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10 Great Family Resorts

10 Great Family Resorts

Features
By Joe Cutts, Greg Ditrinco, Susan Reifer, Edie Thys
posted: 02/13/2006

BEAVER CREEK, COLO.
No-hassle skiing for kids and parents

One thing you won't hear from your kids at Beaver Creek is "I'm bored. The resort's proactive attitude and loaded village leave little time—or cause—for complaints. Forget about waiting in lines, because lessons, childcare, lift tickets, gear and even groceries can all be purchased ahead of time online. Also forget about schlepping as you glide up the escalators to the slopes. Kids enrolled in ski school get famously attentive instruction, as well as mountain adventures, treasure hunts, nature tours and Park-ology—an introduction to terrain parks. When hunger strikes, even at peak times, radio-toting greeters at Spruce Saddle Lodge will track down a table for the whole family. If and when you go your separate ways, Beaver Creek's terrain coddles or challenges as needed, with everything from spectator-friendly baby slopes to frontside boulevards to Grouse Mountain's steeps, bumps and glades. Free two-hour mountain tours answer "where now? before it gets asked. After skiing, recharge the troops with fresh complimentary chocolate chip cookies before skating, shopping, skiing in the glow-light parade, watching fireworks or catching a sleigh ride to dinner. If you do find a moment, gloat to your friends back home. The postcard and the postage—to anywhere in the world—are free.

LOCAL MOM'S TIP For a truly happy hour, let local historian Frank Doll enchant the kids with storytelling and music in front of the Park Hyatt's fireplace.
DON'T MISS/ON-HILL Free two-hour welcome tours depart daily at 10 a.m. from the top of Centennial. Let a guide take your family to your ideal terrain.
DON'T MISS/OFF-HILL Ski to the Ritz Carlton for five-star roasted marshmallows and hot cocoa al fresco.
FAMILY RESTAURANTS Blue Moose pizza, in the village, makes great pie.

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BRETTON WOODS, N.H.
Old-school delights for the whole family

Why would anyone with kids want to stay at a fancy grand hotel? Because this fancy grand hotel happens to love the darlings, and it's good for them to learn that little ladies and gentlemen can behave well and still have plenty of fun. Mom and Dad love the opulence of the formal dining at the century-old Mt. Washington Hotel; kids love the live swing band and getting to know their personal waiter a little better each night. Everyone likes exploring an extraordinarily large and beautiful hotel. (Especially Dad when he finds the Cave, a subterranean speakeasy that really was a speakeasy during Prohibition.) Condos? Got those, too, if you prefer—including several of the ski-out/ski-out variety across the road at the ski area. Bretton Woods may be New Hampshire's largest resort in terms of skiable terrain, but it's still the kind of place where all trails lead to home, and they haven't lost anyone yet. Then there are the stunning views of Mt. Washington, with the hotel in the foreground. And the clincher: Where else can you and the kids ride a coal-fired, steam-driven cog railway train to the treeline of the Northeast's highest peak, then ski down? Nowhere, of course.

LOCAL MOM'S TIP The new Hobbits Building—ski school and childcare headquarters—is strategically positioned at the edge of the parking lot. You can drop the kids off and get them settled before dealing with your own stuff.
DON'T MISS/ON-HILL Kids love the Two Miles Home trail, from the top of the Fabyan's triple. It's a long meander back to the base area, with lots of gladed detours to explore.
DON'T MISS/OFF-HILL The Cog Railway: This historic, steam-powered sightseeing train is an engineering marvel that's been chugging up Mt. Washington for more than a century. Now you can ski down on a groomed run beside the tracks.
FAMILY RESTAURANT The grand hotel's formal dining room is emphatically kid-friendly, but for more casual fare, try Fabyan's Station (Route 302nd Cog Railway Base Road). Kids love the train that travels around the dining rooms.

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DEER VALLEY, UTAH
Setting the standard for family service

Money can't buy you love, but it can get you one heck of a family vacation. Deer Valley built its reputation on first-class service, and it continues to set the standard. Valets greet your car or shuttle bus to help unload your skis, the "cafeteria serves grilled salmon, and even the restrooms sport granite counters and fresh flowers. Just 34 miles from Salt Lake City and one mile from the action of a thriving historic town, Deer Valley's family appeal is as an oasis of calm. If limited ticket sales and the no-snowboarding policy offend your principles, you probably haven't tried skiing with small children at a busy resort. Here, beginners have their own protected area on Wide West, and kids of all ages can try out the Ore Cart Rails in the TNT terrain park with no worry of being run over. Kids ski school classes are divided into five age groups, from 3-year-olds, who get private instruction, on up through teens. All quickly progress from the wide, groomed boulevards into tempting glades and powder stashes. Older kids will find enough challenge on the steeps and bowls of Empire Canyon to earn their respect. Need more action? Park City's downtown is around the corner on the free shuttle.

