With Jack Frost nipping at your heels and snow flurries in the air, it’s the perfect time for families to hit the slopes. Whether it’s a one-day trip or a getaway, families can escape the city streets for stunning mountain views and terrain where tiny tots can build their skills and adventurous skiers can flex their muscles.
Below is a roundup of family-friendly winter destinations, ranging from modest ski areas to larger resorts, where families can take lessons, ride downhill, hit the jump and bumps like the pros, and enjoy other wintertime family activities while bonding on the snow.
Location: Patterson, NY
Distance from NYC: About 1.15-hour, accessible by Metro North with shuttle provided by Thunder Ridge
Why We Love It: With just a little over an hour drive from NYC, Thunder Ridge Ski Area is a great option for a family daily trip to the slopes. And with its 22 trails, there are slopes gentle enough for beginners and advanced trails that will satisfy the experts. For little ones that are new to skiing, the Preschool to Kindergarten Program introduces kids, ages 3.5 to 5, to skiing once a week beginning in January 2017. And for kids, ages 5 to 9, there’s a daily half-day ski program or group lessons. There’s also a 75-minute Mommy (or Daddy) & Me group ski lesson for 3-5 year olds during the week, and a daily ski group lesson for children 4 to 7 years old. Children, ages 6-12, can learn to ride or ski daily in Thunder’s Children’s Group. There’s also a daily group lesson for children age 13 and up. After a long day on the mountain, the family can warm up in the cozy lodge and refuel on hot chocolate and homemade soups before heading home.
Location: Hunter, NY
Distance from NYC: 2.15-hour drive
Why We Love It: With 58 trails, an award-winning Learning Center, and a mini tubing park for kids, Hunter Mountain is a winter destination that the whole family is sure to love. This Catskills resort offers a variety of different programs and lessons for children. For the littlest ones, there’s a program called Just For Me Because I’m Three, which is a 30-minute on-snow ski instruction for 3-year-olds enrolled in PlayCare (child care services). For beginning skiers, ages 4 to 6, who are not ready for a fun-filled day on the mountains, the All Day Ski and Play Program offers a two-hour morning group lesson and five hours of PlayCare (weekends only). Newbie skiers, ages 4-6, can take daily two-hour or four-hour group lessons under the watchful eye of their parents. Likewise for children, ages 7-12, who want to learn to ride like Shaun White or ski like Lindsay Vonn. And for experienced to advanced kids, the Children’s Seasonal Programs provides a variety of lessons to children, ages 5 to 12, looking to further develop their skiing or snowboarding skills. Afterwards, families can ski the bumps and ride the rails in the Empire Terrain Park or head over to the Snow Tubing Park, the largest snow-tubing park in NYS. There, the family can slide down 20 chutes that are nearly 1,000 feet long! Après ski, families can recharge at a number of eateries.
Location: The Catskills, NY
Distance from NYC: 2.30-hour drive, accessible via Rally Bus
What we love: This Northern Catskills resort is a haven for all winter sports. Families looking to trade the city streets for the slopes will find about 285 skiable areas, 54 trails, and six terrain parks. Windham offers a number of different programs to get your little one comfortable on the slopes or to improve your child’s skills. Kids, ages 4 to 7, can learn to ski or ride with a 90-minute group lesson (non-holiday weekdays & afternoons on weekends) or participate in the daily Mini Mogul Skiers and Riders program, a 90-minute instruction with supervised indoor activities either for a half day (4 hours) or a full day (8 ½ hours). Beginners, ages 8 to 12, who want to improve their skills can also take a group lesson (1.45 hours) or participate in the Mountain Master Skiers & Riders program, choosing either the two-hour session or the five-hour session (weekends and holidays). Experienced riders (7 years old and up) and skiers (5 years old and up) can take their skills to the next level in one of Windham’s multi-week programs. And kids, ages 6 and up, can learn to ski the bumps, hit the jump, and free-ski like their idols in the Freestyle Program. With private lessons available for children, ages 3 and up, and lessons for all individuals with disabilities available through the Adaptive Sports Foundation, this winter destination truly provides lessons for every member of the family. After an enjoyable day on the slopes, families can practice their aerial stunts on a jumbo air bag and/or head over to Adventure Park for six lanes of snow tubing, ice skating, kid-friendly snowmobiles, and two zip lines. There’s also a post riding or skiing party for kids from 5-8pm (child care ages 7-13). Throughout the day, families can grab some food and drinks at a variety of restaurants to refuel.
