10 Things to Look for in a Family Ski Vacation Destination

Planning your next family ski vacation? Here are 10 Things to Look for to make it great.Snowboarder

I’m gonna let you in on a secret. Although I live full-time at Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah, it would NOT be my choice for a family ski vacation destination.

Why? Because it doesn’t check off all of these 10 things. Continue reading “10 Things to Look for in a Family Ski Vacation Destination”

What to Look For in a Family Ski Resort

What makes a ski resort family-friendly? A few items to look for include easily-accessible beginner terrain, a family lodge and low prices. A good family ski resort may also offer after-school or night skiing, lesson programs, a local feel and other snow sport activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and fat-biking.

Does such a place exist? Yes! Kelly Canyon Ski Resort near Ririe, Idaho has it all.

What to look for in a family friendly ski resort

PSST: Ski Idaho invited my fam to visit this winter and set us up with free lift tickets for Kelly Canyon. I can’t say thank you enough, it was a fun trip.

Easily Accessible Beginner Area

Skiing with kids means spending a lot of time on the bunny hill. If you’re looking for a truly family ski resort, that bunny hill will offer easy-to-access gentle terrain, a rope tow or magic carpet surface lift and a chair lift that serves only green runs.

As young skiers and boarders progress, it’s important that they can ride on terrain that matches their ability. A good family ski resort will have a variety of beginner terrain that’s easy to get to from the base of the mountain.

Family Ski Resort Kelly Canyon

A lift that only offers access to beginner runs is also important. Nothing’s worse than taking a wrong turn with your six-year-old and ending up on a steep black diamond expert run. I know from experience – Little G, age 6, ended up on a steep run with me by accident and had to take off her skis and hike down.

Family-friendly Lodge

Family-friendly ski resorts should have a lodge or warming hut close to the beginner area. Kids are more likely than adults to fall, roll and play in the snow when learning to ski and snowboard. That means they’re also more likely to get cold and wet.

A nearby lodge where they can warm up is an essential feature for a family ski resort. Not only do kids get cold, they also can’t ski as long as adults. When skiing with kids, especially kids age 5 and under, expect to spend more time drinking hot cocoa and making snow men than actually skiing.

Family Friendly Ski Lodge

That’s okay. You’re raising a life-long skier, so if your four-year-old only wants to put skis on for an hour be okay with it and plan to come back another day.

Low Prices

The final checklist item to look for in a family ski resort is discounted lift tickets for beginners. Many ski resorts in the US let kids five and under ski free with a paying adult. Others offer discounted tickets for access to beginner-only areas.

Family ski resorts often offer programs that involve lessons, gear rental and lift ticket packages at a discounted rate. Take advantage of those offers, especially at smaller, local resorts.

Local resorts are my FAVORITE for families. Why? Because they are a great training ground for beginners, they focus on community, and they are often the most cost-effective option for ski families.Kelly Canyon Ski Resort

Family-Friendly Kelly Canyon, Idaho

One of the best family-friendly resorts I’ve been to is Kelly Canyon Ski Resort in Ririe, Idaho. This local scene resort checks off all the boxes and more.

Easily Accessible Beginner Area – The tow rope and lift 3 at Kelly Canyon are perfect for ski newbies. I loved how close the beginner area was to the lodge and how the beginner runs off of lift three offered a wide variety of terrain –  groomed, powder, access to tree skiing, even a small terrain park with beginner boxes. Lots of new skills to learn from that one lift.

Family-Friendly LodgeKelly Canyon Lodge is the hang out place for families. Whether it’s locals sharing a picnic lunch or out-of-towners like us enjoying their famous Kelly fries, the Kelly Canyon Lodge offers a great place to get warm right next to the beginner area.

Low  Prices – At Kelly Canyon kids five and under ski free with a paying adult, and a regular all day ticket for kids is $33 ($27 for half day). In addition to that they offer Monday night discounts for families ($22 lift ticket and meal voucher for adults, $17 for kids), College student discounts ($18 lift ticket Wednesdays and Saturday Night) and Ladies Day discounts on Fridays ($27 ticket and meal voucher plus $10 lessons for groups of 3 or more).

In addition to that, Kelly Canyon may be the only ski resort in the US to offer lift accessible fat biking in winter. I really wanted to try that out, but it’s only open on Fridays and Saturdays (we were there on a Monday). Another truly unique aspect of Kelly Canyon is that all major runs on the mountain are lit for night skiing six days a week. Impressive.

