The best skiing on the East Coast of the USA tends to be overshadowed by the premier ski facilities you find in the resorts of the West Coast. There is plenty of variety and great skiing to be had at East Coast ski resorts. The best ski resorts in Vermont, ski resorts in Maine or ski areas in New Hampshire are snow sure and offer great skiing. Moreover, many of the best places to ski on the East Coast are within a few hours drive of major metropolitan areas like Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. After all the best ski resorts in Eastern US are the ones that you can actually access quickly and easily even for a weekend on the slopes.
Best Resorts in Maine
So close to the Canadian border, you would expect ski resorts in Maine to have excellent facilities and to be snow-sure. And, your expectations will be met. So, what are the best resorts in Maine?
The resort of Sunday River in Southern Maine is known for its reliable skiing. With nearly 750 skiable acres, this ski resort in Maine has 8 peaks, 131 trails and 18 lifts geared for all abilities of skier and snowboarder. Sugarloaf ski resort in Maine is further north and has even more skiable terrain – a whopping 1150+ acres.
You get some of the best American ski resorts in the Northeast.
For beginner skiers and snowboarders, Saddleback is one of the best places to ski on the East Coast with extensive terrain away from more advanced skiers. In addition, the ski and snowboard school is well-known for its low teacher-student ratio.
For weekend skiers, New Hermon Mountain is located outside of Bangor Maine. New Hermon has plenty of easy and intermediate runs set over 60 acres. More advanced skiers may not be challenged though. Also near Bangor is Shawnee Peak, the oldest ski resort in Maine, which is likewise one of the small but fun East Coast ski resorts.
Here to give you her personal experience of Sugarloaf, one of the best resorts in Maine, is fellow travel blogger, Patti Neves at Tripping Unicorn.
Sugarloaf is a ski resort located on Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley, Maine. Providing some of the best skiing on the East Coast, It is the second biggest resort of Maine.
We stayed in a very friendly AirBnB, Mountain Village Farm B&B, where the owner raised ducks and prepared her own granola at home. We had also organic coffee and eggs from the farm’s own hens, blueberries pancakes and maybe the best oatmeal we ever had. There are plenty of nice cottages where you can stay in Kingfield – this area is just 18 Miles away from the Sugar Loaf resort. I highly recommend that place for a romantic get away and families.
The resort itself is really cool, there were amazing amounts of snow, and the quality of the snow was good. The resort has 34 green trails, 44 blue, 39 black diamond and 21 double diamond.
Is it good enough for beginners but also perfect to high level skiers. I would certainly bring kids there. The Sugarloaf season runs from mid-November through early May.
The night life was nearly no-existent in mid-March, so I do not recommend the place for party animals. It is, however, one of the best ski resorts on the East Coast for families with kids.
– Patti Neves at Tripping Unicorn
Sugarloaf Mountain, one of the ski resorts in Maine (image credit: Patti Neves)
Best Ski Resorts in New York
Some of the best places to ski on the East Coast are in New York thanks to the state having both the Adirondack as well as the Catskill Mountains.
Fun fact! New York state has 43 ski areas of which 10 are ski resorts.
The location for the downhill skiing events for the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics, Whiteface Mountain is one of the best ski resorts on the East Coast. Whiteface has 86 trails and 280+ acres of terrain and as snow sure as East Coast ski resorts get. Gore Mountain is also located in the Adirondacks and one of the best ski resorts for families on the east coast.
Greek Peak is also in central New York and is well known for being one of the best family ski resorts on the East Coast. With 38 trails over 220 skiable acres, 6 lifts and 3 terrain parks, Greek Peak has a good spread of choices for skiers of every level.
The best ski resorts near NYC are located in the Catskills. Spread across three mountains, Hunter Mountain is a resort a couple of hours north of New York City. Families will love the snowtubing park at Hunter Mountain which is the largest on the East Coast. Windham Mountain is another one of the best ski resorts near NYC with 54 trails set over 285 acres.
An hour from Buffalo and Niagara Falls and about three hours from Cleveland, Ellicotville has two of the best ski resorts in NY: Holiday Valley and North America’s largest private ski area HoliMont. During the week, non-members can ski at Holimont.
