Ski Resort Must Haves and Nice-to-Haves
Prioritization. If there is one word that defines the niche we try to help families with in planning ski vacations,
that is it. The truth of the matter is that dozens of ski resorts across the country can offer your family an
enjoyable and memorable vacation. To decide on one ski resort to visit, you need to combine your priorities with
the resorts ambience and amenities.
With that said, there are a few things that we believe have emerged as family-oriented "must-haves" on a family
ski trip; that is, they are core to a good experience and you should be able to find them at any quality ski resort
that you visit. A separate list of "nice-to-haves" exists; those are things that a few resorts offer, but that we
expect the industry to follow sooner or later, unless they consciously decide to not market to families.
1. Professionally staffed ski school. Gone are the days of having a handful of part-time students showing up
whenever they can to teach a ski class. Today's ski instructors have to be polished and compete for their jobs.
The best ones have either been doing it for a while, or bring new energy and techniques in a way that gives
parents confidence. Asking about instructor experience or turnover is a good way to understand ski school
2. Fully-licensed child care. You should fully expect any child care at a ski resort to be fully licensed through their
respective state. Today's child care resembles that of good quality neighborhood daycare, with structured play
activities, healthy snacks, and professional staff.
3. Evening teen activities. What was once a trend with only the progressive family resorts is now common:
Evening activities for teens, such as pizza and movies. This is a great way for your teen to have some clean,
wholesome fun, not have to hang with the parents all the time, and likely get them more excited about taking the
next ski trip.
4. Ski-in, Ski-out accommodations. We know that not every budget can handle ski-in, ski-out, but for those that
can, we highly recommend it. Being able to go on the slopes for a couple hours, take a hot chocolate or nap
break, and then easily heading out for a couple more runs is something you cannot do if you are a bus ride away
from the resort. By and large, every ski area whose geography can handle ski-in, ski-out has built this type of
lodging up. To be clear, a great ski vacation can be had without ski-in, ski-out lodging, but do it if you can.
1. Joint child/parent ski lessons. Not only does a dual lesson allow you to spend more time with your children, but
it allows you to hear what you should be reinforcing with your child on the slopes. We're big fans of this
instruction, as they also teach some safety tips that parent and child should be practicing together.
2. Tradable lift tickets. Mom skis with junior in the morning while Dad lets the twins sleep in, and Dad goes out in
the afternoon, all on the same ticket. It is brilliant, and we can't believe more resorts don't offer it. From what we
can tell, Northstar-at-Tahoe started this trend.
3. Toddler lesson / daycare combos. For 3 and 4 year olds, some exposure to skiing is desired, but they often
can't handle even a half day on the slopes. In comes the combination lesson / daycare program, allowing an hour
or two of ski instruction and daycare for the rest of the day. Approximately 1/3 of the resorts we reviewed
offered this service.
4. Standalone kids center. Having the ski school / child care / teen center in its own, new, geared-toward-kids
facility is the new trend for those resorts that can accommodate it. We have yet to see the newest example of
this at Snowmass, but are eager to do so.