Friday, January 13, 2017

Top Resorts for Learning a Snowsport (And Where to Find Lodging)

As snow resorts start reporting their daily snow totals, the season is officially underway. So far, no one can beat Lake Tahoe's record set January 11, 2017 -- 16'6" of powder fell in a 10-day period! So to celebrate the great 2016-2017 ski season everyone is hoping for, we've been checking out several of the "Top Mountain Resorts" lists.

Learning how to ski is awesome!

It's Learn a Snowsport Season

From Family Travel Forum comes "The Year's Best Ski and Snow Family Vacations," a roundup of more than 30 resorts with great kids programs and exceptional teaching staff.

January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, a time when mountains all over the country are offering low cost beginner lessons in skiing, snowboarding and cross country. (Their website has a directory of offers.)

Slopeside (or even shuttle-friendly) lodging can be a family's biggest expense at a mountain resort. So big in fact, that many families are forced to make very long drives on ski days and can't plan two days of lessons in a row -- a must to get really excited about a new sport.

Sunpeaks ski house featured on Airbnb in Kelowna, B.C. Canada

Recognizing that need, Airbnb is promoting its condos and private homes in ski country, many with hot tubs nearby, that accommodate an extended family and/or friends. According to their spokesperson, there are nearly 35, 000 listings between Canada and the US in ski-resort destinations, including homes with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, ample living spaces, kitchens, and convenient mountainside locations for easy access to the slopes.

Liftopia's Top Beginner and Kid Friendly Resorts by Region

Now it's time to review the resorts that Liftopia, an online marketplace for lift tickets and other mountain activities, has compiled. Their criteria were beginner-friendly and family-friendly ski areas across North America that are ideal for those looking to learn a winter sport, citing many of the smaller local mountains that are typically more wallet friendly, too.

West Coast: California has the most beginner-friendly and family-friendly ski areas in the West, including Tahoe Donner (first place in the family-friendly category), June, Boreal, Bear Valley, Snow Valley, Homewood, Donner Ski Ranch, Mammoth, Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows and Sierra-At-Tahoe. Anthony Lakes (Oregon) is the #1 beginner-friendly ski area in the region.

The Burton Riglet Park at Northstar, near Lake Tahoe, is a great place for beginners to learn.

Where to Stay:  There's a great Airbnb in Truckee -- the rustic, three-bedroom Tahoe Donner Cabin -- described as spacious, quiet, convenient and sleeps 8, has a BBQ, free WiFi, fireplace and hot tub for just $225 per night.

Northeast: Bretton Woods is the #1 beginner-friendly and family-friendly ski area in the region. In addition to Bretton Woods, New Hampshire has the most beginner-friendly and family-friendly ski areas in the Northeast, including King Pine, Cranmore, Black Mountain, Pats Peak, Ragged and Attitash.

Where to Stay: There is the classic Omni Bretton Woods Hotel right at the mountain, plus a smaller inn. The Conway region has several small hotels and Airbnbs like Maggie's, which gives you two bedrooms within a larger, historic home for $129 per night.

High West: Utah is home to the most beginner-friendly and family-friendly ski areas in the High West, including Eagle Point (#1 Beginner-Friendly Ski Area), Sundance, Brighton, Powder, Alta, Solitude and Brian Head. In the Family Friendly category, Sipapu, New Mexico came in #1 in the region.

Where to Stay: All of the resorts mentioned have lodging, though it can be expensive. We suggest you review each ski area's website because the fewer facilities they have, the lower the rates will be. If you want to splurge on a big mountain, travel midweek.

Midwest: Michigan ski areas reign supreme in the Midwest, with the most beginner-friendly and family-friendly ski areas including Crystal Mountain (first place in both categories), Shanty Creek, Boyne Highlands, Caberfae, Nubs Nob and Boyne Mountain.

Where to Stay: There's a clapboard four-bedroom Airbnb in Mesick, Michigan near to Crystal that sleeps 6 for $155 per night. Note that it's off the grid if you want to unplug (no WiFi no TV).

Southeast: West Virginia has the most beginner-friendly and family-friendly ski areas in the Southeast, with Canaan Valley the number one Beginner Friendly and Family Friendly Ski Area in the region. Other winners include Snowshoe, Timberline Four Seasons and Winterplace.

Where to Stay: There's a lot of on mountain and nearby housing at Snowshoe, and other rentals available through, with rustic mountain homes near Canaan Valley from just $90 per night.

Airbnb Deals from Ski Areas

Here's a roundup of other suggestions from Airbnb, which shows such variety geographically that you can find a good deal practically anywhere there's a ski lift. Head out west, for example, and stay in Tannebaum by the River 301 (from $214 per night), a ski-in Breckenridge loft with six beds sleeping up to 10, and three bathrooms, right near Peak 9. This place is special for tiny travelers because it has two twin beds up on a 2nd floor loft, allowing those who stay up later to enjoy the fireplace and living room without disturbing early sleepers.

Elegant ski condo in Breckeridge, featured on Airbnb, is right off Peak 9 Lifts

Bring the adventure indoors at a Mammoth, California condo ($199) with three bedrooms sleeping up to 8. This casual home is on the shuttle line to town, has its own loft and rock-climbing wall -- perfect for tweens and teens to burn off extra energy.

Bolton Valley is a favorite area for beginners, and this two-bedroom Vermont Airbnb ($300 per night) sleeping 6 is cozy and convenient to the slopes. 

Of course, Airbnb is now available all over the world, giving families an even better chance to combine local culture, perhaps even a foreign language, with their snowsports learning adventure in many European countries.

Pack up the mittens, powdered hot chocolate and cozy pajamas and you'll be all set for a new family adventure.

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