Here to give you her personal experience of Ellicottville, one of the best resorts in New York with some of the best snowboarding on the East Coast, is fellow travel blogger, Corinne McDermott at Have Baby Will Travel.
Holiday Valley, Ellicottville, NY
We are very busy most winters with a minor hockey schedule, but when your husband’s from out west you find a way to sneak in a little ski or snowboard time. Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, New York, really surprised us. Seeing as three out of four of us are absolute beginners, Holiday Valley was the perfect place to learn how to snowboard as a family
and they even have a practice chair lift to try out before going on the real deal.
Holiday Valley offers group lessons for kids as young as four, but even three-year-olds can learn how to snowboard via private lessons in the Burton Riglet Park. The resort is very manageable size-wise for adult beginners who still need to parent, and there are a number of ski in/ski out chalets available for rent.
We stayed in town at the Wingate, about a five-minute drive from Holiday Valley. It was a great place to warm up and crash at the end of the day, with lots of family-friendly dining options within easy walking distance, even after snowboarding all day!
-Corinne McDermott at Have Baby Will Travel
Snowboarding at Holiday Village, one of the best ski resorts in NY
(Image credit: Have Baby Will Travel)
Ski Resorts in New Hampshire
With 34 extensive ski areas, ski resorts in New Hampshire are geared towards both downhill skiing and/or cross country skiing. The White Mountains of New Hampshire provide some of the best ski resorts in New England. There are 20+ ski areas in New Hampshire. If you have a mixed ability group as well as those wholike both types of ski areas, New Hampshire is a good option for you.
Ski resorts in New Hampshire cater for cross country skiers as well as downhill skiers.
With one of the largest ski areas in New Hampshire, Bretton Woods has 97 trails over 360+ acre area, 10 lifts and 3 terrain parks. With 100km of trails, Bretton Woods is one of the best ski resorts on East Coast for cross country skiing.
Located just two hours away, with two mountains over 370 acres, 61 trails and and six terrain parks, Loon Mountain is one of the best ski resorts near Boston. Loon Mountain also has miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing.
Mount Sunapee, another one of the best ski resorts near Boston, is located just 100 miles from the city and is the most southern of the ski resorts in New Hampshire. It is considered one of the best ski resorts in New England for both adults and children learning to ski.
Here are two fellow travel bloggers give you their thoughts of what to expect when you ski New Hampshire – at two of the best ski resorts in New Hampshire, Bretton Woods and Loon Mountain.
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Bretton Woods Ski Resort is located in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire and is New Hampshire’s largest ski area with over 464 acres of skiing for all experience levels. Bretton Woods is our favorite ski area in New Hampshire, with its award-winning grooming and beautiful trails. The epic view of Mount Washington while skiing is amazing.
This very family friendly resort has something for the whole family with excellent day programs for the kids as well as activities for the non-skiers in the family. Bretton Woods offers gorgeous Nordic skiing, indoor rock climbing, and many more activities. If you just want to relax and enjoy the scenery, Bretton Woods has an great bar and restaurant. Skiers also get to enjoy food on trail, with an excellent mountain top restaurant on candy store on trail for those with a sweet tooth.
For the perfect ski getaway experience, stay at the Omni Mount Washington Resort. This historic resort is breath taking to see and is icon of New Hampshire. The food, services and extras at the Omni are the best in New Hampshire.
– Cathy Merrifield at Roar Loud
The Mount Washington Hotel is a historic landmark in Bretton Woods, one of the best ski resorts New Hampshire (image credit: Roar Loud)
Loon Mountain, New Hampshire
I grew up skiing in California and Utah. I can’t say that the snow in New England is as good– smaller in quantity, colder and more likely to have ice– but there are still some fabulous places to slide down a mountain.
For our family, the state of choice is New Hampshire
and the mountain of choice is Loon Mountain. It is set in the perfect family ski town of Lincoln. Nearby are trails for snow shoeing, cross country skiing, indoor water parks, even Santa’s Village.
