinking more.

Deer Valley Utah is glamorous and forgiving for skiers. The grooming is near perfection, so is the service, food and lodging. Now snowboarders but very sumptuous surroundings and sweet snow await.

Steep Mountains Best Saved for Expert Skiers
Stowe Vermont is the steep capital of the East. The Front Four are revered among skiers for their fall-line. The expression “if you can ski the East you can ski anywhere” was likely coined at Stowe. This is a beautiful New England ski mountain steeped in tradition. Stowe’s Spruce Peak terrain is milder, with a beautiful new mountain village anchored by the Stowe Mountain Lodge – but skiing Mansfield is what it’s all about.

Sun Valley Idaho is steep, it’s that simple. Long thigh burning runs are the tradition at Sun Valley, one of the oldest ski resorts around. The lodges are posh, and the people are pretty here but the black diamonds are full proof.

Telluride Colorado is a beautiful place, with some lovely groomed cruisers on the front face, but there are some super steep trails dropping, like Plunge, to the town of Telluride and big brazen terrain in Revelation Bowl. The Mountain Village at Telluride is terrific, so is staying in town, save your energy, your money and your ski courage for Telluride.

Jackson Hole Wyoming is steep and un-groomed off their base to summit tram, 4,000 vertical of very challenging terrain. Jackson Hole has limited groomers and pleasant skiing off Casper and Après Vous but you come here to conquer Rendezvous. Staying at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole tames the wildness a lot, where the ski valet buckle your boots for you. Save Jackson til you are ready for big ski action.

Alta Snowbird Utah are independent by interconnected ski resorts with lots of challenging terrain, the High Rustler, the Cirque, it’s a circus of black diamonds. No snowboarders at Alta though.

In Canada, Kicking Horse and Revelstoke are two of the steepest longest vertical ski resorts we have skied. We loved their butt kicking terrain, but suggest you save these big Canadian ski trips till your family is ready to rip.

See our Top Family Ski Resorts:
Top 10 New England Ski Resorts for Families
Top 10 Western Ski Resorts for Families
Top Family Ski Resorts in Colorado
Top Canada Ski Resorts for Families
Top European Ski Resorts for Families
Top Swiss Ski Resorts for Families
Top Austrian Family Ski Resorts
Top Family Ski Resorts in the World