A family enjoys Blue Mountain Resort in Ontario. — Photo courtesy of Steve Larese
Family ski and/or snowboarding trips are one of the most win-win vacations when it comes to parents and kids. The whole family is in the same place yet doing their own thing at their own pace. You can tumble downhill together or let the kids go off on their own, then meet up for a burger later and rehash the day's adventures.
Beginners in the family can stick to wide turns on the blue slopes while the hotdoggers take on the black diamonds. Here are a few simple things to consider when selecting an area to ski and ride with the whole family.
Getting the hang of snowboarding at Ski Santa Fe in New Mexico. — Photo courtesy of Steve Larese
Lessons for the beginners in your group
Falling in snow time after time while everyone else whizzes by you offering well-meaning advice does not a happy vacation make. Fortunately, many ski areas offer skiing and snowboarding lessons that teach basic techniques to keep beginners upright and smiling. The instructors are way cooler than Mom and Dad will ever be, and advice from them will actually be taken to heart by teenagers.
In New Mexico, Taos Ski Valley's Ernie Blake Ski or Ride school is considered one of the best in the U.S. Ask about specials and discounts on lessons with the purchase of lift tickets or gear rentals. Ski areas want to make it easy for their guests to have a good time and be safe. And if you're a life-long skier, consider taking a snowboarding class for a shared experience with your child or to delight in embarrassing them.
Going big at a terrain park. — Photo courtesy of Steve Larese
Are there terrain parks?
It used to be you’d ride the lift up the mountain and ski down as many times as possible until your jellified legs begged you for a hot tub. But with the popularity of snowboarding, it’s common now for kids to hang out at the terrain park all day, the snowy equivalent of a skateboarding park. Snow ramps and metal rails allow shredders to “go big” and “huck” themselves skyward as they do flips, twists and all other manor of emergency-room worthy tricks again and again.
Even if you're kids aren't daredevils, they'll have a great time hanging out and watching others of their peer group fling themselves into oblivion. Lake Tahoe's Heavenly Mountain Resort terrain parks is just one example. Many ski areas have several terrain parks to accommodate different skill levels, and some areas offer lessons on free styling.
Day care for wee ones
You don't have to forgo skiing just because you recently reproduced. Babies may ski in certain Scandinavian countries, but in other parts of the world parents usually wait until their progeny is at least 4 years old before pushing them down mountains. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the family is condemned to another showing of Disney on Ice for winter outings.
Many ski areas, such as Durango Mountain Resort in Colorado, offer day care centers within the lodge that ensure your little ones have as good of a time as you do skiing without them. A good day care has American Red Cross certified staff members, plenty of snacks and activities, and opportunities for napping. Guilty parents can quickly check in on their kids in-between runs to see that they're doing just fine. As your kiddos get older, ski classes will get your tikes skiing right beside you in no time.
Check for specials
Taking the family skiing and boarding adds up quickly. Half-day tickets (usually noon-4 p.m.) takes some of the edge off, but look for other deals as well. Holidays and Spring Breaks are usually blacked out, but other times of the season you can find discounted or 2-for-1 tickets, lodging and gear rental deals, military deals, and even age deals.
Sipapu Ski Area in New Mexico is small but offers some great bargains on a fun mountain. Specials often aren’t overly advertised and have to be requested when getting your lift tickets or booking your room, so check out the website and call before hand to ask if there are any deals that could save your family a few bucks before going.
Aprés Ski for Everyone
For Mom and Dad, a beverage and cuddle by a roaring fire after a day of skiing together is heavenly. For the teenagers in their lives, it’s a level of Purgatory. Check to see if your lodging has on-site arcades, swimming pools and other activities older kids would enjoy while you catch some cuddle time with your significant other and pretend your thighs aren’t killing you. Attractions such as the Ridge Runner at Blue Mountain Resort near Ontario or tubing at Ski Apache in New Mexico will keep the kids' adrenaline pumping even off the slopes.