Loon itself has trails for all skill levels, even a snowboarding park and a snow tubing mountain. There is also a wonderful program for handicap skiers. Child care and ski lessons are available for even the youngest.
See you there on the slopes this winter!
– Jamie Italiane Decubellis at The Daily Adventures of Me
Lincoln Woods Supsension Bridge at Loon Mountain ski New Hampshire (image credit: Jame Italiane Decubellis)
Best Ski Resorts in Pennsylvania
The Pocono mountains provide the backdrop for the best ski resorts in Pennsylvania. Among the ski resorts in the Pocono mountains is Tanglewood ski area, Big Boulder ski area and Camelback Resort.
Blue Mountain ski resort is one of the best ski resorts for families on the east coast located a mere 90 miles from Philadelphia to approximately 110 miles from New York City. It’s got good facilities for beginners and intermediates but more advanced skiers may not find Blue Mountain challenging enough.
A more advanced ski resort for families is Whitetail Resort. We have skiied ourselves from Whitetail Resort when we were visiting the Washington D.C. area. My children absolutely loved the ski school. Set over 120 acres, Whitetail has 23 runs ranging from beginners to advanced and great for a weekend of skiing.
Camelback Mountain is often regarded as one of the best ski resorts in Pennsylvania, not only for itself but also because it is one of the best ski resorts near NYC. In addition to skiing, Camelback has some of the best snowboarding on the east coast as well as the largest snowtube park in the USA.
I am partial to Camelback Mountain as one of the best ski resorts in PA because my brother has a weekend house nearby. Here to give a unbiased view of Camelback Mountain is fellow travel blogger, Marianne Rogerson.
Camelback Mountain, Pennsylvania
Camelback Mountain Resort in the Pocono Mountains is just a 2-hour drive from New York City. Although small, Camelback has a good choice of ski slopes with 37 trails ranging from green to double diamong and 10 chair lifts. There is a fun ski school for the kids, with magic carpet lifts on the nursery slopes. Thanks to more than 1200 snowmaking guns, you are guaranteed snow at Camelback.
For more fun in the snow, Camelback also boasts the biggest snow tubing park in the United States! It has 42 snowtubing lanes and is a lot of fun!
As it is so close to the city, Camelback can be visited as a day trip from New York City. We chose to spend three nights at the Camelback Resort, which is super family friendly, with large suites available as 1, 2 and 3-bedroom options.
There’s loads of fun to be had here away from the ski slopes, with an onsite indoor water park with a wave pool and selection of water slides, a games arcade and an indoor ropes course. It has a choice of restaurants, including the ski-in, ski out Trails End, which is perfect for a hot chocolate (or something stronger) at the end of a hard day skiing.
– Marianne Rogerson at Mum on the Move
Tubing at Camelback Mountain, one of the best ski resorts in PA (image credit: Marianne Rogerson)
Best Ski Resorts Vermont
The best ski resorts in Vermont are among the best ski resorts East Coast thanks to its 20 alpine and 30 cross country ski resorts set on the state’s Green Mountains.
Among Vermont’s best ski resorts are such well-known names as Mount Snow, Stratton, Killington, Smuggler’s Notch, Stowe and Sugarbush.
Mount Snow is one of the best ski resorts near Boston. With approximately 590 acres, 20 lifts and 86 runs suitable for all abilities. Stratton is one of the best ski resorts for families on the east coast. Set on almost 670 acres with 99 runs, 11 lifts and 4 terrain parks, unlike many other family resorts, there is a good spread for all abilities.
Here are five fellow travel bloggers to give you their their opinion of the best Vermont ski resorts.
As someone who was born and raised in New Jersey by a family who loved to ski, I’ve been lucky to experience my fair share of the east coast mountains in its best and worst conditions. There is one that will always be my favorite for various reasons and that is Killington, Vermont. A ski town that is perfect for the advancing skier/snowboarder. The summit lies at 4,241’ with a 3050’ vertical drop and on a heavy winter season can provide up to 212 trails. You can easily spend the entire day on the mountain and not explore all its trails, opposed to some of the smaller resorts surrounding it.
