Taking your family to the mountains this winter? Whether your crew is full of avid skiers or contented snowman-makers, the California snow offers a variety of fun ways to spend a winter family vacation, from the resorts such as Heavenly, Squaw Valley, and Alpine Meadows, near Lake Tahoe, down to Big Bear Mountain and Snow Summit in Southern California.
“California ski resorts are so cognisant of families now that they do everything they can to make it as easy as possible for parents and kids,” says Mike Reitzell, president of the California Ski Industry Association, adding that the resorts offer plenty of kid lessons, rental packages, and “kids ski free” options. From snowshoes to snowmobiling, sledge competitions to Star Wars training camps, here are some of the coolest kid-friendly activities at California ski resorts.
Snowshoeing at Northstar
The Tahoe resort has gotten raves from Forbes for being family-oriented, thanks to its pedestrian-friendly village with an ice rink, and perks like wagons for toting your gear. All ages can enjoy the resort’s family snowshoe tours, offered on select Sundays throughout the winter. Strap on a pair of snowshoes and follow your guide for a three-hour snow walk along family-friendly trails. You’ll end your journey at a red caboose in an alpine meadow where you can indulge in a hot chocolate and cookies.
Just in case there are some non-skiers in the family, there’s a way to keep everyone in one pack: Experience the snowy backcountry on snowmobiles. Mammoth Snowmobile Adventures combines experienced guides to help you explore large meadows, lush pine forests, historic landmarks, and acres of backcountry trails. Snowmobile season begins mid-December.
Lessons at Sierra-at-Tahoe
While nearly all ski resorts offer lessons, Sierra-at-Tahoe is an ideal location for families to learn how to ski or ride. Lessons are taught on the resort’s Easy Street, a dedicated 11-acre learning terrain that offers new skiers and snowboarders carefully sculpted beginner terrain, including gently banked turns and carefully-shaped snow features to naturally help beginners practice their turns and stops. The resort also offers age-specific lessons for kids—which include fun indoor arts and crafts to break the ice.
Race to Win at Tahoe Donner
Do your kids thrive on competition? Visit Truckee’s Tahoe Donner—a smaller ski area that’s especially family- and beginner-friendly—during its annual Winter Superstars week, held in February, for ski and snowboard races, sledge pulls, and a mini terrain park competition for all ages. Look for the schedule of events to be posted online in early February and sign up to compete—or, just come and watch. Stick around until the last day for the Glowstick Parade and carnival.
Rock Climb at Snow Summit
Kids can scale new heights on the 30-foot rock climbing wall at Snow Summit’s Base Camp. Once they’re helmeted and harnessed, kids can test their strength, determination, and fear of heights as they ascend easy or challenging routes to the top of the rock tower.