Big mountain fun at a bargain
By Suzanne Rowan Kelleher
As the quest for an affordable family getaway heats up this summer, many savvy parents are packing up the kids and hitting the slopes. One of the happiest trends in family travel in the last decade is how ski resorts have transformed themselves into year-round destinations. The National Ski Areas Association estimates that over half of US ski resorts now have significant summer operations. When temperatures rise and the white stuff disappears, family adventure parks pop up, offering a smorgasbord of active pursuits from alpine slides, summer tubing hills, and ziplines to chairlift-assisted mountain biking, bungee trampolines, and soft playzones for young children. The best part? Low season at ski resorts means lots of stay-and-play bargains. Here’s a sample of eight mountain resorts offering big snowless fun for families all summer long.
Where: Vail, CO Why: Because this recently-renovated AAA four-diamond resort offers a slew of fun possibilities for active families, such as mountain biking, hiking, fishing, and whitewater rafting. Along with indoor and outdoor pools and a supervised kids’ camp, there’s a mountain-top playground called Adventure Ridge, which features a discovery center offering guided nature hikes and dinosaur digs, plus a trampoline, disk golf, volleyball, and a climbing wall. The two-night “It’s About Time” package starts at $288 and includes four passes for the scenic gondola to Adventure Ridge and a souvenir backpack.
Where: Thompsonville, MI Why: Because this family-owned golf and ski resort has all the ingredients for an unforgettably fun summer getaway. After tackling the climbing wall, kids can cool off in the enormous outdoor water playground, featuring a 4,200-square-foot pool with zero-depth entry, play structures, waterslides, obstacle courses, and water jets. The resort also hosts family kickball games, scavenger hunts, geocaching (a GPS scavenger hunt), chairlift rides, and Michigan’s only alpine slide. There are special programs for kids and teens, and a spa for adults. The all-inclusive Pure Michigan Family Vacation starts at $189 a night and includes access to all activities.
Where: Ludlow, VT Why: Because this ski resort really knows how to put the focus on families (see our review). Favorite summer activities include water balloon tosses, glow in the dark volleyball, and flashlight tag, while Friday nights feature live music and picnic barbeques. There’s also an indoor swimming pool, separate kid’s pool and splash center, and Camp Gokemo provides seven-days-a-week fun for kids from toddlers to tweens. The Family Adventure Weekend package starts at about $60 per person, per day and includes admission for two children to Camp Gokemo (usually $55 each), use of fitness and aquatic centers, and four morning passes to the nearby Bromley Adventure Park, which offers bumper boats, waterslides, and a brand new zipline. Families booking a two-night stay will receive a third night free.
Where: Park City, UT Why: Because Park City is well-known for its family-friendly atmosphere, and in the summer the resort offers unique activities such as a human maze and a mountain rollercoaster. Older kids and teens will make a beeline for the ZipRider, which zooms down the mountain at up to 45mph, while the entire family can ride the 3,000 foot alpine slide. Little ones can enjoy a merry-go-round, airplane rides, and a mini-train. There’s also horseback riding, hiking, mini-golf, scenic chairlift rides, and more. Kids stay free with the Sun ‘n Slide package, which starts at $99 a night and includes a free ride on both the alpine slide and alpine coaster (usually $20 per ride).
Where: Truckee, CA Why: Because this resort’s adventure park features a wide range of diversions, including a top-notch mountain bike park and a brand-new ropes challenge course. There’s a bungy trampoline, outdoor roller rink, hiking, biking, outdoor movie nights, geocaching, star-gazing tours, campfires and s’more-making, pools, spas, and a splash pad for small fries. While grown-ups take in a round of golf, the kids’ adventure program offers guided nature hikes. The Stay and Play special offers two activity-based package options: Biking and hiking or kayaking and paddle boating. Both packages start at $75 per adult per night (kids stay free with paying adult), and include two $10 dining coupons and two activity passes.
Where:Bartlett, NH Why: Because this resort in New Hampshire’s beautiful White Mountains has bragging rights on the longest alpine slide in North America, which tops out at one mile. The resort also features waterslides, horseback riding, mountain biking, a climbing wall, and Buddy Bear’s Play Pool for preschoolers. The whole family can take the one-hour “sky ride” to the summit, where an observation tower affords an incredible view of the valley. “Slide and Ride” packages start at $57 per person per night and include lodging at the scenic Attitash Grand Summit Hotel, breakfast, and all-day passes for unlimited use of summer attractions.
Where: Davis, WV Why: Because this lesser-known ski resort delivers an intimate, small-town atmosphere perfect for a family getaway. A huge roster of active pursuits is sure to keep your family busy, starting with mini golf, sand volleyball, a climbing wall, hayrides, and kayaking. Older kids can tackle paintball, a skate park, climbing wall, and bungee trampoline, while little ones hang out in the Kid’s Korner, which offers games, crafts, and nature hikes. The Mountain Breeze Family Getaway starts at $59 per person, and includes overnight lodging, breakfast, a trail map, chairlift rides, mini golf, and more.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort
Where: Sandpoint, ID Why: Because the popular Great Escape package is back again this summer, giving families the opportunity to create their own adventure by spending “adventure bucks” any way they like. Kids can fly high on the bungee jump trampoline, scale the climbing wall, or check out the giant checkers and chess board. You can also redeem your “bucks” for disc golf, geocaching, spa treatments, golf, dining, or mountain bike and boat rentals. Take a chairlift ride to the top of the mountain, then hike down while picking huckleberries along the way. The Great Escape Package starts at $59 per person, including lodging and $30 worth of “adventure bucks” per person per day.