Best Family Ski Resorts in Utah, Part 2: Canyons

When I told a friend I was headed to Utah’s Canyons Resort, the first thing she said was “The Orange Bubble!” The what? Turns out that this heated-seat chairlift with brilliantly colored windshields, the only one of its kind in North America, is the star of Canyons’ ski scene. It sounds indulgent, but it’s also smart. Instead of killing time at the lodge, you can simply warm up on the way to your next run. That’s just one of many well-planned extras that make Canyons a standout for a family ski trip to Utah.

The Orange Bubble Express heated chairlift keeps skiers cozy en route to the runs. Photo: Rob Bossi, Canyons Resort.

The Orange Bubble Express heated chairlift keeps skiers cozy en route to the runs. Photo: Rob Bossi/Canyons Resort.

Canyons Ski Resort Review for Families

Canyons Resort Highlights

The last thing you want to do on a ski vacation is spend hours driving to the resort after a long flight. Canyons is in Park City, an easy 30-minute hop from the Salt Lake City airport. Fly into town in the morning and you might be schussing downhill shortly after lunch.

To make gear rentals equally painless, go with Park City-based Ski Butlers. They’ll fit you for skis, snowboards, boots, poles and helmets right in your accommodations — no dragging the whole family to the ski shop and waiting in line. The service more than pays for itself in convenience; my fitting took less than 15 minutes, start to finish.

The Red Pine Lodge at Canyons is an ideal spot to watch kids on the learning slope. Photo: Rob Bossi/Canyons Resort.

The Red Pine Lodge at Canyons is an ideal spot to watch kids on the learning slope. Photo: Rob Bossi/Canyons Resort.

Canyons is massive, with roughly 4,000 skiable acres spread over 9 peaks. Expert skiers are spoiled for choice; nearly half the runs are black diamonds. Only 10 percent are greens, but given the resort’s size, that translates to more variety than it sounds like. Four terrain parks, including one just for 3- to 6-year-olds, and a handful of natural halfpipes will keep snowboarders happy.

The ski school has a good variety of programs for adults as well as kids. It’s nice that the learning area is mid-mountain, so beginners really feel like they’re up on the slopes. The Red Pine Lodge overlooks that spot — parents can get in some ski time, then stop by for coffee or lunch and sneak a peek at their little ones’ progress.

Snowshoe views go on for miles and miles.

Snowshoe views go on for miles and miles.

To ensure small ratios, book an Ultimate 4 class (maximum 4 students per instructor). If your kids are novices or never-evers, I’d budget for private lessons; the personalized attention is invaluable, especially at large resorts. Canyons’ childcare center takes children as young as 6 weeks — I’ve noticed this trend toward teeny-tinies at a lot of ski areas, a huge asset for new parents craving time on the snow.

The range of winter activities here is especially appealing for kids, from sleigh rides to early- and late-season ziplining. I took a guided snowshoe hike one afternoon, winding through the backcountry to a mountain lake. With fluffy powder up to our shins, aspens stretching skyward and boundless vistas over the Wasatch Range, the 2-hour trek was indescribably lovely. There’s an easier hike for families, and another one that includes a gourmet lunch.

At Canyons, life's a ski beach. Photo: Dave Newkirk/Canyons Resort.

At Canyons, life’s a ski beach. Photo: Dave Newkirk/Canyons Resort.

Canyons scores points for its supercool ski beach, a stretch of snow at the resort village where people kick back in beach chairs and check out the action from lifeguard towers. This is après-ski for families at its best: Mom and Dad can sip a beer or grab a snack from the Umbrella Bar while kids play in the powder.

Where to Stay

The Waldorf-Astoria Park City, an oasis of quiet opulence, is truly special. Although it isn’t ski-out, it has its own heated gondola to and from the base. Ski valets at the hotel handle your gear, store belongings while you’re on the slopes, and hasten to get your boots on and off before you ask. What pampering!

Beautiful suites at the Waldorf-Astoria Park City give families plenty of space to spread out.

Beautiful suites at the Waldorf-Astoria Park City give families plenty of space to spread out.

Rooms and suites, some large enough to sleep families of 10, are luxurious and handsomely appointed. My one-bedroom suite had a spacious kitchen with top-tier appliances, a pullout sofa, a washer/dryer, living room and bedroom fireplaces, and — music to a parent’s ears — two full bathrooms. The master bath included a whirlpool tub for end-of-day soaking, a lifesaver since I didn’t make it down to the heated pool, steam room or other spa facilities.

Dining

Canyons’ diverse dining scene ranges from brewpubs to upscale steakhouses. There’s even a restaurant that adheres to kosher guidelines (the resort also has a full Bistro Sabbath package and kosher vacation planning specialists). My pick for a memorable dinner is The Farm, a casually elegant spot with an inspired farm-to-table menu and a fabulous cocktail list. Or head back up to Red Pine Lodge for a classic Western barbecue, where the moonrise mountain views are as much of a draw as the live country music and slow-smoked prime rib.

Need Help Planning a Family Ski Vacation?

We can help! Our Family Vacation Consultants can provide expert advice on the best ski vacation for your family. Request assistance on My Trip Planner.

Relevant Links:

Best family ski resorts in Utah: Alta

Best ski free deals this season

10 ways to make a family ski trip less expensive

Three very good reasons to ski in Park City, Utah with kids

Editorial Note: Ciao Bambino was part of a media trip to experience Canyons Resort and the Waldorf-Astoria Park City. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Lisa Frederick unless otherwise noted.

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