Family Snow Adventures VC_CatchTheWinterWave_FamilySnow_Supplied_Mammoth_2017_JUNE_WINTER_016_1280x640
Courtesy of Mammoth Resorts

Family Snow Adventures

Family Snow Adventures
From riding snowmachines to old-fashioned snowman-building, here’s where to find kid-friendly adventures off the slopes

Taking your family to the mountains this winter? Whether your crew is full of avid skiers or contented snowman-makers, the California snow offers a variety of fun ways to spend a winter family holiday, from the resorts such as Heavenly, Squaw Valley, and Alpine Meadows, near Lake Tahoe, down to Big Bear Mountain and Snow Summit in Southern California. “California ski resorts are so cognisant of families now that they do everything they can to make it as easy as possible for parents and kids,” says Mike Reitzell, president of the California Ski Industry Association. And while resorts offer plenty of kid lessons, rental packages, and “kids ski free” options, be sure to include other kinds of family fun in the snow. These activities can help slowly introduce snow newbies to the mountain, provide an afternoon activity for kids who can’t ski all day, or just offer easy ways for the whole family to play together. From snowshoes to snowmobiling, sled competitions to Star Wars training camps, here are some of the coolest kid-friendly activities at California ski resorts.

 

Snowshoeing at Northstar

The Tahoe resort has gotten raves from Forbes for being family oriented, thanks to its pedestrian-friendly village with an ice rink, and perks like wagons for toting your gear. All ages can enjoy the resort’s family snowshoe tours, offered on select Sundays throughout the winter. Strap on a pair of snowshoes (or rent a ski stroller for tiny tourers) and follow your guide for a three-hour snow walk along family-friendly trails. You’ll end your journey at a red caboose in an alpine meadow where kids and adults can indulge in well-deserved hot chocolate and cookies. All tours begin at 1 p.m. and are open to all ages and ability levels. Just be sure to make reservations early, since this popular tour often sells out.

 

Snowmobiling at MammothJust in case there are some non-skiers in the family (or some just don’t ski on the same runs), here’s a nice way to keep everyone in one pack: Experience the snowy backcountry on snowmobiles. Mammoth Snowmobile Adventures combines experienced guides with top-of-the-line equipment to help your family explore large meadows, lush pine forests, historic landmarks, and acres of backcountry trails. Kids 16 years and older with a valid driver’s license and a parent present can steer their own snowmobile, while kids 5 and older can ride with a parent. Snowmobile season begins mid-December; helmets are provided and additional clothing is available to rent if needed. Mammoth’s other big crowd-pleaser, meanwhile, is Woolly’s Tube Park and Play Zone, with its night tubing, merry-go-round, and plenty of room for old-fashioned snowman-building.

 

Learn to Ski Like a Jedi at Sierra-at-Tahoe

Have kids who are reluctant to try snowboard lessons? At Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort, Star Wars fans can learn to board—surrounded by images of Yoda, Chewbacca, and R2-D2—at Burton’s Star Wars Experience. Younglings (age 3-6) can work on techniques such as balance and movement with the help of Burton’s tow-like Riglet Reel and other specially designed training gear, while older Padawans (age 7-12) will move onto Echo Base to further their training in control and turns on sculpted terrains. The full-day programme includes lessons, equipment, lunch, snacks, and other games and activities.

 

Once they’re ready for the slopes, kids can explore the mountain’s kid-designated adventure zones—with themes like the Gold Rush, Native American teepees, and more Star Wars—punctuated along the way with educational signs and kid-friendly terrain elements such as rollers and mini jumps.

 

Race to Win at Tahoe Donner

Do your kids thrive on competition? Visit Truckee’s Tahoe Donner—a smaller ski area that’s especially family- and beginner-friendly—during its annual Winter Superstar week, held in February, for ski and snowboard races, sled pulls, and a mini terrain park competition for all ages. Look for the schedule of events to be posted online in early February and sign up to compete—or, just come and watch. Stick around until the last day for the Glowstick Parade and Carnival, a kid version of the Torchlight Parade with glowsticks for age 10 or younger. Come early for carnival games, snacks, and music.

