Best Ski Resorts for Families: Teens Edition [2022]

The FinanceBuzz team evaluated over 350 ski resorts and destinations across the country to find the best skiing for families with teenagers based on more than 25 different factors.
Last updated Jan 4, 2022 | By Ben Walker | Edited By Becca Borawski Jenkins
A picture of teenaged skiers on a ski lift

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Skiing is often a fun activity for the whole family, whether you have small children or teenagers. But if you have teens, they might appreciate more space and freedom than younger kids. In that way, the best ski resorts for young children might not be the best for teenagers.

Choosing the right ski destination can allow your teens room to spread out and do their own thing on the mountain, contributing to an enjoyable family experience for everyone.

If you’re opting for a last hurrah on the slopes rather than heading to a tropical destination for spring break, we’ve picked some prime ski spots for you to choose from. Overall, FinanceBuzz evaluated over 25 factors at more than 350 ski destinations to find the best locations for families with teens.

In this article

The factors we looked at

We took a two-step approach to evaluating family- and teen-friendly ski destinations across the country. We focused on factors relating to the type and quality of skiing available, and also looked at the number of family-friendly amenities available that could appeal to teens.

Ski factors

  • Annual snowfall: What’s the point of heading to the slopes if there isn’t anything to ski on?
  • Number of trails, percentage of trails rated for intermediate-level skiers, and overall skiable acres: Teens are more likely to want to find their own fun away from their parents compared to younger skiers, so ski areas with more available skiable space and trails appropriate for teenage skiers performed better here.
  • Number of available lifts, hourly lift capacity, percentage of double lifts, and percentage of lifts triple lifts or greater: Nothing is more frustrating for skiers than having to wait to get back to the top of the mountain. Ski destinations with greater lift infrastructure and capacity score higher here, with even better scores for resorts that make it easy for families and friends to ride lifts together.
  • Lift ticket costs for youths, adults, and seniors: A good indicator of a ski destination’s family-friendliness is how affordable it is for the whole family to get access to the slopes.
  • Length of the most recent full ski season: It can be tough for families to find a time when everyone is free to get out and ski, so resorts with longer windows when they are open are preferred.
  • Vertical rise: The higher, the better, as trails at different rise levels provide teens with a variety of options based on their skill level.

Beyond the factors listed above, we also tracked how many of the following family- and teen-friendly amenities are available at each ski area.

Amenities

  • Snowboarding
  • Night skiing
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Tubing
  • Ski lessons
  • Snowboarding lessons
  • Terrain park or pipe
  • Equipment rental
  • Slopeside dining
  • Slopeside lodging
  • Snowmaking facilities
  • Wi-Fi access
  • “Family-friendly” designation via Liftopia

The best ski destinations for families with teenagers in the U.S.

Map showing the best ski destinations for families with teenagers in the United States


Ranking Resort City Ski factors score Amenities score Total score
1 Mammoth Mammoth Lake, CA 75.0 12 87.0
2 Palisades Tahoe Truckee, CA 68.0 13 81.0
3 Snowmass Snowmass Village, CO 69.8 10 79.8
4 Big Sky Resort Big Sky, MT 69.2 10 79.2
5 Vail Resort Vail, CO 66.9 12 78.9
6 Park City Park City, UT 66.0 12 78.0
7 The Summit at Snoqualmie Snoqualmie Pass, WA 64.9 13 77.9
8 Northstar California Truckee, CA 64.9 12 76.9
9 Heavenly South Lake Tahoe, CA 65.9 11 76.9
10 Killington Killington, VT 63.6 11 74.6
11 Mt. Bachelor Bend, OR 64.1 10 74.1
12 Snowbasin Ski Resort Huntsville, UT 61.9 12 73.9
13 Snowbird Snowbird Lodge, UT 64.6 9 73.6
14 Winter Park Winter Park, CO 63.1 10 73.1
15 Grand Targhee Ski Resort Alta, WY 62.5 10 72.5
16 Copper Mountain Resort Copper Mountain, CO 61.4 11 72.4
17 Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Teton Village, WY 62.2 10 72.2
18 Powder Mountain Eden, UT 63.2 9 72.2
19 Sun Valley Sun Valley, ID 61.1 11 72.1
20 Alyeska Resort Girdwood, AK 59.5 12 71.5

It’s not uncommon to find the top ski destinations are scattered around the country, but our top 20 list leans heavily on the Western states. Only one destination (#10 Killington in Killington, VT) can be found outside this region. In the top five, you have destinations in California, Colorado, and Montana. The full list also includes Utah, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho, and Alaska.

