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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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).
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!”
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.