FX Excursions

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Get Out for Winter Fun at North America’s Family-Friendly Ski Destinations

by Allie Moore

Nov 19, 2020

© MARTINE OGER | DREAMSTIME.COM

November 2020

Winter breezes in, temperatures drop, and humans retreat indoors to Netflix-and-hibernate until spring. But 2020 has left us scrambling for any excuse to get out of the house and into a safe, socially distanced environment. Luckily, North America is littered with ski resorts that are no longer just for skiing. Nationwide, winter-wonderland theme parks invite families to not only explore the magic of a snow-covered mountain but also retreat inside for hot cocoa, board games or a run- of-the-mill wintertime visit to an indoor waterpark.

Most of North America’s winter sports resorts will open for the 2020–2021 season, but due to capacity limitations, some resorts encourage purchasing lift tickets in advance. Whether you’re keen for a long weekend away or a couple of months in an entirely new environment, here are some of the continent’s top resorts for cold-weather cheer.

ACCORDING TO A SUBSET of skiers, East Coast skiing doesn’t necessarily hold the same regard as Rocky Mountain skiing, but the snowy scenery in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania can be just as enchanting and the resorts just as enticing.

PHOTO: © CAMELBACK RESORT

An hour and a half outside New York City, Camelback Mountain Resort is home to the country’s largest snow-tubing park, while skiers and snowboarders can choose from 34 trails.

If the chill is too much for you, head inside to Aquatopia, an indoor waterpark with the longest “water coaster” in the country, called the Storm Chaser. Adults can have their own happy hour at Flyboys swim-up bar or rent a private cabana. Access to Aquatopia is included when you stay overnight at the resort.

Camelback Resort’s closest airports are Pocono Mountains Municipal Airport (10 miles), Lehigh Valley International Airport (38 miles) and Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport (40 miles). A rental car or private transfer is recommended to reach Camelback Resort. Buses depart from Port Authority in New York and drop passengers off at Mt. Pocono or Mt. Airy Casino, and taxi services are available for the onward trip.

JAY PEAK, VERMONT, is not a big name (yet), but this ski resort on the U.S.–Canada border is a rising star in North America, touting the most snow on the East Coast, with an average annual snowfall of 359 inches.

Jay Peak boasts 81 trails, but as the website intimates, the trail edges are only suggestions — skiers are encouraged to go off the beaten track.

After a day on the slopes, retire to Jay Peak Resort’s Pump House Water Park for a float around the lazy river or a soak in one of the indoor or outdoor hot tubs, or opt for an adrenaline-pumping ride down La Chute water slide. Athletically inclined vacationers can test their abilities on the FlowRider, a combination of skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding.

Jay Peak, located in the Green Mountains of Vermont, sits about 15 miles from the Canadian border. The nearest airports are Northeast Kingdom International Airport (23 miles) and Burlington International Airport (60 miles). Guests can book airport shuttles from six local airports or from the St. Albans Amtrak station, starting at $60 per person for a one-way trip.

© KEYSTONE RESORT

ABOUT 90 MINUTES southwest of Denver, Colorado, Keystone Resort invites families for playcations where kids under age 12 ski for free when families stay for two nights or more. Kids can get lost in the world’s largest snow fort or test their detective skills with scavenger hunts. To schlep the kids from the hotel or lodge to the slopes, Keystone offers free gear wagons to haul equipment through the village to the mountain.

Keystone officially opens for the winter season Nov. 6, with lift ticket sales to begin Dec. 8. Because of limited demand for the upcoming season, the resort recommends purchasing the Epic Day Pass, giving skiers priority access to reservations on the days of their choice.

Denver International Airport lies 90 miles east of Keystone, and the resort’s Epic Mountain Express shuttle service operates daily between DEN and resort hotels for an additional fee, with discounts for groups larger than three people. EME vans are equipped with WiFi. Private car service is also available via Premier Mountain Express.

TUCKED AWAY IN THE mountains outside Montréal, Québec, Mont-Tremblant boasts more than 100 ski and snowboarding trails as well as opportunities for snow biking, ice fishing, ice climbing and winter dune buggy rides.

Drop the little ones at the Kidz Club (for ages 6 and younger) or spend a day at Aqualab La Source, an indoor/outdoor water park. The cherry on top of the snow-covered sundae is kids under age 17 stay free when accompanied by an adult.

Direct flights are available to Mont-Tremblant International Airport from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport on Porter Airlines, or from Toronto Pearson Airport on Air Canada. Express shuttle service (40 minutes) runs from Mont-Tremblant International to select resort hotels for $40 per adult and $25 per child, round-trip. Resort guests also can travel by L’Express du Nord, a luxury coach from Galland Laurentides in Montréal, or by private transfer from Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (90 minutes).

WHISTLER BLACKCOMB is a well-known name among experienced skiers, and it’s not hard to see why. The mountains of British Columbia remain a year-round attraction for residents of Vancouver and the West Coast of the United States, spanning two mountains connected by gondolas.

Whistler Blackcomb is the family-friendly outpost of the greater Whistler resort, where kids are transported to a fairy-tale winter wonderland via the Magic Castle, Tree Fort and Enchanted Woods skiing area. At Winter Olympic Plaza, kids can build snowmen, sled or play hockey, while parents can shop or sip hot cocoa at nearby cafés. When you need a break from the kids, drop them off at one of Whistler’s four licensed childcare facilities. Whistler Blackcomb opens Nov. 26 for the winter season.

Vancouver International Airport lies two hours from Whistler Resort. Daily shuttles operate from the airport as well as select hotels in downtown Vancouver. Transfer companies include the Snowbus, the YVR Skylynx (16 daily trips between Vancouver Airport and Whistler), Perimeter Transportation, Epic Rides and Whistler Taxi, among others.

LODGING

Fairmont Tremblant
Hotel offers include Just Like Home with a 30 percent discount on luxury suites with kitchens, or Office with a View, including private lounge access and unlimited coffee.
3045 Chemin de la Chapelle Mont-Tremblant, Québec
$$$

Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler
Bask in the luxury and hospitality you’ve come to expect from Four Seasons. All rooms, suites and residences have a cozy fireplace and a balcony with mountain views.
4591 Blackcomb Way Whistler, British Columbia
$$$$

Great Wolf Lodge – Pocono Mountains
The Great Wolf Lodge is packed with plenty of kid-friendly indoor activities like nightly story times, PJ parties, visits with Great Wolf characters and an indoor waterpark.
1 Great Wolf Drive Scotrun, Pennsylvania
$$$$

DINING

The Foundry Pub & Grille
Warm up with a bowl of New England clam chowder or sample the famous Vermonter flatbread: bacon, spiced apple chutney, Cheddar and maple mustard garlic, cooked in a ceramic oven.
830 Jay Peak Road Jay, Vermont
$$$$

Kartrite’s Summit House
Ski into and out of the Poconos’ highest restaurant (at an elevation of 2,133 feet). Contemporary American dishes pair perfectly with craft beverages, and the space is also available for private events.
Big Pocono State Park Tannersville, Pennsylvania
$$

Sleigh Ride Dinner
Hop into a private, horse- drawn sleigh for a 20-minute ride through the woods to a cabin restaurant. Book through Keystone Resort. The price includes dinner and live folk music.
Lakeside Village Keystone, Colorado
$$$$$

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