Every ski enthusiast, whether a young first-time novice or veteran downhill racer, has a favorite ski resort. Some love the Zermatt Alpine slopes in Switzerland, others Mont-Tremblant in Canada or traditional resorts in Germany and Austria. The U.S. can also boast of the some of the best ski resorts in the world, especially for families.
In addition to providing all comforts and facilities for adults, many ski resorts also welcome families with children. They offer beginners’ ski instructions, play areas, steaming swimming pools, ice skating, hiking, horseback rides, and many other attractions for kids. They don’t do it just because they love the little ones. They do it because they want the little skiers to grow up to be big skiers and come back often.
We can heartily recommend these American ski destinations our family has visited over the years as the best for families.
1. Loveland isn’t the biggest nor the most glamorous of Colorado’s many great ski areas. However, it’s the closest and most accessible ski area to the city of Denver, University of Colorado town of Boulder, and Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Families from those locations all are within a 90-minute drive up the Rockies 10,000 feet to the Loveland ski areas. We started our ski experiences there when my Dad was appointed to the faculty of Colorado State in the late 1970s.
We get back almost every year to visit with old friends from university days. We try to get on the slopes early in November, before the hordes of college students show up during holiday break. Then, quiet Loveland becomes Party Town U.S.A. Loveland boasts of its great downhill areas for skilled skiers, and the names alone are enough to scare away we mere amateurs. Consider the implications of The Plunge, Avalanche Bowl, Tiger’s Tail and Zoom.
Fortunately, most of Loveland’s ski areas are soft-packed slopes on powdery trails, all easy downhills with less frightening names as Sunburst and Splashdown. There are daycare centers at the Basin, offering lots of indoor and outdoor activities for the littlest visitors. Ski School at Loveland Valley has expert instructors who welcome beginner kids and adults as well. Estimated daily cost per person, plus transportation: $100-$200. For information about costs, lodging, restaurants and shopping in the Loveland ski area, go to www.skiloveland.com
2. Aspen is larger and much better known than Loveland, because it has always boasted of its celebrity guests and famous wintertime residents. These days, they include rock star Seal and supermodel wife, Heidi Klum, as well as English soccer star David and singer wife, Victoria Beckham. On any trip to Aspen, in bars, restaurants or on the slopes, you can expect to rub shoulders with billionaires, senators, movie stars, rock legends, European royalty, Middle East oil barons and others. All you need to vacation there are very deep pockets.
Because Aspen is a world-famous resort, visiting families can expect to pay about twice as much for everything there as they do at Loveland. In addition to the beginner slopes, facilities include professional instructions for skiers and snowboarders of all ages, and many kid-designed activities. They include horseback riding, hiking trails, Jeep expeditions and much more. The four mountain-top Aspen ski resorts, all at least two miles high above sea level, are Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk. Each offers lodging, restaurants, ski instructions, family activities and much more.
Estimated cost per person per day: $250-$500, plus transportation. For complete information on Aspen costs, lodging, shopping, ski and other facilities, go to www.aspenchamber.org
3. Squaw Valley is one of the largest ski areas in U.S. It first came into world fame when it hosted the 1960 Olympic Winter Games. We don’t usually travel to this part of Northern California, but two years ago we attended a medical conference in Reno, just 40 miles east across Lake Tahoe in Nevada.
Everyone in our group, including families, signed up for a ski weekend at the famous resort up the mountain from Lake Tahoe on the California side. Squaw Valley is huge, and even for the non-skiers, the 33 lifts and other wonders are worth the visit just for the magnificent mountain views.
For new adult and kid skiers, Squaw offers gentle slopes and many levels of runs, from the downhill racer to the pre-teen learner. There also ski and snowboard sessions for adults and kids, as well as babysitting services, saunas, skating rinks and free shuttles to many parts of the huge resorts grounds and facilities. There are also day excursions for families and romantic evening cruises for adults on beautiful Lake Tahoe. For those who want to venture across the lake on free boat rides, they’ll go ashore to glittering casinos and hotels on the Nevada side. Estimated costs per person per day, plus transportation: $200-$300. For more information about costs, lodging, shopping and other activities, go to www.squaw.com