Powder Power: Six Best Ski Resorts on the East Coast

by | Nov 18, 2023 | East Coast, Family Adventures

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When family travelers think of the New England states, images of pilgrims, Revolutionary War soldiers, lobster, maple syrup, covered bridges, and Ivy League schools might dance in their heads. Let’s add one more item to that list … gnarly powder.

The East Coast never let the Rocky Mountains have a monopoly on U.S. skiing. Plenty of family-friendly yet challenging ski resorts in Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, and Massachusetts offer some of the finest skiing in the United States. That is, after all, why Lake Placid, New York, is the only city in North America to host the Winter Olympics twice. But families don’t have to have gold medal ambitions to enjoy a ski weekend at one of our favorite East Coast ski resorts; just a desire for family fun, outdoor adventure, and fresh mountain air.



East Coast Ski Resorts Pin


Jay Peak Resort, Vermont

Jay Peak Resort in Jay, Vermont, gets a big thumbs-up from us as a family-friendly skiing destination. In the winter, the area gets blanketed with natural powder as Jay Peak receives the most annual snowfall of any location in the eastern part of the United States. Downhill skiers and Nordic skiers can venture on the slopes and trails to experience the splendor of a New England winter.

For families with young children who are getting their first taste of ski life, Jay Peak has slopes for all skill levels. Sign up for a class or two and have one of the expert ski instructors give you pointers. For families with teens and experienced skiers, Jay Peak has a summit elevation of nearly 4,000 feet with a vertical drop of more than 2,000 feet. Spend the weekend shredding the mountain or hitting the backcountry … both are challenging and exhilarating.


Family-friendly ski weekend at Jay Peak Resort in Vermont.

Catching air at Jay Peak Resort in Vermont. Photo by Matthieu Pétiard on Unsplash


If the young ones get tired out – and they will! –Jay Peak has two childcare centers. Let the little ones have some indoor playtime – and snacks! – while the parents head to the top of the mountain on one of the resort’s 9 ski lifts.

The entire family will love the Pump House at Jay Peak, Vermont’s only indoor water park. One of the highlights of the water park is the Flowriding pool. What’s Flowriding? (Don’t worry, I had to ask, too!) If we can think about snowboarding as “surfing on snow”, then Flowriding is “snowboarding on water.” It is a lot like those surf pools you often see at outdoor water parks but with a soft, squishy mat beneath the artificial wave. Give it a try … It’ll be fun.  


Where to Stay Near Jay Peak

Just down the road from Jay Peak Ski Resort, Crofter’s Green is a unique place for families who want a quiet, remote location to unwind at the end of the day. Crofter’s Green has several quaint and charming cottages for rent, each one with its own architectural style. The southwest-influenced Adobe cottage and the Irish-styled O’Shea’s Farmhouse both sleep four guests in home-like comfort. Oh, and they have kitchenettes … perfect for making quick breakfasts before starting the day or preparing some evening snacks. 


Wachusett Mountain Ski Resort, Massachusetts

Wachusett Mountain in Westminster, Massachusetts, makes the list because of the kid-friendly ski-related programs it offers. The resort’s ski school has private ski lessons for one or two people at a time to help young siblings or buddies learn the slopes. Or they can participate in one of two special kids’ programs at Wachusett Mountain. For youngsters ages 4 to 8, there is the “Polar Kids” club while older kids, between 9 and 12, can join the “Arctic Aces” club. Both clubs include ski lessons, a lift ticket, and discounts on ski equipment rental.


Child learning to ski

You’re never too young to start skiing. Image by tschmid250561 from Pixabay


Speaking of ski rentals, families can rent the necessary equipment for their children – boots, skis, poles, and snowboards – from Wachusett Mountain’s MTNside shop or if they plan to enjoy the slopes at Wachusett Mountain all season long, there is an equipment leasing option available. Parents can lease the skis and other equipment for use throughout the season and keep it stored at the MTNside shop. No big cost outlay for children’s ski equipment only to find out your kids don’t enjoy downhill skiing.

 Wachusett Mountain is a great resort for beginning snow bunnies, too. The summit elevation is just over 2,000 feet with a 1,000-foot vertical drop. There are 27 trails and 8 chair lifts. The trails are groomed twice a day to keep them in perfect condition for skiers.

The “Science on the Slopes” program is an educational program for children with a focus on environmentalism and wellness. The experts at Wachusett Mountain have compiled kid-friendly information that shows youngsters how skiing and ski slopes demonstrate principles of physics, engineering, ecology, physical science, geology, health, fitness, and wellness. Who knew skiing could be so enlightening?


Where to Stay Near Wachusett Mountain

Great Wolf Lodge New England is less than six miles from Wachusett Mountain. With themed family suites, several dining options, and an indoor waterpark, kids will find plenty to keep them entertained. When traveling with children, it is great to have options. Great Wolf Lodge New England has something for every type of kid and parent, from water slides and arcades for kids to hot tubs and a lodge bar for grownups.


