At its heart, skiing is a social activity. A sport that, although when done alone has its own virtues, is a far better experience when you are with family and friends. That’s really why we do it, right?
We enjoy being outdoors with the people we love during a time of the year where most stay inside. In fact, chances are that some family member (or, really close friend) introduced you to skiing or snowboarding and you still ski or ride with them to this day. For me, it was my uncle, who I still cannot thank enough for getting me started on what has ultimately grown into my passion. I will always remember the days of skiing Killington with him then sharing our stories over beers at apres-ski, usually at the old Casey’s Caboose, of how we slayed the giant moguls on Outer Limits
Now, as a father of three little girls, it is my turn to pay it forward first and foremost by exposing them to the best, family friendly sport on the planet and second by making sure they understand the role of apres-ski and its social significance in the whole experience. The first part was easy. I started my girls at the ages of three, four and five and they were hooked instantly. In fact, they usually start asking when ski season is sometime in the middle of summer.
The apres-ski component, however, takes a little more work. Convincing them that they need french fries and hot chocolate post ski day is like twisting my arm to have a beer before leaving the mountain. Let’s just say there’s not much twisting involved. The real challenge is in finding the apres-ski locations that are the most family-oriented. The resorts, bars, restaurants, etc. that provide enough food, beverage and entertainment options to keep everyone, parents and children, happy can be like trying to find another skier at Big Sky. It’s tough. But, for this to work it is a must. Apres-ski with the kiddies is no exact science either. Things can wrong faster than you can loosen your boots. Depending on the children’s mood, how tired or cold they are this experience can be quite short lived.
Lucky for us though there are ski resorts that thrive on providing an experience that the entire family can enjoy, offering up a multitude of options when capping off another sick day spent skiing and riding together as a family.
New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania
When it comes to family, it is all about Camelback Mountain in this region. During the day, rip through the most skiable acres in the Poconos. Then when the day ends ditch the ski pants for a bathing suit and enjoy a different kind of sliding at the Camelback Lodge’s famous waterpark, Aquatopia. Be sure to grab a drink at their swim-up-bar and then another at the super fun Trail’s End Pub before heading back out to enjoy Galactic Snowtubing at the largest snowtubing area in the USA.
You’d be hard pressed to find anywhere more welcoming to families than Okemo and their Jackson Gore Inn. Set at the Jackson Gore base area, it provides ample entertainment for parents and children alike. The Timber Ripper mountain coaster is a fun way to end the ski day with one last shot of adrenaline before heading into the Coleman Brook Tavern. There, camp out by the massive stone fireplace while the children enjoy Okemo’s famous make your own s’mores kit and some hot chocolate and Mom and Dad sip a delicious craft cocktail from the bar.
Mount Snow has an overall reputation of being a family friendly. Grab a seat and a Vermont craft beer at their newest bar, Canned and watch as your children roll around in the snow at the base area or take in some extracurricular snow tubing. When you’re done at the base, venture away to the Snow Barn (yes, the Snow Barn) or The Last Chair Bar & Grill. Both restaurants have some pretty tasty pizza and a dedicated arcade area with games that both the little and big kids can enjoy.
With four resorts all rolled into one, there is something for everyone at a little place called Aspen. Tubing, ice skating or even just hanging out on the sun-drenched-patio at Ajax Tavern enjoying their famous truffle fries are down time activities for all to enjoy. Families looking to take it to another level should head over to Elk Camp on Friday nights throughout the season. Their Ullr Nights Winter Wonderland Party honors the Norse god by treating families to a slew of activities including gondola rides, tubing and snow biking all complimented by live music and, of course, delicious cuisine.
Steamboat is known as a family ski destination so it is no surprise that the apres-ski scene also fits that moniker. The Paramount, located at the heart of the Lorrain Plum Plaza serves up some seriously good fries to the delight of the many children playing in the adjacent open snow field while parents watch with a drink. And, their newest apres hot spot, Timber and Torch in the base area offers the perfect view for parents who want to enjoy a cocktail while their older kids get in a few more laps under the lights.
Deer Valley is where it is at for families looking to play together on the slopes in Utah. End your ski day with a stop at the Royal Street Cafe, order an award winning Blueberry Mojito and enjoy the sight of your kids flopping around in the open snow area known as “the beach.” A stay at the Stein Eriksen Lodge includes access to their new Champions Club, complete with a fully equipped game room, bar serving food, wine and beer, an expansive patio with fire pits and heated pool.
Big Sky is exactly that, big. Thanks to their massive size and lower visitor totals, the skiing there is wide open, free for kids 10 and under (with a paying adult) and perfect for families looking to spread their wings on the slopes. Be sure to end your day at Chet’s Restaurant which now offers a more family focused apres sesh. Children will be tempted with tasty treats from their new menu and can play games as the parents enjoy the uniquely Montana cuisine.
In the Lake Tahoe region, Northstar is known for their welcoming attitude to families. No family ski day there is complete without a trip to Overlook. There the kiddos can order from the bar themselves…a hot chocolate bar that is. Don’t worry there’s one stocked with adult beverages as well. Grab your cocktails and head down to the ice skating rink for complimentary s’mores and two new additions, S’morey time (yes, that’s a play on story time) and family-friendly tubing.
If you’ve ever been to Mammoth Mountain, you know about their big furry mascot named Woolly. On Saturdays you can join him and his friends as they parade through the village ending up just steps away from Campo Mammoth. Campo has a delicious menu that the whole family can enjoy and the kids get coloring booklets of Woolly. In the spring, grab a cocktail and sit outside near the fire pits where you can play bocce while watching the kids play in the village plaza.