Sun Peaks with Kids: Five Reasons to Love BC’s Sun Peaks Resort

For Presidents’ Day Weekend, Joanna Veldhuisen’s family of four (plus two teen friends) headed north to Sun Peaks Resort in Interior BC for several days of snow play and skiing. The entire family agreed this ski resort makes for a fantastic weekend. I asked Joanna what she loved so much about the destination. She sent me some great photos, and this is what she said:

Size. Sun Peaks is the second biggest resort in BC, but it’s a fraction of the size of Whistler and as a result it’s very family-friendly. Many parents of older kids (12+) feel comfortable turning the kids loose to ski or at least lunch on their own in the one-horse village. You can’t get lost, and most condos and hotel rooms are just a few minutes’ walk from the village center and chairlifts. Even over President’s Day Weekend, the resort had a relaxed, un-crowded vibe.

Sun Peaks main street

Sun Peaks: Main Street

Awesome alpine skiing. Although the village is small, the ski slopes are not, and BC’s Interior snow is reliably good. Three mountains surround the village in a 360-degree layout of 124 long runs that terminate near or at the village. Getting from one chairlift to another is easy and the lifts are fast, so you can’t help but do a ton of skiing in a day. This British Columbia ski resort is particularly good for beginner and intermediate skiers, but also offers plenty of black diamond terrain for advanced runs. While I was busy on the green runs, the kids headed off to the harder stuff and everyone was happy. Here’s a map of the alpine runs.

 

Sun Peaks with Kids

A ski run at Sun Peaks Resort

Nordic skiing at Sun Peaks. For those who would rather get away from it all, Sun Peaks has miles of trails for Nordic and skate skiing as well as snowshoeing. My crew hit the slopes on the first day, and I hit the Nordic trails on my own, bumping into other friendly solo skiers whose families were on the alpine runs.

Kid-friendly activities at Sun Peaks. My kids didn’t take much time off the slopes, but Sun Peaks has plenty of other fun for youngsters, including a year-round, outdoor heated pool at the Sports & Aquatic Centre, a tube park, a terrain park, a bungee trampoline, ice skating, and dog sled tours. Many of the condos and rental houses come with a hot tub for added fun, and playing in the snow just outside the door has never been so easy.

A walk through Sun Peaks BC

A walk through Sun Peaks BC

Sun Peaks Village amenities. Like Whistler, Sun Peaks is laid out like a walkable alpine village. It contains a few clothing shops, boutiques, and restaurants and cafes for all tastes, enough to be interesting without being overwhelming. You’ll also find rental shops for any ski equipment you need, and lessons for all ages and ski styles.

Tips on accommodation and groceries at Sun Peaks Resort:

Sun Peaks offers condos, rental homes, and a variety of hotel lodgings. The hotels are conveniently located right in the heart of the village, but a condo’s fully equipped kitchen is unbeatable, as restaurant eating adds up quickly. Many kids will be too tired to go out for dinner, after a day in the snow.

Americans, I suggest doing your grocery shopping stateside and stop for fruits and veggies in Hope or Kamloops. Sun Peaks has a small general market for incidentals.

Getting there: Sun Peaks is the closest ski resort in BC’s Interior to the Lower Mainland and Seattle. The resort is located 45 minutes north of Kamloops, approximately 4½ hours north of Bellingham, 6 hours from Seattle via the Sumas/Abbotsford border crossing and 4 hours east of Vancouver. The Sun Peaks website says 5½ hours from Seattle, but that’s optimistic when accounting for possible road conditions, border waits, and shopping for fruits and veggies. Plan for an hour longer, and the drive home will pass a little quicker.

The resort’s website provides more information about taking the kids to Sun Peaks, including ski lessons. The Sundance Kids Centre is a daycare facility that entertains children from 18 months through 5 years.

Photo at right courtesy of Adam Stein/ Sun Peaks.

