This Year's Best Ski And Snow Family Vacations

Snow is falling in New England, the Rockies and Sierras; time to use our comprehensive guide to the top family ski resorts and introduce a loved one to snowsports this season.

Columnist Eileen Ogintz of TakingtheKids.com says that humans were never meant to hibernate in winter. She claims there's too much fun to be had in the snow, whether you want to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, cross-country ski, sled, build snowmen or snow forts or make snow angels.

Winter is a great time to find packages and deals, too. Travel portals like Hotwire let you shop for flights, cars and lodging all in one spot. Instead of flying or driving, why not take the bus and leave dangerous winter driving to them?

Instead of a hotel or condo, consider a renting a house — Wyndham Vacation Rentals offers choices at dozens of resorts, in every price range and for every size group. Here are Eileen Ogintz' top recommendations for places to have the most fun in the most snow this winter.
 

Teach the Whole Family to Enjoy Snowsports

Park City Mountain Resort

Broadmoor Resort

C Lazy U

Gunnison Crested Butte Holidays

Vista Verde Ranch

Wyndham Vacation Rentals

Go by Bolt Bus

Ski.com

Ski Waterville Valley

Rent Cars at Hotwire

Snowmass

Take the Bring a Friend Challenge, a new element of Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month (LSSM). It's open to all current skiers and snowboarders including members of the industry. The Challenge offers incentives for current skiers and snowboarders who introduce newcomers to lessons from professional instructors this winter. The Challenge starts December 17, 2012 and ends March 17, 2013. Details are located at bringafriend.org.  You can win prizes and even a free trip to a snow resort.

January, of course is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month in 2013. Special Features offers a quick overview with all of the places where you can get discounted—or possibly even free lessons and rentals. You can also follow the deals on Twitter and Facebook.
Look for new opportunities to explore new mountains-- like the Mountain Collective-- an unprecedented collaboration between the four top independent resorts: Alta, Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows that offers 50% off on lift tickets and 25% on lodging.   Find Mountain Collective packages and deals.
 
You can snowshoe in national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Teton. See what I wrote about snowshoeing with kids and what I wrote about visiting Yellowstone in Winter.
 
You can also experience winter at a dude ranch like the C Lazy U and Vista Verde Ranch  in Colorado where you can snowshoe, horseback ride in the snow, XC ski and even back country ski with a snow cat taking you up the hills so you can ski or snowboard down on private land.  And you won’t need to cook a single meal either!  See what I wrote about visiting Vista Verde in winter.
 
Many snow sports resorts are pulling out all the stops for families this season with increased programming, free lift tickets and free flights.  Look for deals from companies like www.ski.com that can package lifts, lessons, lodging and air and can tell you where and when your kids can hit the slopes with free lift tickets. Here’s what I wrote about kids-free programs this season.
 
Check out companies like Black Tie Rentals that will deliver gear right to where you are staying and adjust it on the spot. (I loved the convenience at Aspen last year.)  Many locations offer a kids rent free package throughout the season for kids 12 and under. Ski Butlers has deals in Steamboat and Telluride where kids rent free if you do an adult rental for five or more days.

Values at Resorts that Cater to Beginners

If everyone in your gang is a beginner, consider smaller mountains near where you live – Hunter Mountain in New York, for example, Crystal Mountain in Michigan, Brian Head Resort in Utah, Bolton Valley in Vermont and Mount Rose on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. They will invariably be cheaper and less overwhelming for the kids — and you.

Check what snow sports resorts near your home are offering for families this season:

Several states also offer “passports” for kids of certain ages allowing them to ski free — once you have filled out the paperwork and paid a small processing fee — all season. They include:

  • Fourth graders in New York
  • Fifth graders in Vermont
  • Fourth and fifth graders in New Hampshire
  • Fifth, sixth and seventh graders in Maine
  • Fifth and sixth graders in Utah
  • The Colorado 2012/2013 School of Shred Pass provides 4 free days of skiing or riding at each of the state’s top-ranked resorts: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin for all Colorado fifth and sixth grade students who register. Lessons and rentals are provided from 11/26/12-12/16/12, as well as during the entire month of January 2013 as a part of “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month”. 

Check with your state to see what they are offering for your grade schoolers.
    
The Canadian Ski Council’s 2012-2013 SnowPass allows 4th and 5th  graders living in Canada  to ski and ride three times at each participating ski area all across Canada.
 
There are also many adaptive programs around the country for those with physical and mental challenges including the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, CO; the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center also in Colorado; the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah, and Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports.
 
There are lots of opportunities for moms and grandmas to hone their skills at women’s clinics around the country.  Here’s what I wrote about my experience at The Canyons in Utah.

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