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By Lucy M. Casale
| December 10, 2018
If you’re about to plan your family’s first ski trip—maybe you have a kiddo who will brave the bunny hill for the first time ever, or, here’s looking at you on the bunny hill, daddi-o!—consider the Green Mountain State the perfect place to introduce your crew to the slopes.
Read on to discover which resorts fit our fun parameters. Tips up!
It’s a truth universally acknowledged: You will have a great time skiing…if you know how to ski.
At Bolton Valley you can sign up your entire gang for lessons. Bolton offers full day group ski lessons for tots as tiny as four and kids up to age 12; Kiddos six to 12 have the option to sign up for full day snowboarding lessons. Lunch and plenty of hot cocoa breaks are included. Teens and adults won’t be left out, with offerings of one- to two-hour group lessons.
Your family will be riding the Vista Quad up to scenic Sherman’s Pass (one of Bolton’s 71 trails) in no time. At the 3,150 foot summit, everyone can ooh and ahh over the views.
“On a clear day? It’s amazing!” says Julia Westbrook, a Bolton Valley season-pass holder with her husband, Josh. This year marks the couple’s fourth winter skiing Bolton. “The atmosphere is always so relaxed,” Josh says. “And this smaller mountain means shorter lines and more time actually skiing.” Julia, who considers herself a beginner/intermediate skier, enjoys the variety of greens and easy blues, while Josh, who is advanced, is happy with the challenging black diamonds.
The couple, who live a short distance from the mountain, have even tested the accommodations. “We had a really fun time renting a first-floor condo with all of our friends last year,” Josh says.“The hotel is right on the slopes and is much cheaper than you’ll find anywhere else. And the pool and hot tub are great after a long day.”
Two more recommendations: At any given time at Cochran’s Ski Area, you might find an Olympic Gold Medalist (Barbara Cochran), a World Cup Champion (Marilyn Cochran) or a current U.S. Ski Team member (Ryan Cochran Siegle, Robby Kelley) giving a lesson … A mountain can present many kinds of terrain challenges, and the Mountain Explorers program at Middlebury Snow Bowl helps kids ages 6-12 master the whole spectrum from bumped-up moguls and wooded glades to traditional groomers.
If you’re unfamiliar with the 142-room Woodstock Inn & Resort and the ridiculously idyllic New England town where it’s located, Google it to check out the photos asap. You wouldn’t be the first to be inspired to snap your family holiday card pics here, in front of the gazillion scenic spots.
Turns out, the Inn has a family-friendly ski area: Suicide Six (no need to be alarmed by the name). It’s one of the oldest ski spots in the country with 24 trails and slopes (America’s first rope tow was introduced on nearby Gilbert’s Farm in 1934). And their ski and snowboard learning center is the longest running snow sports school in the country. Check out the resort’s Nordic Adventure Center for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat tire biking.
After a day on the slopes, après options abound. Take the family downstairs to the vintage-Vermont-inspired game room to play pool and challenge everyone to a round of pinball. Or plunge into the indoor heated pool at the on-site athletic club. For mom and dad, the Inn offers massage packages, too. And there’s plenty of shopping to be had in one of Vermont’s most picturesque towns (with everything in walking distance from the Inn).
Back at the Inn, at Richardson’s Tavern, you won’t want to miss out on their famed fondue (made from nearby Billings Farm cheese) or the Thyme will Tell cocktail, made with Vermont Spirits No. 14 Bourbon, Vermont Maple syrup and fresh thyme. Cheers!
Two more recommendations: Can’t bear to leave the beloved family pet at home? An entire wing of Sugarbush Resort’s Clay Brook Hotel is available for pet owners and their furry loved ones. There’s even a dog-themed restaurant, Rumble’s Kitchen, named after resort owner Win Smith’s late Bernese Mountain Dog … Since laying out the welcome mat at what was likely the first slopeside lodging in Vermont, Okemo Mountain Resort has offered visiting skiers and snowboarders shelter from the (snow)storm for decades. Modern convenience meets classic clapboard New England style at the iconic Jackson Gore Inn, while those wishing to be even closer to the alpine action can opt for on-mountain condominiums.