Where to Ski with Kids in Oregon: Camps, Lessons, Lodges & Daycares

No way to slalom around it — Oregon offers some fantastic, kid-friendly resorts, from Mt. Hood to Mt. Ashland. Here’s your guide to the best in skiing, snowboarding and other family snowplay.

Where to Ski with Kids on Mt. Hood

This 11,245-foot-tall beauty is the tallest mountain in Oregon, and you can ski 3,690 vertical feet of it.   I took my first skittering ski steps in Oregon, sliding-falling down Mt. Hood’s white face. I (eventually) improved here, too — going out for night-ski runs as an older teen.  Mt. Hood offers the best of all worlds – a diverse terrain, plenty of kid-friendly ski, snowboard and snow play options, along with a chilled-out après-ski scene for all ages in Government Camp (Mt. Hood Alpine Village). It’s close to Portland, too. It’s one of the more perfect places to learn to ski in the Pacific Northwest.

Photo Courtesy of MtHoodTerritory.com.

In Government Camp, on Mt. Hood. Photo Courtesy of MtHoodTerritory.com.

And even if you don’t like skiing, there’s also sleigh rides, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, snowtubing and more. The ski season here typically runs through Labor Day, and at Timberline, nearly all summer long.

Mt. Hood Meadows with Kids

Ski school is in session! Daily lessons for kids (including snowboarding lessons for 4-year-old children), half-day childcare-and-lessons, nighttime kids’ lessons, skiing and snowboarding camps for winter and spring break — and there’s likely to be snow here during spring break, even if it’s melted everywhere else. The Meadows daycare really stands out – it’s state certified and accepts babies as young as six weeks old. Don’t miss the page just for families, which spills the secrets of skiing with kids and the Mt. Hood Meadows deal page.

Tubing Mt. Hood

Tubing Mt Hood. Photo Courtesy of MtHoodTerritory.com.

Mount Hood Ski Bowl with Kids

Very popular with big kids and the teen crowd, this Oregon winter resort offers  offers daytime and blacklight tubing (“cosmic tubing”) and special indoor heated area for kids (Super Indoor Play Zone) under 48” tall. Kids ages 4-12 can take one-day lessons or four-week ski lesson programs; the all-day program runs from 10-3 with a one-hour break.

Summit Ski Area

Since 1927, families have flocked to Summit Ski Area, the first and oldest ski area in the Pacific Northwest. There’s no daycare, and the essentials are fairly bare — but it’s a cheap place to snowboard, tube or ski  — or just build a snowman. Kids five and under ski free here, and the bunny hill here is nice and long, so it’s a good place to just practice, practice, practice with your preschooler or big kid.

Timberline with Kids

I love Timberline Lodge; it’s like a little piece of history perched on a peak. Timberline pretty much spoiled me for all other ski-and-lodge deals; there’s nothing better than skiing and then warming up next to the fireplace next to ancient beams or sitting in the stain-glass lit Blue Ox Bar with a hearty slice of pizza. If you take the kids here, it’s hard to ramp back down expectations. Visit the snowsport center  to learn more about the winter offerings – like kids ski lessons — and even the summer ski lessons. The kids’ lessons are offered for skiers 4-10 and snowboarders ages 6-10; rentals can be included as well, which takes one to-do off your list. The Snowplay program is pre-ski full-day childcare for ages 2-4 and offers indoor and outdoor play opportunities.

Cooper Spur Mountain Resort

Unlike the three resorts above, this Oregon kid-friendly resort is located on the north side of the mountain, closer to Hood River. The terrain here is different, and the resort is a laid-back destination. Families can stay at the lodge, take advantage of the “Learn to Ski” program (lesson, lift and rental, starting from $37) or slip through the tubing park.

Where to Ski with Kids in Central Oregon

Hoodoo Mountain Resort with Kids

Near: Sisters

Kids 5 and under ski free here, but if you’d like your kids to have lessons first, Hoodoo offers weekend and holiday ski packages that include rentals and lessons (ages 4-12). Private lessons are offered for ski, snowboard, cross Country and telemark. The small, cute ski daycare takes children from 18 months old, but only takes five kids at a time. Reserve early!

