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17 family ski vacations to take this winter

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2018, file photo, Shaun White makes a practice run before men's snowboard halfpipe finals at Snowmass, Colo. White has redoubled his effort on the halfpipe. And in the end, one thing really hasn't changed. He is still the biggest name in his sport, and all eyes will still be on him when the gold medal is at stake in Pyeongchang on Feb. 14. (Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times via AP, File)

Expect quality snow, expert instruction and more at these top family ski destinations.

The National Ski Areas Association recognizes 472 ski areas across 37 American states, but families who value snow quality and scenery can also find top-notch — and often surprisingly affordable — mountain resorts with winter sports both in the U.S. and abroad. To help family travelers decide where to go skiing this winter, U.S. News rounded up 17 well-groomed resorts with amenities like professional instruction and child care services that promise family fun on and off the slopes.

Aspen Snowmass: Aspen, Colorado

Aspen Snowmass attracts an upscale, international clientele with its superb ski schools, gourmet dining facilities and proximity to the chic mining town of Aspen, making it one of America’s most sophisticated ski getaways. The largest of the resort’s four sister mountains, family-friendly Snowmass features a treehouse-themed child care center and spacious lodging, as well as an action-packed pedestrian base village. Teens will love the four-mountain pass and free shuttle service, which guarantee some independence and a chance to ski Buttermilk (the site of the annual X Games Aspen).

Baqueira-Beret: Lérida, Spain

At Baqueira-Beret, a fashionable ski resort about 170 miles northwest of Barcelona, Spain, travelers can enjoy typical Catalan cuisine and explore the area’s picturesque villages when they’re not shredding powder. Families with varying skill sets will appreciate that Baqueira’s three peaks are landscaped for different abilities. Plus, Atlantic-facing slopes produce dependable snowfall and abundant sunshine. Save time for a visit to 1800 Baqueira Children’s Park, which has scenic terrain for kids between the ages of 2 and 7.

Crystal Mountain: Thompsonville, Michigan

Less than 14 miles east of Lake Michigan and roughly 125 miles north of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Crystal Mountain is one of the Midwest’s top alpine resorts. It offers cross-country skiing, ice skating, horse-drawn carriage rides, 80-plus acres for snowshoeing, a spa and a picturesque village with multiple lodging options. On the mountain, visitors will find 58 trails with all kinds of terrain, as well as eight lifts that offer access to at least one green run for beginners. Families can also go skiing at night and take advantage of evening children’s activities, such as campfires and movie screenings.

Deer Valley Resort: Park City, Utah

Classy Deer Valley Resort is consistently ranked as one of the world’s top ski resorts thanks to its personalized service, excellent kids amenities (think: lessons and a child care center), ample dining options and 2,026 crowd-free acres for skiing. Stay on the mountain and get a seventh night free (blackout dates apply), or splurge at the rustic yet luxurious Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley. The property completed a $14 million expansion in September 2018 that added a family-friendly pool, a 3,500-square-foot game room, a large ski locker room, a screening room and an outdoor area with fire pits for s’mores. The property also renovated its ultra-luxe vacation homes, which boast ski-in, ski-out access.

Club Med: France

For a stress-free ski vacation where your sole responsibilities consist of waking up, suiting up and hitting the slopes, head to one of Club Med‘s 15 all-inclusive mountain resorts in France. Most of the country’s Club Med properties cover supervised kids clubs and ski lessons for children ages 4 to 17 in their room rates. Additionally, equipment rentals and infant child care can be pre-booked and paid for online. One of the brand’s most impressive French resorts is the new Club Med Les Arcs Panorama at Paradiski in the Alps. The ski resort boasts three mountains and 139 ski lifts that lead to trails and terrain parks for every ability. There’s even a restaurant where children can prepare meals with Club Med chefs to serve to their parents.

Liftverbund Feldberg: Feldberg, Germany

A 4,593-foot summit won’t impress frequent Rockies vacationers, but travelers with kids will enjoy visiting southwestern Germany’s Black Forest region to partake in family snow sports. Liftverbund Feldberg’s well-maintained slopes are ideal for skiing and snowboarding, plus cross-country skiing and snowkiting. Bed down at the on-mountain Familotel Feldberger Hof, where lodging options range from double rooms to multibedroom apartments that can sleep up to six people. Rates cover access to a fully loaded recreation center with a pool and kids splash area, supervised programs for kids 6 months to 11 years old, all meals, lift tickets and more.

Grand Targhee Resort: Alta, Wyoming

Despite the priceless allure of more than 500 inches of fresh powder annually, Grand Targhee Resort is well-priced and uncrowded compared to other U.S. ski resorts. Smaller than famous Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which sits about 45 miles southeast, Grand Targhee boasts plenty of snowcat-served terrain. Families love the compact base and friendly staff, who supervise little ones ages 2 months to 5 years in the child care center and lead adaptive classes and lessons for kids between 3 and 14. Children 5 and younger ski for free, and lift tickets for older kids and adults are up to 25 percent off when bought online.

Holiday Valley: Ellicottville, New York

Situated within 185 miles of Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, New York, Holiday Valley impresses families with its extensive snowmaking, attentive staff and affordable facilities. From Feb. 3 to March 14, 2019, four-person family lift tickets and midweek accommodations start at $549 for a two-night stay. Don’t miss the mountain coaster, snow tubing — the Little Tubers run is a must for kids 6 and younger — and the Seneca Clan Rock scavenger hunt. For a change of scenery, venture a mile southeast to downtown Ellicottville, where travelers of all ages can check out various shops and restaurants.