LOCAL MOM'S TIP Leave everyone's gear at the free ski check at the mountain so you don't have to lug it from the car or hotel every morning.
DON'T MISS/ON-HILL Bring the kids by the Bear House off Last Chance, down the "bobsled run under the Carpenter lift and out to Quincy's Cabin off of Silver Strike run.
DON'T MISS/OFF-HILL Take a snowmobile adventure on the 7,000-acre Garff Ranch with Summit Meadow Adventure (800-424-3337). Ride a bobsled, learn about avalanches and watch ski jumpers soar at Utah's Olympic Park (866-659-7277; utaholympicpark.com).
FAMILY RESTAURANTS Casual Royal Street Café midmountain at the Silver Lake area has a great kids menu. An excursion to Fireside Dining at Empire Canyon, complete with sleigh ride and optional snowshoe, is a memorable adventure.

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NORTHSTAR, CALIF.
Creative and committed to the family vacation

To get a sense of Northstar's commitment to families, watch the lift attendants as they load their passengers on (not into) the seat and then reach through the chair and give each kid a gentle tug back. Extra effort permeates this Tahoe resort, as it continually raises the bar for family fun and convenience while steadily adding teeth to its terrain. The frontside's gentle boulevards, rolling glades and stunning lakeview cruisers are bolstered by Lookout Mountain's precipitous steeps and the backside's extended-play expert pitches. In addition to the six terrain parks and halfpipes (ranging from G-rated to extreme), seven Paw Parks offer kid-sized features. Family values are supported with transferable tickets, so parents can trade off (same price as a regular ticket), free advanced/intermediate lessons, and free 45-minute Mommy, Daddy and Me lessons to show parents how to teach their 4-and-under tots to ski. Northstar's ski school reduces instruction to the basics, with a self-paced system that covers everything you need to know. Kids instruction—tailored to age and ability—mixes in nonskiing snowplay. Energizer kids will deplete their batteries in the Action Zone, where there's all manner of snow toys. When the day winds down, unwind in Northstar's new village, with its mixture of shops and restaurants.

LOCAL MOM'S TIP When mood or weather dictate plan B, gather the tribe and head to the KidZone Museum in Truckee (530-587-5437).
DON'T MISS/ON-HILL Ride the rollers on Magic Moguls and Jibbom.
DON'T MISS/OFF-HILL Free skating in the village followed by s'mores and hot cocoa around the outdoor fire pits.
FAMILY RESTAURANTS The Summit Deck and Grille has tasty variety, a snow-play area for kids and panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. In the village, go local with healthy fare from Earthly Delights.
WHERE TO STAY Iron Horse and Great Bear lodges are steps from the action and include access to Northstar's Recreation Center, with swimming pools, hot tub, fitness center and game room.

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OKEMO, VT.
The benefit of a woman's touch

Some places, you just know there's a mom running the show. At Okemo, it's Diane Mueller, the distaff half of the mom-and-pop team that includes her husband, Tim. Her famous touch is everywhere at Okemo. And has been from the beginning in 1982, when the Muellers acquired a tiny Vermont day area and grew it into one of the state's four biggest. For as long as Diane has had anything to say about it, Okemo has been a "family resort. Start with its slopeside lodging: kitchen, laundry, hearth, two or more bedrooms and a doorway to the slopes (Okemo specializes in the true ski-in/ski-out variety). In the morning, Okemo's try-before-you-buy policy gives parents an hour of lift access to bundle the kids off to ski school before buying their own ticket (or deciding to give the knee a day off). The opening of the Jackson Gore base area, which serves as the new family-central, has eliminated Okemo's crowds. It's the site of a new ski school and daycare center. If you're not sure whether your tot belongs in ski school yet, don't worry: Okemo's daycare staff will evaluate the ski-readiness of the child without forcing the issue. Kids love the network of kid-only glades and trails. There's even a special map. No grown-ups allowed.