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Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

As New Hampshire’s largest ski area, Bretton Woods boasts 464 skiable acres, with 63 trails and 35 glades. SKI Magazine has named Bretton Woods as the East Coast resort with the “Best Snow” and “Best Grooming” and gave the resort high marks in several other areas, too, including Après Ski Scene, family friendliness, and overall guest services.


gondola in snowy mountains

The sky is the limit Photo courtesy of Bretton Woods


Set in the White Mountains, Bretton Woods sees an average annual snowfall of more than 200 inches, so the powder is always fresh. The ski area has a 3,100-foot summit elevation with a vertical drop of roughly 1,500 feet. The facility has 10 ski lifts, including the 8-passenger Bretton Woods Skyway gondola, a great way to see the slopes from above and take in the snowy mountain scenery.

The Omni Kids Club at Bretton Woods is designed to give young guests between the ages of 5 and 12 an evening of crafts, fun, and adventure. The best part is that this is a drop-off program that will keep children safe and entertained while their parents enjoy a kid-free date night. There are other family-friendly activities scheduled throughout each day that allow parents to share in the fun with their children as they make family memories together.


Fatbiking is the newest outdoor winter activity.

Give fatbiking a try this winter. Photo by Himiway Bikes on Unsplash


Alpine and cross-country skiing aren’t the only winter sports at Bretton Woods. Guests can give snowshoeing a try or go tubing down the sledding hill. For a laugh – and some hilarious pics to make your Facebook friends LOL – give Fatbiking a whirl. I don’t know that I’d call this the next big thing in winter sports, but it is definitely a memorable experience.


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Where to Stay at Bretton Woods

The Townhomes at Bretton Woods are fully furnished, multi-bedroom vacation homes with full kitchens, fireplaces, and spacious decks. For large families or when traveling with grandma and grandpa, it is nice to have the space to spread out. Sometimes, a little down time is needed, especially after all the physical activity in the cold temperatures. A private home with up to five individual bedrooms is just what is needed to relax and enjoy quality family time, whether you have a large family, are traveling with another family, or have grandma and grandpa in tow.


Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont

The name Smugglers’ Notch is a nod to the region’s shady past when the caves and caverns found in the rugged terrain of this portion of Vermont’s Green Mountains were used to hide illegal products and goods before they were transported across the border into Canada and, later, to store Canadian liquor being smuggled into the prohibition-era U.S. Today, Smugglers’ Notch attracts a different kind of adventurer … the ski bum!


Smugglers' Notch in Vermont

Notch some family fun time at Smugglers’ Notch. https://vermont.com/lodging/smugglers-notch-resort/


At Smugglers’ Notch, there are actually three mountain peaks – Morse, Sterling, and Madonna, that are connected. Beginners should stick with Morse Mountain and let more advanced skiers tackle the Madonna and Sterling ski areas. Smugglers’ Notch has glades to match every skill level. For newcomers to the sport, Whitetail Woods at Morse Highlands will be a good introduction to winter fun. For experienced skiers, Smugglers’ Notch is home to The Black Hole, the East’s only triple black diamond glade. In all, the resort has 22 marked glades and more than 750 acres of backcountry, all-access terrain for skiers who want to boldly go where no skier has gone before.

The folks at Smugglers’ Notch go out of their way to help children fall in love with skiing and winter sports. Their children’s ski and snowboard programs group kids by skill level and developmental stage, rather than simply by age. Groups are kept intentionally small so each child can get the most out of the program. 

SNAP, which stands for Smugglers’ Notch Adaptive Program, offers youngsters and adults uniquely tailored therapeutic recreational experiences to meet their needs and abilities. This is a big plus for parents of youngsters with special needs. No wonder the children’s programs at Smugglers’ Notch have earned awards!

In the evenings, when the slopes are not as busy, the ski instructors at Smugglers’ Notch host “night jibbing” for all skill levels. Jibbing is a new off-shoot of skiing and snowboarding that involves skiing or boarding over surfaces other than snow … like logs, metal railings, sidewalks, stairs, and wooden structures. Picture freestyle skateboarders. Jibbing is a lot like that, but with snow skis.


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Where to Stay at Smugglers’ Notch

Families can book lodging at Smugglers’ Notch for the gorgeous mountainside views and close proximity to the ski trails. The one- to four-bedroom homes are independently owned yet managed by the resort so the quality and cleanliness are consistent. When booking a rental home through Smugglers’ Notch, guests will have easy access to the resort’s amenities, including a shuttler to take them where they want to go.


