Skiing has been a popular pastime for decades now. Anyone of any age can enjoy carving through the soft snow and taking a gander at the snow-covered trees that float past like in a dream. Ski resorts can be crowded and expensive, which isn’t always an ideal combo when you’re traveling with kids. But ski vacations are a great winter family activity, particularly if you can travel to a location with a ski school for the little ones.
Check out our top five best family ski resorts in the U.S. to make the most of your winter vacation this year. Some of these are on the more popular side like Palisades, but not as crowded as Heavenly. While others are more underrated resorts that will create heaps of family ski memories.
1. Palisades Tahoe, CA
Boasting more than 2,000 skiable acres and a lower profile than neighboring Squaw Valley, Palisades Tahoe (formerly known as Alpine Meadows) is a good ski destination for families who have some experience on the slopes. Parents who want to hit intermediate and advanced trails while the kids hang out with instructors on bunny slopes will be pleased with the variety available. If you really want a stress-free family vacation, then there are a number of Olympic Village Condo rentals and ski-in ski-out lodging at the base of the mountain. Palisades Tahoe offers some of the best family-friendly skiing on the West Coast, and will have both parents and kids wondering when the next time you’ll be able to return.
Where to Stay: Truckee is located near the slopes and offers vacationers a variety of options when it comes to places to stay. You’ll be able to choose from slope-side condos or cozy mountain cabins, depending on what is the right fit for your ski vacation.
Favorite Non-ski Activity: Go snowshoeing! Palisades Tahoe and the surrounding area have amazing trails perfect for taking in the quiet serenity of the mountains without having to lug the skis and poles around.
Pro Traveler Tip: Located near the massive Lake Tahoe, there are more skiing and non-skiing activities in the area than one could count. Take a look at the surrounding area on a map and see if there are any famous landmarks or other mountains nearby to create a truly magical experience.
2. Taos Ski Valley, NM
That’s right, New Mexico isn’t all desert. Located in the Rockies, Taos Ski Valley offers all the same types of terrain that are offered by its contemporaries in states to the north. Taos is a particularly good ski resort for families who want to avoid all the pretension and glitz of some better-known western ski destinations. At Taos Ski Valley Resort, you’ll find ski lessons and daycare options for those who don’t want to hit the slopes. This is a good destination for parents who want to head out on their own for the day!
Where to Stay: Taos Ski Valley offers rental condos and cabins that are conveniently located right on their slopes, with some even being ski-in/ski-out as well. This unrivaled accessibility makes for a very convenient and well-tailored experience for any family vacation.
Favorite Non-ski Activity: Get a bird’s eye view of the snow-covered landscape that makes up the valley with a thrilling and awe-inspiring hot-air balloon ride. Taos Balloon Rides has it covered with wonderfully inspiring adventures available to book that are perfect for couples or families.
Pro Traveler Tip: Believe it or not, Taos has its own airline! For those living in nearby regional cities such as Los Angeles or Dallas, it’s possible to charter a relatively cheap flight right to the base of the mountain.
3. Mt. Hood, OR
Oregon’s Mt. Hood is home to three different ski resorts: Mt. Hood Meadows, Mt. Hood Skibowl, and Timberline Lodge & Ski Area — all of which have options for skiers and snowboarders of different levels. One upside for families is that these resorts offer a range of different activities. Some even make space for snow tubing and other pursuits for kids who don’t enjoy standing on skis or boards all day.
Nearby towns like Government Camp and Welches provide a wealth of vacation rental options for families to consider. Be aware that the drive out from Portland International Airport can take a couple of hours, so kids who don’t like car rides might not be too excited about this part of the journey. However, the variety of slopes found on Mt. Hood combines to be one of the better winter vacations in the U.S.
Where to Stay: Government Camp and Welches offer many different options, from hotels to cozy little cabins. Each option offers a different sort of amenities that could be well-tailored to the vacation — depending on what’s in the itinerary. Be sure to check out these cute towns when considering places to stay.
Favorite Non-ski Activity: Cosmic Tubing offers a truly unique experience tubing on the hills of Mt. Hood. On weekend nights and holidays, the slopes at the tubing hill get lit up with hundreds of thousands of LED lights, and the music gets turned up to create a party-like atmosphere on the slopes that is fun for all ages.
Pro Traveler Tip: The many different resorts located on Mt. Hood means only one thing — many different types of terrain! Be sure to check ahead and see which one matches the level of all the skiers in the family for the best possible experience.
4. Crystal Mountain, WA
Washington offers some of the premier skiing spots in the entire country. The Cascade Range offers a truly different skiing experience from the typical resorts that are found in the Rockies further to the south. Are you and your kids completely new to skiing? Crystal Mountain is the ideal place to find out whether this winter sport is right for you. The ski school at this affordable destination has special programs for first-timers. Lift tickets are also relatively cheap, so if you end up deciding that you’d rather cozy up to the fireplace at your vacation rental after your first couple of runs, you won’t feel too guilty.
Where to Stay: Buckley has plenty of options to choose from including cabins, condos, and cottages. All of these options add up to give you the perfect place to stay while on a vacation at Crystal Mountain.
Favorite Non-ski Activity: The Mount Rainier Gondola takes non-skiers to the top of a perfect lookout on the mountain to get surreal views of Mt. Rainier. Standing at over 14,000 feet and listed as an active volcano, the peak at Mt. Rainier is a perfectly picturesque opportunity for non-skiers.
Pro Traveler Tip: Mount Rainier National Park is right around the corner from Crystal Mountain. If a day spent snowshoeing the trails and looking at the almost enchanting forest sounds like a perfect way of relaxing in the shade of Mount Rainier, this is the place to be for you and your family.
5. Smuggler’s Notch, VT
As a ski resort that specifically markets itself to families, Smuggler’s Notch — or “Smuggs” — is one of the best choices among several New England options on offer. This is a suitable destination for families that take skiing seriously and want kids to join the tradition of hitting the slopes. The kids’ ski school at Smuggs has an excellent reputation. The surrounding area is amazing with picturesque views around every corner. This cute town is one of the premier destinations in Vermont for skiers, but is a little more under the radar than the popular Jay Peak.
Where to Stay: The surrounding town of Jeffersonville offers beautiful cabins for rent to accommodate the whole family. However, a multitude of hotels is also available to make things just a tad easier for everyone.
Favorite Non-ski Activity: Go ice skating on a natural lake! There are many opportunities for this in and around the area. Our advice? Find a local shop and rent a pair or remember to pack your own.
Pro Traveler Tip: There are tons of things to do at Smugglers Notch in the summer too! From horseback riding to mountainside waterslides, this is a perfect place for families year-round.
Your Family Ski Trip Awaits!
Ready to plan a ski trip this winter? VacationRenter can help you get started. Skiing is enjoyed by practitioners of the sport worldwide. Luckily, the U.S. has some of the most sought-after ski destinations in the entire world. A multitude of different mountain ranges peppered across the country offers a wide variety of terrain and experiences to see, so try and see them all!