Ski Resorts For Families
guess what? Learning to ski is a bargain.
By Larry Olmsted
pursuits can rival skiing for family fun. Children who learn to
ski or snowboard at an early age can pursue it for the rest of their
lives, and ski vacations make for great family time together, whether
it is for a weekend getaway, or a whole week to a far-flung destination.
Fathers can ski with their sons and daughters, or split up and meet
for lunch, and for young children, almost every ski area offers
dedicated, supervised programs.
While skiing is perceived as an expensive sport, it doesn't have
to be. Almost all resorts offer a wide variety of lodging, including
condos, villas and homes that are perfect for larger families, and
with kitchens, you can save a bundle on dining. Competition for
visitors is so fierce that all but the most famous resorts offer
some great bargain packages. Certainly, learning to ski is one of
the great bargains in all of sports. With a steady decrease in the
number of skiers over the years, the industry has countered with
extremely attractive "learn to ski" and "learn to
board" packages to draw new blood into the sport. These often
add free gear rental and even free lessons into the price of a lift
ticket. Improvements in teaching techniques and equipment have greatly
reduced the sport's learning curve, making it possible for kids
to carve turns their first day out. And many shops offer seasonal
equipment leases for growing kids, where you can trade up to new
sizes each season.
When planning a ski outing with your kids, consider the following
Children should always wear helmets.
Many ski areas now rent helmets, as they have become much more common
on the slopes.
If you have older children who can ski on their own,
consider a pair of the popular new sports walkie-talkies. They have
long range, are clear and lightweight, and let you connect easily
with your teens for lunch, at the end of the day, or if your kids
get tired. They are reasonably priced, but more and more mountains
rent them as well.
Get your kids professional instruction.
It doesn't matter how good a skier you are, the pros make a living
as teachers, and many specialize in teaching children. Besides techniques,
they understand children's fears, motivations and speed of learning.
In addition, they have access to dedicated teaching facilities like
magic carpet lifts (moving walkways) and safe teaching zones.
It takes less time than ever before to learn to ski, but it still
takes time, and kids get frustrated and cold more easily than adults.
Be supportive and never rush your children along.
For the best family ski vacations and learning experiences, consider:
When it comes to family friendly, it is hard to beat Deer Valley,
with ample lighter than air snow, and the best customer service
in the business. Those new to skiing will enjoy the mountain's renowned
grooming, resulting in immaculate conditions all season long. If
your kids get cold or wet, there are warming huts all over, and
even dryers at the top of the lifts to warm up gloves or hats. Deer
Valley operates a dedicated family skiing area on its Flagstaff
Mountain, with two lifts, several trails, and a yurt, a hut-like
lodge serving snacks and drinks. The resort has excellent instructors
and a wide variety of children's programs, including full-day classes
starting with three year olds. There are also classes for those
4 1/2 through kindergarten; first grade through 12; and teenagers.
Deer Valley is a skiing-only mountain, and does not allow snowboarding
Kids will love
the wooden sidewalks and wild west setting of the town where Butch
Cassidy got his bank robbing start. Adults will love the first rate
lodging, dining and skiing of this Rocky Mountain escape. Wannabe
skiers and boarders can enter group classes for 3-6 and 7-12 year
olds, and kids who are established skiers will love the Surge Air
Garden, full of jumps and ramps. The exclusive Peaks resort even
offers a Kidspa to reward the little ones for toughing it out in
the cold. Best of all, the resort offers a fantastic family package,
even in high season unlike many early bird offers. Two adults and
two children get seven nights lodging and five days of skiing with
a two bedroom condo for just $1856. The offer is good 12/17-22 and
When it comes to bargains, this powerhouse resort is hard to beat,
mainly because of the weak Canadian dollar. But that's the only
thing weak about the resort, which is named best in North America
by all the major ski magazines year-in and year-out. Its two peaks
have the first and second highest vertical on the continent, and
it is very easy to navigate. But the big selling point is the huge,
car free pedestrian village, which is perfectly suited to families,
with a wide range of restaurants, shops and attractions, all safely
located at the base of the two peaks. Whistler Kids offers a wide
selection of skiing and snowboarding clinics for kids 3-17, while
the Kids' Adventure Camps offer a five-day immersion with the same
group of kids and instructors, a kids après ski evening and
weekly themes. Two-day mini-camps are available on weekends. Children
under seven ski free, every single day. A huge variety of hotels,
resorts and condos, all at reasonable prices, make Whistler the
king of the hill (800-WHISTLER,
It's no coincidence that so many residents of the Northeast learned
to ski at Okemo, a family-owned, family-run resort with tons of
ski-in, ski-out condos. Okemo has a great instructional staff, and
clinics for kids 4-7, 7-12, and 13-16. With predominantly beginner
and intermediate terrain, it's a mountain kids can go by themselves
on with minimum worry. They also offer what may be the nation's
only extreme skiing program for kids. Extreme skier Dan Egan, star
of many off the wall ski movies, hosts a Kids' Big Air camp, where
future Olympic free stylists can learn how to go big. But Okemo
has plenty of saner, more sedate programs for the average teen (800-78-OKEMO,
lives in Vermont and writes frequently about travel and skiing.
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