All New England’s ski mountains are family friendly, from the smallest local hill to the mega-mountain resorts. But a few stand out for the special attention they give to families, offering trails for all skill levels, outstanding beginner instruction, affordable equipment rentals, lodging convenient to the slopes, money-saving packages and activities for non-skiers in the family.
Okemo Mountain Resort
Vermont’s family-owned Okemo Mountain Resort consistently rates at the top for its family programs, as well as for its grooming and snow-making. Okemo’s 121 trails are evenly divided for different abilities, with the East’s longest superpipe and nine innovative terrain parks for boarders. RFID tickets bypass ticket window lines, and the East’s first bubble-covered lift with heated seats warms the ride to the summit. The Ski-and-Ride School offers expert instruction at all levels. Off-slope experience is just as good, with slope-side condos and a luxury hotel, the Jackson Gore Inn, at the base. Non-skiers and après-skiers can enjoy in- and outdoor swimming pools, handball courts, a covered skating rink, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, indoor golf, a tubing hill and the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster.
New Hampshire’s largest ski area, Bretton Woods lies at the base of majestic Mt Washington, and the most dedicated skier cannot resist stopping just to appreciate the sweeping view from the top of the lift. Most of the resort’s 62 trails, 35 glades and three terrain parks face north, which, along with its northern location, assure the mountain plenty of natural snow. Bretton Woods has night skiing on weekends. Along with skiing, there is a climbing wall at the base lodge, a zip line tour, new fat bike trails and rentals and an extensive cross-country trail network. Ski-and-stay package deals range from a lodge and condos to the Omni Mount Washington Resort, the largest of the remaining White Mountain grand hotels, where there is a full-service spa and swimming.
SKI Magazine readers consistently rate Smugglers’ Notch the No. 1 Kid-Friendly Resort in the East. This northern Vermont resort is self-contained, and you can ski in and out of your slope-side lodgings. Innovative ski classes and programs for children as young as 2.5 get kids started right, skiing on specially sculpted snow features that make learning easier. More experienced kids and adults can ski and ride on three mountains that offer 40 intermediate trails and 25 for experts. Off-slope there’s a teen club, an indoor FunZone, an indoor pool and a slope-side nursery, as well as daily bonfires and roasting marshmallows at the base. The ArborTrek Zip Line offers canopy tours and supervised evening activities allow parents to enjoy the resort’s restaurants.
Since the beginnings of recreational skiing, North Conway, N.H., at the base of Cranmore Mountain, has been a ski town, and today it’s one of New England’s most affordable. Hotels and family-friendly B&Bs — try Kearsarge Inn and Cranmore Inn — are in the heart of town, but handy to the slopes. Cranmore’s 57 trails and open slopes suit all levels of skier, with excellent beginner and intermediate terrain and challenging trails for experts. Cranmore is known for its innovative ski instruction in a dedicated area, and for its family activities: the Mountain Coaster, Giant Swing, Soaring Eagle Zip Line and a multilane tubing park in the Cranmore Mountain Adventure Center. Cranmore has another advantage: It’s within a 30-minute drive of several other top ski mountains if you want more variety.
The smallest of the five, New Hampshire’s King Pine makes up for its size by dedicating itself wholly to family skiing and winter sports. The mountain is part of Purity Spring Resort, which includes lodgings that range from homey country-style family rooms and luxury lake-side cottages to rooms right at the slopes — you literally walk downstairs into the base lodge. Trails are short, but each is beautifully carved through the woods, and some are surprisingly steep (one is the second-steepest in the state). King Pine is known for its superb snow-making and grooming, and they often have snow when others don’t. Lines are almost unknown and fellow skiers are genial and relaxed; it’s a comfortable place for a ski vacation. The resort has cross-country trails, a tubing hill, ice skating; like skiing these are free with lodging, with no added resort fee.