LOCAL MOM'S TIP Left a glove at home? Check Larry's Bargain Bin at the ski shop for great deals. And remember, Ludlow has a grocery store, drugstore and anything else you might need.
DON'T MISS/ON-HILL Okemo's terrain parks have won best-in-the-East awards. There are two halfpipes and up to four separate terrain parks—enough to keep jibbers of all ages happy.
FAMILY RESTAURANTS Wicked Good Pizza serves subs, salads and New York-style pizza (802-228-4131; 117 Main Street, Ludlow). DJ's, in the village, serves mainstream fare, from seafood to steaks, with a kids menu (802-228-5374).
WHERE TO STAY Slopeside condos offer self-contained convenience, with laundry and kitchen facilities; Jackson Gore condos are livelier, with shops, restaurants, skier services and lifts at your door (800-786-5366; okemo.com).

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PARK CITY, UTAH
Your little brother—and everyone else—will be happy

Even your stupid little brother, who doesn't know anything, admits Park City Mountain Resort rocks. First, it's not a long trip to get there, because it's only 45 minutes from the airport. And it's fun to bomb down the groomers, because the snow is always so perfect. (Plus they groom some of the black-diamonds so Mom can try 'em.) And even your annoying brother has to admit that it always snows about 10 feet because it's the Wasatch Mountains. That's when your dad disappears for, like, two hours. But he always comes back happy and takes you to Jupiter Bowl. And though your brother is a complete wuss, he's getting good at skiing powder. (Not as good as you, though.) And your brother admits that the old mining buildings are cool (but not as cool as your mom and dad think they are). And even though he's the king of dorks, he agrees it's awesome to ski at night, when Mom lets you ski alone on the lighted trails. You also can ski into town, then walk to your hotel. Or you can stay at the base area, which has pools and stuff. And your parents always seem to be in a good mood here. Mom says it's because you're getting along so well with your little brother. Whatever.

LOCAL MOM'S TIP If you stay in town, the Caledonian and the Silver Queen hotels are both walking dir fire pits.
FAMILY RESTAURANTS The Summit Deck and Grille has tasty variety, a snow-play area for kids and panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. In the village, go local with healthy fare from Earthly Delights.
WHERE TO STAY Iron Horse and Great Bear lodges are steps from the action and include access to Northstar's Recreation Center, with swimming pools, hot tub, fitness center and game room.

[pagebreak]

OKEMO, VT.
The benefit of a woman's touch

Some places, you just know there's a mom running the show. At Okemo, it's Diane Mueller, the distaff half of the mom-and-pop team that includes her husband, Tim. Her famous touch is everywhere at Okemo. And has been from the beginning in 1982, when the Muellers acquired a tiny Vermont day area and grew it into one of the state's four biggest. For as long as Diane has had anything to say about it, Okemo has been a "family resort. Start with its slopeside lodging: kitchen, laundry, hearth, two or more bedrooms and a doorway to the slopes (Okemo specializes in the true ski-in/ski-out variety). In the morning, Okemo's try-before-you-buy policy gives parents an hour of lift access to bundle the kids off to ski school before buying their own ticket (or deciding to give the knee a day off). The opening of the Jackson Gore base area, which serves as the new family-central, has eliminated Okemo's crowds. It's the site of a new ski school and daycare center. If you're not sure whether your tot belongs in ski school yet, don't worry: Okemo's daycare staff will evaluate the ski-readiness of the child without forcing the issue. Kids love the network of kid-only glades and trails. There's even a special map. No grown-ups allowed.

LOCAL MOM'S TIP Left a glove at home? Check Larry's Bargain Bin at the ski shop for great deals. And remember, Ludlow has a grocery store, drugstore and anything else you might need.
DON'T MISS/ON-HILL Okemo's terrain parks have won best-in-the-East awards. There are two halfpipes and up to four separate terrain parks—enough to keep jibbers of all ages happy.
FAMILY RESTAURANTS Wicked Good Pizza serves subs, salads and New York-style pizza (802-228-4131; 117 Main Street, Ludlow). DJ's, in the village, serves mainstream fare, from seafood to steaks, with a kids menu (802-228-5374).
WHERE TO STAY Slopeside condos offer self-contained convenience, with laundry and kitchen facilities; Jackson Gore condos are livelier, with shops, restaurants, skier services and lifts at your door (800-786-5366; okemo.com).