Location: Warwick, NY
Distance from NYC: 1.15-hour drive, accessible via NYC bus service
What we love: Mount Peter, oldest family operated ski area in NYC, offers a free one-hour beginner ski and snowboard lesson with the purchase of a lift ticket for kids ages 5 and up (weekends and holidays). This family-friendly ski destination also offers other lessons. For the littlest skiers, ages 4 and under who are potty trained, the Pete’s Pal program offers a two-hour lesson with a cup of hot coco! (weekends and holidays). Mount Peter also offers multi-week programs during the week and on the weekends for skiers ages 5 and up, and riders ages 6 and up who want to learn or improve their fundamentals. Intermediate skiers and riders, ages 8 to 16, can learn to ride like the pros for three hours a week for seven weeks in the Club Mount Peter program (weekends). With 14 trails and snow tubing, the family is sure to have a memorable experience at this cherished destination that was started in 1936 by Macy’s Department Store.
Location: Great Barrington, MA
Distance from NYC: 2.30-hour drive
Why we love it: This Berkshires ski resort with 110 skiable areas offers an array of lessons and programs where riders and skiers can build their confidence on the slopes or improve their technique so they can ski or ride like their favorite pro. Kids, ages 4 to 13, who want to conquer the mountain on skies or a board, can participate in the Kid’s Program, selecting either the half-day (2 ½ hours) or a full-day (6 hours) session. If that’s a little too long for your little one, first timers, ages 4 and up, can take a group lesson (1 ½ hours)—special packages available. There’s also multi-week programs on the weekends for two hours over eight weeks (with option to do whole weekend) for beginners to advanced skiers and riders, ages 7 to 14, who want to improve their technique, become strong freeride skiers, and advanced skiers and riders who want to work on advanced slopestyle and park skills.
Location: Hancock, MA
Distance from NYC: 2.40-hour drive
Why we love it: With 45 trails, Jiminy Peak Mountain is the largest ski resort in New England and the only mountain resort that generates its own energy using wind power! Jiminy Peak’s Kid’s Rule Mountain Camp provides children, ages 3 to 14, daily with a full day of instruction with hot chocolate breaks, lunch, and a lift ticket; three year olds spend a half-day on the slopes and half-day in Cub’s Den Playroom. Jiminy Peak also has a three-level GET skiing and snowboarding program for skiers and riders, ages 6 and up, for first timers to those who want to conquer the mountain. Children choose from a two-hour traditional group lesson or a self-guided discovery session. There’s also group lessons (80 minutes) available for skiers and riders, ages 6 and up, at the yellow, green, or blue levels. Jiminy Peak has a multi-week program after school and on weekends for kids, ages 6 to 17, for two hours per session for seven weeks where the focus is on fun, safety, and learning. With a private package for toddlers, ages 3 to 5, that include a one-hour private instruction, and private adaptive lessons (2 ½ hours) for individuals with special needs, this resort offers something for the entire family. After a fun day on the slopes, families can take a wintry ride on Jiminy Peak’s Mountain Coaster, which was one of the first mountain coasters in the U.S.! After twisting and turning in the woods at your own speed, enjoy a little tranquility and stunning views while snowshoeing on one of Jiminy Peak’s trails.
Location: Lehigh Valley, PA
Distance from NYC: 1.50-hour drive
Why we love it: Tucked away in over 300 wooded acres, Bear Creek offers skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. Little ones, ages 6 to 7, who need to learn how to carve and make a “pizza” can sign up for the Kodiak Rovers program, a daily half-day small group lesson (2 ½ hours). Likewise, children, ages 6 to 12, who are already comfortable on the slopes can sign up for the Kodiak Rangers program. Young skiers and riders, ages 8 to 12, can build confidence on the slopes in the Youth Discovery program, a two-hour supervised lesson, and kids who want to improve their skills can participate in the Youth Discovery Plus program, a two-hour supervised lesson. Children, ages 13 and up, who prefer to learn how to ski or snowboard at their own pace can sign up for the Discovery program, or the Discovery Plus program for those who want to strengthen their skills set. There’s also a multi-weekend program for skiers, ages 7 to 11, who want to build a solid foundation and improve fundamentals. And with 23 trials over 86 skiable areas, this wintertime oasis is a nice option for a family winter outing or getaway.
