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12 Top California Ski Resorts for Big Families – Which one is Best for Your Kids?

    Famed for its gorgeous beaches, stunning coastline, and year-round perfect weather, the Golden State also boasts some of the country’s most popular ski destinations. As home to dozens of major resorts, California holds its own as a world-class destination for winter sports. Plus, with resorts less than a two-hour drive from the coast, family vacationers can hit the waves on one day and the slopes on the next. Unless otherwise noted, all resorts offer equipment rentals and group or private lessons for skiers of all ages. Here’s a list of California’s best destinations for skiing, snowboarding, and winter fun that are perfect for big families.

    Alpine bowl

    Alpine Meadows, Alpine Meadows, California

    Located 15 minutes from North Lake Tahoe, Alpine Meadows encompasses 2,400 acres of ski and snowboarding terrain. Considered one of Lake Tahoe’s Big Six ski resorts, Alpine Meadows features 100 trails of all difficulties, an average annual snowfall of 450 inches, and on-site snowmaking. The resort also offers several programs specifically designed for beginners and young children. Alpine Meadows is now part of Palisades Tahoe. Your lift tickets are valid at both Palisades and Alpine. You can ride the base-to-base gondola 2.4 miles across the Sierra Nevada’s Pacific Crest to Palisade Tahoe ski resort or take a 15-minute shuttle bus.

    Alpine Meadows Details for Families

    • Stats: 100 runs, 2000 skiable acres, and 1802′ vertical drop
    • Terrain Overview: 25-40-35
    • Average Snowfall: 495″
    • Lifts: 14- 1 sixpack, 1 quad, 4 triples, 5 doubles, 3 Poma lifts
    • Kids Club and Day Care: None
    • Lessons and Ski School: Adult, Private, Family Private, Child (Ages 3-4, 5-7, 8-13)
    • Kids Ski Free: Children 4 and under are free
    • Parking: Free first-come, first-serve parking. Carpool lot with 800 spaces for carpoolers with 3+ passengers.

    Alpine Meadows Lift Tickets

    • Direct – Alpine Meadows / Palisades Tahoe
    • Guests who stay at The Village at Palisades Tahoe can purchase discounted lift tickets.
    • Ikon Friends & Family Tickets get 25% off the daily window rate.

    Big Family Lodging Near Alpine Meadows

    Alpine Meadows Ski Vacation Packages

    Badger Pass.

    Badger Pass Ski Area, Yosemite National Park, California

    About four hours east of San Francisco by car, the Badger Pass Ski Area draws fewer crowds than most of the Tahoe area resorts. In general, passes, rentals, and accommodations cost less at Badger Pass than at many of the state’s other ski destinations. Big families with children will find Badger Pass easy to manage and stress-free.

    Located inside Yosemite Park, Badger Pass Ski Area boasts some of the region’s most stunning scenery. The state’s oldest ski resort offers alpine skiing, snow tubing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. When it’s time for a break from the slopes, nearby Yosemite Park attractions include Tuolumne Meadows, Half Dome, and Cloud’s Rest.

    Badger Pass Details for Families

    • Stats: 10 runs, 100 skiable acres, and an 800′ vertical drop
    • Terrain Overview: 85% beginner
    • Average Snowfall: 300″
    • Lifts: 5- 1 triple chair, 3 double chairs, 1 surface lift
    • Kids Club and Day Care: None available
    • Lessons and Ski School: Adult, Private, Child (Ages 7-12)
    • Kids Ski Free: No
    • Parking: Limited parking, free shuttle bus service from multiple locations in Yosemite Valley

    Badger Pass Lift Tickets

    Big Family Lodging Near Badger Pass

    Badger Pass Ski Vacation Packages

    China Peak, Lakeshore, California

    One of central California’s best-kept secrets, China Peak features 49 named trails spread out over 1,200 acres. Located 69 miles northeast of Fresno, China Peak offers a mix of big resort amenities and local flavor. Skiers get up and down the mountain quickly thanks to a total of 9 lifts. There are also three separate terrain parks for advanced skiers as well as a novice-rated trail that runs almost two and a half miles. Typically, China Peak enjoys around 300 inches of good powder snow each year. Check out the Mighty Mountain Tube Hill for additional snow fun.

