Family-Friendly Spots to Snowboard and Ski in New Jersey
Inspire your kids with a lifelong love of skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports with a family day on the slopes. We've rounded up six ski resorts in and near New Jersey where your family can maximize its time on the mountain and minimize time in the car. We've also included safety tips for skiing and snowboarding from respected professionals.
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Please check with each venue before heading out for updated COVID precautions. Many sites encourage or require masks in indoor spaces, families may be kept together on chair lifts, and some programming may have modifications.
Campgaw is a great ski area for the littlest of skiers!
Where to Snowboard and Ski in New Jersey
Campgaw Mountain – Mahwah
Campgaw is great for the whole family, from first-timers to seasoned skiers. Campgaw offers five beginner/intermediate trails, a terrain park, two double chair lifts, and three “magic carpet” lifts (a lift in the middle of a small hill that resembles an escalator to move kids up a mini-mountain). Campgaw offers group and private ski lessons for kids, including a group lesson for ages 4-6. Mountain amenities include night skiing, tubing, a freestyle terrain park, children's programs, and racing programs for competitive-level skiers and boarders. Kids' tubing parties are also available. Note that in 2022, all visitors must fill out a health declaration before entering the mountain. Save time by filling it out in advance and bringing it with you. Visitors are subject to a daily temperature check at the Main Entry Gate or the Tubing Gate before they are permitted to enter the facility. Suit up and warm up in your vehicle as the lodge space is limited. Indoor dining time is limited to 15 minutes per table. A 3,000-square-foot, multi-purpose tent has been installed near the Main Entry Gate for shelter and outdoor eating.
Mountain Creek Ski Resort – Vernon
Mountain Creek is home to eight lifts, four mountain peaks, and 46 trails—as well as a large snow tubing park. All ski equipment can be rented from the on-site rental center, located on the Red Tail Lodge's first floor. This ski resort is quite popular with tweens and teens, but there is plenty for younger kids here. Children as young as 4 can take private or group ski lessons from experienced, patient instructors, while budding snowboarders can take lessons at the on-site Ringlet Park. Other on-site amenities for those lodging at Mountain Creek (instead of just coming for the day) include a full arcade, bowling alley, fire pit, and laser maze. Read our full review of Mountain Creek for more information. Advanced ticket purchase is required and lockers are only open to those renting equipment. Rental packages must be bought online; look for "Go Packages." Indoor dining remains at limited capacity.
Shawnee Mountain offers mommy-and-me ski lessons and other family-friendly perks.
Where to go Skiing and Snowboarding in Pennsylvania
Shawnee Mountain – East Stroudsburg
This Poconos ski resort, located right on NJ's border, is known for being very family-friendly and packed with child-approved amenities. Shawnee has 23 slopes, many of them green, and offers many types of kids' lessons, including morning, afternoon, and full-day programs led by specially trained staff. There are even mommy-and-me ski lessons. There's also a video game room, pizza parlor, food court, and snow tubing park. The Crossings Premium Outlets are nearby if you want to get some shopping done after a long morning of skiing, too. (If you have the energy, of course!) On-site lodging is available for families. Check Shawnee's website for seasonal discounts and read our full review for more details. Save time and ensure entry by buying lift tickets, rentals, and beginners’ packages online. Tubing tickets must be purchased online. Babysitting is not available for the 2021-2022 season.
Blue Mountain – Palmerton
Located about 45 minutes from the Pennsylvania border, Blue Mountain is worth the drive. This smaller, more intimate mountain allows you to bypass the crowds at larger venues and offers a gentle introduction to skiing for young kids and beginners of all ages. There is no on-site lodging—though there are plans for it in the future—but, there are many family-friendly places to stay nearby, such as the Hampton Inn Lehighton-Jim Thorpe and The Lodge at Woodstone Country Club. Blue Mountain offers skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing, which is extremely popular here. In fact, Blue Mountain is the only mountain in the Poconos with double-size tubes. This is a fantastic activity for those who want some winter family fun without skiing. In total, there are 40 trails, including many green (beginner), as well as 16 ski lifts, plus 34 tubing lanes. It's latest trail, the newly opened Free Fall, offers night skiing for experts. All lift tickets, rentals, and lessons must be purchased online.
Hunter has miles of trails for all levels of skiers.