Mt. Bachelor with Kids

Near: Bend

Mt. Bachelor might have some of the best sun-lit, dry, light snow  in the Pacific Northwest (love those bluebird days!), and this is one of the largest resorts in Washington and Oregon. The daily kids lessons program feeds kids, teaches them to ski or snowboard and entertains them while you shred the slopes. The three “L”s — lift tickets, lessons and lunch — are all provided. Multiweek programs are also available. Otter Mountain Childcare’s daycare facility takes kids from six weeks old and up in separate infant/toddler and big-kid rooms. If you’d like an alternative to skiing, try going on a sled dog ride, enjoying the often sold-out snow tubing park (arrive 30 minutes early, the site suggests); kids ages 8 and up (and infants in backpacks) can learn about winter flora and fauna on a free 90-minute snowshoe interpretive tour, led by a forest ranger.

Willamette Pass with Kids

Near: Crescent Lake and Oakridge

If you’re seeking an alternative to the often-crowded and very popular resorts on Hood and Bachelor, you may be happy here.  This resort offers ski lessons for ages 4 and up, and snowboard lessons for ages 8 and up. No daycare, so it’s best if they’re ready to hop on those skis or the snowboard. Tubing and nordic skiing are available for those who want an alternative to the ski/snowboard runs. Or enjoy the 20 km of groomed snowshoe trails.

Ski in Eastern Oregon

Anthony Lakes Ski Resort

Near: One hour west of Baker City

Sign the kids up for lessons, sleep in the 16-person yurt next to a fire or try nordic skiing. There are only three lifts — this is a very chilled-out resort in Eastern Oregon.

Spout Springs 

Near: 22 miles east of Easton, Oregon.

“Great skiing for less” is the motto of Spout Springs. A day pass here will set you back $35 for adults, and $25 for kids, and private lessons (for all ages) are just $35. The place says they avoid “glamour, pretense and crowds,” and that’s probably a safe bet, but there’s still a small restaurant/lounge on site.

Ferguson Ridge Ski Area

Near: Joseph

A T-bar or rope tow will haul you up ($15) at this quiet ski area, where families come for plenty of elbow room and great powder. No lessons, no daycare — just family fun.

Ski in S. Central Oregon

Mt. Ashland Ski Area with Kids 

Near: Ashland

Here, kids (ages 4-12) can learn from ski and snowboard lesson packages and afterschool ski lessons, while children 6 and under ski free.  No daycare, but check out the lodging-ski deals and twilight ski at this four-lift resort.

Warner Canyon

Near: Lakeview

Warner Canyon is more toward the less-accessible Eastern Oregon, and ski options here are limited (one chair lift). But there are volunteer-led, inexpensive multi-week snowboard and ski lessons for kids ages 5-18, along with snowmobile trails and nordic ski options. It’s run by a non-profit for the benefit of local skiiers — so if you’re in the area, enjoy the local angle.

Where to Ski with Kids in Washington State: Ski Camps, Lessons, Lodges and Daycares

All those rainy days have an upside, too. Thanks to the wet stuff, Washington State residents enjoy a plentiful mountain snowpack and a long season of skiing, snowboarding and tubing with kids. Even if you don’t (yet) enjoy any of the above sports, there’s always the option of making a snowman or two with your toddler. All the better if a lovely lodge is nearby, so you can run inside for a cup of hot chocolate or bowl of hot chili.

Pack the winter-weather apparel, your skis and mittens; don’t forget to check road conditions on Washington State passes before heading out with your tot or tween. Here are Washington State’s winter destinations and their kid-friendly aspects — from cheap and inexpensive cross-country ski trails to upscale snowboarding and skiing resorts.

 

Where to Ski with Kids in Western Washington  

Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area

Near: Port Angeles

This National Park Service site offers opportunities for snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, children’s tubing and  ranger-guided snowshoe walks. The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is a nice place to warm up and learn about the region.

