How to Pick a Family Friendly Ski Resort

This is a happy kid after his two-hour lesson at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, carful of kids, family friendly ski destination
This is a happy kid after his two-hour lesson at Mt. Rose.

Want to take your carful of kids skiing and don’t know where to begin? I know, I have been there; I will help you find a family-friendly ski resort. There is lots to consider and if you are like me, you didn’t ski as a family as a kid.

I get it, skiing is expensive. It requires special clothes, special equipment and the resort itself can be expensive. If you live in Texas like the Carful of Kids, then you have to travel hours to see skiable snow.

When I started skiing in my twenties, it was easy. Rent some skies, take a lesson and then drink a cocktail. That was my ski trip. Then I had my carful of kids and everything got more complicated.

So where do you start if you have never skied before as a family? I’ll pass on some pointers.

Picking a Family-Friendly Ski Resort

Lodging and Location

I tend to look at the location of the ski resort. I prefer to drive to our ski trip so I don’t have to limit the luggage. I have an all-wheel drive SUV with tire cables if the roads get icy so that’s a bonus.

If you fly, you will have to check your gear for your flight and that’s a hassle. Then rent a 4WD or AWD car so you can get to your resort. Don’t skimp on the rental; driving a typical 2WD rental car in the mountains is just too risky.

Family Skiers have different needs. I've pulled together the list for you. Picking the Right Ski Resort
Family Skiers have different needs. I’ve pulled together the list for you.

Some skiers prefer ski-in, ski-out resorts–they look luxurious and they are. What you don’t realize is you park your car miles away and lug your gear. Unless you have staff or a mute husband, this is a fight waiting to happen.

I prefer to stay in a condo or other equipped rental. It is a necessity to have a dryer to warm up clothes or dry wet gloves. Having a refrigerator is great and getting the kids a quick breakfast is a huge time saver. To save some money, I bring my crock pot for hearty dinners after a day of skiing.

Check out the location of the ski resort’s parking lot if skiing for the day. I would prefer to park in front of the resort since I never grab everything I need in one trip.

The last thing on my list is the ski resort elevation. I have a kid that get elevation sickness over 9,000 feet. We have to ski at resorts that at lower elevations or he gets sick.

When to Start Kids Skiing 

How old are your kids?  I started my carful of kids skiing at different ages and I don’t think it really matters. They all seem to pick it up quickly but if all your kids are under 5, I might wait a few years to try skiing as a family.

The youngest kids have a problem with the cold and dressing them in ski gear can be a challenge. Ski resorts are not stroller-friendly–too many stairs and icy patches. Kids can’t carry their skis until they are older too.

 

I have one board boy and two skiers--making getting on and off the lifts a challenge. family friendly ski resort,
I have one board boy and two skiers–making getting on and off the lifts a challenge.

I have a 14, 12 and 9-year-olds; we started skiing when my oldest was 7 and the youngest was 2. The first year he stayed in the on-site daycare and the second year he started lessons.

My oldest and youngest kids ski but my 12-year-old son snowboards. Most resorts won’t teach young kids (3 to 5) to snow board, requiring kids to be 7. If you search, I have found resorts that have 5 to 7-year-old snowboarding classes.

Trails

I look at the ski resort trail map and count how many green runs they have. This information is usually listed as a percentage of the runs based on color–green, blue, black.
Green runs are the easiest and great for families. Blue are moderate runs and black for people braver than me.

Next, look for beginner ski lifts, they should be labeled. I prefer resorts that use conveyor-belt type lifts for beginners. Getting on and off an elevated ski lift is where most falls happen.

I make sure the beginner area is available to all skiers and just restricted to the ski school students. This is an excellent area to practice with your kids after their lessons. My carful of kids love to race Mom down the beginner runs.

 

We are all smiles when the sun is shining. family friendly ski resort
We are all smiles when the sun is shining.

 

Then I look at the quality of the green runs; are they all wide open areas at the bottom of more difficult terrain? I have found that more advanced skiers fly through slow areas on their way to the lift line. If all of the green runs wide and lack different routes, the skiing gets boring.

I prefer resorts that have green skiing areas with both wide open spaces and narrow runs through the trees. The carful of kids like to ride a run a couple of times then try another route.

Ski Mom Hints

Conveyor or Magic Carpet Lifts will keep your kids on the ground and not dangling from a wire like a trapeze. It’s a bit nerve-racking to get my youngest and myself on the ski lift.

Remember beginner runs are not the same as GREEN runs. Just because it’s labeled green doesn’t mean your kids are ready to cruise down it after one lesson.

Ski School for Kids 

Look at the resort’s ski school. Ski School is a must for kids under eight, unless you are a pro. All the instructors I have met through the years have been great with kids; pacing the program according to ability of my kids. They are patient with missing gloves and potty breaks.

I like the ski schools in a separate fenced-off area with separate conveyor-belt or magic carpet lifts that are only used by the ski school. I want my younger kids in an area away from the older kids with different needs and skills.

My youngest heading down his first green run with his ski instructor. Family friendly ski resort
My youngest heading down his first green run with his ski instructor.

 

Some ski schools have half-day programs but this might not be an option during the school holidays; the resorts prefer full-day programs during peak periods. I have been to resorts that offer on-site day care; this is a nice, yet expensive option.

If your kids are older then skip the ski school and sign them up for a beginner ski/snowboard package that includes classes, equipment and lift tickets for the first day. The earlier in the day, the better. After the class, they can practice.

If you plan to learn to ski or snowboard as a family then you might look at a private or semi-private lessons. The resorts tend to assign the most seasoned instructors to the private lessons; they are a great way to go but can be expensive.

I hope that my hints help you to find a family-friendly ski resort that suits your family.


Know before you go: 
  • Reservations are a must for ski school programs during the school breaks.
  • You can get a discount by booking your lift tickets online through the ski resort’s website.
  • I purchase lift tickets through consolidators, like liftopia.com for greater discounts.
  • I like to rent my equipment from ski shops and skip the line on the mountain. Most shops let you rent equipment the evening before and you can return it early in the morning after your trip.
  • Don’t forget the helmets, they are required for kids at lots of resorts.

Other Articles You Might Enjoy:

What to pack for a Family Ski Trip

Lake Tahoe for Family-Friendly Ski Destination

Free Sledding in Lake Tahoe

Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe

Ski Santa Fe

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