This laid-back resort near Grand Teton National Park has a rep as a place for hard-core skiers, but Jackson Hole is actually incredibly family-friendly, with an excellent kids' program and plenty of slopes for parents who haven't strapped on skis since high school.
Just for Kids: The Kids Ranch ski school is right in the heart of the village -- with its own fenced-off area for beginners, and dedicated slopes for children to try once they've gotten their ski legs. Kids can start lessons at age 3, and if you have a baby, you can feel good about leaving her at the top-notch childcare center, where they're pros at sitting for kids as young as 2 months.
Family Fun: Even if you don't ski, you can head up on the Bridger Gondola to the new restaurant complex, which has awesome views from 9,000 feet. And save time to see the historic town of Jackson, a 15-minute drive from the resort. This cowboy town has old-fashioned wooden sidewalks and a town square with massive arches made from elk horns at each corner.
Parent Perks: Sip a hot chocolate and watch your child's ski lesson while you hang out in an Adirondack chair on the heated outdoor patio at the Four Seasons Resort at Jackson Hole (800-295-5281). In the evening, sign the children up for the resort's Kids Night Out program (movies and games), then head over for a beer at local fave, The Mangy Moose (mangymoose.net).
Where to Stay: The village has condos for every budget; make sure you ask about the 5-night combo ski ticket/lodging packages for families (from $490 per person; jhrl.com). For a splurge, stay at the Snake River Lodge & Spa (800-445-4655), which has an amazing indoor/outdoor pool.
Popular with East Coasters, this resort is stepping up its services for parents and kids alike. Ski-in, ski-out condos are what it's all about here, so you don't have to schlep heavy equipment in the car each day -- and you can easily stop by the condo for lunch or to give the kids an afternoon break.
Just for Kids: The Jackson Gore base is a recent key addition to the resort, and it's quickly become the new family center of the mountain, complete with a ski and snowboard school (for kids 3 and up) and a daycare center. Less crowded than the main lodge and base area, it's a good spot for hassle-free skiing with kids. Another great feature is the private Parent and Tot lesson program, where you'll see your child improve up-close and get pointers on how to help her when you ski or board together.
Family Fun: Once you get off the slopes, head over to the Spring House fitness center, which has a family pool with a slide and water fountains. Your kids will also love snow tubing and playing inside the giant "king-of-the-mountain" snowplay zone built right next to the ski school. If you don't feel like cooking, head to Wicked Good Pizza (wickedgoodpizza.com) in town or the nearby Coleman Brook Tavern (802-228-1435).
Parent Perks: A try-before-you-buy policy means you can ski for an hour in the morning for free before you spring for a day's ticket -- good if it's really cold or if you're not sure your kid will like it. If you take a break from the slopes, check out the factory outlets, including stores for Coach, J.Crew, and more, in nearby Manchester (manchesterdesigneroutlets.com).
Where to stay: Both the Okemo and Jackson Gore base areas have condos in all sizes and price ranges (Jackson Gore condos are newer). Most have kitchens, washers, and dryers, and start at $73 night/person with lift tickets (okemo.com). Or try the Best Western in Ludlow (bestwesternludlow.com).
Beaver Creek wins awards for its guest services -- and for good reason: It's got a million super-cool touches that make things easier for families. If you've never skied in Colorado before, it's the ideal place to start. There's loads of snow and lots to do, but it's not so big that it'll overwhelm you or the kids.
Just for Kids: Rent your gear at the Children's Center, then walk a few steps to the Ski and Snowboard School for a wide range of programs for kids 3 to 14. Here, your 3-year-old can take his first lesson in a two-hour "mini mice" session that even includes a nap. This year, Beaver Creek has opened a new Buckaroo Express Gondola just for children. If your kids are already comfortable skiing or boarding, take them to Park 101, a beginner terrain park that lets them do a little hotdogging.
Family Fun: Nabbing a table for lunch in a hot, crowded ski-resort cafeteria can be a nightmare, so you'll love this: Greeters at the Spruce Saddle Lodge (970-845-9090) find seating for your crowd. The resort also serves warm chocolate-chip cookies every day as you leave the mountain. If your kids aren't too wiped out, there's plenty to do in the village at night, including ice skating and pizza at the Blue Moose (970-845-8666). Need a day off the slopes? Head into the nearby town of Eagle for bowling at The Back Bowl (970-328-2695).
Parent Perks: You can order your lift tickets online and have them sent to your home so you don't waste time waiting in line when you get there. Moms (and dads!), give your sore legs a treat by getting a massage at the Allegria Spa in the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa (970-748-7500).
Where to Stay: Condos in the village start at $180. Feel like staying in a hotel? Try The Pines Lodge (970-754-7200) close to the village, or save money by staying at Comfort Inn in Avon (970-949-5511), just a shuttle ride away from the resort.
One of several resorts at Lake Tahoe in Northern California, Northstar is the go-to ski spot for West Coasters. More than half of its trails are intermediate, so it's really good for kids and parents who have moved beyond the basics and are ready for a challenge.
Just for Kids: The ski school has a full range of ski and snowboard lessons. If your little one is hesitant to go to a class alone or you just want to do it as a family, sign up for the Mommy, Daddy, and Me private lesson for kids 4 and under. Your children will beg to go back to the Paw Parks -- kids-only zones where they can fool around on their skis or take them off and just play in the snow.
Family Fun: When you ski together as a family, you'll really appreciate the Mellow Yellow zones -- beginner/intermediate slopes that are dedicated "go slow" zones, so you don't have to worry about crazy-fast skiers knocking your kids down. At night, head into the village for ice skating at the outdoor rink -- fire pits on the perimeter keep you warm (and you can buy s'mores kits and toast your treats over the flames). Big Wave Burritos and Wraps (530-562-8800) and Rubicon Pizza & Bistro (530-562-2199) are both good restaurants for kids.
Parent Perks: If you and your spouse are trading off childcare duties for the day, you'll be psyched about the Parent Predicament Ticket, which allows one of you to use it in the morning and one to use it in the afternoon. The village has good window shopping: Buy a cute T-shirt or pick up some yarn at Loopy for a knitting project.
Where to Stay: Condos (rates start at $159 a night) are where it's at -- and you can ask for family perks like kids' DVDs and high chairs. Or for a cheaper stay, check out the studios (starting at $134; northstarattahoe.com).
Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the November 2007 issue of Parents magazine.