Some of the most useful information provided by our readers during the annual Resort Survey is around family-friendly skiing, and what people are looking for when it comes to taking their broods on a ski vacation. The comment section of the survey is filled with opinions on what makes a family ski trip hum smoothly, and top of the list is convenient lodging with amenities that kids love (pools, hot tubs, game rooms, free treats in the lobby). Also high up there is a variety of terrain that little skiers can improve their skills on, from kid-inspired adventure trails to long cruisers from the summit with all the views (hello photo op).
We combed through the survey results to identify the Top 5 resorts for families in the West, then did a deep dive into what makes them so, from the best family lodging to where to find the complimentary hot cocoa after the lifts stop turning. There are plenty of family-friendly ski resorts across the country, but if you’re serious about making passionate skiers out of your kids, consider planning a trip to one of these resorts.
The Best Resorts in the West For a Family Ski Trip
No. 5. Whitefish Mountain Resort, Mont.
What Readers Say: “Once you have skied in Whitefish you will always want to come back. It is the perfect mountain to ski, snowboard and après-ski for beginners, families, experts and everyone in between. It has everything you want and nothing you don’t want.”
Family Score: 8.53/10
Other Strengths: Local Flavor, Service
Best Family Ski Terrain at Whitefish Mountain
The family-friendly terrain off of Chair 2 opens 30 minutes before the rest. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, and get your crew out there before the rest to gobble up no-extra-cost first tracks on the mellow blues and greens.
Best Family Lodging at Whitefish Mountain
For convenient ski-in/ski-out access, the Kintla Lodge has one- to three- bedroom condos close to all the action in the village. Units have full kitchens and access to ski storage and hot tubs.
Best Dining for Families at Whitefish Mountain
While there aren’t a plethora of on-mountain dining joints for families, the Summit House will have something to please everyone. The cafeteria-style food court serves up everything from oversized pizza slices to paninis and quinoa bowls. In downtown Whitefish, family-owned Jersey Boys pizzeria is the real thing despite being nestled into an authentic Western town. The hand-tossed pizza, subs, sandwiches, and calzones are tasty, and the relaxed vibe fits the bill for families looking to kick back and relax.
Top Off-Slope Activities for Families at Whitefish Mountain
When in northern Montana, visiting Glacier National Park is simply a must, especially during the winter when it’s practically empty. Book with Whitefish Outfitters to snowshoe a portion of the magnificent Going to the Sun Road or other untraveled-in-winter parts of the park.
No. 4. Keystone Resort, Colo.
What Readers Say: “Keystone has a great local vibe. The people on the mountain and working the mountain are all great. The mountain has a lot of variations in the terrain, recognizing that not all skiers are beginners nor double-black-diamond-qualified. It is great for families. I have never had a bad time at Keystone and look forward to returning every year.”
Family Score: 8.79/10
Other Strengths: Access, Grooming
Best Family Ski Terrain at Keystone Resort
For learners, the Mountain House base is a less-crowded spot for kids to comfortably slide around and get their ski legs under them. Once they’re confidently stopping and turning, Endeavor, the learning area at the top of the gondola, serves up mellow terrain with all the views. For blue cruising, get off the frontside and lap the blues off the Outback Express.
Best Family Lodging at Keystone Resort
Our favorite lodge for families is The Springs, in the River Run base area with easy access to the River Run Gondola. The property has a heated outdoor pool with slide and hot tubs, and roomy units with one- to four-bedrooms with full kitchens. A less pricey option is staying in the Keystone’s Forest Neighborhood condos, on the shuttle route. This is ideal for larger groups who need more space or people looking for a better bang for their buck.
Best Dining for Families at Keystone Resort
The expanded and improved LaBonte’s Smokehouse, which added a 190-seat indoor facility a few seasons back, is at the base of North Peak and has such a great vibe and a delicious pulled pork sandwich. At the Mountain House base, Go Big Burger has a friendly vibe and great menu for families, from burgers of all stripes to boneless wings to loaded nachos. The thick shakes are not to be missed.
Top Off-Slope Activities for Families at Keystone Resort
Hands down, the coolest family activity at Keystone is ice skating at night on Keystone Lake in Lakeside Village. The Zamboni-maintained rink is five acres, and it’s such a fun experience—just remember to bundle up! Skate and hockey stick rentals are available.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the Kidtopia Ice Fort, built at the top of the River Run Gondola in January every season. With slides, tunnels, and stairs with lookout points, the massive ice castle is a kid-magnet.
No. 3. Steamboat Resort, Colo.
What Readers Say: “My son loves Steamboat. He likes the fact that there are a lot of intermediate trails that are fun yet challenging. The food on the mountain is great. We love the Western charm and vibe of the area. The ambassadors really make you feel welcome when you’re at the resort. There is plenty of room to spread out and let ’er rip.”
Family Score: 9.0/10
Other Strengths: Lodging, Local Flavor
Best Family Ski Terrain at Steamboat Resort
Rough Rider Basin is kid’s-only territory with its own surface lift, ski-through teepees, a log cabin playhouse, and a sweet vibe. For older kids, the Sunshine family trail takes groms on a jaunt through the trees in Sunshine Bowl between the Flintlock and Sunshine Lift Line runs.
Best Family Lodging at Steamboat Resort
One of our favorite spots for families, hands down, is Trappeur’s Crossing. It’s a sprawling property with so many lodging options for groups of different sizes, all with full kitchens, fireplaces, shuttle service to town, and access to a heated indoor/outdoor pool, 10 hot tubs, and a fitness center. The lodge is two blocks from the gondola.