Loon Mountain Resort, New Hampshire

Located in Lincoln, New Hampshire, in the heart of the White Mountains, Loon Mountain Resort is a short drive off Interstate 93. One of the state’s top ski destinations, Loon Mountain Resort offers guests access to three peaks, 73 trails, and more than 400 skiable acres with a full progression of terrain parks.


Loon Mountain's gondola in the sunset.

Take the Loon Mountain gondola to visit the glacier caves. https://www.newenglandinnsandresorts.com/inns-resorts/new-hampshire/lincoln/the-mountain-club-on-loon


Skiers can take the White Mountain Express Gondola to the summit of Loon Peak to hit the slopes there or to experience a one-of-a-kind adventure at the glacial caves of Loon Mountain. The granite caves are accessible in the wooded area just below the summit. There, visitors can play on the massive boulders that were left behind after the last ice age. The jumbled collection of rocks is stable, so adventure-seekers of all ages can climb on, under, and through them, channeling their inner Indiana Jones.

New to winter skiing? Loon Mountain Resort offers group and private ski lessons for all ages and abilities … even youngsters as young as two years old. The specially trained adaptive sports instructors at Loon Mountain Resort are skilled at working through the New England Disabled Sports network to teach alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding to children and adults who face unique challenges.

If it is time to take a break from skiing, visitors to Loon Mountain have options that allow them to enjoy the winter weather. Cross-country skiers can utilize the trails and revel in the beauty of the snow-draped trees. How about trying your hand at Sno-Go? A Sno-Go is basically a bicycle that has skis where the tires should be. Shooshing down the slopes on a Sno-Go is an exciting change of pace. It is especially popular with thrill-seeking teenagers and dads who like to pretend they are still teenagers.


Where to Stay Near Loon Mountain Resort

The Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Lincoln East is an affordable hotel that is close to Loon Mountain Resort. There is even a shuttle to take skiers to the ski slopes and back again. The hotel has been recently renovated, and guests can choose between hotel rooms or suites. In addition to the complimentary hot breakfast, the rooms have refrigerators, microwaves, and coffee makers. Muscles sore from your day of skiing? Sooth them in the hot tub or heated indoor pool. The Holiday Inn Express & Suites even has an on-site laundry facility so ski guests can dry their wet gear if needed.


Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont

One of the most picturesque places in New England, Stowe Mountain Resort is located in the charming town of Stowe, Vermont, named one of the Top Ten Small Towns in America. Skiers to Stowe Mountain Resort can get up close and personal with Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont, as well as its neighboring mountain, Spruce Peak.


Skiing at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont

Skiing is a way of life at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont. Photo courtesy of Visit Vermont


For families of teens with some skiing experience, Stowe Mountain Resort is the ideal place to hone their skills and get experience on challenging terrain. There are more than 485 acres of skiable terrain at this resort, with the highest skiing elevation at 3,625 feet and a summit elevation of nearly 4,400 feet. Stowe has 12 lifts and the most mile-long lifts on any East Coast ski resort.

Stowe Mountain Resort isn’t just for avid skiers. It is also a good place for beginners who are eager to learn all they can about this exciting wintertime sport. Only 29% of the terrain is considered advanced. The rest is better suited for beginners and intermediate skiers. Guests of any age who are new to the sport of skiing or who’d like to brush up on their skills can choose between group or private ski lessons with Stowe’s highly qualified instructors.


At this eastern ski resort, guests can enjoy plenty of cold weather activities in addition to snow skiing. Ice skating, dog sledding, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing are offered as well. Families with young ones can take advantage of the licensed child care center at Stowe Mountain Resort so they can have some adult time on the slopes. The childcare facility is a nut-free center … peace of mind for parents of kids with peanut allergies.


Where to Stay at Stowe Mountain Resort

Although the town of Stowe, Vermont, is super-cute, sometimes it’s more convenient to stay right at the ski resort. The Lodge at Spruce Peak is a one-of-a-kind hotel with 300 rooms, a heated swimming pool, spa, and fitness center. And it is New England’s only luxury ski-in/ski-out hotel. Guests are just steps away from four different restaurants, shopping, Spruce Peak’s concert venue, and the Adventure Center’s indoor rock climbing wall.

The guest rooms have everything you’d expect of a luxury hotel … gas fireplaces, private balconies, spacious bathrooms, and kitchens.



This ski season, turn your attention to the east. The East Coast has terrain parks that rival those of Colorado and Utah and are a drivable distance from New York City, Boston, and other East Coast cities. A ski vacation is guaranteed to provide a lifetime of family memories.




Karen Harris is a freelance writer, recovering academic, history buff, amateur photographer, and sufferer of chronic wanderlust. She passed her wanderlust down to her four daughters and even infected her firefighter husband. She is the co-author of a newly published children’s book, Ellie Lou Knows What to Do, written in honor of her young granddaughter who has been diagnosed with Noonan Syndrome.