Mt. Baker

Near: Bellingham (about one hour east of Bellingham)

Slopes here offer multi-week kids’ ski lessons, parent/child or grandparent/child ski lessons. To save money on your ski vacation, look into the family passes.  The 31 runs here trend toward the black diamond and intermediate levels — so a good spot to go with experienced teens, perhaps.

The Summit at Snoqualmie

Near: Seattle and Bellingham

This peak family ski experience is the closest to the Seattle metro area, about an hour or so east of Seattle. Here, kids can learn to ski or snowboard on slopes or parks and pipe. The tubing hill is popular with families, too. Stay in a rental or just stay in the city. Unfortunately, no childcare is provided at The Summit at Snoqualmie.

Crystal Mountain

Near: Two hours south of Seattle, 90 minutes from Tacoma/S. Puget Sound

A sweet little cherry-red gondola (the only one in Washington State, I believe) whisks skiers and daytrippers alike up Crystal Mountain. Brief 50-minute private lessons teach families to ski (and even chair lift) together – kids as young as two can participate – but you have to book in advance. The Kid’s Club program combines learning and fun; supervision plus two-hour ski lessons for ages 4-12 and snowboarding lessons for ages 7-12.

Where to Ski with Kids in Central Washington:

Loup Loup Ski Bowl

Near: Winthrop and Omak

Kids equipment rental, a tube slide area and tots lessons make this low-key introduction to winter sports. More than 20k of groomed tracks for cross-country skiers and 1,240 vertical feet with 10 cut runs for downhill skiers.

Stevens Pass

Near: Leavenworth.

Stevens Pass puts kids on skis from the age of 3, and generations tend to return to play in the powder again and again. There are teen camps, kids ski lessons, kids specials and Nordic ski opportunities. Read over the informative FAQs regarding youth. A short drive from Leavenworth, and plenty of restaurants to feed hungry families.

Leavenworth Trails

Near: In town of Leavenworth, Washington

More than 26k of beginner-friendly Nordic and snowshoe trails wind through, past and around the uber-cute Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth. It’s a nice place to try skiing or snowshoeing for the first time – more than five shops will help you and the kids get set up on skis.  A projected ice skating rink should be fun for the whole family too (once completed), and tubing is already a go.

Cross-Country Skiing in Leavenworth; Photo courtesy of Sleeping Lady Resort

Cross-Country Skiing in Leavenworth; photo courtesy of Sleeping Lady Resort

Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort

Near: 12 miles from Wenatchee.

Novice through advanced skiers enjoy that dry-side powder, and the mountain’s 36 runs and 2,000 acres of trails and chutes. For children, there are the Kids Club, which combines just-right portions of skiing, indoor supervision and hot chocolate. Half-day, full day, holiday camp and two-hour sessions available for preschool-aged kids through 12-year-olds.

Methow Valley Sport Trails Association

Near: Winthrop, Mazama

More than 120 miles of trails – but with many family-friendly features. For example, kids 17 and under ski free. Another cool feature: the keep-‘em-engaged StorySki loops that reveal a picture book  as kids ski along the 1k trail, and a fun “obstacle course” at the Town Trailhead in Winthrop. Pulk sleds (for non-walkers/small non-skiiers) can be rented at the Methow Valley Ski School (I loved pulks when my daughter was too small to ski).

Lake Chelan Nordic Ski Club at Echo Valley Ski Area

Near: Chelan

Save money, ski cheap. At Echo Ridge, kids 17 and under ski free, and the daily rate for adult skiers is only $10/day. There are more than 25 miles of groomed skate and classic x-country ski trails at this U.S. Forest Service facility co-run by the Chelan Ranger District and Lake Chelan Nordic Ski Club. As the site says: “Groomed trails follow the ridges of the terrain, creating a great skiing experience for all ability levels.  Because the trails are located on the ridge tops they are generally above the fog layer that settles in the valleys. So, if you are looking for sunny skiing head for ECHO RIDGE!”

