Not everyone wants sun and sand on their winter vacation. Some families are looking for hills and fresh powder. For your family travel clients seeking a ski resort getaway, availability of activities for all family members is a key feature. There should be something for skiers of all levels, and parents should feel confident about leaving their kids in the hands of the ski instructors for lessons. These are the top 5 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.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (Teton Village, Wyoming)
Forbes made a list of the top places to ask 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.
Jackson Hole has a reputation of being one of the best ski resorts for avid skiers, which might scare away novices and families, but shouldn’t. This place is wonderful for families. This year they opened up a new area for kids and adult beginner lessons called Solitude Station in addition to their Kid’s Ranch ski school. One of the big selling points for Jackson Hole is how they incorporate extra support for kids who need it into their lessons at no extra cost. They also provide adaptive lessons that are individualized but can join up with group lessons where applicable at great rates.
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 skiers up the mountain, which means no long wait even though there is nearly constant activity on the lifts and gondolas. Once skiers reach the top of the hill, it doesn’t feel crowded at all.
Where To Stay
If your clients are looking for the ultimate vacation with a home-away-from-home feel, they should consider Shooting Star Cabins, Lodges and Homesteads at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. 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 Resort (Ellicottville, New York)
Holiday Valley is a wonderful resort for first-time ski vacationers. There is a lot more to do there than just downhill ski. In addition to the downhill runs that made the resort famous, families can try Nordic skiing, the Sky Flyer Mountain Coaster, tubing, pay a visit to the spa, and enjoy the convenient lodging and dining options. The beginner hills are fairly short and the lessons for skiers of all ages happen in the same area. One of the most convenient things about Holiday Valley is that the kids’ rental equipment pick-up is fairly close to the lessons. The instructors are top-notch, and you can suggest your clients sign up in advance with their online booking system to save some money.
The avid skiers will have enough challenging runs to keep them happy, while the novice skiers will find multiple runs at their skill levels. Those just trying skiing or snowboarding for the first time will find something for them as well. In other words, it’s an ideal place, too, for a multigenerational group, including those who are non-skiers.
Where To Stay
There are options on the resort itself, including the Inn at Holiday Valley with ski lockers for every room and complimentary shuttles to the base lodges. The Tamarack Club is a new hotel/condominium that can accommodate larger groups looking for apartment-style amenities.
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 clients may want to go to the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum and learn more about the local community and culture.
Blue Mountain Resort (Collingwood, Ontario)
Clients looking for a great resort in southern Ontario, within a couple hours of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)? Blue Mountain Resort is the place to send them. For those who are just starting out in skiing, there are plenty of things to do off the slope—from walking around the picturesque village, spending time at the Plunge! indoor aquatic centre, or enjoying the views while skating at Woodview Mountaintop Skating. For clients who crave some R&R time, they can book some time at the onsite Iwa Spa, which provides a variety of treatments from massages to Ganban’yoku volcanic rock therapy. For those who love snow, this is the place that winter dreams about. Its proximity to the GTA makes it ideal for clients who are not avid skiers but want to try in a place with lots of other options available. For those who don’t have gear, there are lots of rentals available. Snowshoes, ski boots, snowboards, and helmets—all are available for rent. There are daily private and small group lessons as well as day and half-day ski camps for the 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 all of the amenities accessible without having to step outside. Oliver and Bonacini, one of the best restaurants 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 itself are each less than a 2-minute walk away.
Another great option is 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. Best part? It has indoor access to Iwa Spa.
The Inn is the most economical option, perfect for your budget-conscious clients, 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 shuttle, getting around is seamless.
For more information, visit bluemountain.ca.
Mont-Tremblant Resort (Mont-Tremblant, Quebec)
The Mont-Tremblant Resort is more of an overall winter experience location than just a ski resort. The resort is great for skiing, and beginners will LOVE the Nansen run. What’s great about the Nansen run for families is that it’s one very long run where beginner and novice skiers get to perfect their turns over and over before getting to the bottom of 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 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. Mont-Tremblant features over one hundred ski trails on four distinct slopes.
What family travel clients will enjoy about Mont-Tremblant Resort is that skiing and the on-hill activities are just a part of the experience. They offer many off-hill experiences too, whether that includes a dog sledding family experience, sleigh rides through the snow, ice fishing, snowshoeing, or even learning to ice climb, the fun happens both on and off the hill.
Where To Stay
There are many options at Tremblant ranging in price, and all can be booked using the central lodging page. Some of the notable lodging options include Sommet des Neiges, which is in the upper village, and with it being only 100 ft. from the gondola offers ski in/ ski out option. These suites have been recently renovated and because of its location, there is direct access to the ski school.
For clients looking for luxury, the clear choice 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.
For more information, visit tremblant.ca.
Whistler Blackcomb (Whistler, British Columbia)
Whistler Blackcomb is almost synonymous with skiing in Western Canada: Your clients will find something for every type and level of skier and lots of non-hill activities as well. Whistler Blackcomb is a one-of-a kind experience combining two mountains into one experience, and is one of the largest ski resorts in North America with over 200 runs between the two mountains! Whistler Blackcomb was the site of the alpine ski events in the 2010 winter Olympics and expert skiers will enjoy challenging themselves on some of the hardest runs. It provides a wonderful experience for skiers of every level; for beginners and intermediate level skiers, there’s a great ski school with lessons for kids, teens, and adults.
There are some amazing off-hill experiences to participate in. They have a great tube park, and often have free activities in the evenings for the whole family. One of the more unique experiences, sure to appeal to adrenaline-junkies is the winter zipline. Less-adventurous types can go for a snowshoe hike with the family, while little ones will love the Magic Castle and Tree Fort outdoor play areas.
Where to Stay
Because it’s such a large property, covering two mountains, there are many lodging options. The best bet is to advise clients to search the website before deciding if they want to stay in the upper or lower village and which amenities they want to be closest to. For those 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 and Fairmont.
For more information, visit whistlerblackcomb.com.
Recommend magazine has partnered with the Family Travel Association to bring you monthly columns to help travel advisors sell family travel. This column was written by Claire Kerr-Zlobin, a travel writer and Family Travel Association Media Center member.