[pagebreak]

PARK CITY, UTAH
Your little brother—and everyone else—will be happy

Even your stupid little brother, who doesn't know anything, admits Park City Mountain Resort rocks. First, it's not a long trip to get there, because it's only 45 minutes from the airport. And it's fun to bomb down the groomers, because the snow is always so perfect. (Plus they groom some of the black-diamonds so Mom can try 'em.) And even your annoying brother has to admit that it always snows about 10 feet because it's the Wasatch Mountains. That's when your dad disappears for, like, two hours. But he always comes back happy and takes you to Jupiter Bowl. And though your brother is a complete wuss, he's getting good at skiing powder. (Not as good as you, though.) And your brother admits that the old mining buildings are cool (but not as cool as your mom and dad think they are). And even though he's the king of dorks, he agrees it's awesome to ski at night, when Mom lets you ski alone on the lighted trails. You also can ski into town, then walk to your hotel. Or you can stay at the base area, which has pools and stuff. And your parents always seem to be in a good mood here. Mom says it's because you're getting along so well with your little brother. Whatever.

LOCAL MOM'S TIP If you stay in town, the Caledonian and the Silver Queen hotels are both walking distance from the Town Lift. If you stay in a Mountain Village condo, there's a free shuttle that stops at the grocery store.
DON'T MISS/ON-HILL Check out the mine shaft near the Thaynes lift. (It's how skiers were originally transported to the slopes.) Also, PCMR this year boasts the largest halfpipe in North America, with 22-foot walls. Not ready for that? Try Home Run, a 3.5-mile beginner trail that lets the whole family ski together from the summit.
DON'T MISS/OFF-HILL The Gorgoza Tubing Park, about 7 miles back toward Salt Lake on I-80 has lift-served night tubing on seven lanes—and mini-snowmobiles.

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SMUGGLERS' NOTCH, VT.
Singular mission: to be the ultimate family resort

A soft family resort? True, Smugglers' Notch has huggable mascots, après ski cocoa parties, tame beginner terrain and mom-friendly slopeside condos. But it also has Madonna Mountain, Vermont's most underrated expert terrain. So if your family happens to include one or more thrill-seeking rippers, you've come to the right place. The locals don't even know Smuggs is supposed to be "family-friendly. They just know it's got terrain: trees, bumps, steeps and the famed Back Bowls. That said, Smuggs long ago decided that families were its mission. Slopeside condos with kitchens and laundry facilities are the rule. Easy-to-choose packages include everything: lifts, lodging, even lessons (free all week for ages 3—5, plus one free lesson for novice adults and older kids). And for the hardest-of-all to please, there are two teen centers (one for teens, age 16-plus; one for "tweens, 13—15) that offer stuff kids really like (email access, Playstation, music). The downside is slow lifts. They're a bummer on cold days, but Smuggs would rather have long liftlines than overcrowded trails. Think of those lift rides as quality time with your kid—right up there with their first time down Black Hole.

LOCAL MOM'S TIP You can pick up rental gear on arrival night, so you don't have to deal with it in the morning. Also check out the Monday night welcome party: one-stop shopping for information on all Smuggs amenities.
DON'T MISS/ON-HILL The Mom & Me (or Dad & Me) program pairs an instructor with parent and child. The child learns how to ski; the parent learns how to teach ($70, one hour)
DON'T MISS/OFF-HILL When the lifts close, nightly bonfires with free hot cocoa are a great place to meet up—and score hugs from Mogul Mouse.
FAMILY RESTAURANTS In the Smugglers' village, Morse Mountain Grille serves traditional family fare, and Riga Bello's is the pizza/pasta place. For dessert, there's a Ben & Jerry's scoop shop.
FAMILY LODGING Ninety percent of the lodging is within 300 yards of the lift; 40 percent is ski-in/ski-out (smuggs.com).

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SNOWMASS, COLO.
Everything a family could want—and a lot more

Snowmass's strength is what parent needs: options. There's so much going on that it's easy to keep kids busy—therefore happy—and avoid the dreaded "What are we going to do now? syndrome.

First up, of course, is the skiing. Snowmass has more ego-boosting, laugh-out-loud, let's-skip-lunch cruising terrain than most mountains have total acres. The good sight lines, open slopes and gently challenging flow of much of the hill is the ideal package for family skiing. Kids get their own trail map, in fact. And if they need some space—or if you do—send them to the on-mountain Family Zone, with its interactive trails, terrain park and halfpipe. (Then head to the Cirque for some quality ski time.)

If good parenting is all about keeping chaos at acceptable levels, Snowmass lodging, nearly all of it ski-in/ski-out, helps by making the all-important morning push much easier. And if your breakfast dawdler leaves a glove or goggles next to the cereal box on the kitchen table, the Guest Service Center will lend you one f

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