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Head-spinning views everywhere you look. Outdoor activities galore. Fresh air and wide open spaces. A variety of luxury accommodations, from large resort-style hotels to intimate cabins. Delectable dining options. All the components of a fabulous vacation can be found at the best family ski resorts in the United States, and luckily, these locations work for family fun year-round, regardless of your ski skills. They’re perfect for a fall getaway, spring break or a summer escape, plus winter activities on and off the slopes.
In Steamboat, you’ll find a wide selection of value accommodations, many of which are condo-style with plenty of space to spread out. The area’s relatively remote location, more than 150 miles from Denver, means it doesn’t get the weekend-only crowds that other Colorado ski resorts tend to attract. This, along with the variety of terrain and runs, makes it a great place to hunker down for a full week and spend some time exploring the town of Steamboat Springs as well as the working ranches around it. For skiers, note that the term “Champagne powder” originates here, as the snow is usually dry just like Champagne. Winter sports aficionados love that ski conditions remain good well into the spring here, making it a viable option as a spring break ski destination. In summer, little daredevils will enjoy a few runs down North America’s longest roller coaster, the Outlaw Mountain Coaster, with that fresh mountain air whipping all around you along more than a mile of track.
If you were to choose a ski resort based solely on gorgeous fall foliage, Stowe would top the list. Here you can experience the best of those iconic New England autumnal colors. When you need a break from leaf peeping, Stowe caters to its fall visitors more extensively than most ski resorts and in meaningful ways, with lots of seasonal festivals and events. In winter, it is widely regarded as one of the best ski spots in the eastern half of the U.S., with the highest elevation in Vermont. In summer, families enjoy canoeing, hiking and biking their way through the beautiful countryside. Spring brings maple syrup tapping and incredible trout fishing. So regardless of when your busy family calendar has an opening for a getaway, Stowe will offer something to enjoy.
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, where the Rocky Mountains begin to form, may be the best ski spot you’ve never heard of. It is hard for most people to reach, but this just means it is quiet, even in peak season, and therefore easier to carve out personal space for your family. The Enchanted Loop scenic drive makes for an incredible road trip year-round, especially if you’ve never ventured to this part of America. History lovers should not miss a visit to the Taos Pueblo, where families can immerse themselves in this region’s 1,000-year-old history. Those seeking culture will appreciate the confluence of Indigenous, Latino and European architecture, art and food. The resort itself is in the midst of a $300 million revitalization that will preserve what makes it special: its intimacy and connection with the beautiful landscape and people who surround it.
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For those with luxe accommodations high on their vacation priority list, Beaver Creek scores big points. The resort’s selection of ski-in/ski-out properties is particularly impressive, as are the award-winning spas. We love to set our clients up with a private ski guide and a ski butler to maximize time on the slopes and customize their family’s ski experience. Regardless of when you visit, most pools are heated year-round. While Beaver Creek is a more intimate ski resort, it is also very easy to pair with a few days exploring nearby Vail, one of the largest ski resorts in the U.S. Vail has a robust on-mountain summer activity program that draws raves from families. A highlight is the breathtaking zipline, perfect for teens. But don’t be surprised if what your kids still talk about long after your trip to Beaver Creek is the chefs passing out warm chocolate chip cookies après-ski.
Lake Placid is a longtime favorite ski destination for New Yorkers and New Englanders, but don’t sleep on it in summer either. Try cruising on one of the hundreds of beautiful lakes aboard an antique wooden boat, or go canoeing or kayaking on the gentle rivers. There is family-friendly yet incredibly picturesque hiking through the Adirondacks too. All of these activities have made Lake Placid a hidden gem for multigenerational trips, as there is something to please every age here. And when your family is hitting the slopes, the facilities developed when Lake Placid hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics mean this ski resort really punches above its weight. If you’re looking to plan a weeklong trip and experience two destinations, Lake Placid pairs well with Stowe (described above) for wonderful variety any time of year. The locations are only a 2 1/2-hour drive apart.
The Ciao Bambino team has skied just about every major resort on earth with kids. One that remains a firm favorite and that we return to again and again is Sun Valley. The snowmaking here is incredible (widely considered the best in the world), and families love that they can ski straight through to mid-April. Aside from peak holiday weekends, Sun Valley boasts few to no lift lines. The snow tubing park is a big hit as well. In summer, families love the hundreds of miles of hiking trails, mountain biking, swimming in one of several pools, fly fishing and even a summer ice skating program. For parents who crave some adults-only time while on vacation, Sun Valley has a robust kids’ camp program in the summer and a top-notch ski school in winter. The village here is intimate, meaning older kids can have freedom to explore on their own.