    China Peak Details for Families

    • Stats: 45 runs, 1200 skiable acres, and 1679′ vertical drop
    • Terrain Overview: 11-28-61
    • Average Snowfall: 150″
    • Lifts: 9- 2 triples, 3 doubles, 1 t-bar, 2 handle tows
    • Kids Club and Day Care: None available
    • Lessons and Ski School: First Timers, Mini Skier – age 3, Kids – ages 4-10
    • Kids Ski Free: Kids 5 and under ski free

    China Peak Lift Tickets

    • Direct – China Peak
    • Part of Indy Pass
    • Part of Powder Alliance

    Big Family Lodging Near China Peak

    China Peak Ski Vacation Packages

    Heavenly Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California

    Also located in Lake Tahoe, the Heavenly Ski Resort has runs for all levels of skiers including an impressive 1,600-foot chute, as well as a variety of beginner and intermediate slopes. Heavenly also draws freestylers from far and wide. In all, Heavenly boasts 97 runs, 28 chairlifts, 34 miles of groomed trails covering 4,800 skiable acres, and the West Coast’s longest trail, which clocks in at five miles. During the off-season or for visitors who don’t ski, a 2.4-mile gondola takes riders from downtown Lake Tahoe to an Observation Deck (no lift ticket required), before continuing up to the resort. At the top, guests can use their gondola ticket to hop on the Tamarack Express chairlift and proceed even farther up the mountain to a series of hiking trails. The scenic ride offers breathtaking, panoramic views of the lake and beyond. 

    Heavenly Details for Families

    • Stats: 97 runs, 4800 skiable acres, and 3500′ vertical drop
    • Terrain Overview: 20-45-35
    • Average Snowfall: 350″
    • Lifts: 28- 1 tram, 1 gondola, 1 sixpack, 5 quads, 8 triples, 5 doubles, 6 surfaces, magic carpets
    • Kids Club and Day Care: Heavenly Child Care & Nursery for ages 6 weeks to 6 years.
    • Lessons and Ski School: Group, Private, Adult (ages 15+), Child (ages 3-14)
    • Kids Ski Free: kids 4 and under ski free
    • Parking: Free parking, shuttle service available

    Heavenly Lift Tickets

    • Direct – Heavenly
    • Part of Epic Pass
    • Part of Tahoe pass

    Big Family Lodging Near Heavenly

    Heavenly Ski Vacation Packages

    Homewood Mountain Ski Resort, Homewood, California

    Over 60 trails and more than 2,000 acres of skiing and snowboarding terrain make Homewood Mountain Ski Resort one of Lake Tahoe’s most popular ski areas. Beginners will find a variety of trails to choose from, as will intermediate and expert skiers. Other family fun at Homewood Mountain Ski Resort includes drive-in movies, weekly live entertainment, and typical outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and kayaking.

    Homewood Mountain Details for Families

    • Stats: 67 runs, 2000 skiable acres, and vertical drop
    • Terrain Overview: 15-50-35
    • Average Snowfall: 350″
    • Lifts: 8- 1 quad, 2 triples, 1 double, 4 surface
    • Kids Club and Day Care: None available
    • Lessons and Ski School: Adult, Snow Scouts (ages 5-6), Mountain Ranger (ages 7-12), Private
    • Kids Ski Free: Free lift tickets for kids 4 and under
    • Parking: Paid parking – parking passes available online

    Homewood Mountain Lift Tickets

    Big Family Lodging Near Homewood Mountain

    Homewood Mountain Ski Vacation Packages

    look at that powder!

