For many, the Presidents’ Day weekend is an optimal time to hit the slopes. Families, though, might need to think a little harder when choosing a ski resort. The lift ticket and lodging expenses of more skiers, the need for mellow runs for younger skiers, and options for off-the-mountain activities all weigh in. There’s also the factor of holiday weekend crowds. Well, we’ve got you covered. These five resorts are all made for family skiers, and most are less well known, meaning you won’t get the same crowds — or prices — as you will at the big name spots.
1. Homewood Mountain Resort — Homewood, California
The lowdown: A family-first resort with views that will stop your kids in their tracks
Standing apart from the steeps of Squaw Valley and the freestyle haven of Northstar, Homewood is a small ski area designed with kids in mind. Runs are short, making it an ideal place for adults and kids alike to find their footing on a pair of skis or a board. The terrain is relatively uncrowded and mellow — though there are some steeps to be found should that be your objective. The parking lot is also mere steps from the lift, a major bonus when you’re carrying the gear of multiple little ones.
Holiday lift tickets are $68 for adults and $29 for kids, less than half what you’d pay at Tahoe’s bigger resorts. And the views of Lake Tahoe are unparalleled since Homewood is the only resort that’s almost literally at the water’s edge. For lodging, nearby Tahoe City is a far quieter place to stay than the party-centric South Tahoe. Walk the kids down to the lake, dine on barbecue at Moe’s, and relax by the fireplace at the Basecamp Hotel, beer in hand and board game spread on the table in front of you.
2. Silver Mountain Resort — Kellogg, Idaho
The lowdown: An indoor water park and trails for everyone
If your family enjoys a good thrill, take them up the Silver Mountain gondola and experience Silver Mountain Resort’s expanse of family-friendly intermediate terrain. Skiing from the top of Kellogg Peak down the Klondike Express trail, the sun rising over the surrounding hills, is among the most scenic early-morning runs in Idaho. The ski area’s two peaks host seven lifts with 50 acres of night skiing and some challenging tree runs for any skiers and riders ready to test their limits.
Silver Mountain is, to our knowledge, the only ski resort with an on-mountain indoor water park, and one of the only places where you can surf in Idaho — even if it’s on an artificial wave. The park also features multiple pools, slides, a lazy river, and a cabana that’s one of the most unique ways to aprés in the Rocky Mountain West. Admission is free if you’re staying in the resort’s lodging. Off the ski hill, take your family on a guided underground mine tour or visit one of the mining museums of the surrounding silver valley.
3. Powderhorn Mountain Resort — Mesa, Colorado
The lowdown: Free lessons for first-timers and a chance to experience true solitude
A trip to this area is ideal for families with young children. For a quiet and secluded weekend, rent a cabin on Colorado’s Grand Mesa and ski Powderhorn Mountain Resort. (If the cabin is too rustic, you can also rent a condo with up to three bedrooms at the resort base.) Powderhorn is an easy road trip for families from Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, and elsewhere in Colorado. Those coming from further afield can fly into Grand Junction, a 30-minute drive from the resort.
Of Powderhorn’s 50 runs, 70 percent are rated as beginner or intermediate, many groomed to perfect corduroy for a relaxing weekend of turns with the family. Because of its plethora of mellow terrain, Powderhorn has a top-notch ski school that offers first-timers a chance to try a lesson for free, something you won’t find anywhere else in Colorado.
The base area is quiet and affordable. A large pizza at Powderhorn Pub or a burger from the resort’s cafeteria are there for when hunger kicks in during the day, but you’ll want to stock the kitchen in your unit for a home-cooked dinner. Beyond the boundaries of the ski resort itself, the Grand Mesa Nordic Council operates a full-scale cross-country ski trail system just up the road, and you can take the kids snowshoeing off the West Bench Trail, which finishes near the top of the ski area’s high-speed quad lift.
4. Windham Mountain — Windham, New York
The lowdown: An easy drive from New York, lodging under $200, and an Adventure Park
The East Coast gets a bad rap in the ski world. Some of this is justified. After all, no one should be paying for icy conditions out East what one could pay for powder out West. But there are gems, and Windham Mountain is one of them. A room at Jimmy O’Conner’s Windham Mountain Inn is big enough for a family of four and runs less than $200 per night, and even closer to the resort you can stay for not much more than that.
Windham also has an affordable Adventure Park that offers snow tubing, kids’ snowmobiling, and, weather permitting, ice skating. On the hill, your first impression of Windham Mountain may be of a far larger and pricier resort. A six-person chair takes skiers and riders up the west peak. The east peak is accessed by a high-speed quad, and the mountain has 10 other lifts servicing terrain for first-timers and regular shredders. A three-day lift pass over the holiday weekend will run you between $178 and $246, depending on the days you ski.
5. Stowe Mountain Resort — Vermont
The lowdown: A place your teenager or college student will be excited to visit
The mellow cruisers accessible via Stowe’s gondola are fun for skiers and riders of all abilities, and the Adventure area is one of the country’s best learn-to-ski centers. But the real draw here is that Stowe’s resort village and the town itself are the idyllic Vermont mountain town experience. The frozen rock face of Mt. Mansfield towers over the resort, with winding runs cutting through the trees below. Your kids will earn cred for skiing a well-known and respected resort, and Stowe is a good place for tweens to find their footing on a big mountain built for progression from intermediate to advanced ability.
It’s also a solid place to hang out after the lifts close. The base area hosts live music. The Adventure Center offers rock climbing and other activities for kids and teens, and the nearby town of Stowe offers family-friendly activities and nightlife, including a three-screen movie theater, dog sledding tours, and an immersive Ben & Jerry’s ice cream experience, during which you’ll learn how the brand makes some of its iconic flavors. For those over 21, Stowe offers a row of quaint pubs and a regular schedule of concerts. Epic pass holders can use their pass at Stowe and purchase additional lift tickets at a discount.