Best Ski Resorts for Families: Young Children Edition [2021-2022]

The FinanceBuzz team evaluated over 350 ski resorts and destinations across the country to find the best skiing for families with young children based on over 25 different factors.
Last updated Dec 17, 2021 | By Josh Koebert | Edited By Becca Borawski Jenkins
Family with young child skiing

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Skiing is a beloved winter pastime for families across America. While ski resorts and ski areas can be found throughout the country, some are better than others when it comes to providing the right environment for young children to learn how to ski. 

To help families looking to enjoy a beloved wintertime activity with the next generation, FinanceBuzz evaluated 30 different factors at over 350 ski destinations to find the most family-friendly for those with young children.

In this article

The factors we looked at

We took a two-pronged approach to evaluate the family-friendliness of different ski destinations. We focused on factors relating to the type and quality of skiing available, while also looking at the number of family-friendly amenities available at each destination. Also, while there is no specific age limit that constitutes “young children” as it relates to this evaluation, most ski areas impose an age limit between 5-10 years old on their children’s lift tickets.

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 beginners, and overall skiable acres: Crowded trails and runs can overwhelm young skiers, but too much space makes it easier for kids to get lost. For that reason, mountains that are “just right” in size perform better on our list than those that are too small or too large.
  • Number of available lifts, hourly lift capacity, number of surface lifts, percentage of lifts that are double lifts, and percentage of lifts that are triple lifts or greater: Nothing is more frustrating for skiers than having to wait to get back to the top of the mountain. So ski destinations with greater lift infrastructure and capacity score higher here, with even better scores for resorts that make it easy for families to ride lifts together.
  • Lift ticket costs for children, 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 where they are open are preferred here.
  • Vertical rise: When little ones are first learning to ski it is important to find mountains and trails with enough vertical drop to be fun, but still gentle enough that kids can safely learn and experiment. For that reason, we prioritized mountains with a vertical rise of around 1,000 feet, with scores decreasing the further from 1,000 feet a mountain’s rise is.

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

Amenities

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

The best ski destinations for families with young children in the entire country

Map showing the best ski destinations for families with young children in the entire United States


Best ski destinations for families with young children in the entire U.S.

Ranking Resort City Ski factors score Amenities score Total score
1 The Summit at Snoqualmie Snoqualmie Pass, WA 55.9 16 71.9
2 Sunday River Newry, ME 52.9 16 68.9
3 Mammoth Mammoth Lake, CA 54.7 14 68.7
4 Stratton Stratton Mountain, VT 54.6 14 68.6
5 Boyne Mountain Boyne Falls, MI 52.3 16 68.3
6 Winter Park Winter Park, CO 55.2 13 68.2
7 Solitude Ski Resort Solitude, UT 53.6 14 67.6
8 Loveland Ski Area Georgetown, CO 54.6 12 66.6
9 Mount Snow / Haystack West Dover, VT 51.1 15 66.1
10 Boyne Highlands Harbor Springs, MI 49.7 16 65.7
11 Big Sky Resort Big Sky, MT 52.8 12 64.8
12 Steamboat Steamboat Springs, CO 51.7 13 64.7
13 Sugarloaf Carrabassett Valley, ME 49.6 15 64.6
14 Eldora Mountain Resort Nederland, CO 52.6 12 64.6
15 Mount Shasta Dunsmuir, CA 52.2 12 64.2
16 White Pass Naches, WA 54.1 10 64.1
17 49 Degrees North Chewelah, WA 51.9 12 63.9
18 Jay Peak Jay, VT 50.9 13 63.9
19 Brian Head Brian Head, UT 52.8 11 63.8
20 Hill Top Anchorage, AK 57.6 6 63.6

Top ski destinations can be found throughout the country, though our top 20 list does include 13 resorts from Western states, followed by five from the East Coast, and two from the Midwest. At least one resort from each of these three regions is ranked in the top five overall.

