My husband and daughter like to go downhill skiing; I’ve done it enough to know I never need to do it again. But I like being outdoors in winter and I like winter travel destinations, which are usually scenic and lively.
So my family makes a point of choosing snowy destinations with more to do than just skiing. Great spas, winter hiking, and maybe a local museum or two give me things to do while they’re hitting the slopes. Outdoor activities like ice skating, Nordic skiing, and tubing are things we can do together when they need a ski break.
Of course, all those outdoor winter activities require a lot of layers, and extra gloves and socks for when things get wet. That’s why I keep a large roller bag at the top of the closet for ski trips and packing cubes to keep winter gear organized. I also make sure my toiletry bag has extras like moisturizer, sunscreen and lip balm to counter winter sun and dry air.
Here are my favorite five ski towns in the U.S. and Canada that give both skiers and non-skiers in thefamily a fun winter getaway.
Ski Town: Lake Placid, NY
How’s the skiing? Whiteface Mountain is a challenging mounting, but its long junior run with its own lift is nice a step from the bunny slope to the big hills.
What else is there? The town is a training center for winter Olympic sports. Skate the outdoor speed-skating ovalorride a ski lift and elevator to stare down the ski jump. There are also two cross-country ski centers, a tubing hill, and dramatic views at Highfalls Gorge. Book a treatment at the spa at the Adirondack Lodge and you have use of its sauna, steam room, and heated indoor/outdoor pool area.
Where to eat: Liquids & Solids at the Handlebar is the place for artisanal cocktails and farm-to-table food; Lake Placid Pub and Brewery is the go-to place for local beer, burgers, soups and chili.
Where to stay: The lakeside Golden Arrow is exceedingly family friendly with roomy rooms and an indoor pool. The Mirror Lake, which overlooks the lake, is great for families seekinga luxury experience right in town.
Ski Town: Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, CA
How’s the skiing? Mont-Tremblant is known to offer nicer, softer snow than most Northeast ski resorts.
What else is there? Outdoor fun includes ice climbing, tubing to horse-drawn sleighrides, skating, and an outdoor adventure course. In town you’ll find shopping and spas, laser tag, pottery painting, and an indoor waterpark.
Where to eat:After a busy day outdoors, dig into the cheesy raclettes and fondues at La Savoie without an ounce of guilt. Le Q.G. is a casual French-Canadian bistro with a menu that includes a venison burger and elk Carpaccio.
Where to stay: Tremblant abounds with affordable condos and vacation homes in and near the pedestrian village. For a full-service hotel experience, try the Westin Resort & Spa Tremblant.
Ski Town: Sundance, UT
How’s the skiing? This secluded resort has a smaller mountain than some. More than half of its runs beginner and intermediate level, making it ideal for families and new skiers.
What else is there? Winter zip lining is popular. Quieter activities include art classes, cross-country skiing, and a spa with yoga and meditation classes. Sundance doesn’t really havemuch of a town, but Provo and Park City are both less an hour away.
Where to eat: The self-contained resort has several casual cafés and pubs, including Bear Claw, which dishes up Mexican food at the top of the mountain. TreeTop offers candlelight, Native American art and a very upscale lodge menu.
Where to stay: Not surprisingly, there isn’t a budget option here. Families staying at the resort will want a Sundance suite with a pullout couch and kitchenette, or a two-room mountain suite with a full kitchen. Other lodges nearby are in the same price range as the resort.
Ski Town: Steamboat, CO
How’s the skiing? Long green trails, powdery snow, and a good ski school make it a great place for kids ready to improve their skills. Advanced skiers like it, too.
What else is there? Ride the gondola to the mountaintop lodge for stellar views along with an impressive Bloody Mary. Outdoor hot springs are open year round right in town and Fishcreek Falls offersa nice, moderate hike even with snow on the ground. Take a brewery tour or shoulder your daypack get outdoors with horseback riding, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, and cross-country skiing.
Where to eat:Carl’s Tavern features Colorado beers on tap and excellent ski-town food like chicken pot pie. Mazzola’s Italian restaurant is the place to go for gourmet pizza and classics like chicken parm.
Where to stay: The Steamboat Grand and Sheraton Steamboat put you right at the base of the mountain. For something different stay at one of a handful of upscale guest ranches just outside of town.
Ski Town: Whistler, British Columbia, CA
How’s the skiing? The twin peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb provide more than enough trails, glaciers, alpine bowls, and terrain parks to please all kinds of skiers and snowboarders.
What else is there? The pedestrian village offers indoor rock climbing, an escape room, incredible zip-lining, and a small but well-done First Nations museum. Bring the family to the Meadow Park Sports Center for swimming, sauna, and hot tub. Or leave the kids behind for an afternoon soak at the Scandinave Spa. Ride the Peak 2 Peak tram for the views and try snowshoeing or cross-country ski along the area’s miles of bike trails.
Where to eat: 21 Steps is popular for its stellar (and not steep) upscale comfort food and good kids’ menu. Dubh Linn Gate, right near the Whistler lifts, is popular après ski, but smart folks stick around for its very good Irish pub food.
Where to stay: Aava Whistler is a value hotel with basic rooms and hallways and a great location. It offers ski lockers, sauna, roomy hot tub, outdoor fire pit, and enormous Nespresso machine in the lobby. With a luxury budget you will have your pick of traditional and apartment style hotels in Whistler within steps of the slopes.
Now get to researching so you can plan a winter family vacation that will thrill both the skiers and non-skiers!
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