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.

Sleeping Lady Resort: Enchantment for All Ages

I’m not quite sure what I expected when I planned a stay at Sleeping Lady. But I figured I would be close to Leavenworth (one of my favorite little Washington towns), and I’d heard good things about the Central Washington resort — although mostly from adults.

But I had no idea that Sleeping Lady was such an enchanting and magical place.

On the 67-acre grounds (which also host a local radio station), quiet pathways weave between native trees, plants — and art. The outdoor Art Walk takes visitors past quirky works sure to delight children, such as a salmon catching a human (“Shaman Salmon”), the nine-foot tall “Chichuly Icicles” and the “Evil Eye Tree,” where the bright-blue glass eyes (traditionally used by Turkish and Greek people as a talisman to ward off evil) hang like teardrops from a living tree.

Sleeping Lady art walk

Along the art walk in late autumn.

Winter is the perfect time to go, perhaps, as snow usually blankets the ground mid December through February. At the resort’s doorstep, 8K of track and skate groomed trails offer a way to nordic-ski off all the calories you’re about to eat (more on that, in a bit).

On check-in, front-desk staff gave us a fun booklet packed with cool facts about the property, jokes, wildlife tips and dot-to-dot and Sudoku activities, and told us about the Saturday night kids’ movie.

Sleeping Lady Trail

An ice-covered pond at Sleeping Lady Resort

We stayed in the double alcove room, which featured hand-hewn fir log beds and desks and down comforters. There was an adorable little alcove that my six-year-old son claimed as his own; he created a tent hideout that entertained him during downtime. But I’ll be honest, the floor space is a bit tight – it’s better for reading and relaxing (there’s no television). To run off kid energy, you gotta get outside.

Alcove room at Sleeping Lady Resort

Playing in the one-bed alcove.

Luckily, you can walk down the trail to the The Grotto for a glass of wine next to the fire pit or inside by petroglyph-laced rock walls (kids allowed until 8 p.m.) or The Library, well-stocked with books, a fireplace and a piano.

The cozy library at Sleeping Lady Resort.

The cozy library.

The Play Barn acts as a game room, with foosball, table tennis and room for a board game or two. You can check out board games at the front desk or bring your own.

In warmer seasons, kids love taking a dip in the resort’s rock-lined swimming pools. But the outdoor adjacent hot pool is heated year round, however. If you think you’ll go, don’t forget to pack sandals and cozy bathrobes for the kids to prevent frozen toes and noses en route from your room to the pool.

You can read more about activities and amenities at Sleeping Lady.

Kid- (and Parent-)Friendly Food at Sleeping Lady

The rosemary-flecked crispy rolls were still warm from the oven at The Kingfisher Restaurant; this was my first hint that Sleeping Lady’s dining experience would be anything but typical.

Most stay packages include dinner buffet and/or breakfast buffet; let me tell you, the food here is worth every penny. “Buffet” is not usually a word that excites me – most buffets are half-warmed congealed cheese-food bakes. Here, the buffet includes all natural grassfed, hormone-free beef hangar steak, served with organic roasted carrots and parsnips and organic pumpkin soup. Local organic produce is sourced from Leavenworth and Sequim.

Oh, and the desserts. Tiny, perfect desserts (flans, custards, pie, cake) in miniature espresso cups, saucers and shot glasses.

Yummy desserts at Sleeping Lady buffet

Yummy desserts at Sleeping Lady buffet

There’s a PB&J station for picky eaters (a great idea I might steal for the next playdate/party I host) and stuffed grape leaves and potato salad for epicurean preschoolers.

Breakfast, well – do you remember that Richard Scarry illustration regarding Kenny Bear’s breakfast? It’s sort of like that. Breakfast included: fruits, assorted cheeses and salami, boiled free range eggs, Samish Bay yogurt, organic steel cut oatmeal, chicken and pork sausage, grilled roma tomatoes, free-range scrambled eggs, boiled free-range eggs, waffles, pancakes, raisin bread French toast. And yes, coffee. There were even more food options, but I got a hand cramp from writing it all down, and I figured you would probably get the idea from the list above.

One of the buffet tables at Sleeping Lady Resort, in the morning.

One of the buffet tables at Sleeping Lady Resort, in the morning.

If you can, ask for a window-side table, so you can enjoy the beautiful views of Icicle Canyon and the soaring Sleeping Lady mountain.

Extra: The small Mercantile has that homespun feeling and sells arty-crafty kits, regional clothing and books and journals.

Caveats: It’s not cheap, generally speaking. But the prices are justified if your children really do eat like Kenny Bear, of course, and some of the packages are good deals. For example, Lowest rates are $208 for Bed & Breakast package and $318 for the Great Escape Package for two adults, 2 kids 5-12 Sunday – Thursday through April 30, 2013.

If I were staying again, I would stay for at least two nights and plan to explore Leavenworth during the day, do some cross-country skiing and spend more time in that pool. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a one-night stay, as Leavenworth is fairly remote and requires a two- to three-hour drive, unless you live nearby. I personally wouldn’t want to drive those roads in the dark. In the winter, the short days and long drive times would make the visit way too brief to be enjoyable with very small children. Trust me — once you get here, you’ll want to stay as long as you can.

But there’s so much to do in the area and at Sleeping Lady itself that your family will never get bored. Sleeping Lady is now one of my favorite destinations in the Pacific Northwest.