Speaking of America’s top five ski destinations, here’s a closer look at what makes each of the best ski areas in the country such a good fit for families with small children:

  • #1 The Summit at Snoqualmie: Located 50 miles from Seattle, the Summit at Snoqualmie earned the highest score of any ski area by virtue of being a true jack of all trades when it comes to skiing. The Summit earned a higher than average score in eight of the 14 ski factors, including a perfect score for annual snowfall. The resort also has some of the most affordable lift tickets for children and features every single amenity included in this analysis. All told, this is a ski destination that offers families plenty of high-quality options for having fun on the slopes.
  • #2 Sunday River: The top-ranked ski destination on the East Coast, this resort located near Maine’s western border is one of those that is “just right” in size for families with young children. The availability of multi-person lifts is another highlight of Sunday River. Finally, much like the Summit at Snoqualmie, this resort features a perfect 16 of 16 amenities.
  • #3 Mammoth: Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is one of the most well-known ski resorts in California, boasting high annual snowfall, tons of lifts, and the longest ski season in the entire country, coming in at nearly 200 operating days last season. Strong scores in those areas plus 14 family-friendly amenities were enough to make Mammoth one of the three best ski resorts for families in the country.
  • #4 Boyne Mountain: The highest-rated ski destination in the Midwest, this Michigan resort is “just right” in size for children, with almost exactly 1,000 acres of skiable area. It also features one of the best deals possible when it comes to the cost of a child’s lift ticket, as it costs just $1 on any given day for kids age five and under to ski here.
  • #5 Winter Park: The top-scoring ski destination in the skiing mecca of Colorado, this resort finishes in the top five despite only featuring 13 of 16 possible amenities. Winter Park earns high marks in a number of ski factors, including a lengthy operating season, affordable children’s lift tickets, a high number of lifts, and over 300 inches of annual snowfall.

Most family-friendly ski destinations across the U.S.

Not everyone has the resources or inclination to travel long distances across the country for a ski vacation. For that reason, we found the top 10 family-friendly ski destinations in different parts of the country. These lists featuring top ski areas in the American West, East, and Midwest should provide families with a variety of top-tier options a little closer to home.

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


West Coast/Rockies: Best ski destinations for families with young children

Ranking Resort City Ski factors score Amenities score Total score
1 The Summit at Snoqualmie Snoqualmie Pass, WA 55.9 16 71.9
2 Mammoth Mammoth Lake, CA 54.7 14 68.7
3 Winter Park Winter Park, CO 55.2 13 68.2
4 Solitude Ski Resort Solitude, UT 53.6 14 67.6
5 Loveland Ski Area Georgetown, CO 54.6 12 66.6
6 Big Sky Resort Big Sky, MT 52.8 12 64.8
7 Steamboat Steamboat Springs, CO 51.7 13 64.7
8 Eldora Mountain Resort Nederland, CO 52.6 12 64.6
9 Mount Shasta Dunsmuir, CA 52.2 12 64.2
10 White Pass Naches, WA 54.1 10 64.1

When looking at the top-ranked ski destinations in the West Coast/Rockies region, a few factors stuck out across multiple resorts. First and foremost, this part of the country routinely receives heavy annual snowfall. As a result, multiple resorts on this list earned perfect or near-perfect scores in that category. Additionally, a number of top performers also feature lengthy ski seasons and high-quality lift infrastructure.

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


East Coast: Best ski destinations for families with young children

Ranking Resort City Ski factors score Amenities score Total score
1 Sunday River Newry, ME 52.9 16 68.9
2 Stratton Stratton Mountain, VT 54.6 14 68.6
3 Mount Snow / Haystack West Dover, VT 51.1 15 66.1
4 Sugarloaf Carrabassett Valley, ME 49.6 15 64.6
5 Jay Peak Jay, VT 50.9 13 63.9
6 Titus Mountain Malone, NY 50.2 13 63.2
7 Bretton Woods Carroll, NH 49.6 13 62.6
8 Cranmore North Conway, NH 47.8 14 61.8
9 Whiteface Mountain Wilmington, NY 47.7 14 61.7
10 Shawnee Peak Skiing Bridgton, ME 47.5 14.0 61.5

While the western part of the country does feature some of the best skiing in America, there are still excellent options for slope enthusiasts across the country. The eastern region features snowy New England and the entirety of New York state, both areas with strong and enthusiastic ski communities. Many of the resorts in this part of the country are a “just right” size for families with small children, while many of the top finishers offer customers a high number of amenities.