There is a culture in Killington that is easy to fall in love with. The trek is well worth it, expect to see familiar faces each weekend from the surrounding states. Apres is not to be missed in the main lodge and is often carried out into town.
Surprisingly, music is well respected with live bands filling up the resort and local bars almost every night. When you drive down the main strip you have an abundance of mom an pop restaurants, lodging, and bars to take advantage of. They managed to make a popular resort town feel local and homie.
Our favorite place to stay is the Highline Lodge for homie cabin vibes and outstanding food.
– Cydny Voicechovski at Goal Traveler
Killington, one of the best ski resorts in Vermont (image credit: Cydny Voicechovski)
Stratton Mountain, Vermont
Stratton ski resort in Vermont is known as the birthplace of snowboarding and is a well-designed, family friendly ski resort about 3.5 hours’ drive north of New York City.
There are some high-end lodgings available on the mountain, although rooms book up well in advance during the holiday season. An alternative is to stay in a nearby town such as Bennington which is under an hour’s drive to the resort with more friendly prices for accommodation and meal options.
The quality of snow at Stratton is excellent. Great consistent coverage and while there is no deep powder to speak of there are rarely any icy patches. The runs can all be accessed from the summit of Mount Stratton. Run range from double black diamond to green so it has terrain suitable to all levels including long wide runs allowing you to test your speed.
Families are well catered for with a fully licensed child care facility for toddlers and well-credentialed and long-established ski and snowboard school for older kids and adults.
For non-skiers, there is yoga, an indoor fitness centre with heated pool, or get a tour of the mountain aboard a snow mobile.
– Warren Dobe at Sling Adventures
One of Vermont best ski resorts Stratton Mountain (Image credit: Warren Dobe)
Stratton Mount Resort is located in Stratton, Vermont. It is the largest mountain in Southern Vermont at 3875 feet. Stratton Resort has a very European ski village look and feel with cute shops, cafes, and restaurants.
We stayed at the Black Bear Lodge which is walking distance from the slopes with a free shuttle that arrives every few minutes. We are very budget conscious and found it to be an excellent value for the money.
Our trip to Stratton came very late in the season and the weather was warm and rainy, yet the snow conditions were still good. With an average snow fall of over 160 inches of snow, good conditions extend into to late Spring.
Stratton has a good balance of skiing over their 670 acres of skiable terrain, with trails for every level of experience and type of skier. There are cruising trails as long as 3 miles, and over 160 acres of glades. The mix of trails is 41% novice, 31% intermediate, 17% advanced, and 11% expert.
For the non-skiers in the group, there is tons to enjoy. Stratton is very family friendly and offers lots of shopping and non-ski activities. We recommend trying fat tire biking!
– Frank Parrot at Roar Loud
Stratton Ski Resort, one of the best ski resorts in the east (Image credit: Frank Parrott)
Stowe Mountain Resort in Stowe, Vermont is the most impressive ski area we have ever visited. I couldn’t help but say wow when we entered the resort. The village has the largest amount of activities for the whole family, with shopping, dining, an outdoor ice skating center, indoor rock climbing, and an amazing day-care program for kids. For the more adventurous, try zip lining or the tree top adventure tours.
We stayed at near-by at the picturesque Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa that has a free shuttle bus to the resort. The whole area is cute and fun. You can’t go wrong with any place in Stowe.
Stowe sits on Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield (4395 feet). With amazing enclosed gondolas, it is the best ride up a mountain in New England. Getting down is even more fun. Stowe gets over 300 inches of snow every year that contribute to deep snow depths, along with their extensive snow making. Stowe has consistent reliable conditions on 40 miles of skiing for all levels of experience (Beginner 16%, Intermediate 55%, Expert 29%).
– Frank Parrott of Nothing But New England
One of the best Vermont ski resorts, Stowe Ski Resort in Vermont (image credit: Frank Parrott)
Jay Peak Vermont
With the largest natural snowfall in northeastern United States, Jay Peak in northern Vermont offers excellent conditions for beginners to expert skiers and snow boarders. With 79 trails, 9 lifts and the only Tram in Vermont, the skill hill uses advanced snowmaking techniques to supplement their already incredible amount of natural snow to offer amazing runs, including some amazing glades.
