An increase in families skiing, women skiers and the use of technology on the slopes has prompted mountain resorts to breathe fresh air into snow sports lessons and slope-side activities.
Mammoth Mountain, Eastern Sierras (10001 Minaret Road; 800-626-6684; www.mammothmountain.com; App: Mammoth Mountain)
Heard the big news? The Mammoth Mountain Ski Area – owner of Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain – recently acquired Big Bear Mountain Resorts (Bear Mountain and Snow Summit). They’ve created a new Cali4nia Pass valid at all four mountains, but no other changes are taking place yet.
With more families visiting the past two years, Mammoth stepped up its ski and snowboard lessons and snow play activities. The Unbound Terrain Park Playground has instructional signs for newbies and lessons limited to four or fewer skiers and snowboarders (grouped by ability). Wooley’s Tube Park has groomed lanes and a separate area with surf sledding for ages 12 and younger. The Kids Stay & Ski Free deal (12 and younger) is valid at any Mammoth Lodging Collection Property from Feb. 22-March 15. Book by Dec. 20.
June Mountain (3819 Hwy. 158; 800-586-3686; www.junemountain.com)
This picturesque ski area with awesome lake views might not have the bells and whistles of Mammoth Mountain, but kids ages 12 and younger ski or ride free there all season with no blackout dates. The resort is ideal for young families and people who prefer a more intimate ski experience.
Big Bear Mountain Resorts (880 Summit Blvd.; 909-866-5766; www.bigbearmountainresorts.com; Apps: Snow Summit Mtn. and Bear Mtn.)
Kids ages 6 and younger ski/ride free at both Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. Generally skiers gravitate toward family-friendly Snow Summit (check out the Family Park) and snowboarders to hip Bear Mountain’s terrain parks. Lessons for all ages are available. To rent a cabin or house, visit www.bigbearvacations.com.
Snow Valley (35100 California 18, Running Springs; 909-867-2751; www.snow-valley.com)
For a quick trip to the slopes, head to Snow Valley, situated at a lower elevation than Big Bear. Although it usually gets less snow and has fewer trails, it’s ideal for beginners and young families. Short lift lines are another bonus. Kids ages 6 and under ski free with a paying adult. Save with the Family Fun Pack, which includes four lift tickets (two adults, two kids ages 7-12) for $115.
Mountain High, Wrightwood (24510 California 2; 888-754-7878; www.mthigh.com; App: Mountain High)
This resort attracts mostly snowboarders, but its close proximity to L.A. makes it a fun place to ski with kids, too. The Children’s Academy gets ages 4-9 up on skis and snowboards (from $79 per half-day, rentals and lunch included). Kids ages 6 and under ski free. SoCal fifth graders (from San Diego to Santa Barbara and extending to Las Vegas) get a free ski pass.
Northstar California Resort, Tahoe (5001 Northstar Drive, Truckee; 800-466-6784; www.northstarcalifornia.com)
A part of Vail Resorts, this laid-back luxury resort features a self-contained village complete with lodging, restaurants, shops, a movie theater and skating arena. The Ultimate 4 Lessons, for kids and adults, limit the number of students per group to four so you get lots of one-on-one time with your instructor. Private and group lessons are also available. Vail Resorts surveyed visitors and found that women would like customized lessons and more time with their children, and so is offering new programs through the Women in Skiing initiative this winter. In the Women’s Ultimate 4 lesson offered on Mondays, female skiers and riders learn or brush up on skills with a female coach. Mommy and Me lessons (offered at select Vail Resorts) enable an instructor to spend time with a mom and child, and provide tips for developing the child’s skills. Family Après Snow Play includes interactive snow sculptures, sleds, music, s’mores, bungee trampoline, skating and featured wine selections for Mom and Dad. Sign up for EpicMix, a free online and mobile application, to share photos and skills you’ve learned in ski school, and track where you’ve skied.