Sure, skiing is a fun activity this time of year. But there are alternative (and often better and even cheaper) ways to play in the snow. Meet 10 resorts offering families a range of cold-weather fun, with activities including dog sledding, snowshoeing and fat tire snow biking (which should tempt even die-hard skiers off the mountain).
1. Auberge Du Lac Taureau – Saint-Michel-des-Saints, Quebec
Auberge Du Lac Taureau is deep in the snow-covered heartland of French-speaking Quebec. This wilderness resort embraces families with a full plate of cold-weather offerings. The frozen lake is the place for trout fishing, ice skating and Canada’s national pastime, ice hockey. Additional ways to have frozen fun include snowshoeing, tubing, wildlife observation tours, fat tire biking, guided forest hikes with a trapper and more. An indoor pool, spa and Gallic-inspired cuisine are welcome touches.
2. Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake – Brainerd, MN
A vacation at Cragun’s is all about Midwestern fun in the snow. The frozen Minnesota landscape looks stolen from the pages of a Nordic fairy tale. Old-fashioned activities such as broomball and bowling on the pond, ice fishing on Gull Lake, bonfires with S’mores and horse-drawn trolley rides should delight young guests. This is snowmobile country and Cragun’s has a designated track and miniature snowmobiles just for children.
3. Camp Richardson Resort – South Lake Tahoe, CA
Situated on the shores of Lake Tahoe, Camp Richardson’s yesteryear spirit and low-tech ethos is a breath of fresh air. Many guests started coming here as children and now bring their own kids, making it just right for a multi-generational vacation. Each winter, the resort’s miles of pine-scented bike trails are dusted with a thick coating of snow, turning the property into a winter wonderland. Cross-country skis, snowshoes and sleds are available to rent. Build a snowman, relax by the outdoor fire pit or just enjoy the tranquility of communing with nature. Simple lakeside cabins and uncluttered lodge rooms have everything you need and nothing you don’t.
4. C Lazy U Ranch – Granby, CO
C Lazy U Ranch has been introducing families to the traditions of the American West for 100 years. Guests stay in upscale private cabins at this traditional dude ranch. Situated on 8,500 pristine acres, the recreational programming is anchored by extensive year-round horsemanship and horseback riding opportunities. Additional cold-weather activities include snow tubing, ice hockey and skating on the pond, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Each winter morning, guests may join the wranglers on the morning feed wagon and get up close as the herd of horses eats their breakfast.
5. Woodloch Pines – Hawley, PA
Located in the Pocono Mountains, homespun Woodloch has been owned and operated by the same family since 1958. Many of the employees have been with the resort for decades, so you can expect genuine hospitality. Scores of kid-perfect activities keep the excitement level high when the temperatures drop. Frosty favorites include ice skating on both the lake and on the new synthetic ice rink, snow tubing, snowshoeing and winter archery. The resort’s Winter Olympics encourage healthy outdoor competition. When it’s time to warm up, kids can get creative in the arts and crafts room, splash in the indoor pool and slide down the double-corkscrew waterslide. Nightly entertainment at a bedtime-friendly hour includes live music, magic shows and balloon artists.
6. The Omni Homestead Resort – Hot Springs, VA
This sprawling Virginia resort has been in operation for over 250 years. The Omni Homestead Resort presents many ways to have fun in the snow. Mini-snowmobiles are proportioned for children ages 6 to 12 and ice skating on the outdoor rink draws a crowd. The Penguin Slide Tubing Park has a conveyor belt to conveniently whisk kids up the hill and enjoy the fun of sliding down. In the evening, enjoy a nightly movie screened in the resort’s theater. Traditional hotel rooms and suites are loaded with amenities.
7. Woodstock Inn – Woodstock, VT
Woodstock is a charming New England village. The cozy Woodstock Inn, with its wood-burning fireplaces, Vermont-made flannel blankets and fresh-baked cookies each afternoon, sits in the center. The hotel’s Nordic Adventure Center offers active families the chance to cross-country ski, snowshoe and fat tire bike on 30 miles of groomed trails. Fat tire bikes are designed with thick tires that allow you to pedal directly on the snow. A visit to the Billings Farm and Museum, Woodstock’s fully operating Jersey dairy farm, is a must. Watch the cows being milked and cuddle under a blanket as you ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.
8. Sunriver Resort – Bend, OR
In the Pacific Northwest, Sunriver Resort is a magnet for families. The area is known for its abundance of snow, so expect an array of options that exploit the powdery windfall. A covered ice skating rink, nature center with an observatory for stargazing, indoor tennis courts and an aquatic center with a FlowRider that simulates surfing are recreational options. Dogsledding, snow tubing and snowshoeing are very nearby. Accommodations are a mix of spacious townhouses, cabins, condos and lodge rooms.
9. Lake Placid Lodge – Lake Placid, NY
The Lake Placid Lodge complements the natural beauty of the Adirondacks. Winter’s blanket of white makes it look as festive as the inside of a snow globe. Snowshoe through the forest, skate on the lake’s glassy surface and sip hot chocolate at the nightly snow bonfire. It’s the only resort directly on Lake Placid, and accommodations enjoy water views. Whimsical cottages and lodge rooms blend into the surroundings and create a rustic fantasy. Lake Placid is a winter sports powerhouse with an illustrious Olympic history. Aspiring athletes should enjoy a ride down the Olympic bobsled track and a visit to the interactive Olympic Museum.
10. Old Faithful Snow Lodge – Yellowstone National Park, WY
If your family is seeking an immersion in nature, you’ve struck gold. Located within Yellowstone National Park, the Old Faithful Snow Lodge offers a unique vantage point to explore the beauty of the park in winter. The Madison Wildlife Excursion is a family favorite. A snow coach will escort you to view birds and mammals in their frosty habitat. Active experiences include a guided backcountry snowshoe tour of Old Faithful, gently winding past thermal hot springs. Just outside of the hotel’s door are boardwalks with excellent views of the geysers and ice skating with a nightly rink-side bonfire.
Allison Tibaldi is a travel writer based in New York City. With her husband and two kids, she has lived in Rome; Tuscany; Melbourne, Australia; Toronto; and Los Angeles. She studied early childhood development in graduate school and believes that travel is an important part of education. She writes for CNN, TravelChannel.com, HGTV, USA TODAY, Time Out New York, am New York, Family Traveller, Family Travel Forum, Travel Weekly, off Metro and numerous other publications. Follow her @gourmetrav.