Over the past decade the ski hill has invested millions to turn the remote ski haven paradise into a world class resort. Open year-round, the resort offers something for everyone, including non-skiers, including cross country (Nordic) skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking and skating at their NHL-sized ice rink ‘Ice Haus’.
At Clips & Reels you can catch a movie the kids will enjoy while having an après ski drink or check out the virtual reality games in the arcade. There is also a climbing wall for those looking for adventure in a safe environment. Note: It’s best to book climbing in advance because it books up fast.
The 85-degree Pump House water park includes a 50,000 square-foot glass-enclosed water park with water slides and a retractable roof. This tropical paradise is also great for après ski with the kids. If your feeling adventurous try ‘La Chute’. Standing upright you wait for a countdown before the floor falls from beneath your feet and you fall 45 miles an hour through a chute… hence the name. Or if you are a little less adventurous enjoy a float along the lazy river or enjoy a drink at the bar overlooking the water playground.
There is a wide variety of options for accommodations including ski-in ski-out condos and a full-service hotel with 173-rooms, conference center and three restaurants. Having stayed at both a slope side condo and the hotel which is close to the lifts, we found the resort shuttle a great way to get around. If you do stay at the hotel, take advantage of the free valet parking. With numerous restaurants, bars, grocery store and more, you will find everything you need onsite. An added bonus for Canadiens is that they accept Canadian currency
– Peige McEachran at A Piece of Pie
Jay Peak and the stunning White Mountains of Vermont, one of the best resorts in the Northeast
Best Ski Resorts in West Virginia
You wouldn’t think that one of the best ski resorts in the east would be as far south as West Ve=t Virginia. Among the best ski resorts in West Virginia are Canaan Valley Resort, Snowshoe Mountain, Timberline Four and Winterplace Ski Resort.
Canaan Valley Resort is located on the highest peak east of the Rocky mountains. Set over 75 acres, Canaan Valley is compact but has 47 trails accommodating all abilities and 1 terrain park. Snowshoe Mountain is a larger resort yet equally suited for all abilities. Snowshoe is set over 250+ acres with 60 runs, 14 lifts (including 4 high speed ones) and 5 terrain parks.
Here to give her opinion of Snowshoe Mountain Ski resort is fellow travel blogger, Tanya Prater.
Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort
Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort provides outdoor recreation year-round, but this property located on Cheat Mountain in the Alleghenies of West Virginia is best known for their winter offerings. Less than five hours from Washington D.C., this ski resort provides fun for the entire family, on and off the slopes.
Outdoors, you’ll find 250 acres that encompass 15 lifts and 60 trails with four terrain parks and a Coca Cola tubing park, guided snowmobile tours and Polaris RZR Tours for an off-road adventure.
When you need to warm up, you’ll find restaurants, shopping, a spa, teen center, 15,000 square foot playground for children that offers bounce houses, slides and an arcade, a heated Snowcat tours offered at Snowshoe Village which is located at the summit of the mountain rather than the base.
-Tanya Prater at Travel Inspired Living
Snowshoe mountain, one of the best ski resorts in West Virginia (image credit: Travel Loving Family)
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A guide to the best ski resorts on the East Coast of the USA
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When I saw that our hotel was set in a Spanish mini-mall, I was not exactly thrilled. After all, I was expecting a 5-star design hotel. Once we were through the revolving doors, however, the Hotel Val de Neu in Baqueira was full of surprises. A luxury hotel that was a design hotel and also very family-friendly? Now, if only more hotels could achieve that balance, I would be a happy family traveller.
The Hotel Val de Neu in Baqueira
We chose Val de Neu because of its location and its amenities. OK, those reasons were what attracted my husband. As for me, I also liked having a contemporary design hotel after years of traditional ski lodges. A member of a small group of Spanish hotels, the Hotel Val de Neu ticked most of our boxes. We really liked it!