 

Ride the Largest SoCal Tubing Park at Mountain High

With up to 12 different lanes, two moving carpets, and custom tubes, Mountain High’s North Pole Tubing Park is the largest park of its kind in Southern California, and offers an easy day of play in the snow (kids should be at least 36 inches tall). Ride solo, challenge family members to races, or make a chain. Space is limited, so grab your reservation early for one of the four different tubing sessions throughout the day, or buy an all-day pass for true tubing enthusiasts.  

For skiing and snowboarding, Mountain High offers a deep range of lessons for first-timers. January is Learn to Ski month here, too, with plenty of discounts for bundled classes.

 

 

Rock Climb at Snow Summit

Kids can scale new heights on the 30-foot rock climbing wall at Snow Summit’s Base Camp. Once they’re helmeted and harnessed, kids can test their strength, determination, and fear of heights as they ascend easy or challenging routes to the top of the rock tower. Buy a ticket for a onetime climb or an Adventure Pass for all-day climbing. The Base Camp’s new Summit Kids Center, meanwhile, has become the new nerve centre for families visiting the resort. The new 3,000-square-foot learning center offers streamlined access to rentals, tickets, and kid lessons.

 

Kate Bayless

Family Snow Adventures VCW_D_HS_Hero_packtrip_Sunset-TS_1280x642_sized
Thomas H. Story/ Sunset Publishing

Northern California

Discover the High Sierra

Family Snow Adventures vca_maps_highsierra
7
October
Average (°C)
Sept - Nov
18°
High
-4°
Low
Dec - Feb
3°
High
-7°
Low
Mar - May
12°
High
-5°
Low
June - Aug
22°
High
5°
Low

Snow-covered peaks in winter, gushing waterfalls in spring, wild flower meadows and glistening lakes in the summer, vibrant colours in the autumn, this is a land of dramatic and wild beauty. World class mountain resorts circling turquoise blue water, both Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Lakes cater to all, with scenic ski trails in winter and trails and views in summer.

Yosemite Valley…is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and gold and wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”  --photographer Ansel Adams

Yosemite National Park, a World Heritage Site, is here, about three-and-a-half  hours east of San Francisco. Whether you hike a mountain, ski the steeps or lounge in a hot tub beneath a canopy of stars, you will find your perfect getaway. 

 

Family Snow Adventures IMG_3821[1]
At 14,505 ft. above sea level, Mt. Whitney is the highest point in the contiguous United States.
Family Snow Adventures BassLake_AmyMeredith_flickr_1280x642
Amy Meredith/Flickr

Bass Lake

Visit a mini Tahoe south of Yosemite

Some think of Bass Lake, the pine-trimmed reservoir about 30 minutes’ drive south of Yosemite National Park’s south entrance, as a smaller version...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Family-friendly resorts, snowy escapes

High Sierra peaks, deep drifts on a Mammoth volcano, family friendly resorts, snowy escapes on the edge of Yosemite and more - California has enough alpine destinations to keep any skier or...

Family Snow Adventures MammothMountain_1251_preview_686x885
SPECIAL FEATURE
Relax after a day on the slopes

Kicking back after you kick off your boots is a snow-country tradition, and there’s plenty of post-slopes fun at California’s top alpine resorts. Have a beer or warm up with an Irish coffee, dance...

Family Snow Adventures KTBaseBar_JeffEnegerbretson_SquawValley_preview_686x885
Jeff Enegerbretson
Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.
Ansel Adams
Family Snow Adventures VCW_D_Yosemite_Hero_20140503_Yosemite_hero_1280x642

Trip 6-7 days 10 stops

Sierra Adventure

Granite peaks, alpine valleys, towering trees-the High Sierra is nature's playground all year-round
Family Snow Adventures VCW_D_HS_T3_Tahoe_Swim_Farnum_0

Blue as a topaz and circled by majestic peaks, this High Sierra gem straddling the California Nevada border is a must, a place where the air is 'very pure and fine...it is the same the angels breathe,' according to author Mark Twain. Lake front towns dot the shoreline, each with their own appeal...