Where to go Skiing and Snowboarding in New York
Hunter Mountain – Hunter
With four separate faces, this Catskills mountain has terrain for all levels and abilities. Already a favorite winter destination for skiers and snowboarders, Hunter was recently renovated to include high-speed lifts and more intermediate and advanced trails. The 320-acre resort is the second-most visited ski spot in New York, so it can get crowded on weekends, but lines should be shorter with the new lifts. Families with young children can choose from a variety of lesson packages. Ticket reservations are required. Boot up and get ready for the day in your car due to minimal capacity in the lodges. No personal items will be allowed to be stored in the lodges. Reserve times for lessons and dining in advance. Guests ages 12 and over will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations to dine at indoor, on-mountain quick-service (cafeteria-style) restaurants.
Mount Peter – Warwick
Beloved by beginners, this Hudson Valley destination offers FREE beginner lessons on the half-hour every weekend from 10am-2:30pm for those ages 6 and older. Family lessons are also available, and it's debuted a KinderLand lesson for 3-5 year olds this season. Known as "the friendly one," Mount Peter also has racing teams for seasoned ski kids and two small lodges to warm up with hot chocolate. With 14 trails total, this family favorite is a great place to start kids on skis. All tickets must be purchased online. Boot up and eat lunch in your car. Spectators will not be allowed at the mountain this year, so you'll need to wait for your skiing or tubing participant inside of your car. Base lodges are restricted to 50% capacity with a 30 minute per table time limit.
Skiing Safety Tips For Families
From Bob Zega, NJ Ski & Snowboard Council:
The best age to start:
Kids have to walk well and have a sense of balance, so anything below age 2 is unreasonable. They should be able to listen and follow instruction to some degree. I've spoken to many parents on the slopes about this and find very few who start kids skiing at age 2. When my own children were young, I started my daughter at age 3 and have seen several 3-5-year-olds in ski-school. Age 3-5 should be the earliest starting point for a child to ski because they can walk, they usually don't mind being away from mom and dad, and by this time, they have an idea of knowing right from wrong.
1. Children must be taught to follow the Skiers Responsibility Code while on the slopes.
2. Children must use properly fitted equipment suited to their ability level.
3. No poles are necessary until they have been skiing for 3-4 years and are proficient enough to handle them.
4. Children must be taught to understand and obey trail signs, including beginner (green) and expert (black) trails.
5. The danger of skiing on too advanced a slope before they are ready must be fully understood.
6. If you plan to self-teach, your child should be tethered to you for the first season or two.
7. Safety vests with a handle on the back are now available for children, making it easier for parents, instructors, or anyone riding a lift with young kids to grab them if needed.
Clothing and gear:
Make sure your child is properly dressed for a day in cold weather. This includes long underwear, quality gloves/socks, and clothing suitable for mountain conditions versus going to school. Turtleneck shirts are mandatory to keep a child warm (scarves don't do a good job). Kids fall, and eventually, gloves and socks get wet, so parents should bring extra gloves, socks, and pants in case a child needs a change by lunchtime to stay warm. If spending a day on the snow, ski goggles are a must.
Ski instructors are certified professionals who are knowledgeable about the latest ski-instruction techniques. They have to take annual training to retain their certification. A parent may know how to ski, but a professional ski instructor is trained to teach children on the child's level. It may cost more, but children will have a better time in class with their own ski peers than trying to keep up with mom and dad on the slopes. Mom and dad will have a better time, too, and children are likely to progress faster when taught by a professional.
Snowboarding Safety Tips For Families
From Kayla Dowd, snowboard instructor at Vermont’s Okemo Mountain:
The best age to start:
Hold off on introducing snowboarding until age 7 or 8. Snowboarding requires significant muscle memory that can be difficult for younger children to master.
1. Make sure your child wears a helmet. This is particularly important when children are learning to snowboard, as they are more prone to head injuries during this time.
2. Instill the importance of mountain awareness. This includes knowing safe and appropriate places to stop on a trail that does not put them or other skiers/boarders in danger. This also includes knowing how to merge onto trails, maintaining the appropriate speeds for different trails, and keeping a safe distance from other riders.
3. Go over a trail map with your child before hitting the slopes. Resorts make them readily available, so grab one before heading out.
Clothing and gear:
When your child is learning to snowboard, they must come prepared with a helmet, goggles, face mask, and appropriate undergarments, such as thermals. Additionally, if your child is renting boots and a board, you want to make sure all the equipment works and fits correctly before hitting the slopes.
Unless noted, photos courtesy of the resorts. This post, originally published in January 2012, is updated annually.