From Ski Schools to teen centers, a handful of resorts manage to please the whole clan. Here are SKI's picks for family fun in the West. Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Readers rave about Steamboat's programs, ski school, off-snow activities and overall value. Not only does it have the terrain and snowfall to keep any skier happy, it knows how to leverage that. For instance, skiing with Olympic medalist Billy Kidd, which anyone can do for free, is truly cool. He's more loveable than any stuffed mascot, and he's a real-life ski legend. Steamboat itself is equally multidimensional. Witness the ski school: It ensures that every child skis with a group of similar ability, and parents can opt to have their kids ski with the same instructor for the duration of their visit. It's a simple concept, yet hard to find elsewhere. And while kids take on lovely cruisers like Why Not, parents can dig deep in the Pioneer Ridge terrain, just a short hike away. Advanced skiers can sign up for a first-tracks run each morning at 8 a.m. Après, the Steamboat Mountain Village and nearby downtown (accessed via free shuttle) are both alive with places to eat and things to do. If you want a night out, the Kids Adventure Club entertains the kids till 10 most nights. But rest up: You'll never tire of the runs you'll find to ski as a family.
WHAT'S NEW Expanded daily air service from Newark, N.J., and Houston make direct access easier than ever.
WHAT'S STILL COOL The Mavericks Super Pipe: 50 feet wide, 675 feet long, with a 75-foot quarterpipe at the end.
ONLY HERE Skiing with Billy Kidd, one of the first American men to win an Olympic medal, or free mogul clinics with medalist Nelson Carmichael.
Steamboat, Colo.,wants to help make you a better skier. Buy a five-day group ski or snowboard lesson and get 15 percent off the regular price. Call 800-299-5017 to make a reservation early (highly recommended). Be sure to mention the SKI Magazine deal.
Here in casino country, Northstar is a wholesome oasis families adore. For good reason. First, there's the resort's physical layout. Its ski trails, tame but interesting, form a horseshoe around Northstar's compact base village. This makes it impossible to get lost, though there's plenty to explore. The resort makes it a snap for families to get around, too: The gondola from the base takes you directly to the midmountain area, where you can pick up your rentals, meet up with your ski school instructor and head out for a day of skiing. And Northstar does something particularly sensible: Ski school age brackets overlap, so stronger skiers can move up a level and be suitably challenged. If you have a little one who needs you throughout the day, fear not. The transferable Parent Predicament Ticket can be shared (sparing you the embarrassment of wearing your spouse's ticketed coat for a few runs). When the lifts stop, Northstar runs a chair to Polaris Park, where kids (and parents) play on snow bikes and other toys. Northstar controls more than 1,000 beds in the village area, so families have lots of choices. And they needn't fear being stranded deep in the woods: The free shuttles run everywhere, and they're easy enough to use that teens can ride alone.
WHAT'S NEW A 400-foot midmountain superpipe, wired for tunes and serviced by its own quad.
WHAT'S STILL COOL The Pizza Phone: Call in from the slopes, and when you get to the bottom, your pie is ready.
ONLY HERE Captain Safety, in his wild yellow cape, quizzes kids on safety, then gives them tokens for prizes.
Grand Targhee, Wyo.
Tucked into the backside of the magnificent Tetons hides Grand Targhee, where snowfall seems to be endless and families can savor it in endless ways. Targhee isn't huge: just 2,000 acres of lift-accessed skiing coupled with another 1,000 acres of snowcat skiing. That's a good thing for families: The intimate setting means you can almost always spot your kids during lessons and you only have steps to walk to drop them off or pick them up. But the feelinng is huge: With the deep snow (500 inches annually, on average), kids are taught to ski powder right from the start. The ski school program, called Powder Scouts, uses the deep snow coupled with groomed trails to develop versatile skiers. When families are done skiing, they don't just have to just crash at their slopeside condo or do something ordinary like enjoy the heated outdoor pool or go tubing. They can go dogsledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing or take in an "all family" fitness session at the Dreamchaser Spa, also slopeside. If you're really adventurous, take your family on a bus ride over the peaks to Jackson with one of the cowboy-poet bus drivers. The 45-minute ride alone is a lifetime memory.
WHAT'S NEW Kids-Only Trail Map shows Targhee through children's eyes, showing them where the best kiddie runs and fun are.
WHAT'S STILL COOL Casino night. Now in its 30th year, families love the rollicking time every Wednesday night of ski season.
ONLY HERE Take a family snowcat powder-skiing lesson with your own guides and all the right equipment.
Click on the link to the right or the bottom to view the family resorts in the East.