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


Midwest: Best ski destinations for families with young children

Ranking Resort City Ski factors score Amenities score Total score
1 Boyne Mountain Boyne Falls, MI 52.3 16 68.3
2 Boyne Highlands Harbor Springs, MI 49.7 16 65.7
3 Schuss Mountain at Shanty Creek Bellaire, MI 47.1 15 62.1
4 Boston Mills - Brandywine Peninsula, OH 52.9 9 61.9
5 Blackjack Ski Resort Bessemer, MI 47.5 13 60.5
6 Hidden Valley Golf & Ski Resort Wildwood, MS 51.0 9 60.0
7 Indianhead Mountain Resort Wakefield, MI 47.5 12 59.5
8 Treetops Sylvan Gaylord, MI 46.5 13 59.5
9 Mount Ski Gull Nisswa, MN 50.4 9 59.4
10 Caberfae Peaks Ski Resort Cadillac, MI 46.1 13 59.1

While many people think of the East and West Coasts when it comes to skiing, there are plenty of high-quality ski resorts in the Midwest that are enjoyed by a robust community of ski enthusiasts. The top of this list features multiple resorts with a truly unbeatable price on children’s lift tickets, coming in at a single dollar per day. Not only are these top resorts extremely affordable, they also feature a ton of amenities that allow families to find the perfect way to enjoy their time on the slopes.

Tips for slopeside savings

While skiing is a fun snow season activity for the entire family, it can sometimes cost a pretty penny after accounting for things like travel, lodging, and lift tickets. Here are some tips on how to save the next time you hit the slopes:

  • Make your way to the mountain while earning travel rewards. Many credit cards offer rewards and cash back when spending on dining, airfare, lodging, and more. Using one of the best travel credit cards to fund your next ski trip could result in earning big rewards that could help offset your costs.
  • Buy an annual pass and save big. Paying for lift tickets day after day quickly adds up, especially for anyone who wants to ski on a regular basis. Thankfully, it is possible to save money with an annual ski pass. There are a number of different options available that work at different resorts and ski areas around the country, so be sure to investigate which pass is the right fit for you and your family.
  • Save on lodging with Airbnb. While there is something to be said for the convenience of staying at a mountainside lodge, doing so can come with a hefty price tag. One great money-saving alternative is to find a private, local short-term rental for you and your family via Airbnb. Even better, if you use one of the best credit cards for booking an Airbnb you could stretch savings even further.

Methodology

For this analysis, FinanceBuzz collected data for all ski resorts and destinations featured on SkiCentral.com. We gathered data points for 14 different 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 16 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: 0.75

Percentage of beginner trails score - The percentage of overall ski trails that are graded for beginner skiers - SkiCentral - Weight: 2.5

Resort size compared to ideal size score - Difference in the number of skiable acres each resort has compared to the ideal size for families with children. For this evaluation, the ideal size was set at 1,000 acres, and resorts earned lower scores for being both bigger and smaller than that - SkiCentral - Weight: 1.0

Vertical rise compared to ideal rise score - Difference in the mountain’s total vertical rise compared to the ideal rise for families with children. For this evaluation, the ideal rise was set at 1,000 feet, and resorts earned lower scores for being both bigger and smaller than that - SkiCentral - Weight: 1.0

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: 1.5

Percentage of double lifts score - The percentage of available lifts that can accommodate two people at once - SkiCentral - Weight: 1.25

Number of surface lifts score - The number of available surface lifts - SkiCentral - Weight: 1.0

Per hour lift capacity score - The total number of skiers that can be carried to the top of the mountain every hour - SkiCentral - Weight: 1.5

Senior lift ticket cost score - The average cost to purchase lift tickets for senior citizens - SkiCentral - Weight: 1.0

Child lift tIcket cost score - The average cost to purchase lift tickets for children - SkiCentral - Weight: 2.5

Adult Lift ticket cost score - The average cost to purchase lift tickets for adults - SkiCentral - Weight: 1.5

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: 2.0

Amenities

Whether snowboarding is an option - SkiCentral

Whether night skiing is an option - SkiCentral

Whether cross country skiing is an option - SkiCentral

Whether snowshoeing is an option - SkiCentral

Whether tubing is an option - SkiCentral

Whether there is a terrain park or pipe available - SkiCentral

Whether a kids program is 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 daycare is available - Liftopia

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

Author Details

Josh Koebert Josh Koebert is an experienced content marketer that loves exploring how personal finance overlaps with topics such as sports, food, pop culture, and more. His work has been featured on sites such as CNN, ESPN, Business Insider, and Lifehacker.