For the top five ski destinations, here’s what makes them some of the best ski areas in the country for families with teenagers:

  • #1 Mammoth: Mammoth Mountain is a year-round vacation haven for outdoor enthusiasts in California, though it’s especially popular during the winter months. With an annual snowfall of over 400 inches, access to 150 trails, and more than 3,500 skiable acres, Mammoth has what it takes to keep the whole family happy. It also doesn’t hurt that Mammoth offers 195 days of skiing, which is the longest duration nationwide, and achieves one of the highest amenity scores on the list.
  • #2 Palisades Tahoe: Heading north from Mammoth, you’ll find Truckee, California, and the Palisades Tahoe ski resort. Palisades’ high amenity score — which includes night skiing, slopeside dining, and equipment rentals — helped it nab the #2 spot on our list. Palisades also scored perfectly on annual snowfall (over 450 inches), number of trails (170), and skiable acres (over 3,600). Its high prices for lift tickets contributed to its lower overall score compared to Mammoth.
  • #3 Snowmass: Moving east to Colorado, we end up at Snowmass Ski Resort in Snowmass Village. Snowmass was rated #2 for ski factors, but an amenity score of 10 brought its overall ranking to #3. Some of the main categories are also slightly lower, with 300 annual inches of snowfall, 98 available trails, and 3,342 skiable acres. Where Snowmass really shines is with its vertical rise, which is typically a factor for determining how long your ski runs can be. Snowmass has a 4,406-foot vertical rise, which is the highest in the country.
  • #4 Big Sky Resort: In Big Sky, Montana, you’ll find the Big Sky Resort. This ski destination ranks right behind Snowmass, with the same amenity score of 10 and just a slightly lower ski factor score. Located north of Yellowstone National Park, Big Sky has the second-highest vertical rise nationwide at 4,350 feet. You also get 400 inches of annual snowfall, 300 available trails, and a massive 5,800 skiable acres. Big Sky falls short on a few factors, including a low percentage of available intermediate trails and a below-average per-hour lift capacity.
  • #5 Vail Resort: About a two-hour drive from Snowmass is Vail Ski Resort, located in Vail, Colorado. Vail drops a few points on its ski factors score but makes up for it with a high amenity score. Vail scores perfectly with its number of lifts (31), skiable acres (5,317), number of trails (195), and per-hour lift capacity (54,963). And its 354 inches of annual snowfall hits an above-average score. However, you might be let down by high lift ticket prices and a lower percentage of intermediate trails.

Best ski destinations in different regions

We get it. Not everyone lives on the West Coast or in the Rockies and can reasonably (and affordably) expect to visit the top ski destinations in the Western states. Fortunately, we also have the data for the top ski areas in different parts of the country, including the East Coast and Midwest. This should give you additional options for finding high-quality skiing closer to home.

West Coast/Rockies: Best ski destinations for families with teens

Map showing the best ski destinations for families with teenagers in the West Coast/Rockies region


Ranking Resort City Ski factors score Amenities score Total score
1 Mammoth Mammoth Lake, CA 75.0 12 87.0
2 Palisades Tahoe Truckee, CA 68.0 13 81.0
3 Snowmass Snowmass Village, CO 69.8 10 79.8
4 Big Sky Resort Big Sky, MT 69.2 10 79.2
5 Vail Resort Vail, CO 66.9 12 78.9
6 Park City Park City, UT 66.0 12 78.0
7 The Summit at Snoqualmie Snoqualmie Pass, WA 64.9 13 77.9
8 Northstar California Truckee, CA 64.9 12 76.9
9 Heavenly South Lake Tahoe, CA 65.9 11 76.9
10 Mt. Bachelor Bend, OR 64.1 10 74.1

In the West Coast/Rockies region, the top ski destinations all receive massive amounts of snowfall each year. For many of the ski areas on this list, that means a high number of skiable acres and above-average ski season durations. Considering most of these areas are also the top overall ski destinations nationwide, you can also expect high amenity scores.

East Coast: Best ski destinations for families with teens

Map showing the best ski destinations for families with teenagers in the East Coast region


Ranking Resort City Ski factors score Amenities score Total score
1 Killington Killington, VT 63.6 11 74.6
2 Sugarloaf Carrabassett Valley, ME 58.7 12 70.7
3 Sunday River Newry, ME 57.3 13 70.3
4 Mount Snow / Haystack West Dover, VT 56.6 12 68.6
5 Smugglers Notch Jeffersonville, VT 56.0 11 67.0
6 Sugarbush Warren, VT 56.1 10 66.1
7 Stowe Stowe, VT 54.8 11 65.8
8 Whiteface Mountain Wilmington, NY 54.3 11 65.3
9 Gore Mountain North Creek, NY 52.4 11 63.4
10 Okemo Mountain Resort Ludlow, VT 50.7 12 62.7

While the Western states might dominate the overall rankings, you still have plenty of options for skiing on the East Coast. This includes destinations throughout Vermont, Maine, and New York where the whole family can gather for a fun, wintry outing.

One thing to notice with these ski areas is that they all have high amenity scores. The three top picks — Killington, Sugarloaf, and Sunday River — received perfect scores for their number of trails. And, apart from Killington, these ski areas are typically much less expensive than the top options in the West Coast/Rockies region.

