Even if you go to a resort where kids ski free, family ski vacations are expensive. Skiing is also a lot of work. But done right, the payoff is huge when every member of the family is active and having fun.
Starting skiing early at Sun Valley ski school
The better the amenities and facilities, the better the experience (see our article on how to choose the best family-friendly ski areas). A good kids’ ski program is essential. The days of hitting the mountain with your kids will come after they learn basic skills. In the meantime, keeping them safe during what can be a difficult learning curve is a must.
Chances are, your pint-sized skier will tire of the slopes before you do, so unless you plan on packing it in early, you’ll want to know what childcare/camp options are available. A little research goes a long way.And luckily, the top resorts know they’re competing for your family’s business, so regardless of where you live or want to go, there’s tons of great options for you to choose from.
Here’s a round up of ski school programs and pricing at the top US ski resorts. I’ve also included details around daycare-style child care programs for young kids that are not skiing.
A few important notes: Reservations for both lessons and child care are necessary in most resorts. It’s best to book prior to arrival. Many programs require kids to wear helmets. They can be provided via all rental shops (although this is one piece of kids’ equipment that is worth owning). Most child care programs for very young children do not require them to be potty trained (at least those on our list) — be sure and understand the rules for your destination.
Squaw Valley USA
Ski School: Squaw Kids Programs are for ages 3-12. $89-$169 per session. Half and full day programs available. Packages include lunch (full day only) and lift tickets. Rental equipment is not included in pricing. Reservations are recommended. Call 530-452-7166.
Child Care: No daycare-style child care facility available.
Non-ski Days: Squaw offers many winter activity options like ice skating, tubing, dog sledding and a picturesque cable car ride that takes you 2,000 vertical feet up, up and away.
NorthStar At Tahoe
Ski School: NorthStar’s Ski & Board School is for ages 3-12.$99-$219 per session. Half and full day programs available. Packages may include lunch and rental equipment.
Child Care: Licensed child care is available for ages 2-6 at Minors’ Camp for non-skiing children (kids do not need to be potty trained). All-day care is $119-$129 including lunch and snacks.
Non-ski Days: The skating rink is free and ideally located in the heart of the ski village ($5 to rent skates). Tubing, s’more making and geocaching round out the extensive winter activities list.
Heavenly Lake Tahoe
Ski School: Heavenly’s Ski & Ride School is for ages 4-13. Only full day programs are available. Packages include lunch and rental equipment. $180-$200 per session. Advance reservations save $5 and are highly recommended. Reserve online or call 1-800-Heavenly.
Child Care: Heavenly Child Care is state licensed and provides care for children ages 6 weeks through 6 years (kids do not need to be potty trained). Reservations strongly suggested. Call 1-800-Heavenly x6912. $125-$400 per day including lunch and snacks.
Non-ski Days: Heavenly winter activities include a scenic gondola ride, ice skating, hot springs, and snowmobiling.
Ski School: Sugar Bowl Kids Programs are for kids 4-12. A variety of half and full day programs are available. Guaranteed 3 to 1 ratios are available in signature programs. $59-$175 per session. Packages may include lunch and rental equipment.
Child Care: No daycare-style child care facility available.
Non-ski Days: Non-ski activities within the Sugar Bowl resort are limited but the main lodge has a spa, yoga, and a variety of clinics and events for adults and kids throughout the season.
Helmets are a requirement for many kids’ ski programs
Ski School: Vail’s Children & Teen Lessons are for kids 3-15. Participating children must be potty trained. $149-$269 per session. Full or half day lessons are available (half day only available for Level 1). Lessons can be booked online although reservations for same day skiing or the next day are not available on the website. Packages may include rentals and lunch. More information is available via phone on 1-970-ski-vail.
Non-ski Days: Winter activities in Vail are plentiful including specially crafted mini-snowmobiles (sounds like a blast)! There’s also a Nature Discovery Center, a harnessed trampoline and the option of a dogsledding tour.
Ski School: The Children’s Ski and Snowboard School at Beaver Creek is for kids 3-14. Full or half day lessons are available (half day only available for beginners). $100-$187 per session. Packages do not include rental equipment. Lunch is included in all-day programs. Book lessons online or call 970-754-5464.
Child Care: Full day and half day child care at Small World Play School is available for 2 months to 6 years (potty training not required). $100-125 per session. Reservations highly recommended. Call 970-754-5325,
Non-ski Days: There are many day and night activity options for families with kids ranging in age. Disco skate night at the Village Ice Rink is bound to raise an eyebrow or two.
Ski School:Aspen/Snowmass Ski School Programs start for kids as young as 2 ½ and potty training is not a requirement. The standard children’s ski school classes go through age 12.$159-$189 per session. Half and full day programs are available. Packages do not include rental equipment. Lunch is included in all-day programs. Book online or call 877-282-7736
Child Care: State-licensed child care, with an on-site nurse, is available for ages 8 weeks to 4 years. Half and full day packages available from $97-$144 per session including lunch and snacks.
Non-ski Days: Choose from family adventures like snowmobiling, ice skating and campfire stories. There’s also a winter concert series geared towards families.
Ski School: At Steamboat’s Kids Vacation Center Buckaroos can start learning at 2 ½ years old. Kids & Teens ski lessons are for 1st grade through 15 years. Only full day programs are available. $119-$149 per session. Packages do not include rentals. Lunch is included in all day programs. Book online or call 800-299-5017.
Non-ski Days: There are so many winter activity choices, you may find it tough to come to a family agreement. Great options like Hot Springs, hot air balloon tours, sleigh rides, tubing, and horseback riding are all available.