    Kirkwood Ski Resort, Kirkwood, California

    Kirkwood’s location, about 32 miles south of downtown Lake Tahoe, gives it a more remote vibe than many of the resorts located closer to town. The Kirkwood Resort sits atop the picturesque Sierra Crest peak. Its steep slopes, deep powder base, and diverse terrain attract mainly expert skiers and snowboarders. For nature lovers, Kirkwood’s peaceful mountain atmosphere and rustic alpine architecture offer the ideal winter getaway. The “JETS” youth program at Kirkwood offers kids the opportunity to improve their abilities while bonding with the same teammates and coach throughout the season. 

    Kirkwood Ski Resort Details for Families

    • Stats: 86 runs, 2300 skiable acres, and 2000′ vertical drop
    • Terrain Overview: 15-50-35
    • Average Snowfall: 500″
    • Lifts: 12- 2 quads, 7 triples, 1 double, 2 handle tows
    • Kids Club and Day Care: None available
    • Lessons and Ski School: Adult, Private, Child (ages 3-4, 5-6, 7-14)
    • Kids Ski Free: 4 and under ski free
    • Parking: Free parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis

    Kirkwood Ski Resort Lift Tickets

    Big Family Lodging Near Kirkwood Ski Resort

    Kirkwood Ski Resort Ski Vacation Packages

    Mammoth Mountain, Mammoth Lakes, California

    Over 3,500 acres of terrain, a modern resort village, and ample runs for every level of skier make Mammoth Mountain the perfect winter destination for a family vacation. Located in the gorgeous Sierra National Forest, Mammoth Mountain is also the closest major ski resort to Las Vegas. With three base lodges, 27 lifts, and 175 trails, the Mammoth Mountain Resort is California’s largest ski area. Each of Mammoth’s base lodges also features a Mammoth Kids School, which offers ski lessons for the little ones. Wolly’s Tube Park and Snow Play offers tubing, merry-go-round tubes, and surf sleds.

    Mammoth Mountain Details for Families

    • Stats: 150 runs, 3500 skiable acres, and 3100′ vertical drop
    • Terrain Overview: 25-40-35
    • Average Snowfall: 384″
    • Lifts: 27- 3 gondola, 1 sixpack, 9 quads, 7 triples, 5 doubles, 2 Poma lifts
    • Kids Club and Day Care: Located in The Village, child care is available for ages 2-6
    • Lessons and Ski School: Adult (ages 13+), Kids (ages 3-14), Private, Adaptive
    • Kids Ski Free: Kids 4 and under ski free
    • Parking: Free general parking and paid (cash only) preferred parking are available.

    Mammoth Mountain Lift Tickets

    Big Family Lodging Near Mammoth Mountain

    Mammoth Mountain Ski Vacation Packages

    Mt. Shasta Ski Park, McCloud, California

    Tucked away in the northern part of the state, about 60 miles from the Oregon border, the Mt. Shasta Ski Park offers skiing, snowboarding, and tubing in a breathtaking setting. Mt. Shasta’s location adjacent to Interstate 5 makes it easy to get there from points north and south. From coastal areas, California’s Trinity Scenic Byway makes getting to Mt. Shasta an adventure, as well. Overall, Mt. Shasta features 635 acres of skiable terrain (20 percent beginner, 45 percent intermediate, and 35 percent advanced), 38 trails, and 275 inches of annual snowfall. 

    Mt. Shasta Details for Families

    • Stats: 32 runs, 425 skiable acres, and 1435′ vertical drop
    • Terrain Overview: 20-55-25
    • Average Snowfall: 300″
    • Lifts: 5- 3 triple chairs, 2 surface lifts
    • Kids Club and Day Care: None available
    • Lessons and Ski School: Private, Group (ages 5-9, ages 10+), Adaptive
    • Kids Ski Free: Kids 4 and under ski free

    Mt. Shasta Lift Tickets

    • Direct – Mt. Shasta
    • Part of Indy Pass
    • Family Pass for two adults and any number of minors under the age of 18

    Big Family Lodging Near Mt. Shasta

    Mt. Shasta Ski Vacation Packages

    North Star- Lake Tahoe-2006

    Northstar-at-Tahoe, Truckee, California

    Along with skiing, tubing, and snowboarding, Lake Tahoe’s NorthStar California Resort also features snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and fat-tire biking. NorthStar’s host town of Truckee, California, has its own movie theater, lots of shops and restaurants, and a historic downtown area. The resort boasts several upscale lodgings, seasonal live entertainment, and a charming ice-skating rink. 

