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Planning on taking the family to California for a skiing trip this year? If so, you’re in luck. Despite being famed for its warm weather and sunny days, California is also home to some of the country’s best ski resorts.
Sure they may not entirely match-up to their more northern Rocky Mountain counterparts, but that’s what makes them perfect for the whole family. If you have any complete “never worn a ski boot before” beginners, they’ll love the rolling slopes of the California resorts.
However, also known for being training grounds for professionals, you’ll find some slopes that are perfect for advanced teens as well as all the adults in the family!
Of course, one of the best things about skiing in California with kids is that you’ll be treated to top-notch kid-friendly activities, world-class dining, and convenience (it’s California after all!) throughout your entire trip.
Let’s take a look at some of the best Californian Ski resorts where kids cannot only enjoy their holidays to the max but gain some skiing skills to boot!
NorthStar Ski Resort
Location: Truckee, California
Adult Ticket Price: (Ages 13+) | $133
Child Ticket Price: (Ages 5 – 12) | $69
Full-Day Ski Lesson for Kids: TBA
NorthStar resort is an upend skiing location that caters to two types of vacationers: luxury travellers and families. Situated close to Lake Tahoe, this resort has undergone several massive transformations since being opened by Vail resorts in 2010. These transformations have helped to keep the resort modern and sophisticated without ever losing its carefully cultivated family-friendliness.
And what is it about NorthStar that makes it right for kids? Well, in the enormous slope-side Northside village, there may be a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and activities to choose from, but none as fun as the full-blown movie theatre! Then there’s bungee-trampolining for kids to enjoy and even free end-of-day s’mores to munch on. In short, everywhere you go in NorthStar, there’s something for kids to do and a friendly employee happy to lend them a helping hand.
And if your kids are looking to hone in their skiing skills or simply learn how to ski, there’s are skiing classes available led by certified and experienced ski coaches. And true to its fancy roots, NorthStar runs an “ultimate 4” training program, limiting the number of pupils to every instructor (for an extra fee!)
Heavenly Ski Resort
Location: South Lake Tahoe, California
Adult Ticket Price: $80 – $115
Child Ticket Price: (Ages 5-12) | $44 – $63
Full-Day Ski Lesson for Kids: TBA
Located just south of Lake Tahoe, Heavenly ski resorts is by far the largest in California. Containing 3,800 skiable acres with 28 chair lifts, it’s a veritable winter wonderland. Like NorthStar, Heavenly ski resort is run by Vail resorts. Both resorts are made up of sturdy yet mindfully laid out infrastructure that makes navigation and exploration simple, which is always great for kids.
As you can imagine, being situated next to Lake Tahoe makes for some breathtaking views. By taking a quick Gondola ride up to the top of Adventure, you’re rewarded with expansive views of Lake Tahoe with two snowcapped mountains as a majestic backdrop – very “instagramable.”
The resort has a wide array of activities for your kids to enjoy, such as family-friendly restaurants, tubing, and even an exhilarating alpine coaster that runs in the Summer.
If your kids are looking to learn how to ski or snowboard, Heavenly classes start at ages 4 and 5 for the respective activities. The best part about these classes is that not only will your kids be treated to active, engaging, and exciting classes, parents will also get to enjoy the option of 3 drops off spots for seamless pick-up/drop off.
For non-skiing kids or babies, there is daycare available from ages 6 weeks to 12 years old. However, if your kid would like to dabble in some skiing but also kick back with some fun activities, there’s always the option of having a “hybrid day.” These days consist of morning skiing followed by afternoon meals and then an evening of games! Perfect for toddlers who might meltdown after a full day of skiing.
Squaw Valley and Alpine Ski Resorts
Location: Olympic Valley, California
Adult Ticket Price: Online: $89-$159 Window: $169
Child Ticket Price: (Ages 13-17) Online | $79-$114 Window | $144
(Ages 4-12): Online: $69-$93 Window: $110
Full-Day Ski Lesson for Kids: (Ages 3-4) | $269 (Ages 5-7) | $259 ( Ages 8-13) | $219
As you can tell from this list so far, Lake Tahoe is where all the ski fanatics flock to California. For Squaw Valley Resort, things are no different.
