Minimize Family Drama on the Slopes

Follow these tips to ensure you plan a successful family ski vacation.


I’m cold! I’m hungry! I’m bored! I want to ski with Daddy! I don’t like skiing!

Do these cranky words sound familiar? You’re not alone. The truth is, even the most wonderful family winter vacations can quickly turn into the Nightmare Before Christmas, in spite of careful planning. If you’re traveling with extended family and in-laws, it can be extra hard to keep everybody happy, to say the least.

Here are some strategies for keeping the peace on your family ski trip.

Activities, Adventures and Alone Time

  • Pick a resort town or ski destination with plenty of activities to accommodate all ages and interests. Universal offerings at many resorts and mountain towns now include snowshoeing, sleigh rides and ice skating. Snowtubing on groomed runs with tow systems has become one of the most popular and affordable mountain activities—it’s guaranteed to please the young and the old.
  • Know that the standard activities will only keep you occupied for so long. In many mountain towns, there’s so much more to explore, and non-skiers will want to find alternate (indoor) adventures. In Park City, Utah, you can ride the scenic Heber Valley Railroad, or soak in a mineral hot spring at the Homestead Resort in Virginia.

In Breckenridge, Colo., you might explore the Country Boy Mine or enjoy some community theatre. In Vermont, you can take a side trip to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory when you visit Smugglers’ Notch or Stowe.

  • Picking a smaller or more remote ski area will likely limit your options for on-site and off-mountain activities, though they may have the expert terrain you’re interested in, so give careful consideration before booking. Conversely, look for a mountain that offers a large variety of terrain to suit all abilities and family members.
  • Renting a ski condo or mountainside home gives larger groups space to get away from each other after a long day of togetherness. Added perks can include Internet access, game rooms and large common areas where you can hang out as a family. You’ll just want to make sure that access to a hot tub and swimming pool is included and convenient.

Ski School and Kid Camps 

  • Choose a ski resort with the best ski school programs to tailor to your childrens’ ages and interest levels. Kids from 3 to 5 years old can rarely ski all day, while adults might want to. This is one of the best times to leave it up to the professionals, since parents don’t always make the best ski instructors. Many resorts offer combination programs for kids at this age, where they can have fun learning the basics of skiing until their energy runs out, and then can head indoors for organized play, enjoy movie and nap time, or get creative with arts and craft sessions.  
  • With children from 5 to 10 years old, you may consider this the golden era of your family ski vacations. They have the basic skills mastered, and are turning into little rippers quite quickly. But they could still benefit from a couple of hours of lessons a day. This gives the elders a little reprieve and alone time to hit the hard trails first. But kids of this age still want to ski with mom or dad, and parents typically melt at the smiles and enjoyment of this stage. Enjoy it now, because soon after, they may be beating you down the slopes.

After lessons, some parents divide and conquer, splitting up the kids between them to tackle different terrain and show off what they learned. In this age group, you need to reserve serious patience. Some kids will get cold quickly, despite layers of the right clothing—frequent breaks are beneficial.

  • If brooding pre-teens and teens are your problem, you may win serious points if you find a resort that offers a camp-like environment to (safely) learn how to pull off anti-gravity tricks and stunts like pros in the terrain park and half-pipe. For responsible and trustworthy teenagers, you can try to give them a little more freedom to roam après ski at a relatively contained resort. Arcades and movie theaters, supervised under 21-only clubs, indoor sports complexes with skate ramps and rock-climbing walls have sprung up at resorts all over to fit this often hard-to-please crowd.
  • Having healthy snacks handy in your pockets are great for lift rides and will help keep kids’ energy up throughout the day. Meet the entire family for a long lunch at the condo, warm up and head back out for a few runs together—it’s a great way to cap off the day, before you all head to the pool. 


2008 Ski Season Opening Days
See the 2008 list for opening days for the top ski and snowboard resorts in the United States and Canada.

Themes: Family Travel, Mountain Vacations

Activities: Skiing, Snowboarding

User Comments

The Rockies Loop enables you combine several resorts in to one trip – the more time you have, the more resorts you can ski. One of the great things about this trip is that the distance between the resorts are relatively short - under 2 hours. This means that you do not have to lose any ski time as it is easy to get to the next resort after a day on the mountain.

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