Family Snow Adventures CalaverasBTSP_sized

On your way to this park, save time to visit the charming Gold Country town of Murphys (a great place for wine tasting and innovative dining along the town’s main street). Then continue north and east to discover peaceful groves of giant sequoias at this under-the-radar park. Established...

January-February

Experience one of California’s most magical settings, the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly Ahwahnee) in winter, during this intimate and outstanding event. Some of the best chefs in the...

Family Snow Adventures ChefsHolidays_soup_preview_686x885
Photo by DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.
Family Snow Adventures dummy-map_1
Family Snow Adventures VC_Spotlight_LakeTahoe_Stock_RF_4223000027_1280x640_0
Alex Farnum

Spotlight: Lake Tahoe

Family Snow Adventures vca_maps_highsierra
Majestic Peaks, Bucket-List Essential

Blue as a topaz and circled by majestic peaks, this High Sierra gem straddling the California-Nevada border is a bucket list essential. Where else...

Family Snow Adventures VCW_D_MammothLakes_Hero_Horseback_1280x642_0
Rebecca Garrett

Spotlight: Mammoth Lakes

Family Snow Adventures vca_maps_highsierra
Snowy winters, wildflower summers

Surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the west, folks in this laid-back mountain town know they’ve got a good thing going. It’s a land of...

As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface, I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords.
Mark Twain (recalling his first sighting of Lake Tahoe)
Family Snow Adventures VCW_D_HS_T5_Mono Lake_VCL_HS_Mono_Kayakers_KG
Kodiak Greenwood

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve

Visit bizarre formations, cinder cones and a super-salty lake

There are few places in California—and maybe on the planet—that can make you think you might just be on Mars. This is one of them. At this high-...

Family Snow Adventures VCW_D_HS_T6_Bodie cars_VCL_HS_Bodie_KG-sized
Kodiak Greenwood

Bodie

Tour the eerie remnants of a former boomtown

There's something eerily appropriate about bumping down the dusty desert road that winds the final few miles into Bodie State Historic Park. Round...

Family Snow Adventures VCW_D_HS_T7_Tahoe_MtnBike_Farnum
Alex Farnum

Guided Adventures

Learn to climb, join a pack trip, and more

While there are plenty of ways to play on your own in the High Sierra, there’s a whole host of ways to learn a new activity, like how to catch and...

Family Snow Adventures Bishop_HighSierra_1280x642_downsized

Bishop

Explore an outdoor adventure town with an artistic side

Bishop brims with outdoor activities. Situated at the north end of the Owens Valley, with close access to some of the Sierra’s most dramatic high...

Family Snow Adventures CalaverasBTSP_sized
Lucas Himovitz

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Look up at (and learn about) amazing giant sequoias

Established in 1931 to preserve a stunning stand of giant sequoias, this park offers one of the easiest places to see these towering trees. Head...

SPECIAL FEATURE
From Gold Rush history to 8th wonders of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

Family Snow Adventures McWayFalls_JPB_SP_preview_686x885
Amy Meredith/Flickr
Family Snow Adventures High_Sierra_Trees
The General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park is the largest (by volume) tree in the world.
SPECIAL FEATURE
Gold Rush history, epic high-country landscapes, hidden wine country, and charming country towns

Granite monoliths, waterfalls, alpine meadows—it’s no secret that Yosemite delivery some seriously big wow moments. But what is a secret is the bounty of awesome things you can see and do on your...

Family Snow Adventures VCW_SI_Hero_HS_Yosemite_UpperFalls_KG_preview_686x885
Kodiak Greenwood
Family Snow Adventures Manzanar_sized
Mammoth Chambers of Commerce

Manzanar National Historic Site

Learn about a sobering time in U.S. history

During World War II, thousands of Japanese-Americans were moved from their homes throughout the West and brought to internment camps like Manzanar...

Family Snow Adventures VCW_SI_T5_GroverHotSprings_JeffMosers_1280x642
Jeff Mosers/ Flickr

Grover Hot Springs State Park

Soak in naturally heated mineral pools

Nestled in a notch of the High Sierra about an hour’s drive south-east of Lake Tahoe, mineral springs bubble up from the earth, a testament to the...