Stowe Mountain Resort ski school
Ski School: Programs start for kids at age 2½ on skis and age 3 on snowboards. Smugglers’ Notch full day ski and snowboard programs are for ages 3-15. $129- $165 per session. Packages may include equipment rentals and lunch.
The resort offers what it calls a Family Fun Guarantee: “Each member of your family will have fun, learn to ski or snowboard or improve technique, no matter what his or her current level of ability, novice to expert, or we will refund the entire lesson portion of that person’s vacation package. It’s as simple as that!”
The resort was voted #1 for family programs by SKI Magazine readers as well as a number of top 10 showings in categories like service, value and activities. Reservations recommended. Call 800-419-4615.
Child Care: State-licensed child care at Treasures is available for children 6 weeks to 3 years (kids do not have to be potty trained). Hourly care available in the mornings at $15 per hour. Otherwise, full day programs are $85 including lunch and snacks. Reservations must be made ahead of time by calling 800-419-4615.
Non-ski Days: The givens, like snowmobiling, skating and tubing, but some standout cool stuff like a zipline canopy tour and the FunZone Family Entertainment & Recreation Center explain the SKI Magazine rating.
Okemo Mountain Resort
Ski School: Okemo’s Ski & Ride Programs are for kids 3-14. Private lessons are available through their Star Boosters program for ages 2 and up. $50-$140 per session. Full and half day programs available. Packages do not include rentals. Full day programs include lunch. Reservations required. Call 802-228-1600.
Child Care: The Penguin Playground Day Care Center offers child care for children ages 6 months to 4 years old in a state-licensed facility (children do not need to be potty trained). Half or full day program available from $67-92 per session. Reservations required. Call 802-228-1600.
Non-ski Days: Lots of on-mountain activities, but the new thing is the Mountain Coaster. The Timber Ripper has a 1,600 foot climb and a various points hits speeds of up to 25 mph. Not for the weak of heart.
Stowe Mountain Resort
Ski School: Stowe’s Children’s Programs are for ages 3-14.$75-$175 per session. Half and full day programs available. Packages do not include rentals. Full day programs include lunch. Reservations are encouraged. Call 800-253-4ski, x3681.
Child Care: Cubs Day Care is a licensed child care facility for ages 13 months to 3 years (kids do not have to be potty trained). Full day programs available. $100-$140 per session including snacks and lunch. Reservations required. Call 800-253-4754 x3685.
Non-ski Days: When your legs are just too tired to hit the slopes, let someone else do the work and go dog sledding. Stowe also offers a complimentary guided tour of the mountain.
Ski School: Kids group lessons at Killington are for ages 2-18. Group lessons here are small, with a maximum of 3 to 5 kids, depending on age and ability.$99-$129 per session. Half and full day programs available. Rental equipment (except helmet) not included in package price. Lunch included in full day program.
Child Care: State-licensed Penguin Day Care is open to children 12 weeks to 12 years (potty training not required). Half or full day sessions available. $85-$115 per session. Full day option includes lunch and snacks.
Non-ski Days: When you take a break from the slopes, there’s a multitude of things to do nearby, like indoor rock climbing, sleigh rides and snowmobile tours.
Sun Valley Resort
Ski School: Sun Valley offers Children’s Camp Group Lessons for skiers’ ages 4-12 and for snowboarders ages 6-12. $140-$185 per session. Only full day programs available. Equipment rentals not included in package price. Lunch included in all sessions.
Sun Valley also has a new Teen Adventure Program with compelling topics from learning the bumps, doing a Nastar Course, riding their Super Pipe and more.
Child Care: Winter KinderCare is available for kids ages 3 months to 5 years. Sessions run for 2 hours ($38), 4 hours ($67), or all day ($95). Reservations recommended. Call 208-622-2135.
Non-ski Days: Winter activities include going for a horse-drawn sleigh ride, ice skating, and tubing in Sun Valley’s new Snow Tubing Park.
Ski School: Deer Valley’s Children’s Ski Programs are for ages 3 to 12. There’s also a teen ski program. Only full day programs are available. $180-$185 per session. Packages include lift tickets and lunch (except teen lessons), but do not include rental equipment.
Kids age 3 that participate in the Fawn Program do not need to be potty trained and will participate in a one-our private one-on-one lesson with an instructor. Kids age 4 and up who participate in the Bambi Program must be potty trained. Reservations recommended. Call 435-645-6648.
Child Care: Child care is available in a state-licensed facility for non-skiing children ages 2 months to 12 years. Half day child care is based on availability and offered in thee morning only. Standard sessions are full day. $110-$115 including lunch. Reservations required. Call 435-645-6648.
The resort was voted the #1 ski resort in North America by SKI Magazine readers in its annual “Top 50 Resort Guide.”
Park City Mountain Resort
Ski School: The Kids Signature 3 Program (ages 3½–5) limits class sizes to three students or fewer. The Kids Signature 5 Program (ages 6–14), limits class sizes to five students or fewer. $145-$230 per session. Only full day programs available. Equipment rental and lunch included in pricing. Reservations recommended. Call 800-227-2754.
Child Care: Daycare-style child care program not available.
Non-ski Days: Winter activities include everything from dog sledding, snow shoeing, winter fly fishing, snowmobile and sleigh rides, ballooning and more. The more adventurous types will want to check out the nearly 4,000 feet of curves, bends and loops on the Alpine Coaster.
Photos courtesy of Ciao Bambino and The Luxury Travel Mom.