White Pass

Near: Rimrock, Packwood

This 6,500-foot peak offers child care and Pee Wee Skee lessons – plus an 18-kilometer Nordic network and a day lodge at 4,500 feet. Walk-in lessons are available too, for those age 4 and up.  Once a year, there’s a Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe Jamboree; all ages can take free intro nordic and snowshoe lessons.

Echo Valley Ski Area

Near: Chelan

The laid-back Echo Valley’s Family Ski Area has four-lane snow tubing runs – and they supply special tubes for a rapid ride.  The area runs three rope tows, and one lift for skiers and snowboarders. Old-school ski fun, like the equivalent of a roller-rink night.

Where to Ski with Kids in Eastern Washington: 

Mt. Spokane

Near: Spokane

A mere half-hour from Spokane takes you up into a great family-friendly ski resort with lots of snow play opportunities. Tube, ski, snowboard; ride the lift or head for the terrain park. Enroll the kids in one of the children’s ski programs. Or if the kids are too young to ski, the on-site ski daycare keeps kids busy – and even provides breakfast.

 49 Degrees N.

Near: Spokane or Chelawah

Nordic, downhill and snowboarding, plus a terrain park. For the kids there are children’s group ski lessons, one-on-one ski lesson options, and an on-site daycare that features arts and crafts, movies, snacks, and snow playtime. The Li’l Cub Private Lessons (Ages 2-4) packages up a 1-hour lesson, lift, rental, and all day daycare for $119.

Bluewood Ski Area

Near: Dayton, WA or Walla Walla

Bluewood is the second-highest base elevation in the state, but still serves the tot crowd well.Teens like skiing and snowboarding the 24 trails and three terrain parks. The Kinderski program is a parent-child group ski or snowboard lesson designed for kids 5 and under (1 hour, $35); there are also one-on-one preschool lessons for skiing and snowboarding.

Sitzmark Ski Area

Near: Tonasket

The 80 acres at Sitzmark include a double chairlift, rope tow, bunny hill and terrain park. There’s also a ski and snowboard school (6 week classes), and it’s open Thursday through Monday.

Badger Mountain Ski Area

Near: Waterville

A volunteer-run ski area in Eastern Washington with limited hours, but fine if you’re in the area or want a snow-play experience with younger children.

Sno-Parks with Kids in Washington State

Washington State Sno-Parks

Enjoy a variety of winter activities (for cheap) in the Washington State Non-Motorized Sno-Parks; trails and play areas welcome Nordic ski, snowshoe and tube enthusiasts of all ages in winter. Sno-Parks differ in trails – some are groomed, while others are backcountry-only.

 

Family Travel: Manning Resort, BC with kids

In winter, many of Washington, Oregon and BC’s ski resorts become overwhelmed with hordes of weekend ski bums (yes, that description includes my own family). For a change of pace, smart families — like Bellingham-based travel writer Joanna Nesbit‘s family — head for the quieter ski resorts. No, the resorts aren’t filled with flash ‘n’ cash, but they’re perfect for a low-key, snow-filled getaway. We chat with Joanna to find out what she loves about Manning Park Resort, set in British Columbia’s lovely Skagit Valley Provincial Park.

Cross-country skiing at Manning Park Resort

Located a mere 2. 5 hours northeast of Bellingham (Sumas/Abbotsford border crossing) and two hours from Vancouver, BC, the area is a fine option for a long weekend or a winter break.

Who went? How long did you stay? How did you hear about Manning Resort?

Over President’s Day weekend, we took our family of four plus a friend (Curt, Joanna, Leah, 13, Ty, 11, and friend Emma, 13) to Manning Park Resort in British Columbia’s Manning Provincial Park for a weekend of alpine and cross-country skiing and snowplay.

We’ve been visiting Manning for some 15 years, and one year by accident we discovered that many families from our neighborhood make the trek for President’s Day weekend. This holiday weekend — also a 4-day school break — has turned into a Manning tradition for many Bellingham families.