    Northstar-at-Tahoe Details for Families

    • Stats: 100 runs, 2420 skiable acres, and 2280′ vertical drop
    • Terrain Overview: 25-50-25
    • Average Snowfall: 350″
    • Lifts: 17- 1 gondola, 6 quads, 7 triples, 2 doubles, 6 surface
    • Kids Club and Day Care: None available
    • Lessons and Ski School: Adult, Private, Child (3-4, 5-6, 7-14)
    • Kids Ski Free: Kids 4 and under ski free
    • Parking: Free parking at Village View and Castle Peak on a first-come, first-served basis. Premium paid parking at the Lower Village lot.

    Northstar-at-Tahoe Lift Tickets

    Big Family Lodging Near Northstar-at-Tahoe

    Northstar-at-Tahoe Ski Vacation Packages

    Sierra-at-Tahoe as viewed from entrance

    Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort, Twin Bridges, California

    About a half-hour drive from downtown South Lake Tahoe, the family-friendly Sierra-at-Tahoe resort consists of 2,000 Acres of skiing, snowboarding, and tubing terrain. Forty-seven trails, 14 lifts, and six terrain parks keep waiting to a minimum at Sierra-at-Tahoe. Family activities include four kids-only Adventure Zones, two lift-accessed tubing hills at Blizzard Mountain, and a dedicated children’s snow play area.

    Sierra-at-Tahoe Details for Families

    • Stats: 46 runs, 2000 skiable acres, and 2212′ vertical drop
    • Terrain Overview: 25-50-25
    • Average Snowfall: 480″
    • Lifts: 11- 3 quads, 1 triple, 5 doubles, 2 surface lifts
    • Kids Club and Day Care: Wild Mountain Daycare for children 18-months to entry into 1st grade
    • Lessons and Ski School: Adult (ages 13+), Private, Cubbie (age 3), Pioneer ( ages 4-6), Explorer (ages 7-12)
    • Kids Ski Free: Kids 4 and under ski free
    • Parking: Free parking, availability on a first-come, first-served basis

    Sierra-at-Tahoe Lift Tickets

    Big Family Lodging Near Sierra-at-Tahoe

    Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Vacation Packages

    Snow Summit Ski Resort, Big Bear Lake, California

    Located adjacent to Big Bear Lake and less than two hours east of Los Angeles by car, Snow Summit Ski Resort features Southern California’s most dependable conditions and longest ski season. Enjoy both Bear Mountain and Snow Summit with your one lift ticket. Snow Summit has 31 runs, 15 lifts, and 240 acres of snow-covered terrain. For tubers, the nearby Big Bear Snow Play & Ropes Course boasts Southern California’s longest tubing run. Check website for night skiing dates. The Village at Big Bear Lake has lots of family-friendly shopping, dining, and nightlife, as well as seasonal events throughout the year. 

    Snow Summit Details for Families

    • Stats: 31 runs, 240 skiable acres, and 1200′ vertical drop
    • Terrain Overview: 19-48-26-7
    • Average Snowfall: 100″
    • Lifts: 16
    • Kids Club and Day Care: None available
    • Lessons and Ski School: Adult (ages 13+), Private, Child (ages 5-12)
    • Kids Ski Free: Kids 4 and under ski free
    • Parking: Free parking available on a first-come, first-served basis. Paid parking for upper lot on select dates.

