If there was a “Best of the East State” for skiing in the US, it would definitely be Vermont.
Vermont has 20 downhill ski resorts, and another 30 areas geared to nordic skiing. Given that it only takes 5 hours to drive entire length of Vermont, that is some pretty packed density over ski areas-per-mile.
Vermont has such a wide variety of ski mountains across the state that when you’re planning a trip for your family, the options can sometimes seem overwhelming! From ski school ratings to the availability of easy trails, you want your ski vacation to offer enough challenge for experienced skiers but have enough resources for kids. Not to worry—we’ve combed through Vermont’s best-known resorts as well as its hidden gems to bring you our top picks for families. Below, find our six family favorites in the state, a couple of which are on our overall list of best family ski resorts as well.
Best Ski Resorts in Vermont
Stratton Mountain Resort
Stratton Mountain Resort is an expansive mountain located in southern Vermont that is a wonderful option for families. For starters, nearly 40% of its 97 trails are rated “green”—the perfect place for your kids to get their skiing start. If you want to get some time on the slopes sans kids, pop them in the mountain’s ski school without hesitation—it receives top industry ratings year after year. Stratton’s family-centered reputation extends beyond its trails. Its dining options are more expansive than the traditional chicken fingers and French fries fare and include many kid and parent-friendly restaurants ideal after a tiring day on the mountain. (Personally, my favorite is the Waffle House—a small shack at the bottom of the mountain serving up hot waffles with caramelized sugar and melted chocolate. Not the healthiest—but certainly hits the spot after a tough run). If you and your kids want to take a break from skiing one day, head over to the Sun Bowl Activity Center, where you’ll find a tubing park as well as picturesque cross country and showshoeing trails.
Because of its proximity to Manchester, it is a great choice for daytrippers from some of the larger cities in southern Vermont.
Okemo Mountain Resort
Also in southern Vermont, Okemo Mountain Resort is a family-run resort that is also very family-friendly. It is a bit north of Stratton, and not var from the NH college town of Hanover. The resort offers a newly installed terrain park, 120 trails of all levels, and a heated six-seater lift that ensures warm journeys up the mountain. Okemo is well-known for its ski offerings, but its après-ski offerings are just as strong. For starters, kids can explore the tubing park, splash around in the mountain’s large pool complex, or go on a family snowmobile tour around the entire resort. Ludlow—the town in which Okemo is located—is quite charming and has a plethora of additional activities and dining options. You will find a few nice vacation rental options there too, if that is more your style.
We particularly like that Okemo has been upgrading their lifts over the past several years. We like to see ski resorts that don’t get complacent, and Okemo continues to improve.
Keep in mind that as of 2019, Okemo is part of Vail Resorts. That means that you can use your Epic pass to ski Okemo, something that might make a difference if you are a passholder and trying to decide where in Vermont to ski.
Bromley Mountain in southern Vermont is not only a top-notch experience for families during the ski season, but in the summer as well. Sitting within the Green Mountain National Forest boundary, it has a beautiful New England look. An Adventure Park offers a water slide, an alpine slide, a climbing wall, a ziprider, and a whole host of other attractions. Though it’s a smaller mountain than its neighbors Stratton and Okemo, it packs in just as much fun. Where its positioned in Vermont means that Bromley is often sunnier and warmer than its neighbor resorts—a plus when the top complaint from kids on the slopes is that they’re cold! Due to its size, it is easier for beginners to navigate than larger mountains. Adding to its reputation as a great mountain for beginners is its try-it-out program—where first-time skiers are able to ski on the mountain for a day completely free of charge! Bromley doesn’t have as many on-site activities as Stratton and Okemo, but it’s just a short drive away from the town of Manchester. There, you’ll be able to find dog sledding, horse-drawn sleigh rides, outlet shopping, and a wide variety of other activities to complement your time at Bromley.
Killington Ski Resort
Killington is the largest ski area on the East Coast—and it certainly lives up to its reputation! Nicknamed the “Beast of the East,” Killington is an excellent option to satisfy skiers of all skill levels. Its vertical drop of over 3,000 feet rivals some well-known resorts in the West. With a total of 212 trails, your family will never run out of paths to take down the mountain. An added bonus is that your time at Killington is really a two-for-one deal—as one lift ticket gives you access to Killington’s trails as well as those at Pico Mountain Resort, Killington’s sister mountain. No other mountain on our list offers this! (You can get there via a complimentary shuttle ride at any base area). Impressively, Killington has the longest ski run on the East Coast—a beginner’s trail that clocks in at just over six miles. Like its neighbor resorts in southern Vermont, Killington offers ski school, snow tubing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Its biggest draw, however, is its size and the bang for your family’s buck, and you will find ample lodging options ranging from resort accommodations to a nice inventory of vacation rentals. Location-wise, Killington is in the lower half of Vermont, but further north than the locations we have listed above.
