Ski School Q&A, Part 2
The blog at TakingTheKids.com did a Q&A with our editors, focused on common parent questions regarding ski
school and other family skiing topics. Here is Part 2 of that interview:
3) What if parents can't ski; are there places to learn alongside your child?
Yes. A growing trend with more family-oriented resorts is to have a joint parent / child lesson. Not only does this
create an opportunity for the parent and child to spend more time together during the vacation, but it provides
the added benefit of seeing what your child was instructed and being able to reinforce those lessons when out on
the slope. These lessons are typically costly, however. At Big Sky for example, the two-hour combined lesson is
$250, and at Smugglers Notch the cost is $70 for an hour. Cheaper rates may be found at the smaller resorts.
4) What are some standard ski resort options for those family members who can't/don't want to ski or
In ranking the nations best family ski resorts, FamilySkiHub places a high value on non-ski activities. The chances
of every member of the family wanting to spend each full day skiing can be slim. A ski vacation is part skiing and
part vacation, and non-skiing activities are an important consideration for selecting a destination.
Standard offerings for adult non-skiers at most major ski resorts include spa services, sledding (which in the
mountains can be unlike anything else you’ve experienced), cross-country skiing, and sightseeing. Some resorts,
such as Aspen, Breckenridge, Stowe, and Jackson Hole, have “real” downtowns which can offer non-skiers several
days of sightseeing, art viewing, shopping, and leisurely lunches. If you do your research, almost every ski area
has a diversion nearby for the non-skier. There is a great, scenic ½ day drive from Taos called the Enchanted
Circle that we would recommend for anyone. In New England, it is easy to find history in the towns near the ski
areas. One of the reasons we like Big Sky so much is its proximity (20 miles) to Yellowstone National Park.
5) Can you recommend some family-friendly resorts in the West, Midwest and East? How about Canada?
We'd like to hear about some quirky ones that people haven't heard of....like Yawgoo Valley in Rhode
Truth be told, there are probably several dozen ski resorts across North America can all offer a good family
experience if the vacation is well-researched and planned. Major western ski resorts that we particularly like are
Steamboat Springs in Colorado, Deer Valley in Utah, Taos in New Mexico, Big Sky in Montana, and
Northstar-at-Tahoe in California. On the Canadian side, Apex Mountain in British Columbia has a great family
reputation. In the Midwest, Minnesota’s Lutsen, while remote, offers a great combination of wildlife viewing, cross
country skiing, and downhill skiing. Out East, Smugglers Notch in Vermont is the family favorite, and Sugarloaf in
Maine offers an excellent variety of terrain similar to some Western resorts.
People should never forget about smaller resorts, especially considering that they may be much less expensive
and easier to get to from certain parts of the country. One of the best family ski destinations that your readers
might not have heard of is Grand Targhee, on the western face of the Tetons (with more popular Jackson Hole on
the eastern face). The snow is almost always better at Targhee than it is at Jackson Hole, and the resort is
decidedly geared toward families. Montana has two great and oft-forgotten ski areas: Bridger Bowl near Bozeman
and Big Mountain near Kalispell. Both offer bona-fide Rocky Mountain ski experiences without all of costs and
amenities of the more popular resorts. Several smaller, lesser-known ski areas dot the Eastern scene. Titus
Mountain in New York is a smaller and family-friendly ski region which may be convenient for New Yorkers. Pats
Peak in New Hampshire and Saddleback in Maine are two other smaller resorts
which can provide a nice family experience, among others.
For rankings of favorite ski areas, the top 20 Family Ski Resort lists major ski resorts that have particular merit as
family destinations. Keep in mind that the resorts I’ve named here as well as those listed in the Top 20 list
represent only a partial list of the North American ski resorts that make great family destinations. We are
fortunate to have such good skiing all around us.
6) Are many US ski resorts having problems getting enough snow in recent years? Are there any places
that can still "almost guarantee" snow (real, not artificial) despite climate issues?
As a general rule, two things help a ski resort have more reliable natural snow: Geographic placement and
altitude. The same precipitation that might be making ski conditions poor at 6,000 feet could be producing
beautiful powder at 10,000 feet.
Specifically, Grand Targhee in Wyoming, as mentioned before, has a reputation for receiving great, reliable snow.
The placement of the big Utah resorts – Snowbird, Alta, Deer Valley, Park City, The Canyons, and Solitude, seems
to increase the chances of them receiving good snow. In Colorado, several ski resorts, such as Keystone, Winter
Park and Breckenridge, are situated at such high altitudes that quality natural snow can usually be found at just
about any time during the season.
The snow in the East is known as being heavier and can more easily turn to slush, but most resorts have such
sophisticated snow making equipment that they can compensate for all but the most difficult snow years. Eastern
resorts in both Canada and the U.S. don’t have the luxury of altitude. It isn’t uncommon for the peaks in the East
to be under 5,000 feet – a full 2,500 feet lower than a typical base village at a Rockies ski resort. One strategy in
the East is to find a resort in the path of “lake effect” snow, such as Cockaigne in Western New York, which
receives nearly as much snow as some resorts in the Rockies.
The Alps are a different story, as that part of the world is experiencing a climate warm-up that is about three
times more pronounced than here in North America. Swiss and Austrian ski resorts have noticed fewer snow days
in recent winters, and some resorts which used to guarantee natural snow no longer find they can do so. There
are also documented cases of Swiss banks refusing to lend money to ski resorts which are not at 1,500 meters or
higher, fearing that they may not have a viable business model if climate patterns continue.