The entrance to the Val de Neu inside the mini-mall threw us for a loop.
I’ve created a story on Steller about the Hotel Val de Neu in Baqueira which has proved pretty popular with over 9000 views. Check out how gorgeous this hotel is!
Hotel Val de Neu is part of a small complex on the Val de Ruda in the Baqueira section located at 1500 meters. There are two other hotels, a Haagen-Daz store, a little supermarket, a handful of ski rental stores and boutiques and an apres-ski joint. The whole bit was covered and heated like a little mini-mall which was why I was surprised when I first saw it.
Basically Val de Ruda is only this little complex and a group of apartment-style ski lodges on the other side of the street.
The great part about the apres ski? Parents could hang out with a drink while the children were messing around in the mini-mall nearby. No need to hire a babysitter. On Saturday night, the bar had live music as well.
I have to admit that ordinarily I would find this many children hellish. Spanish kids tend to be better behaved than their English counterparts though.
The hotel is located right near the ski gondola and the place where you buy your ski pass. The hotel Val de Neu has lockers near the gondola as well. You don’t need to cart your skis and boots on the 5 minutes it talks to walk the 50 yards to the gondola. If you have children, you know that 5 minute walk can feel like an eternity when they are tired and whiny. At the lockers, the staff hand out cereal bars for snacks which I found a thoughtful touch.
If you drive (and I strongly urge you to do so), there is a hotel car park right underneath the building.
There is a kids’ club at the Hotel Val de Neu. It’s got a climbing frame, some PS3 games and lots of arts and crafts. There is also a small pool (more like a giant bathtub) which was pretty crowded with crazy kids jumping in the water. My son also complained that the water was not heated. I know, I know. We were there for Easter and the kids’ club organised a Easter Egg Hunt in which many of the kids at the hotel participated. The language of chocolate spoke to all kids, even my too-cool-for-kids-clubs kids.
The Spa at the hotel is available for over-16’s only and has treatment rooms, soaking areas and relaxing areas. As you would expect from my spa-loving self, I had a massage which was pretty good.
A hot tub with a view.
You have to pay €40 extra to enter the Spa area which I thought was annoying. On the other hand, the Spa had a great selection of whirlpool baths, including an outdoor one, which was perfect for soothing away aching muscles. I’ve read that many of the hotels in the area charge for using their spa even for their hotel guests.
There is a tiny gym which I did see people using. If you are skiing, however, I would have thought it was exercise enough!
Our room was a duplex. The downstairs area has a sofa which turned into a large bed for the children. Upstairs is the open-plan bedroom and bathroom. When the sofa bed is opened though, you don’t have much room to navigate the downstairs area. As you would expect from a luxury hotel, both beds were very comfortable.
We noted that there is a connecting door to the next room. Larger families would find the layout very convenient. While we only had a large walk-in shower, I know there are bathrooms with bathtubs so if your children need a bathtub you should specifically request it.
The upstairs roof was pitched with dormer windows (and blackout blinds which would be necessary because the Spanish sleep late). You really got the sense of being in a little chalet which presumably was the idea of dormer windows.
The hotel has four restaurants – El Bistro for casual meals, El Bosque for fine dining, La Fondue if you miss your Alps melted cheese experience and a restaurant for children.
A quick lunch at the casual bistro.
My children felt the kiddie buffet was beneath their dignity but I stopped by for a look. It was basically a converted conference room with a buffet of usual children’s favourites. What did I find funny? The kiddie buffet was served early as per the usual custom. Early in Spanish dinner time meant 8pm-10pm. The children were pretty young – 7 and under – I would say. When my kids were aged 7 and under they were in bed fast asleep by 8pm.
Yes, you can have sweets for the kids laid out stylishly.
We had lunch at El Bistro and dinner at El Bosque both of which were excellent. El Bosque let us have a kiddie menu at our table for my daughter.
My son ordered steak at El Bosque.
Service at the hotel was excellent. All the staff spoke English ranging from excellent to passable. We don’t speak Spanish but had no problems communicating.
