The USA has more ski resorts than you can poke a ski pole at, but for Australians, the resorts closest to the west coast are the way to go. Out & About with Kids has these recommendations for families wanting to ski with Uncle Sam.
Overlooking the beautiful Lake Tahoe, Heavenly is well named. It’s the largest resort in California with 4,800 acres of skiable terrain, 97 trails and 30 lifts. Kids are VIPs here, and they will love learning to ski and board with trips to the enchanted forest, visits from Ripperoo the dog and loads of hot chocolate! Mammoth has really good lift ticket deals, including the parent tag team ticket. It has five terrain parks catering to beginners up to advanced and has childcare for children from six weeks. Terrain: 20% beginner, 45% intermediate, 35% advanced.
Mighty Mammoth Mountain delivers a giant experience for families, with 150 trails serviced by 28 lifts. Apart from unbelievable skiing and boarding for all, kids will adore letting loose in Woolly’s Adventure Summit Tube Park and Snow Play area. Plus you can go dogsledding, do a snowcat tour and go snowmobiling. It has nine parks and pipes for those who dare. Terrain: 25% beginner, 40% intermediate, 20% advanced and 15% expert.
Australians love Aspen/Snowmass and it’s reciprocated, because Aussies are the number one international visitors to this glamorous snow town. There are four mountains to ski on: Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass and like kids, they all have their own personality. Snowmass is consistently named one of the top resorts in North America for families, offering an abundance of slope-side ski-in, ski-out apartment-style accommodation.
Snowmass Mountain is known for its wide-open, groomed long runs, and kids love the three terrain parks. The 91 trails would happily keep all ability levels busy and the mid-mountain Elk Camp Meadows beginners’ area, exclusively for learner skiers or riders, is the perfect place for the family to learn. The showpiece for families at Snowmass is the Treehouse Adventure Center, home to the Snowmass Children’s Ski School. The Treehouse brings the outdoors inside, inviting children to begin their alpine journey through hands-on, interactive activities. Whether nestled in the colourful Butterfly Room, wriggling in the Fox Den, jumping in Trout Haven or crawling through Beaver Lodge, each room’s design is tailored for a specific age group. Terrain: 6%, beginner; 50%, intermediate; 12% advanced and 32% extreme.
Family-favourite Steamboat is famous for its glades and tree skiing – complemented by an easy, laid-back atmosphere and genuine western-style friendliness. Steamboat’s Kids Ski Free program, available all season with no black-out dates, together with the nationally recognised Kids’ Vacation Center, has earned Steamboat a reputation for the best children’s programs in the country. Ski clinics begin at two with childcare programs available for children from six months old. Off the snow, there is plenty for the family to do including snowshoeing, horseback riding, tubing or soaking in Steamboat’s famous hot spring pools.The Kids Ski Free program is on offer for the 2012/2013 Season – kids ski and rent free to 12 years with a minimum five-day adult purchase. There are two terrain parks. Terrain: 14% beginner ,42% intermediate, 44% advanced.
Telluride is another western gem with a fascinating mix of history and natural beauty. The town is stunningly beautiful and has been classified as a national historic landmark district, thanks to its mining heritage and cowboy past. It was here that Butch and Sundance robbed their first bank. The town is connected to the Mountain Village by a free gondola. The mountain offers terrain for all ages and levels, with 125 named trails accessed by 18 lifts and is now being noticed by Australian families. Terrain: 23% beginner, 46% intermediate, 31% advanced/expert.
Sun Valley set the bar for other Amercan ski resorts providing a full snow experience. There are two mountains: Dollar Mountain, which is perfect for beginners to intermediate level skiers and boarders with gentle, treeless terrain; and Bald Mountain, which turns it on for intermediates to advanced in fun, challenging terrain. Altogether, there are 19 lifts accessing 76 runs, as well as some spectacular terrain parks. The snowsport school offers group ski lessons for kids aged four to 12, and there is the Burton Learn to Ride snowboard program for kids aged six to 12 and those learners over 13. The Teen Adventure Program is for teens 13 to 18 who are intermediate to advanced, taking on the more challenging terrain of Bald Mountain. Off the snow, strut your stuff on the Olympic ice skating rink. Terrain: 36% beginner; 42% intermed