A firm favorite of northern Californians for long weekend getaways, Lake Tahoe is certainly worth a spot on this list. While the fall foliage isn’t as spectacular as some other destinations, Lake Tahoe compensates by typically having enough snow for skiing straight through the spring break season. Summer shines, too, when the hiking trails overlooking the sparkling lake please nature lovers. For those looking for the space, convenience, and privacy of their own rental home, Ciao Bambino knows the inventory here well, and our clients can feel confident that what we recommend and book on their behalf will meet or exceed all their expectations, rather than taking a gamble on anonymous internet reviews. We can also direct families to which area of the region best meets their needs for ski or summer pursuits, from Squaw Valley to Northstar to Heavenly, and even the quieter, lesser known spots.
Telluride is not easily accessible by direct flight, and that’s actually a big part of the appeal of a vacation to this part of Colorado. When you arrive, you can be assured of low crowds and incredible scenery. The fall foliage here is spectacular, some of the best in the western half of the U.S. If you’re willing to go even farther afield from Telluride, there are unique family-oriented ranch experiences in the surrounding areas that are wonderful year-round. This region is also known for scenic old mining towns and relaxing hot springs, and has a sense of place rooted in the historic West that is often missing in more modern ski resorts. Families love that Telluride’s off-the-beaten-path location means they don’t have to battle lift lines while skiing, just the steep, rugged terrain of the San Juan Mountains. These peaks pose an added challenge that has become quite popular with brave teens and expert skiers.
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For families in search of a convenient location to spend maximum time on vacation and minimal time traveling, Park City is just the spot — it’s only 45 minutes from Salt Lake City, a Delta Airlines hub. Once you arrive, you’ll be delighted to find three resorts (Canyons, Deer Valley and Park City Mountain) in one area, giving everyone plenty of options to find the type of experience they desire: skiing or snowboarding; luxury or budget accommodations. Off-season, families should plan to spend at least a few summer days enjoying all the activities offered, and can easily include Park City as part of a larger road trip around Utah that includes places like Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and Moab.
While some ski destinations also offer enriching cultural experiences, Sante Fe is a cultural landmark in its own right that happens to offer great skiing as an added bonus. The charming downtown is full of impressive art galleries, independent restaurants and unusual gift shops, as well as family-friendly museums and historic gems like the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. In fall, the brilliant yellows of the trees in the Santa Fe National Forest will make an afternoon hike a visual treat. Sante Fe also combines easily with a couple of days in Albuquerque for a fuller New Mexico experience, as they are less than 2 hours apart. The ski area near Santa Fe is all about the mountain and less about the fuss of additional services and amenities that larger resorts offer. It is family-owned and operated, and a true kid-friendly vibe permeates.
Home to two of our favorite luxury ski hotels (Hotel Jerome and The Little Nell), where our Family Travel Advisors can access amazing Virtuoso perks and full-service ski packages from lift tickets to special dining arrangements, Aspen Snowmass lives up to its reputation as an iconic ski destination that pampers guests throughout their stay. Ski school starts at age 2 1/2 and childcare begins at 8 weeks, making it a surprisingly baby- and toddler-friendly place for families to ski. In the summer, the Lost Forest experience joins the growing list of dedicated summer diversions that ski resorts have developed. Tucked away in the trees, Lost Forest is more nature-based than others, with ponds, creeks, boulders, hiking trails, bike paths, ropes courses, and more. In fall, the location’s namesake aspen trees light up the scenery with brilliant colors.
Families should jump at the chance to visit Big Sky in large part because it is also an opportunity to explore Yellowstone National Park, one of America’s premier natural jewels. Prearranged tours depart from Big Sky, or for independent-minded travelers, it’s a 40-mile drive to the western entrance of the park. Yellowstone is known as a summer destination, when the wildlife and vegetation are on full display. But winter in Yellowstone is magical too and far less crowded. It’s fun for kids to take a snow coach tour or go for a snowmobile ride. Big Sky itself offers families lots of variety, from dog sledding and snowshoeing in winter to mountain biking and zip lining in summer. Skiers love the average of 400 inches of fresh snow per season and the variety of terrain.
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This is a challenging time for our clients given the uncertainty around the spread of coronavirus, particularly for those with near-term travel plans in impacted areas. We’re working with our suppliers on being flexible with their booking conditions, and enabling families to postpone travel to a later date without a penalty, when possible. Likewise, given the unpredictability around destinations that may be impacted in the future, we’re helping clients planning new trips and understand ways that they can protect themselves until the situation improves. We are ready to help our clients work through questions and concerns.
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