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Family Skiing: Where to Go?

- Choosing a Family Ski Resort

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A top spot for family skiing - Blackcomb Mountain - Photo ©  Teresa Plowright.
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
Family skiing is a terrific type of getaway, but it's also expensive; so it's especially important to make the right choice about where to go.

Fortunately, wherever you go, just about every ski destination these days welcomes families, with kids programs, and often child care centers and teen programs as well.

Below are some factors to keep in mind, when choosing your family skiing destination.

Quality of the Snow: mountains in the eastern US and Canada tend to be icy, as do the high peaks of some Rocky Mountain ski resorts; icy conditions are, obviously, much harder to learn on and make for a more challenging day in general. Meanwhile, champagne powder -- in Utah, say, or the interior of BC -- is sweet, and many families may want to head to where the snow is known to be great. (On the other hand, kids who learn to ski or board in the east can probably slide with confidence anywhere. And of course you can never count on good weather or conditions, wherever you go.)

Vertical Lift: smaller mountains are great for beginners, but as kids get older, the family may crave longer runs on bigger mountains.

Connecting flights: any connecting flight means a possibility that that flight may get canceled if bad weather strikes.

Airport-To-Slope Time: if timing's tight, pick a resort where you can count on getting on the slopes in good time. Check out a few gems noted in this guest article, with airports just minutes from ski slopes, and direct flights from major cities. Read more about Airport-To-Slope Time. Utah gets a special mention, for fast-track to the slopes: most cities have direct flights to Salt Lake City, where seven mountains are within a one-hour drive.

Smaller Ski Resorts: sometimes non-celebrity places are star-quality, with uncrowded slopes, lower prices, manageable size, friendly ambiance.

Convenience in Getting From Lodging to Slopes: I've often marveled at how long it can take to get onto the slopes in the morning, with kids. So any ways to streamline the process are more than welcome. "Ski In-Ski Out" lodgings are a wonderful convenience: kids can put their gear on the spot, and zip to the lifts.

Assistance With Gear: a minor point, but a nice convenience, and a bonus point of a ski resort has such perks. First, how convenient are the ski rentals? Try to do the actual rental the night before you want to hit the slopes; rental shops are busy in the morning, and the process of getting a family fitted with boots, skis, boards, helmet, can eat up time. Some hotels have rentals right on-site or nearby. And some hotels have a ski valet or "ski concierge" (such as the Four Seasons Resort Whistler) who will have your skis ready in the lobby when you set out in the morning.

Kids Programs: while all ski resorts these days have kids programs, some go all out with special classes, teen programs, deluxe child-care centers. Smugglers Notch in Vermont, for instance, is dedicated to family skiing.

For family ski resort suggestions, head to:

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