Selecting FTN's top family ski resorts was a particularly tough job this year. As part of our research, we've combed through the ski resort literature, talked to industry experts and resort representatives, and surveyed parents and children to find the best family ski destinations. We look for resorts that cater to families in a variety of ways -- from exceptional children's programs and ski schools to offering an assortment of fun family activities.
The family market for ski destinations is growing rapidly, and lots of resorts and destinations are advertising themselves as "family friendly". In evaluating any destination, it's important to read beyond the headlines and closely examine what's being offered. Look carefully at age limits, requirements involved in getting those "free" children's lift tickets, holiday and weekend availability, and other restrictions that might limit use or raise your costs.
In addition, for the best family vacation, consider your family's needs for variety in terrain, activities off the slope, special evening programs or other stuff that's important to you. Look for family and kids' programs such as tubing nights, kids nights out, teen centers, family sleigh rides, teddy bear parades, etc. Try to identify destinations with the right mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced trails. Once you've narrowed down your choices, call the resorts and ask about things like the ratio of children to caregivers at the daycare center, how far in advance you need to call to make babysitting arrangements, and the availability of packages on your selected dates.
A few words of advice in undertaking family ski trips:
* Remember to take proof of age for kids who are near the edge of the "ski free" or "juniors" age limits. Kids who are tall for their age may be charged the higher rate without appropriate verification.
* If you're staying at a condo, buy your groceries before you reach your resort destination. Food prices are often significantly higher within -- or close to -- ski areas.
* Don't wait until the last minute to reserve kids ski programs, babysitters, or anything else your family has its heart set on. Call ahead to the resort or its activities desk to book space, and inquire about any requirements or items you need to bring. Ask about pre-purchasing lift tickets or other passes to avoid long lines.
* If there are restaurants that offer "kids eat free" programs, make reservations at least 24 hours in advance. It's been our experience that these often book early.
* Try to plan your ski trip for non-holiday periods or later in the season if possible. You have a double incentive to do so: dramatically lower prices and no crowds!
So take some time and browse through our detailed profiles of this year's top family ski destinations. Find one or more resorts that your skiing family will enjoy. Then grab your kids and go -- and don't forget to e-mail us as soon as you get home. We want to know all about your trip!