The 10 Best Resorts For Family Ski Vacations in the East
Written by Alexa Owen • Oct 30, 2015
While a family ski vacation to the West is an experience to be had, the West is not always accessible if you reside on the East Coast. Maybe you can’t get so many days off work, your kids aren’t ready for plane travel, or you simply want to stay local and explore what the mountains of New England have to offer (which is a lot!). East Coast ski resorts have charm, history, and excellent programs and activities for families, all accessible from major cities and surrounding areas. Here’s our list of top ski resorts for families in the East:
Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont
Smuggs’ has made a name for itself on being America’s Family Resort, and they continue to cater to families seeking a northern Vermont getaway that’s fun and accessible for all ages and interests – even those who won’t be hitting the slopes! They offer excellent all-inclusive packages, plenty of slopeside lodging, and opportunities for exploring winter through many activities.
On the Slopes Smugglers’ Notch features 3 interconnected peaks of varied terrain, 19% of which is beginner and 50% intermediate. The childrens’ ski and snowboard program guarantees fun and skill improvement through its lessons, so much that it offers a program refund if not meeting those criteria. We also like that the resort offers more advanced terrain options than others in the area.
Around Town: Smugglers’ Notch Ski Resort is designed so that everything you could want or need for activities and entertainment is at your fingertips. A FunZone Family Entertainment and Recreation Center, indoor pool, arts and crafts workshops, snowmobile tours, and ice skating keep kids of all ages having happy. Babysitting services for days and nights are available, and live music every weekend for parents who want a night out.
Known For: activities, ski and ride school, hospitality
Okemo Mountain Resort
The name Okemo means “all come home,” and families who vacation here are sure to feel right at home with the genuinely hospitable staff, down-to-earth locals, and comfortable facilities. Management has invested in the past decade to upgrade and expand lift services and the Jackson Gore area, all without slipping into an anesthetic corporate buzz.
On the Slopes Ideal for intermediates, Okemo has 20 lifts and 121 total trails, most of which are pristinely groomed, wide-open cruisers. The resort can now boast being the first and only in North America to have not one but two protective bubble lifts, keeping you warm, wind-protected, and more enthused on super cold days. The ski and ride school has excellent instructors.
Around Town: Okemo is one of the last remaining ski areas in New England with no highly developed “village” at the main base area – a plus for some. Head to Jackson Gore for more of a resort-town experience, with fun activities for kids. Snowcat excursions, ice skating center, snow tubing and kids night out are popular. The town of Ludlow, just a few miles down the access road, offers family-friendly restaurants, a couple fun bars, and lots of cutesy shopping for clothes, gifts, and crafts.
Known For: intermediate terrain, ski and ride school, grooming
Sunday River Ski Resort
For families with a lot of different interests on the slopes, Sunday River offers the ultimate family getaway. It’s a longer drive from the tri-state area than Massachusetts and Vermont resorts, but the reward for a bit more travel time is the ultimate feeling of “getting away.” It boasts the second-largest skiable acreage in the Northeast (next to Sugarbush), and enough entertainment for a quick weekend or full-on school vacation.
On the Slopes Families who frequent Sunday River do so because it has something for everyone: terrain park features to keep park rats lapping all day, spacious groomers, and off-piste trees, with some of the steepest slopes in the East. The sprawling 8 peaks provide a spaciousness to spread out the crowds that most Eastern resorts simply can’t offer.
Around Town: All the usual off-slopes activities can be found at Sunday River, like sledding, tubing, and even occasional night skiing. There’s also an arcade center for kids, fireworks most holidays, and a family-friendly entertainment lineup called the Black Diamond Entertainment series that features great live music. A shuttle to downtown Bethel is also available.
Known For: terrain, entertainment
Attitash Mountain Resort
Bartlett, New Hampshire
In the White Mountains of New Hampshire with views of Mt. Washington, Attitash offers a laid-back vibe for families who simply want to spend time together and ski/ride to their heart’s content. It’s less “resort” feeling than others on this list, but has all the amenities of a modern ski resort.
On the Slopes Attitash has 67 trails spread across two peaks, about half of which are intermediate terrain. Business philosophy from the start focused on developing the resort infrastructure to limit lift-lines and give all guests the “red carpet experience.” The ski school staff are just as excited about improving kids’ skiing as parents are – an excellent place for new learners.
Around Town: The philosophy that winter should be fun extends off the slopes as well. The Adventure Center at the base area offers a variety of activities, and the Nor’Easter Mountain Coaster is open most weekends and holidays. Most major shopping attractions are in nearby North Conway.
Known For: ski and ride school, intermediate terrain, hospitality
Killington Ski Resort
Killington is a beast of a mountain: vast, varied, and offering plenty of challenging terrain. That said, the resort has worked over the past decade to develop into a family-friendly place, while still maintaining its well-earned reputation for excellent live music and nightlife. Each peak has its own vibe, so find the one that suits your family best, or explore them all.
On the Slopes Killington’s family center is at the base of Ramshead Peak, where you will find children’s lessons and learning terrain, a kid-friendly food court, and lifts and trails to Snowdon Mountain, the next peak over. The all-terrain gear-carting wagons are helpful here for schlepping stuff from the car. Each base area is color-coded, which makes finding your car (and each other!) easier at the end of the day.
