You've decided to do it: pack up the family, jump on a plane, and head to the high-country for that ski vacation you've been dreaming about for years.
Next step: booking a room.
No big deal, right?
That is, until you start the search.
Near the slopes, on the slopes, rental condos, spacious suites, economy on the shuttle route, quaint hotels in town...and a couple of finicky kids to consider.
In other words, choosing accommodations for a ski vacation can be overwhelming, especially if you're not familiar with the area.
To help, we asked our contributors (of the parental variety, of course, and well-versed on mountain travel) to dish on what they look for when booking a family ski trip.
(Hint: Walkability to the slopes and pools/hot tubs are the big winners.)
Room To Grow
We've got teenagers, and while our concept of family-friendly lodging has changed a bit through the years, three "must-haves" remain constant.
1. Ski In/ski out.
Teenagers crave independence.
Clicking in and skiing off without parental delay is our sons' number one priority.
Easy slope access keeps everyone happy.
2. Room to spread out.
Teenagers (and their stuff) are shockingly big, so we appreciate multi-room condos and adjoining hotel rooms.
The boys can stay up as late as they want and spread their gear all over the floor.
And I don't have to deal with any of it.
3. Hot Tub. Teenagers don't need a lot of extra amenities, given that they survive on good food and WiFi.
But at the end of a ski day, our family heads for the hot water.
It's one of the few places where parents can get kids' undivided attention.
It's where we laugh together, reminisce together and reconnect.
Lodging We Love:
The Grand Summit Hotel, Park City
The Grand Summit meets all of our priorities.
Conveniently located on the snow near the Red Pine Gondola and the Orange Bubble Chair, it's ski in/ski out with large rooms and condo options.
The hotel has three outdoor hot tubs and a big pool.
There's a coffee shop, restaurants, a spa, and childcare on site.
They even offer free ski storage.
With three school-aged kids (ages 10, 13, and 15), each with different ideas about what 'makes' a ski vacation, we need our lodging to appeal to the (diverse) masses.
Because we crave flexibility, location is the absolute most important criteria when we book.
On any given ski day, we may be going in up to four different directions: Our teens may want to take laps through the trees until the lifts stop turning, and our 10-year-old may want to be back 'home' by three to catch the village parade.
My husband is often slower to start than the rest of us, which makes the ability to walk to lifts crucial.
The second most important criteria (and perhaps the one activity everyone in the family agrees upon): an on-site hot tub and pool.
Kicking off the skis, storing them in our ski locker, and slipping into the hot tub within minutes of skiing into the village?
Our idea of perfect lodging.
Lodging We Love
The Springs at River Run Village, Keystone
The Springs is located in River Run Village, within steps of the gondola (and slopes), but also a two-minute walk to all village fun and Keystone Kidtopia activities (see Riperoo's Snow Parade, referenced above).
Plus, the Springs' outdoor heated freeform pool and two outdoor hot tubs are the best in River Run (our opinion, of course) and open year-round.
With two kids under the age of five, it is critical for us to have the following in a hotel room: a mini fridge (because our toddler demands yogurt and granola within minutes of waking up...pity the fool who doesn't comply);
a walk-in closet with a door that shuts so the toddler can sleep (try a Pack 'N Play) in a quiet, dark "room" while my husband and I stay up past the 7:30 p.m. bedtime;
and easy access to the ski hill, because our mornings are often spent dropping kids off at ski school and daycare and then getting ourselves ready-or we are all headed to the mountain and need the most convenient route possible.
Lodging We Love:
The Lodge at Vail, A RockResort
Long before we had kids, my husband and I splurged to stay here to celebrate our engagement.
We love the hotel's history (the first hotel in Vail!), its Austrian decor, and its intimate, welcoming feel.
Since having kids, we've stayed there at least once a winter, partly out of nostalgia and partly because it is supremely kid-friendly.
The Lodge's long hallways and different wings mystify the kids (in a good way-and in a way that lets us kill spare time "exploring" before meals); the outdoor pools are sublime; it's steps away from Gondola One; and the rooms (at least some of them) adhere to my criteria (fridge, walk-in closet).
More than anything, though, this hotel stands out for its unique, authentic homage to the "old world."
Stay here, and it's only a matter of time before you're scheming ways to pull off your family's first European ski vacation.
We have three kids, and not all of them are carving turns yet.
Our two older kids are ages 7 and 5, so any ski trip we take includes at least a day or two of lessons for them.
Our youngest is just 20 months, so the only thing she's rippin' so far is whatever she can get her hands on-and that doesn't include snow (yet).
Ideally, we look for accommodations that offer more than a place to crash.
Lots of hotels in ski towns offer Kids' Clubs, and that's a major perk, not just for our youngest, but also for the older kids who usually want a day off the slopes.
Nearby movie theaters, ice-rinks, and other outdoor activities are also a plus.
Lodging We Love:
Marriott Timber Lodge at Heavenly Village
It has all the things listed above.
This was the very first place we ever stayed on a ski vacation, long before we moved to Tahoe and made this place our home.
Kids love the "Cubhouse" Kids Club, and it's steps away from the Heavenly Gondola.
You Can Have It All
A lot of people associate "family friendly" with cookie-cutter accommodations that are durable-and sometimes, uncomfortable.
But we look for places that cater to all of us: our young kids (ages 7 and 5) who want fun amenities and an easy walk to ski school, and the adults who enjoy nice finishes like an upscale kitchen, quiet walls, and the perfect plush mattress to collapse on after a long day of skiing.
Lodging We Love:
One Ski Hill Place, A RockResort, Breckenridge Peak 8
With lifts, the gondola, and the ski base plaza right out the door, One Ski Hill nails it in the location category.
It's got "fun" in plenty of varieties for the kids-bowling alleys or movie lounges, anyone?-and enough in the luxury department to make us grownups feel like we're truly on vacation.
Happy kids, relaxed parents.
My family does adventure together.
Ski lessons and babysitters have their place, but when my wife and I head for ski country with the kids (10 and 7), we want lodging that makes the process less complicated and more enjoyable to spend time together.
A kitchenette is key: Immediate breakfast and après munchies ward off hangriness and help us manage food allergies.
An indoor pool and hot tub work wonders: The kids get an offslope way to play and relax, plus the poolside thrill of cheating mother nature while snow piles up against the windows.
And location rules.
Being able to walk to the slopes is Hack No. 1 for family skiing; it saves time and frustration and makes midday breaks easy.
And being on the bus line makes dining in town a breeze-it's also free entertainment for our easily amused kids.
Finding that ease-of-use blend on a budget is priority too, so we save the spas and more luxurious amenities for mom-and-dad getaways.
Lodging We Love:
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, Breckenridge
A short walk across the street puts you at the Beaver Run base at Breck's Peak 9, and our kids can't get enough of the indoor pool, outdoor hot tubs, and s'mores at the patio fire pit.
-Jeremy V. Jones