Jay Peak Resort: Jay, Vermont

Rugged Jay Peak Resort is best known for annually accumulating the most snowfall in eastern North America. Though the property offers fewer on-site services than some competitors, visitors will still enjoy the resort’s thrilling glade skiing, indoor water park and budget-friendly room rates. Beginners 13 and older are eligible for Ski Vermont’s $129 Take 3 vouchers, which cover three lessons, loaner gear and lift tickets. Plus, the resort’s bilingual staff and Quebecoise mountain cuisine add a French flair to this upstate Vermont locale.

Keystone Resort: Keystone, Colorado

Keystone Resort’s three mountains, which sit approximately 75 miles east of Denver, exceed every family standard by offering lessons with Vail Resorts-trained instructors for beginners and guided snowcat skiing for experts. Off the slopes, travelers have access to additional amenities like free daily kids club activities, parades and wagons to schlep gear to and from dedicated family parking spaces. Book on-mountain lodging for two or more evenings through the resort’s website to get complimentary lift tickets for children 12 and younger, plus free night skiing on arrival, ice skating, yoga classes and more.

Okemo Mountain Resort: Ludlow, Vermont

Okemo Mountain Resort’s caring staff, domed bubble chairlifts and après-ski activities continue drawing generations of Northeast families to its slopes. Originally opened in 1956, this property roughly 100 miles south of Stowe, Vermont, is now managed by Vail Resorts. Through this new ownership, Okemo offers discount packages that include impressive savings on midweek stays lasting two or more nights (excluding holidays). With these packages, expect perks like 60 percent off of lodging; 35 percent off of lessons, day care and multiday lift tickets (kids 5 and younger ski for free); 20 percent off of purchases made at on-site restaurants and shops; and two-for-one ice skating and mountain coaster tickets.

Kotelnica Bialacza?ska Ski Resort: Bialka Tatrzanska, Poland

Kotelnica Bialacza?ska Ski Resort’s 8 miles of trails make it the largest in the Podhale region of Poland. Located about 60 miles south of Krakow, Kotelnica offers families top-notch facilities, bargain prices and proximity to Zakopane, a traditional Tatra mountain village. Back at the resort, families will find snow play areas for younger children, a tubing run and a heated outdoor water park. Teens will enjoy the boxes, rails and jumps of the Burton Snowpark, which is open for day and night freestyling.

Smugglers’ Notch Resort: Jeffersonville, Vermont

Head less than 34 miles northeast of Burlington, Vermont, to reach this kid-friendly mecca for winter sports. Smugglers’ Notch Resort’s child-centric staff and phenomenal grooming and terrain make it one of the East Coast’s most highly regarded family resorts. Stay in ski-in, ski-out condos and choose from ski or snowboard lessons, après-ski entertainment and endless off-slope activities, such as ice skating and indoor slot-car racing. Families can also take advantage of adaptive lessons for disabled visitors and supervised child care services for little ones as young as 6 weeks old. Keep in mind, free family offerings vary by winter package. Save as much as $350 by staying at least three nights.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows: Olympic Valley, California

Lake Tahoe‘s Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows epitomizes the good life, California-style. Teens will love disco tubing (available on select nights) and riding the gondola to High Camp, which overlooks gorgeous Lake Tahoe from 8,200 feet. Although most of High Camp’s amenities (including the Olympic Museum, a pool and a hot tub) close annually during the winter months, families can savor loaded tater tots at the Granite Bistro Cafe, grab a sweet treat at the High Camp Marketplace or take in impressive mountain views while enjoying homemade soups and salads at the Terrace Restaurant & Bar. While epic snow and sunshine attracts skiers and snowboarders in droves, the resort’s 6,000 skiable acres rarely feel crowded.

Sun Valley: Ketchum, Idaho

With nonstop winter flights from six major cities, celebrity-packed Sun Valley is welcoming more families than ever to its quiet slopes, renovated mountain lodges and boutique hotels. The resort’s renowned snow sports school (which welcomes skiers ages 4 and up and snowboarders who are at least 6 years old) features the Dollar Mountain facility, a space designed for kids that offers contoured terrain for easy learning. Best of all, Sun Valley’s high-end snowmaking equipment guarantees fresh powder on the resort’s trails.

Whistler Blackcomb: Whistler, British Columbia

The 8,171 acres of trails and three glaciers covering Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are best known for hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. Now a bustling family resort 75 miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia, Whistler Blackcomb features Vail Resorts’ signature Kidtopia program, a mountainside Snow Fort and holiday events and parades. In addition to training experts, the trusted ski and snowboard schools make beginners feel welcome. After a busy day on the slopes, head to the massive pedestrian-only base village, a popular family spot packed with shops, playgrounds and outdoor cafes.

Whitefish Mountain Resort: Whitefish, Montana

Scenic Whitefish Mountain Resort appeals to families who desire a laid-back vibe, terrific skiing conditions and reasonable prices. Fly into Glacier Park International Airport or take a twice-daily Amtrak train to historic Whitefish, a must-see mountain village. First-timers ages 7 and older pay $82 for two days of rentals, lift tickets and half-day lessons, then save 50 percent after graduating from the resort’s Learn to Ski or Ride Program. Other winter packages include a ski-in, ski-out room, daily breakfast, lift tickets and hot tub access every day except holidays. Just note that visitors must stay at least two weeknights to take advantage of these deals.

More from U.S. News

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17 Family Ski Vacations to Take This Winter originally appeared on usnews.com



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