The following two resorts foster mountain confidence by creating age-appropriate classes that separate little kids from bigger ones, setting aside ample beginner terrain, and hosting après ski family activities.
Skiing and snowboarding are great ways to get outdoors and enjoy winter. The movement is invigorating, the scenery, spectacular and the sports can be an equalizer for families: Kids, often less fearful than adults, may catch on quicker than their parents.
Smugglers’ Notch, 30 miles east of Burlington, combines access to three mountains with an easily negotiated ski village, great children’s instruction and family-friendly evening activities. Smugglers’ has long reigned as one of the most family-friendly ski areas in the Northeast.
Classes and Mountain Fun Parks
At Smugglers’ Snow Sport University, kids are divided into age-appropriate classes that separate 3 to 4 year-olds from 5 to 6 year-olds. Those 6 to 10 and 11 to 15 can enroll in skiing or snowboarding group lessons. Teens 16 to 20 meet friends and perfect skills during special two-hour lessons. Morse Mountain, home to most of the beginner terrain, features lower lifts that are easier for novices to use. At a Mom and Me or Dad and Me session, go down the mountain with your kids while learning tips from an instructor on how to teach your children. With Smugglers’ Family Fun guarantee, if you don’t learn or improve your skills at classes, you receive your money back for the lessons.
Among several parks are Sir Henry’s Learning and Fun Park where boarders perfect jibbing skills at night. At Burton Riglet Park, preschoolers use small boards to try out mini-half-pipes and rails.
Slide down the tubing hill, warm up with hot chocolate at the bonfire, play games at the weekly carnival and watch fireworks. In March when the new $4.1 million indoor FunZone opens, take on obstacle courses, laser tag, bouncy houses and more.
Winter Park, Winter Park, CO
Situated 67 miles northwest of Denver, Winter Park, the closest major ski area to Colorado’s capital, is within driving distance of Denver’s airport, a welcome relief for plane-weary kids and adults. The resort consists of seven areas, or “territories,” and features 3,081 skiable acres, making the facility Colorado’s fourth largest.
Classes and Mountain Fun Parks
Eager knuckle-draggers (beginner snowboarders) start lessons at age 3 instead of the more typical age four. Classes for 3- to 14-year-olds divide into groups by age and ability with a limit of eight to 10 children per class. For more attention, register your children or yourself for the MAX5 program, which pairs one instructor to no more than five students. Along with skiing and snowboarding for ages 14+, MAX5 groups are also available for ski bike lessons. Pedaling down the mountain is not only fun, but reassuring since you can regain your balance by putting your feet on the ground.
Beginners graduate to Discovery Park, an area that allows novices to hone their skills without worrying about colliding with fast skiers. Six terrain parks provide ample play for more advanced skiers and boarders. The National Sports Center for the Disabled, located at Winter Park, is the largest adaptive sports program in the world with more than 3,000 participants and 1,200 volunteers. In winter, the Center provides adaptive equipment plus ski and snowboarding lessons.
Go tubing, snowmobiling, and ice skating as well as take a scenic snowcat or sleigh ride.