One big decision when planning your family ski vacation is whether to visit a large resort or a small resort. There are options and benefits to both.
The larger resorts often offer more options and opportunities, especially when it comes to lodging, restaurants, après-ski activities, and size of the mountain.
The big resorts pride themselves on top-notch ski schools and children's centers. One of the biggest and best spots is the new Treehouse Kids' Adventure Center in Snowmass, where day care is available for kids starting at eight weeks old.
Jeff Hanle with the four Aspen-owned resorts says they have tried to make it simple for families. You can get skis, equipment, and child care at Treehouse, along with easy drop off and access from the slopes. "It's one stop shopping for the family. It takes the hassle factor out of the experience for families."
"There are more places to ride or ski, and different terrain parks to visit, depending on the level of the children in the family. With four mountains, we can send the kids to Treehouse in Snowmass while parents can hike the bowl in Highlands for some extreme skiing," he says.
Russ Pecoraro at Heavenly Mountain Resort in Calif., agrees. "There's something for everybody at a larger resort, especially varied terrain that is available for all levels of ability, for everybody in the family. At a place like Heavenly, you can't ski it all in one day. If you are taking a multi-day trip with the family, it's almost like skiing two different resorts."
Deer Valley's Erin Grady adds that it's the same for their visitors. "Coming to the Park City area as a whole means you have not just one, but three world-class resorts (Deer Valley, Park City, and [R462, The Canyons]) to choose from. For a family, that helps with variety. Plus, we're only 36 miles from the Salt Lake International Airport."
Convenience is big too. Grady says that everything is typically at your fingertips. "The nice thing about the Park City area is that you don't need a car. There is a free bus system. We try to take some of the hassle away."
Jen Brown says the same thing with Vail and Beaver Creek, which has an extensive public transportation system that rivals metropolitan cities. "It's easy to get here. You can fly into the Eagle County Regional Airport. You don't need a car; you can take a shuttle directly to the resort, and they'll drop you off at your door."
Brown says families love the many opportunities off the slopes, at big places like Vail. Adventure Ridge is at the top of the Gondola at Eagle's Nest. It offers family-oriented, non-ski activities, such as tubing, snowmobiling, ski bikes, and trampolines.
This, along with activities on the mountain and in the community, provides a very comprehensive vacation experience. "It's not the loss of intimacy; it's the overall ski vacation experience. You can still choose to have a very intimate vacation with the kids, skiing and dining together, or you can go to the big public events such as fireworks and street concerts. There are so many things to choose from."
Ryan Proctor at British Columbia's Whistler Blackcomb says the big resorts also offer kid-friendly features on the mountain. Whistler has the Tree Fort and Blackcomb has the Kids Castle. Instructors can bring their kids there. You have to ski to it. But once there, kids take off their skis, slide, and climb around.
Vail has Chaos Canyon which kids love. Beaver Creek has the simulated Hibernating Bear Cave, Abandoned Gold Mine, and Indian Burial Grounds to ski through. Steamboat has Rough Rider Basin, where adults aren't allowed unless they are accompanied by a kid.