Around Town: There are plenty of lodging options for all budgets in the Killington area, although most are not slopeside. The information desks are helpful for booking sleigh rides, fat bike rentals, and snowshoe tours. Many restaurants are suitable for all families and budgets. Get a babysitter if Mom and Dad want to check out the infamous Wobbly Barn.
Known For: terrain, nightlife, activities
Stratton Mountain Ski Resort
South Londonderry, Vermont
Stratton is much more than a ski resort: it’s a world in and of itself, where management has worked to place everything you could possibly want at your fingertips. Between skiing and riding, dog sled tours, moonlit showshoe hikes, fat bikes and kid parties, your family’s biggest issue here may be deciding what to do and what will have to wait until next vacation.
On the Slopes Stratton features 670 skiable acres of the finest stuff snow guns can make, including some of the best terrain parks in the East. It’s a social hub for tri-state area families, making it great for kids who want to hang with their friends. The upper mountain is primarily advanced terrain, while the lower half is beginner and intermediate. Free guided mountain tours are a great excuse for family time.
Around Town: The village at the base is a mini-mecca for shopping, dining, and spa time. Kids Night Out at Stratton is much more than babysitting; they’ll get their choice of evening showshoe hikes, movie night, dance parties, and more.
Known For: hospitality, activities, social scene
Wilmington, New York
Whiteface has hosted some of the best skiers in the world over the years, many of whom raced down the slopes in the 1980 Winter Olympics. It’s an overall challenging mountain , and ideal for families looking for hardcore steeps and off-piste trees and chutes. Downtown Lake Placid is a charming place to explore Olympic history.
On the Slopes It didn’t get the nickname Iceface for nothing: Whiteface offers steep, challenging terrain that will keep things interesting for the advanced skiers in the family. There is an excellent beginner area at the base, and the ski school has a 3 Day Parallel from the Start program to jump-start beginners. There is intermediate access to the base from all lifts – great for those who aren’t quite ready for the steeps.
Around Town: Lake Placid is the place to be for winter events: the town regularly hosts World Cup luge and skeleton competitions, as well as NCAA hockey games. The whole family can jump into a bobsled (with a driver) for a ride down a half-mile track. Get the Olympic Sites Passport for best deals on all Olympic site-related activities for the family.
Known For: advanced terrain, activities
If your family is seeking a laid-back, old-school, small-town resort that uses the word fun quite seriously in its mission statement, Camelback may be your place. Only 2 hours drive from New York and Philadelphia, it’s an excellent alternative to schlepping up to Vermont or Maine if you have limited time (or low tolerance for traffic).
On the Slopes At 800 vertical feet and 166 skiable acres, there’s not a whole lot to Camelback, but the low-intimidation factor is welcoming. 34 trails, all available for night skiing, offer mostly intermediate and beginner terrain. Staff are very friendly, and instructors at the ski and ride school are great with kids. Half and full day lessons are available.
Around Town: A handful of slopeside eateries cater to those staying on-mountain, and the surrounding Poconos area have many more. Camelback boasts the largest snowtubing park in the country, with a whopping 42 lanes – the favorite activity for kids when they’re not on the slopes. The Camelback Lodge and Indoor Waterpark at the base just opened in Spring 2015 and features a spa, four restaurants, and a 125,000 sq. ft. indoor water park.
Known For: intermediate terrain, hospitality, budget
Mount Washingtion Ski Resort Bretton Woods
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s largest ski resort, Mount Washington Resort at Bretton Woods is one of the best places for kids in the East because of its on-slopes offerings (464 acres of trails and glades) and unique off-slopes activities. Sure, there’s the usual ice skating, sleigh rides, and dogsledding, but a slopeside climbing wall and canopy tour through the trees? Now we’re talking winter fun.
On the Slopes Terrain is spread across three peaks, with high speed lift access to nearly everything. Bretton Woods has won the #1 Grooming award from Ski Magazine for the third year in a row, and the corduroy will make everyone in your family feel like a pro. The resort also offers extensive Nordic skiing for parents or kids interested in a little something different.
Around Town: The canopy tour is the big winner for off-slopes activities, offering a chance to fly high above the slopes for the ultimate look at the surrounding White Mountains. Take a family sleigh ride or send the kids to the snowmobile park while Mom and Dad relax at the on-site spa.
Known For: activities, varied terrain
Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort
Jiminy Peak is another great option for those in Southern New England looking for a close-to-home getaway. In the heart of the Berkshires, Jiminy offers the largest skiable terrain in the area, and high-speed lift access to keep the family doing more skiing and riding and less waiting in lift lines.
On the Slopes The resort terrain is prime for beginners who want to cover a lot of ground: beginner access is accessible from the top of the mountain, and the length of runs offers a ton of on-snow area for family time. The KidsRule Mountain Camps, run out of the learning center at the base, are your best bet for group lessons.
Around Town: The village at the base features ski and snowboard rentals, a welcome center, general store, and Kid’s Zone playground. Next door is the all-season mountain coaster and Soaring Eagle Zip Ride. Stay slopeside for quick lift access in the morning, or at any of the inns within 15 minutes drive for access to indoor pools and hot tubs.
Known For: accessibility, varied terrain, budget