Midwest: Best ski destinations for families with teens

Map showing the best ski destinations for families with teenagers in the Midwest region


Ranking Resort City Ski factors score Amenities score Total score
1 Lutsen Mountains Lutsen, MN 46.8 10 56.8
2 Boyne Mountain Boyne Falls, MI 41.3 13 54.3
3 Boyne Highlands Harbor Springs, MI 36.9 13 49.9
4 Crystal Mountain Resort Thompsonville, MI 37.7 12 49.7
5 Devils Head Merrimac, WI 37.0 12 49.0
6 Giants Ridge Ski Resort Biwabik, MN 38.0 11 49.0
7 Afton Alps Hastings, MN 42.7 6 48.7
8 Nub's Nob Gaylord, MI 40.3 8 48.3
9 Ski Brule Iron River, MI 39.3 9 48.3
10 Schuss Mountain at Shanty Creek Bellaire, MI 36.2 12 48.2

If you didn’t know, the Midwest also features some top ski destinations for slope enthusiasts. This may not be the region you’d traditionally think of, but what these resorts might lack in certain ski factors, they make up for in other ways.

For example, you might not get as much annual snowfall, but you do get fairly inexpensive lift tickets for all ages. Add in the fact that many of these areas have amenity scores on par with the top overall destinations, and you’ve got both affordable and enjoyable ski spots.

3 ways to save on your ski vacation

Skiing can make for an amazing family winter activity, but the costs can pile up quickly. From ski gear and lift tickets to food and lodging, there’s no shortage of expenses. And traveling to your destination could impact your budget even more.

To help keep your trip affordable, here are a few ways to save on your ski vacation:

  • Use travel rewards. Using the right credit cards can net you valuable rewards in the form of points or miles. Many cards offer ways to redeem these rewards on flights or hotel stays, which could offset two of your largest trip expenses. For more information, check out our list of the best travel credit cards.
  • Get an annual pass. If you plan to ski a lot, an annual or season ski pass could be worth its weight in gold. Getting new lift tickets each time you head to a destination can quickly add up, which is why it makes sense to consider whether a ski pass would offer more value. Here’s how you can save money with ski passes.
  • Stay in an Airbnb. In some cases, you might find a better deal by staying in an Airbnb compared to a hotel. If you want even more savings on lodging, consider using a credit card with perks or rewards earning potential related to Airbnbs. For more information, check out our list of the best credit cards for Airbnb.

Methodology

For this analysis, FinanceBuzz collected data for all ski resorts and destinations featured on SkiCentral.com. We gathered data points for 13 factors related to family-friendliness and ski quality for each destination. Data was put into a dynamic formula that assigned a 0-5 score to each ski area for every factor, with scores relative to all other ski areas in our evaluation. Individual factor scores were then weighted and added together to get a final score on a 0-100 scale. We also looked at how many of 13 different amenities are at each resort, with an additional point awarded for each amenity that is present. Amenities data was based on information collected from SkiCentral and Liftopia.

Factors, data points, factors weights, amenities, and sources are as follows:

Ski factors and weights

Annual snowfall score - Total annual snowfall at each resort in the most recently reported ski season - SkiCentral - Weight: 1.5

Number of trails score - The total number of available ski trails of all skill levels - SkiCentral - Weight: 2.0

Percentage of beginner trails score - The percentage of overall ski trails that are graded for intermediate skiers - SkiCentral - Weight: 2.25

Resort size - Total number of skiable acres - SkiCentral - Weight: 1.5

Vertical rise - Total feet of skiable vertical rise - SkiCentral - Weight: 3.0

Number of lifts score - Total number of ski lifts available at the resort - SkiCentral - Weight: 1.0

Percentage of triple+ lifts score - The percentage of available lifts that can accommodate three or more people at once - SkiCentral - Weight: 0.5

Percentage of double lifts score - The percentage of available lifts that can accommodate two people at once - SkiCentral - Weight: 0.5

Per hour lift capacity score - The total number of skiers that can be carried to the top of the mountain every hour - SkiCentral - Weight: 2.25

Senior lift ticket cost score - The average cost to purchase lift tickets for senior citizens - SkiCentral - Weight: 0.25

Youth lift tIcket cost score - The average cost to purchase lift tickets for youths - SkiCentral - Weight: 2.0

Adult Lift ticket cost score - The average cost to purchase lift tickets for adults - SkiCentral - Weight: 1.0

Length of most recent full ski season score - The number of days the resort was open for skiing during their most recent full ski season - SkiCentral - Weight: 2.25

Amenities

Whether snowboarding is an option - SkiCentral

Whether night skiing is an option - SkiCentral

Whether cross country skiing is an option - SkiCentral

Whether tubing is an option - SkiCentral

Whether there is a terrain park or pipe available - SkiCentral

Whether ski lessons are available - SkiCentral

Whether snowboard lessons are available - SkiCentral

Whether equipment rental is available - SkiCentral

Whether the resort has snowmaking abilities - SkiCentral

Whether slopeside lodging is available - Liftopia

Whether slopeside dining is available - Liftopia

Whether wi-fi access is available - Liftopia

Whether the resort has earned a “family-friendly” designation - Liftopia

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Author Details

Ben Walker Ben Walker is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially-sound decisions. For nearly a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben has been featured in The Washington Post, MSN, Debt.com, and Finder.com.