However, what really sets Squaw valley apart as a kid-friendly resort is how catered to beginner and intermediate skiers most of their slopes are. It’s estimated that 25 percent of the runs are for beginners and 43 percent for intermediate level skiers, while the rest are left for the more advanced skiers. Such a large number of gentle slopes creates an atmosphere of relaxation, safety, and assuredness due to no one zipping past or any worries of being judged – the perfect environment for kids to learn in.
The resort is also ski-in-ski-out, meaning that if you don’t want to go too far with your kids or would rather keep an eye on them from the resort – that’s an option.
Further bolstering Squaw Valley’s wonderful kid-friendliness are some of the many available off-resort activities, including tubing and snowmobiling. Always going that one step further for kids, adorable yet exhilarating mini-snowmobiling is on offer to every kid’s delight! And if that’s not enough excitement, bungee trampolining, dog sledding, aerial tram rides, and a museum dedicated to Olympic history are at your door.
Location: Norden, California
Adult Ticket Price: $95.00
Child Ticket Price: $55.00
Full-Day Ski Lesson for Kids: (Ages 4-5) | $340 (Ages 6-12) | $240
Getting out of the Lake Tahoe area, Sugar Bowl resort has the advantage of being closer to Sacramento and San Francisco Bay area. And do you know what that means? Less time spent with the whole family jumbled into the car driving in typical winter weather, which is always a win!
So, if your kids aren’t a big fan of long journeys – Sugar bowl resort might just be for you. Moreover, there is a family-friendly vibe across Sugar Bowl’s 1650 skiable acres and 103 varied trails. However, what really might convince you to stay at Sugarbowl, is that amazingly – kids under 6 ski free. Not to mention that kids skiing classes are readily available.
If there’s one area that Sugar Bowl may be lacking in, it’s après-ski activities. So, This hospitable and comfortable resort may be more for families who want to get the most time out of the slopes possible and focus on their trip.
Oh, and did I mention that Walt Disney founded Sugarbowl resort? That’s sure to get the kids excited!
Location: Kirkwood, California
Adult Ticket Price: (Ages 13+) | $112
Child Ticket Price: (Ages 5 – 12) | $59
Full-Day Ski Lesson for Kids: TBA
Kirkwood is just one of those skiing resorts that makes you want to keep coming back. Its beautiful towering mountain is home to many varied trails and slopes for all skill sets. Covering these rolling or steep slopes is the finest and “powderiest” snow for miles around. So, naturally, Kirkwood is mainly geared towards the more serious and “straight-forward” side of a ski getaway.
However, at Kirkwood, they know that the earlier you learn to ski, the better. Getting your bearing on the slopes at an early age is important for lifelong comfort when zipping down the side of snowy mountains. This is why Kirkwood values children’s skiing education more than anything. They aim to instruct the new generation of skiers on only the best techniques while instilling them with a love of winter sports.
So, if your kids are little skiing enthusiasts before all else, this might just be the right place for your family.
Location: Mammoth Lakes, California
Adult Ticket Price: (23–64) | $79
Child Ticket Price: (Age 4 and under) | Free (Ages 5–12) | $32
(Ages 13–22) | $65
Full-Day Ski Lesson for Kids: (Ages 3-4) | $235–$310
Back to fun with Mammoth Mountain resort! At Mammoth Mountain, you’re bound to spot the mascots Woolly, Huck, or Goldie spreading joy wherever they go. You might even run into them cruising past you on a slope! What better way to put kids at ease? And if your kids are taken by the mascots, they can always attend Wolly’s Saturday parade where there’s plenty of face-painting, dance, and party fun to be had!
Ever the present figure, there’s even Wolly’s tube park & snow play area where kids can enjoy some zipping and zooming tube fun. And as if that wasn’t enough, you’ll find plenty of snowshoeing, boarding, and skiing activities for kids to take part in.
After a long day of working up an appetite, you won’t be at a loss for kid-friendly dining options. Mammoth mountain’s off-hill eateries with kid menus, coloring books, and fun surprises are a great place for you and your little ones to refuel after a long day of fun.
All in all, Californian ski resorts are a big hit with families. So, why not take your pick from the list above and hit the slopes while forming memories of family fun that will last a lifetime?