Location: Tannersville, PA
Distance from NYC: 2.15-hour drive
Why We Love It: Voted the #1 resort in Pennsylvania for the past four years, and boasting the biggest ski terrain in the area and the largest snow tubing park in the USA, this kid-friendly resort is sure to be a hit with the whole family. With its award-winning learning programs, newbies to the slopes will be experts in no time. Beginner skiers and boarders, ages 4 to 12, can learn how to ski or ride at Camelback’s all-inclusive, daily Kids Half-Day Program (2.5 hours). But those who prefer to hone their skills on the slopes in a smaller group can sign up for the daily Kids 90-Minute Beginner Lessons program. First timers, ages 6 and up, who want to become experienced skiers or riders can conquer the slopes three times a week for a 90-minute lesson each time in the daily Explorer Card for Beginners program. There’s also a Snowpass for grades 4 and 5 that introduces students to winter sports with a complimentary lesson and three lift tickets that can be used at various resorts, and adults get 50% off a learn to ski package, too! With private lessons for children ages 3 and up who prefer one-on-one attention and an Adaptive Program that’s an all-inclusive 90-minute lesson, there’s a lesson for every family member. Afterwards, the family can shred down one of the five trails in the Camelback Terrain Park or build their free styling skills at the Sunbowl Progression Park, and then warm up a bit with some hot food and drinks before leaving this winter fun destination.
Location: Blakeslee, PA
Distance from NYC: Jack Frost is 2.15-hour drive and Big Boulder is 2.30-hour drive
Why we love it: Options! Jack Frost is the companion resort to Big Boulder, the first commercial ski resort in PA and named Top 5 Park in the East by Transworld Magazine & Newschoolers.com. That means that families can use their lift tickets and rentals at both mountains. Both destinations offer the same variety of three-hour lessons for kids of all ages. Toddlers, ages 3 to 4, can learn basic skiing skills in the Snow Tigers program. Skiers, ages 3 to 10, who are newbies or advanced, can learn to ski or improve their skills in the Ski Program. First timers, ages 5 to 10, can sign up for the Snow Snakes program, and those who ski like their idols can improve their fundamentals in the Advanced Snow Snakes program. And for riders, ages 6 to 10, who need to learn how to do a heel side turn, or those who are already experienced can take lessons in the Snowboard Beavers program. For slightly older skiers, 9 years old and up who want to move at their own pace, can take a one-hour or three-hour lesson in the Discovery Beginner Lesson program. For those who prefer instruction, one-hour group lessons are available for novices and expert skiers. Adaptive lessons are also available. With 45 trails and snow tubing between these two mountains, snowbound families will definitely create wonderful winter memories on the slopes.
Location: Cornwall, CT
Distance from NYC: 2.15-hour drive
Why we love it: Nestled in the rustic beauty of northeastern Connecticut, Mohawk Mountain, created in 1947 by skiing hall of famer Walt Schoenknecht, offers families an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. With 25 trails, there’s a trail to satisfy every member of the family and lessons for those who want to learn to conquer the slopes. The littlest skiers, ages 3 and 4, can sign up for the Parent-Tot Lesson, where they’re guided by their mountain skiing parents (weekends and holidays). Skiers and riders, ages 5 to 13, can sign up for the daily Snowhawks Children’s Program where kids build their skills in a 1.5-hour lesson. There are multi-weekend programs for newbie and intermediate skiers and boarders, ages 5 to 15, where children focus on fun and skill development—lesson packages available. After a fun day on the mountain, families can enjoy other winter sports such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Location: West Dover, VT
Distance from NYC: 4-hour driving
Why we love it: Home to the first “snowboard park” in the East, this destination is a haven for winter sports. For those who want to ski or ride like their idols, but often fall down on the slope, can choose from a variety of lessons to perfect their skills. Tiny tots who are 3 years old can sign up for the Cub Camp, one-hour of ski instruction with a full day of childcare. For kids, ages 4 to 6, there’s a daily Snow Camp program where novice skiers and those with experience can improve their skills in a fun, learning environment; half day (2.15-hours) and full day (6 hours) lesson available. Parents can introduce their children, ages 3 to 6, to snowboarding in the daily, two-hour Burton Riglet program. Older skiers, ages 7 to 14, can sign up for the daily Mountain Camp program, a fun-filled half day (2.15-hours) or full day (6:15 hours) of learning and discovery. Likewise, boarders of the same age can sign up for the Mountain Riders Program. There are also daily private adaptive lesson packages for riders and skiers of all ages. After hitting the slopes, families can explore a bunch of other winter sports such as tubing, cross country skiing, dog sledding, sleigh riding, and snowshoeing. With about 600 acres, 20 lifts, and a boastful après ski scene, this wintry destination is sure to please those who are still learning how to do a “pizza” and the more adventurous skiers and riders.