If you're starting to plan this season's family ski vacation, you likely have a s#%* ton of questions about, well, everything. Questioning what to even consider in planning your family's vacation can be overwhelming, so we've compiled a list of the most important things to be thinking about as you search for resorts and deals. Good luck, have FUN, and let us help you with finding the best deal for you!
East or West? Europe or USA? Your vacation experience is highly influenced by geographic location, as cruising around the Alps can be a whole lot different from packing the family into the suburban for a weekend in New England.
Massive resorts have the family vacation shtick dialed. If you're going for a total resort feel, the big places like St Mortiz and Vail are your best bet. For something more personal and less intimidating, smaller resorts are the way to go.
Consider appropriate lodging for your family, whether you'd like slopeside or in town, a rented house or a fully inclusive hotel experience. Hot tubs, cozy fireplaces, and après chill-out lounges are good characteristics to look for.
All resorts these days have appropriate terrain for all abilities, but some resorts cater to intermediates while others have terrain suited for experts. A solid beginner area is important for those just learning how to ski or ride.
If you plan on taking lessons, look into ski school offerings and lesson options, such as group lessons, specialty camps, privates and semi-privates. A first ski school lesson will likely make or break a kid's experience if they are new to skiing!
If you have little ones who won't be skiing (but you will be), make sure there are appropriate childcare options that are age-appropriate, fun, and affordable. Some resorts also have babysitting services available for nights.
There will be excellent dining options no matter what…that said, it's helpful to check out what restaurants and cuisine are at and around the resort, and making reservations ahead of time for popular eateries is a must.
Off-snow options are important for those not skiing, and if you're taking a longer vacation and want rest days. Ice skating, snow biking, and tubing are examples of a few non-skiing activities; check out specific offerings of each resort for more.
Special festivals and events are great ways to have an exceptionally special vacation, so look at resort event calendars for things like fireworks, torch light parades, concerts, and more.
Is it better to rent, or bring your own? Do you have enough layers for the bitter cold, or sunglasses for that bluebird glare? Have appropriate gear for the whole family to ensure an enjoyable vacation.
It's helpful to consider the layout of your vacation destination, and the public transportation that will be available (or private, if inclusive of a hotel or resort). Major hotels sometimes offer free airport pickup and transport between the resort and town area. Otherwise, look into public buses if traveling without a car.
Some ski vacationers don't care to leave the bubble of the hotel/resort, which is totally cool. However, it can be useful for those who have more of a sense of adventure to check out what the town is all about, and check into everything that local life has to offer – yoga classes, happy hours, and cutesy shops, for example.
Crowds are inevitable at most ski resorts, and it's helpful to be prepared for them, but also useful to know how to avoid them. Midweek skiing is substantially less crowded on the slopes, and modern resorts with a lift infrastructure to support large amounts of people generally have shorter lift lines
It is common for ski vacationers to have major expectations of powder days and excellent snow conditions (it is your vacation, after all). If your vacation success is dependent on this, choose a resort with more reliable snowfall statistics.
Kids Specific Events
Check out what the resort has to offer for kids, especially at night if you'd like an adults-only evening on the town. Kids Night Out is growing in popularity at family-focused resorts, as are movie nights.
Money: it's something you'll need for your family ski vacation, and knowing exactly how much you are willing to spend is as crucial as your expectations. If you want to get all glitzed out 4 Seasons, red carpet style, go for it. If you are looking to scale back but still have a good time, cater the resort and your experience to that expectation.
Time of Season
Most family ski vacations take place during school vacation periods and holidays, meaning the end of December, third week of February, and most of March. The calendar time of your vacation will coincide with snow conditions, weather, crowds and prices, as well as events and fun festivals, so plan accordingly.
When traveling with kids, especially, it is helpful to consider the overall infrastructure of a resort – mainly, lift type and access. Resorts with updated high speed, detachable chairlifts and gondolas are easiest for kids, while the older 2-seaters with no safety bars are not ideal. High speed lifts also equal smaller lift lines.
So what if you're parents…maybe you want to party! That's fine by us, and if you want to hit the après scene hard while kids are off tubing, consider resorts where bars and concerts are right at the resort base or close to the hotel.
Overall accessibility demands easy access to the slopes, space to store gear, a variety of parking options, and more. A great question to ask is, how easy will it be to get my family on and off the slopes?
In the industry, it's always, think snow, but on family ski vacations, sunshine can be equally (if not more) important as a few good powder days. If you are set on some sun, the Alps or the Rockies may be best. No matter what, appropriate gear for all weather makes a difference.
If you're getting away for an overall experience and, well, just love to shop, consider the retail scene you're stepping into. Many resorts now have an increasingly large number of local artisans selling one-of-a-kind goods that make great take-away treasures and gifts for friends.
Just because it's a ski vacation doesn't mean it has to be all about skiing: take advantage of the phenomenal and unique places in which ski resorts have grown, like the wild west, old New England, or historic Alps. Museums, art, and other cultural attractions await.
The ski industry as a whole has taken major steps in the past decade to eradicate a lot of the waste produced through running such huge operations. If you'd like to plan an awesome family ski vacation without contributing to excess and energy waste, there are resorts that have implemented sustainable practices to take a load off your environmental conscience.
Lift Ticket Packages
Do kids ski free? Is night skiing included? Can you get a lesson and a lift ticket in a great combo deal? Of all the package deals out there, deals on lift tickets can be some of the best. Fortunately, Snowpak has you covered. Check out all the best deals available here!