Smugglers Notch Resort
Located in northern Vermont, Smuggler’s Notch strikes a balance between a wide variety of family amenities as well as unmatched skiing. The resort breaks up its terrain into mountains based on skier ability—so Morse Mountain is specifically for beginner skiers while Madonna and Sterling are for more advanced skiers. If you’re looking into ski school, look no further than Snow Sports University—as lessons there are guaranteed to improve your child’s skiing technique. If they don’t, you can ask for a 100% refund. Off the slopes, the fun continues. The resort offers lodging for families for all sizes, an ice rink, indoor pools, and a zip line that can be used year-round, and there are plenty of vacation rentals nearby to choose from too. Best of all, though, is perhaps the resort’s shuttle—which will pick you and your family up at any point throughout the resort and take you where you need to go. Smuggler’s Notch also stands out for its plethora of organized activities. From snowshoe treks to snowmobile tours, you can enjoy the beauty of the mountain with just your family or with a larger group. Though farther up the coast than its neighbors in southern Vermont, it is certainly worth the extra hours in the car. Smuggler’s Notch is a true four-season resort and is just as much fun in the summer as well—offering an expansive water park, nature trails, dirt biking, and more. Families come back to Smuggler’s year after year once they visit for the first time, and it’s easy to see why. For skiing, just remember that Smugglers Notch is way North, so it can be cold. Pack the warm gloves and an extra layer of clothing if the forecast calls for frigid conditions. But just remember — this colder weather helps keep the snowpack strong!
With over 2,000 acres of skiing, Sugarbush is another great option in northern Vermont for a skiing family seeing a relaxed adventure. Sugarbush boasts 24 beginner trails as well as crowd-free slopes—something you won’t find at Stratton or Okemo. Furthermore, it’s the only place on the East Coast where you’ll find snowcat skiing—which is when a ski hill grooming machine takes skiers to areas of deep powder. Skiers then descend on the mountain, flanked by guides to ensure safety. Though it’s not an activity for beginners, it’s something to try for more advanced skiers. The highly trained instructors at the mountain’s Adventure Learning Center will introduce skiing to your kids through a structured (and fun!) curriculum. Other mountain amenities include a fully licensed day care center, self-guided or group nature walks, and indoor tennis lessons. Like Smuggler’s Notch, the shuttle will help you and your family navigate the mountain with ease. In addition, its robust early morning activity offerings offer family fun even before you hit the slopes—such as a ride on the snowcat or a break-of-dawn snowshoe walk. Sugarbush offers just as many amenities as its neighbors in an environment that’s less bogged down by crowds—so you can enjoy your time with your family even more. It is just under an hour from the fun college town of Burlington.
If you are looking more broadly than Vermont, you will open your options for ski resorts up significantly. Don’t miss our top family ski resorts piece which outlines the very best ski areas for family in all of America. Also, we did a focused piece exclusively on the Colorado ski resort scene, given the popularity of its skiing as a destination. Both can help give you options for your next ski trip, which we will make sure to help be a great one.
Where to Stay at Vermont Ski Resorts
If you are thinking of planning a weekend — or week — at a Vermont ski area, be sure to check out some of these lodging sources.
- Our favorite hotel chain is definitely Marriott (we did a piece on Marriotts in ski towns). Between the higher-end JW Marriott or Renaissance, or the more budget-friendly Courtyard or Fairfield, you are bound to find some good options near the ski areas. Find them here.
- When it comes to vacation rentals, don’t overlook VRBO. They tend to have great inventory in ski towns. Find them here.
- Consider contacting the resort itself for stay-and-ski packages.
Paul Miller is the Founder of Family Skier. He is an advanced skier and has extensive experience with family travel and ski schools. An accomplished skier, he has skied in 15 states and provinces and 6 countries. In addition to FamilySkier, his writing can be found on many ski-related websites, and as curriculum for many ski clubs in North America.