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.


The Best of Spokane with Kids

Our family first passed through Spokane back in 2001, on our I-90 Washington-to-New York driving adventure (with a toddler – yeah, we’ve always been crazy!). Spokane was cute — historic, turn-of-the-century buildings, a riverfront park and bustling college scene. I threw Spokane into my “bucket list” of destinations to visit in the future.

Fast-forward 9 years, and life finally afforded the opportunity to return. Here’s my guide to the best of this Inland Northwest city with kids:

Best place to spend the day in Spokane:

Riverfront Park is one of the most adorable urban parks ever. The park’s 100 acres are packed with preschooler-friendly amusement park rides, an IMAX theater, the fast-spinning 1909 Loof Carrousel (a tiger and a giraffe are two of the unusual animals aboard) and a not-at-all-scary gondola over the Spokane Falls.

Spokane Riverfront Park's Golden Arm

Trying to grab the ring from the Looff Carrousel's "Golden Arm"

Families meander along picturesque, Euro-style bridges and beneath a 1901 Clocktower, slide down a giant Radio Flyer wagon and feed a garbage-eating metal goat. Save money and buy the day pass (in summer, add-on the Skyride and get the whole deal for around $20).

Best way to spend a too-hot afternoon or too-rainy morning:

The deceptively humble Mobius Kids Children’s Museum, housed in a downtown Spokane River Park Square mall. While the 16,000 square foot facility doesn’t look like much at first, my kids loved driving little plasma cars around the streetlight-enhanced Cooper’s Corner; buying fish and sundries from a Filipino market and paddling a canoe in the Bayanihan exhibit; and dressing up in the Globe Theatre. It’s a cute stop worth an hour or so, particularly with preschool-aged kids.

Riding a plasma car through Mobius Kids' streets

Best place to chill out in Spokane:

Families nestle into Auntie’s Bookstore’s nooks and cluster upon the  carpeted steps in the children’s area. You’ll find new and used, board books and chapter titles, cool kits and collectible tomes on the shelves. One of the best little bookstores I’ve seen in Washington State, and right next to Uncle’s Games, where you’ll find games to keep the kids entertained on the way home.

Most unique Spokane park:

Kids will always remember the accessible Discovery Playground, situated about 20 minutes outside downtown Spokane in the town of Spokane Valley. You’ll find adult-sized flowers, a sprinkler-filled play area, climbable rock walls and built-in trampoline. Caveat: No shade here – it’s you and smokin’ concrete and flamboyant sun. Perfect for heat seekers.

A child-friendly Spokane park

Hatching out of an egg at Spokane's Discovery Park

Best Spokane hotel with kids:

The heartbreakingly beautiful Davenport Hotel, which offers multiple floors of 1914-era details, a pool, a high-ceilinged reception area (complete with fish pond) and restored ballroom upon restored ballroom. My kids and I loved wandering the second story hallways, where photos are framed by elegant, restored moldings and take-your-breath-away ballrooms fit for a Queen. When booking a stay here, be sure to stay in the historic, restored hotel (not the newer tower), because the pool is in the historic building. If you’re staying with a train-crazed toddler, ask for a room that’s nearer to downtown Spokane’s rail line, and you’ll hear trains all night long (in our family, that was a good thing).

The gracious lobby at the Davenport Hotel

Best kid-friendly foodie restaurant in Spokane:

Sante places some of the best food this side of the Cascades on the table, in the form of omelettes, sandwiches, soups and risottos. We ate breakfast here on our last day. Had I known about the quality beforehand, I would’ve eaten here for breakfast, lunch and dinner on every occasion, bathed in the restaurant’s wall of window light. The charcuterie and dining menu changes weekly, so I won’t bother telling you what we had — but suffice it to say that they’ll always make something delectable for adults and kids to eat. Don’t miss the pastry and sweets case – we picked up hand-made sour fruit candies for the kids.

An omelette at Sante, a kid-friendly Spokane foodie restaurant

An omelette at Sante, a kid-friendly Spokane foodie restaurant

Best kid-friendly crepe restaurant in Spokane:

Madeleine’s Café and Patisserie, located right downtown, whips up seasonal crepes from scratch. Order from the counter, then sit inside among the bistro-chic tables or head outside (like local families do) to eat al fresco beneath Madeleine’s blue awnings. Before you leave, pick out an eclaire or macaron for later. Yeah, it’ll get smushed in the backpack, but it’ll still be delicious.

Best kid-friendly Italian in Downtown Spokane:

The plush, floral-fabric chairs might make you a little nervous about the quality and kid-friendliness of Europa’s cuisine. But those chairs are awfully comfortable after a day of sightseeing, and the classical music soothes jangled nerves. Tangy bread is delivered to your table – you’ll probably be fighting over the crumbs before your main dishes arrive. I recommend anything made with the pesto cream sauce. The kids loved the “make your own pizza” option; even a small pizza was too much for my kids to polish off.

Best place to pick up food to eat in your room:

The interior of Moxie restaurant is a better fit for couples — and a little fancy for my children after a full day of sightseeing. However, quality Asian-fusion cuisine is always a hit in our home. Excellent, not-too-spicy (unless you want it) fare; it’s not cheap, but the ingredients are top-notch, as is the preparation.

Best place to buy toys in Spokane:

With little kids, head to Whiz Kids Toys, where I was interested to find all the toys organized by subject (toy shop owners: this is a great idea). All the horse books, toys and other equine gear is in one place. If you’re in the market for big-kid jokes, cool collectibles, awesome books and vintage fun, check the shelves at Boo Radley’s. With so many eclectic finds, you’ll be sure to pick up an oddball gift you’ve never seen anywhere else.

Best place to stop on I-90:

Ellensburg, Washington, located about midway between Seattle and Spokane. In Ellensburg, families can dig into breakfast or lunch at the popular Yellow Church Café, where the only thing sinful is the cinnamon roll. Afterward, walk a block to Dick and Jane’s Spot, a fun-show of odd lawn art. Kids will either love the house or get spooked.

Have you been to Spokane with kids? Do you have any recommendations for our readers?

Read more about Spokane’s kid-friendly options at Visit Spokane.