    Snow Summit Lift Tickets

    Big Family Lodging Near Snow Summit

    Snow Summit Ski Vacation Packages

    Olympic Valley at Palisades Tahoe, Olympic Valley, California

    Now known as Palisades Tahoe, the renamed ski resort proudly counts itself as one of the world’s elite Winter Olympic sites. Along with skiing and snowboarding, other popular family activities at the resort include a free Olympic Museum, a scenic aerial tram, and the SnoVentures Activity Zone located at the Palisades base area. Your lift tickets are valid at both Palisades and Alpine. You can take the base-to-base gondola 2.4 miles across the Sierra Nevada’s pacific Crest to Alpine Meadows ski resort or take a 15-minute shuttle bus ride.

    Palisades Tahoe Details for Families

    • Stats: 170 runs, 3600 skiable acres, and 2850′ vertical drop
    • Terrain Overview: 25-45-30
    • Average Snowfall: 450″
    • Lifts: 29- 1 tram, 1 Funitel, 4 6-pack, 3 quads, 1 fixed-grip quad, 9 triples, 5 doubles, 3 surfaces, 2 carpet
    • Kids Club and Day Care: None available
    • Lessons and Ski School: Adult, Private, Family Private, Child (Ages 3-4), Child (Ages 5-7), Child (Ages 8-13)
    • Kids Ski Free: Children 4 and under are free
    • Parking: Free first-come, first-serve parking. Carpool lot with 800 spaces for carpoolers with 3+ passengers.

    Palisades Tahoe Lift Tickets

    • Direct – Palisades Tahoe
    • Guests who stay at The Village at Palisades Tahoe can purchase discounted lift tickets.
    • Ikon Friends & Family Tickets get 25% off the daily window rate.

    Big Family Lodging Near Palisades Tahoe

    Palisades Tahoe Ski Vacation Packages

    Sugar Bowl Sunshine

    Sugar Bowl, Norden, California

    Few names say “family” more than Walt Disney, whose investment in the Sugar Bowl Resort earned him a peak that honors his name. The Sugar Bowl’s easygoing vibe, overall affordability, and fewer crowds make it one of the state’s most family-friendly skiing destinations. The Sugar Bowl’s location, just a 15-minute drive from the Truckee exit on Interstate 80, adds to its popularity for a day on the slopes. 

    Sugar Bowl Details for Families

    • Stats: 103 runs, 1500 skiable acres, and 1500′ vertical drop
    • Terrain Overview: 17-43-40
    • Average Snowfall: 500″
    • Lifts: 12- 1 gondola, 7 quads, 2 doubles, 1 surface lift, 1 base chair
    • Kids Club and Day Care: None available
    • Lessons and Ski School: Adult (ages 13+), Private, Child (ages 4-6, 7-12)
    • Kids Ski Free: Kids 5 and under ski free
    • Parking: Free parking available on a first-come, first-served basis

    Sugar Bowl Lift Tickets

    Big Family Lodging Near Sugar Bowl

    Sugar Bowl Ski Vacation Packages

    California Ski Resort Comparison for Families

    Ski AreaSki LessonsDaycareKids Ski Free2022 Adult Price*
    Alpine MeadowsYesNo4 and under$119-195
    Badger PassYesNoNo
    China PeakYesNo5 and under$113
    HeavenlyYesYes4 and under$189
    HomewoodYesNo4 and under$109
    KirkwoodYesNo4 and under$116
    MammothYesYes4 and under$149
    Mt ShastaYesNo4 and under$79
    Northstar-at-TahoeYesNo4 and under$159
    Palisades TahoeYesNo4 and under$149
    Sierra at TahoeYesNo4 and under$125
    Snow SummitYesNo4 and under$115
    Sugar BowlYesNo5 and under$125
    *prices fluctuate depending on day, purchased online vs in-person, other discounts

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    Theresa Jorgensen

    Theresa is the mother of four including twins. She is the owner of SixSuitcaseTravel, a travel site for big families of 5, 6, 7, 8. She enjoys helping other big families build life-long travel memories. Her family's travel bucket list includes Washington, DC (done!), Yellowstone (done!), London, and anywhere in the Caribbean.