Cumbersome equipment. Expensive lift tickets. Hours of exercise. For some, like my husband, taking the kids skiing on the weekends is the closest thing to heaven on earth. For me, the best part is a lodge with Wi-Fi, surrounded by the warm glow of a flickering fireplace. But I'm happy for them, happy that there's actually one activity that all three of my kids—ages 10, 12, and 15—enjoy doing together. Even if it with my skiing fanatic husband and not with me. I can admire them from afar—through the lodge's panoramic windows.
So where do families go when they want to ski on the weekend? Little-known fact: It's not Colorado that boasts the most ski resorts, but New York, which has at least 44 ski areas. And New Jersey doesn't fare too poorly itself, with its Mountain Creek, the Hidden Valley Club, and Campgaw Mountain.
Indeed, if you want to stick to New Jersey skiing, check out this site, which gives a nice rundown of places close to home. (Mountain Creek, for example, is only about a 45-minute drive from Montclair.) If you want to rent ski equipment for the season, I'd recommend either Pelican Shops, with several locations in New Jersey, or Ski Barn, with outlets not too far from Montclair—in both Wayne and Paramus.
Meanwhile, here are five out-of-state ski areas I'd recommend checking out for the long holiday weekends coming up if you want to get your family skiing—but outside the Garden State.
1. Whiteface at Lake Placid in the Adirondack Mountains was host to the 1980 (and 1932) Winter Olympics and has the biggest vertical drop (3,430 feet) of any resort east of the Rockies. Yet apparently it doesn't draw a lot of visitors each year, except during the week after Christmas, which is when we went. This is a charming town, and there are plenty of fun activities to keep all ages busy – bobsledding, snowshoeing, and ice skating (on the Olympic rink) are just a few, in addition to great skiing. This resort also offers a wide variety of accommodations in all price ranges. For more information, go here. We stayed at the Placid Bay Inn, which I'd highly recommend. Although nothing fancy, we were able to snag a two-bedroom suite with a kitchen for just over $200 a night—and it's located right off the main drag.
2. Gore Mountain is another huge ski area outside Lake George in upstate New York. Improvements this year include increased snowmaking, new trails and more restaurant and lodging choices. Go here for more information and to learn about special packages. For example, there's a three-day Martin Luther King Weekend holiday camp for kids up to age 12, from Saturday-Monday, January 15-17, for $305. Another good package is available for President's Day weekend in February. The resort opens the day after Thanksgiving with the season running through mid-April. This resort is heavy on intermediate trails, but there are also plenty of trails to keep advanced skiers challenged as well.
3. Always ranked high in listings of family-friendly resorts is Smugglers' Notch in Vermont. Not only does this resort offer some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the region, it also offers award-winning kids' programs as well as a wide range of lodging and dining choices. The resort's Snow Sport University, which generally opens in mid-December, starts kids at age 2½ on skis and age 4 on snowboards. For those with babies, there is childcare available for those as young as six weeks. If that's not enough to get your attention, there's also dog sledding, tube sliding, indoor pools, arcades and all sorts of activities to keep even jaded teenagers entertained. For more information, go here.
4. Another popular Vermont resort is Stowe, which last year boasted the addition of a new inter-mountain transfer lift, new trails, a new beginner area and new fully automated snowmaking on Spruce Peak. The new Stowe Mountain Lodge is the first mountainside luxury hotel to debut in the East in decades. For families, there is daycare available for children age 13 months and older. There are also lessons for children age 3 on up. You can save up to 35 percent on lessons and childcare if you go midweek or during a non-holiday period. For more information, go here.
5. Turning to New Hampshire, skiers should check out the well-loved resort at Bretton Woods, the state's largest ski area, with 434 acres of skiing and snowboarding, including 101 trails and glades, as well as four terrain parks. The ride up the mountain here is a fun one thanks to four high-speed quads. Bretton Woods, with its family craft afternoons and game nights, is a real winner with children. For more information, go here.