What happens when you book a family ski vacation and your kids want to do a lot more than ski? No problem if you choose Smuggler’s Notch. Their endless calendar of family fun activities will keep all ages busy for days on end.
Sign up for snow tubing (the most fun you’ll ever have sledding), snowshoeing, snowmobile tours, and plenty more. Little ones will love Fun Zone 2.0: a massive two-level kid space offering laser tag, climbing towers, and obstacle courses. Grownups should take advantage of the babysitting service, enroll kids in the popular “Kids’ Night Out,” and sign up for a Snowshoe Adventure Dinner.
If the kids do decide to ski or snowboard, Smuggler’s Notch is known for its beginner programs. Kids as young as age two can register at their award-winning Snow Sport University! Take it from lifelong skier and snowboarder, Raeden Zavis: she learned both sports as a toddler at Smuggs. And she’s worked at the resort for over 10 years.
“Smuggs was voted number one overall mountain for kid friendly activities in the east in Ski Magazine this year—just saying!” she laughs. “But we do have three mountains here providing a variety of terrain.” So, sign the family up—or don’t! Either way, you’ll all have fun.
Two more recommendations: You could forget your skis or snowboard at home and still have plenty of activities to keep you busy at Stratton Mountain Resort: Ice skating under the stars at the Mill House; zooming down one of the four lift-served lanes at the Coca-Cola Tube Park; or taking a moonlight snowshoe hike up to mid-mountain to watch the fireworks … Winter Fest at Northeast Slopes is the can’t-miss event of February – free sleigh rides and snow globe making for the kids, plus food music and the legendary Great Up ‘n’ Downhill Ski Race featuring the oldest continuously-operated ski tow in the U.S.
Are your kids beginner skiers but you’re ready to rip? Or, do you want to experience a ski resort you might have visited when you were your kids’ ages? Either way, Magic Mountain is the place for you.
Locals describe Magic Mountain as a true throwback mountain; lots of its classic trails haven’t changed much since the 1960s. And its steeper than other Vermont mountains, and with 50 trails and on-map glades, it offers plenty of challenges. But it’s also like a step back in time with a relaxed vibe beginners will like. The uncrowded slopes and one base lodge make the mountain easy to navigate with minimal lines.
For Magic’s owner, Geoff Hatheway, who grew up in a nearby town and has been skiing Vermont since he was small, the family vibe is a special element of the mountain. “You’re guaranteed to make new friends while at Magic,” he says. And he points to their extra-unique element of family fun. “Magic is one of the few areas that encourages ‘uphill travel.’ We’ve invested in alpine touring equipment in the rental area, so families can learn together the thrill of going uphill!” (If you don’t know what this means, it’s ski-lingo for skiing without the chairlift. (Walk up and ski down.) “Our snowsports learning center also teaches uphill touring and offers lessons to up your game on the steeps and in the trees. Families can explore the terrain together with an instructor/guide.”
After adventuring, mingle with your new local friends at the Black Line Tavern upstairs at the lodge. You can enjoy après ski music over apps and entrees. Or head outside to the fire pit while your kids end the day tubing or playing in the terrain park that’s lit up at night.
Another recommendation: Founded in 1934, Pico Mountain retains the old-school charm of New England’s bygone ski area glory days – with narrow, twisty trails that snake beneath a canopy of old growth trees and provide a naturalistic playground for its community of loyal skiers and riders.
And just in case there’s an advanced or intermediate skier among you, we can’t leave out the adventure-oriented mentionables. The most legendary slogan in the snow sports industry – “Mad River Glen: Ski It If You Can” – refers to the steep and challenging terrain boasted by the nation’s only skier-owned major mountain. Ride the last operating diesel single chairlift in the business to access Paradise, one of the steepest inbounds ski runs in the East.
Two more recommendations: The snowboarder in your family will stand awestruck in the mecca of the sport, Mount Snow’s Carinthia, the top-rated terrain park in the East with more than 200 features and a SuperPipe spread out over 100 rideable acres …The adventure of zooming down the mountain gets taken to a whole new level once the sun goes down and the lights come up. Lyndon Outing Club offers night skiing from 6-9 p.m. every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
You can track the latest weather conditions (let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!), plus check for deals on lodging, tickets, events and more at Ski Vermont.
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