Manning Park Resort has a lodge and cabins, and all visitors stay at the resort because there are no other lodgings nearby. The resort is 45 minutes from Hope to the west and Princeton to the east.

Besides offering a friendly ski scene, the resort is compact enough that you can let your kids wander fairly freely (depending on your comfort level), which is what we love about the place. Manning has a pool/hot tub facility (the Blue Lagoon), a sledding hill, and an ice rink. Kids need adult accompaniment to the pool, but the sledding hill is close, and snow play is right there. You can rent ice skates for the rink, where you’ll often encounter a rousing game of hockey. There’s also a game room in the basement, but it can be underwhelming. When we were there, they were out of functioning ping-pong balls because of rowdy ping-pong players.

Kids ice-skating at the resort

Ice-skating at the resort

Compared to other ski resorts, Manning is nothing fancy, but it’s the low-key vibe and compact size that we especially love. The staff is always friendly, and the guests happily engage in casual conversations with each other. Many guests have been going to Manning for years, if not decades.

What types of activities did your family enoy, while at Manning Resort? Nordic skiing, downhill skiing, sledding, anything else?

Manning offers alpine skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing at Gibson Ski Hill, 6 miles from the lodge, and miles of groomed cross-country ski trails. The kids ice skated first, and then over the next two days, they hit the downhill slopes for skiing and snowboarding, while I x-country skied. My husband skied with Ty at Gibson Hill, and then x-country skied with me the next day. We met up at the hot tub.

What we like about Manning is how it accommodates all interests, and Gibson is a small enough ski hill that you can’t lose your child in the crowds, but still big enough to be fun for skilled skiers. The ski hill is never crowded, and no one waits more than a few minutes to get on the chair (there are two), even on a busy weekend. For beginners, it’s especially friendly with a low-intimidation factor (no fashion contest either). The bunny hill offers a graduated experience, with a rope tow on the upper, flatter portion, and a T-bar on the lower, steeper portion. It’s a great place to take lessons.

Any great restaurants in the Manning Resort area?

The resort only offers one restaurant, as well as a pub, and a tiny store that tends to be understocked and overpriced. The restaurant is good for a meal or two. The burgers are great, but service can be slow (I recommend a 5:30pm arrival to beat the rush).

Because Manning is isolated, we take groceries with us, and shop for fruits and veggies in Hope (you can’t take these across the border).

What are the rooms/cabins like at Manning Resort?

The last few years, we’ve been staying in the main lodge in a “mini-suite.” The lodge offers three different room configurations, but the mini-suite works best for families, as it includes 2 Queens and a hide-a-bed, as well as a table, chairs, mini-fridge, sink, and microwave. The resort also offers cabins, from small to large, with full kitchens. Many families we know opt for cabins, sometimes sharing a cabin with a second family.

A family room at Manning Park Resort

A family room at Manning Park Resort.

We have stayed in cabins and in the lodge, and lately have opted for the lodge because it’s closer to the amenities like the pool. I recommend both types of lodging. However, for a mini suite, be sure to book very early for popular weekends, as the lodge only offers 8 of these rooms. Otherwise, book accommodation for a less popular weekend or opt for the smaller room (comes with 2 Queens, a mini fridge, and microwave; no table and chairs).

Did you have to chain up to get to Manning?

In all the years we’ve traveled to Manning, we’ve never had to chain up, but it’s always a possibility. Also, the highway conditions east of Hope can be sketchy, so always watch for potholes.

What else should we know about going to this British Columbia resort with kids?

Manning is a year-round resort, offering mountain biking and hiking in the summer (there are also several campgrounds nearby). The ski hill closes in early April, but keep an eye on snow conditions because the x-country skiing may be great and accommodation rates at this time of year drop significantly. Also, be sure to check the website for winter package deals.

Thanks for the report, Joanna! Readers, can you recommend any great family ski spots in Washington, Oregon or BC?