Best Dining for Families at Steamboat Resort
Let the kids help hunt down the Taco Beast snowcat on mom or dad’s phone (follow @TacoBeastSBT on Twitter), then celebrate their success with one of four types of the delicious street tacos washed down with a Mexican soda. In town, Dude & Dan’s is a welcoming, often raucous spot with flat screen TVs on the walls and a kid-friendly menu with build-your-own mac-n-cheese and a chicken finger basket. You won’t have to worry about your brood being too loud here.
Top Off-Slope Activities for Families at Steamboat Resort
Embrace Steamboat’s Western vibe with a horseback tour through the woods at Saddleback Ranch; kids must be at least 8 years old for the two-hour trail ride through the ranch’s pristine, snowy landscape. For the younger set, the ranch’s three-lane snow tubing hill is open to all ages, and littles 4 and under are free.
Pro Tip: Nab some free hot cocoa and donut holes at the covered wagon across from the Steamboat Stage at 3 p.m. everyday.
No. 2. Deer Valley Resort, Utah
What Readers Say: “Deer Valley is the whole package. Overall, it’s a wonderful resort for families, friends, and powder hounds alike. With a variety of terrain options spread over all six peaks, there’s something for everyone. Luckily, they can make so much snow that even on a low snow year, you’re guaranteed to have plenty of options, and with the best grooming at that. To top it all off, the staff is helpful and kind, the food is better than any other resort, and the access is incredible. Hard to have a bad thing to say about this place, it’s what brings us back year after year!”
Family Score: 9.01/10
Other Strengths: Grooming, Service
Best Family Ski Terrain at Deer Valley
Close your eyes and choose a spot on the trail map. Just kidding, but the fact is that five of Deer Valley’s six peaks boast green cruisers from the top, so the odds of finding enjoyable groomed terrain are pretty good wherever you land. What’s more, Deer Valley’s kids adventure zones—Bucky’s Backyard, Silver’s Aspen Slalom, Ruby’s Tail and Quincy’s Cabin—short trails through the woods or banked slaloms designed for small skis to navigate easily.
Best Family Lodging at Deer Valley
We love the Lodges at Deer Valley, at the Snow Park base. The outdoor pool and hot tubs, complimentary buffet breakfast, and on-site rental shop make it such a convenient base camp for families, especially if they’re attending ski school or daycare. There’s also provide cookies and hot chocolate in the lobby after skiing every afternoon. Enough said.
Best Dining for Families at Deer Valley
For a family treat, Fireside Dining is worth the splurge, and gives restless kids the chance to get up and stretch their legs as they move through the different dining stations, including Swiss Raclette, a carving station, and an amazing chocolate fondue setup. An optional sleigh ride seals the deal. In Park City, two miles down the road, the legendary No Name Saloon debuted its new Annex Burger joint next door, offering a full slate of burgers and a dedicated kids menu with finger favorites from corn dogs to quesadillas. .
Top Off-Slope Activities for Families at Deer Valley
Hands down, the best family activity off the slopes at Deer Valley is the Snowshoe to S’Mores Tour, an hour-long jaunt combining a short snowshoe adventure to the Deer Valley Gazebo for homemade S’Mores and cocoa around the firepit. Just the right amount of sweat and sweets.
Pro tip: Unlike other ski childcare facilities, Deer Valley’s center welcomes non-skiing kids up to 12 years old, in case mom and dad need a day to themselves.
No. 1. Sun Valley, Idaho
What Readers Say: “It’s easy access once you arrive. The town offers free public buses to all lodges FREE all day. Parking is plentiful and SV has shuttles to and from the lots. We love the guest services team who are there the minute you arrive; they are also visible on the mountain. The staff are friendly and the skiing is just amazing!”
Family Score: 9.17/10
Other Strengths: Grooming, Lodging
Best Family Ski Terrain at Sun Valley
While Dollar Mountain, two miles away, is known as the beginner hill, there’s plenty for skiing families at Sun Valley’s main Bald Mountain. The Broadway Minicross course is a hoot, with berms and rollers to careen around while getting little legs warmed up. Find it off the Seattle Ridge lift, at the top of the Broadway run. For families with kids who love to rip groomers, head to the new extended terrain of lower Broadway—it’s a great first stab at Baldy for skiers of all levels.
Best Family Lodging at Sun Valley
Sun Valley Lodge is the most convenient for skiing families, located at the base of Bald Mountain in walking distance to the village. The massive lodge pool and hot tubs are a hit with the younger set. In town, the Limelight Ketchum is a hub for all types of visitors, but especially kids with a game room, heated outdoor pool, mountain shuttles, and complimentary daily breakfast. For room to spread out, or for extended families, check out the Sun Valley Condos or Cottages. These condos and private homes range from two to seven bedrooms with plenty of communal spaces and amenities such as hot tubs, fireplaces, and full kitchens, all a snowball’s throw from the village.
Best Dining for Families at Sun Valley
The taco bar at Lookout Day Lodge, at the top of Bald Mountain, is always a winner with the kids. With plenty of toppings and salsas, this DIY lunch option ensures that even the pickiest eaters always find something to fill their bellies. In Ketchum, Whiskey Jacques may be known for its late-night hijinks, but they keep it clean during family dining hours with air hockey, pool, and arcade games.
Top Off-Slope Activities for Families at Sun Valley
If anyone in your brood has a hankering to try sliding on a different type of equipment, the Sun Valley Nordic Center has 40 kilometers of meticulously groomed cross-country trails and rents all sizes of equipment, plus Chariot carriers for wee ones too young to go it alone. It’s a great way to see the Wood River Valley from a different perspective.