Night Skiing Kelly Canyon
Photo from SurfListings.com

One Word of Warning

The only drawback to family skiing at Kelly Canyon for me were the lifts. The two-seater, old-school chair lifts didn’t have room for me and multiple kids.

Kelly Canyon Family Ski Resort

My two and six-year-olds can’t load and unload a chairlift on their own and with only two seats we couldn’t all go up together. Also the chair lift seats don’t have a safety bar, which made me very nervous when my toddler kept wiggling on the seat.

Despite that, Kelly Canyon is a fun family ski resort and a great place for beginners. I  highly recommend it.

NOTE: Smoking and alcohol are not allowed on site and the resort is closed on Sunday.

Heise Hot Springs

We finished our visit to Kelly Canyon with a dip in Heise Hot Springs (Mountain Dad is obsessed with hot springs) just down the road. It was a great way to end a ski day.

More Mountain Mom and Tots Ski Tips found here.

5 Activities for Kids on Bainbridge Island, Washington

Over the Thanksgiving Break the whole mountain family drove out to Bainbridge Island, Washington. While there we got to experience a full day of heavy downpour, freezing temperatures and snow. But even with the less than ideal weather we had a great time. It’s always good to visit the ocean.Here are five fun things to do with your tots on Bainbridge Island.

1 – Take the Ferry
The trip started off with the ferry ride from Seattle where little g asked “Are there real fairies on board?” Sorry honey, not that kind of fairy. Walkers, bikes and cars all get on the boat for a 35 minute cruise across the water. My tots loved it except for the wind.

2 – Go Shopping
Bainbridge Island’s main drag is full of boutiques and restaurants. It’d be a great day trip from Seattle for a little adult shopping, but the nearby Calico Cat Toys had a great selection of kid toys and games. With the kids we opted for some ice cream at Mora’s  where we enjoyed great flavors like blackberry and lemon bar. Frog sculptures around the island are fun for kids to find.

3 – Fort Ward Park
Being who I am, I was on the hunt for green space. And for an island they have plenty. Fort Ward Park is right on the coast with a paved hiking, biking trail that borders the rocky beach. Big E and Mountain Dad was in heaven looking for shells and sea glass, even in the breezy weather. Little g on the other hand wanted nothing more than to be held and have a snack.

4 – Lytle Beach
Since I live in landlocked Utah I tried to spend as much time at the beach as I could, even with freezing temperatures. Lytle Beach could also be described as Little Beach, an end of the road strip of rock and sand surrounded by a residential area. On the small section of public access Big E and I found a huge jelly fish, but the cold weather cut our trip short.

5 – KiDiMu
The tots loved the Kids Discovery Museum, and I did too. The upstairs exhibits were my favorite – A giant litebright, puppet theather and adjustable golf ball roller coasters were fun for both adults and kids. On the main floor, imagination abounds with a pirate tree house, kid sized shopping center, doctors office and boat.

Bainbridge Island was a quaint place to visit with lots of fun activities and beautiful forests and beaches. Next time I’ll plan a trip in the summer, but even with bad weather it was a great trip.

Chinatown San Francisco

There’s a special place in San Francisco where the architecture shifts from modern business like buildings to elaborate chinese decor, with flanged roofs, paper lanterns and large blinking signs written in a foreign language. Welcome to Chinatown.
On my sister’s weekend earlier this month, Chinatown was one of the many destinations we explored in order to have a true taste of San Francisco. As the largest Chinatown outside of Asia it was easy to be caught up with the exotic feeling permeating the neighborhood. The smells and sounds of another world welcomed us into its streets.


We decided to eat at Hunan’s Home, based on the recommendation of yelp diners (thanks internet friends) and couldn’t have been more pleased. Everything from the potstickers to the spicy chicken dish was tasty, and we were more than happy to fill our plates and bellies with the tasty stuff.


Shops filled with souvenirs, t shirts and Asian inspired clothing were interspersed with Chinese restaurants and even a walk-in foot massage parlor.
In Chinatown I couldn’t help but imagine little g in the tiny outfits or Big E playing with the toys. I felt a pang of sadness that my tots were back at home. I know a sisters weekend by definition did not include kids, but I still missed them.