You don’t have to crane your neck trying to flag down a waiter!
The WiFi was excellent. It reached the rooms, the spa and restaurants well. Ironically? The one place we did not have good WiFi was our upstairs loft bedroom. Very annoying but it did stop us from playing with our electronics late into the night.
There were lots of thoughtful little touches. For example, when our taxi service didn’t show up a couple of times, the hotel driver took us to our destinations. Every afternoon, bottles of water and little sweet treats were left in our room. When we left, they gave us bottles of water and snacks for the kids for the transfer to the airport.
Other Hotel Options in Baqueira
There were two other hotels that were part of this complex on the Val de Ruda. The AC Baqueira is part of the Marriott chain and is likewise 5-star. It doesn’t have the same large spa complex though that Val de Neu does. The 4-star Himalaia, the third hotel, is likewise contemporary in style. I personally would not pick either hotel over the Hotel Val de Neu.
Tanau, another part of Baqueira, is higher up the mountain. Located at 1700 meters, Tanau peers over the Val de Ruda hotels and the rest of the valley. Although Tanau has its own set of villas and a couple of hotels, restaurants and stores, this hamlet is equally tiny and has its own ski lift. It is marginally famous for having the villa of the Spanish royal family. The Melia Royal Tanau is the 5-star family-friendly hotel. Ironically, I don’t find it as convenient because of it’s lack of mini-mall setting.
The road that runs through Tanau. Yeah, that’s it.
Chalet Eira is owned by a British couple and is popular with English-speakers. They also have their own ski school located on the premises, the Baqueira British Ski School. A quick look in the hotel convinced us that it was a little piece of Britain transplanted into the Spanish Pyrenees.
The Eira calls itself a style-hotel. Not sure how that is different from a design hotel.
The Chalet Eira rates are half-board so you don’t actually need to have any interaction with the locals if you so wish. When we went next door to the fabulous little restaurant, Tanau Sabor, we found lots of English people having their Chicken Tikka Masala curry fix. In addition to the hotel rooms, they have several self-catering 2 and 3 bedroom apartments.
Our Opinion of the Hotels in Baqueira
We didn’t know much about the Baqueira-Beret resort before we went skiing there over Easter. We loved the resort, however, and plan on returning next year. So, we made a point of checking out all of our hotel options for a future trip.
You can stay elsewhere in the Val d’Aran and still ski at Baqueira-Beret. With children in tow, I am not a fan of this idea. When my kids get tired, it’s like when the battery on my iPhone dies. It goes red for a few minutes, you can quickly plug it in or it’s kaput in short order. My kids seem to have a very little gap from tired to cranky annoying dead-tired. I need to order downtime for them quickly for all of our sanities.
We’ve decided that we love the Hotel Val de Neu in Baqueira for all the reasons that we first picked – a luxury, family-friendly design ski hotel in a great location. We also love the hotel for some more reasons that we did not know until we got to experience it – excellent and friendly service, the churros, and, yes, the convenience of a mini-mall. The American is strong within me, I fear.
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Skiing in Spain? Yes, Spain. Not only does the country have miles of beautiful beaches along its coastline, the Pyrenees border with France has a world-class ski resort, Baqueira-Beret. Throw in the great food and wine, could I love this country more?! Here are my top 10 reasons for why you should take the family skiing in Spain.
I have to admit that I did not think about skiing in Spain either. My husband has been to Andorra skiing but wouldn’t consider trading in the Alps for it. At a travel bloggers’ conference in Costa Brava last year though, I met a fellow American who lived in the Val d’Aran and raved about its ski slopes. Intrigued we did some research and found that indeed Baqueira Beret may be a hidden gem. After all, if the very British Telegraph newspaper name-checked Baqueira Beret along with Alps stalwarts such as Verbier, than my husband was willing to give it a try. We are so glad we did!!
Why Take The Family Skiing in Spain?
Less Crowded Slopes
The Spanish have a fairly relaxed attitude towards skiing. Unlike places I’ve skied in the Alps, the line for the ski lifts is not ridiculously long at 9AM. In Val d’Isere, for example, there is a ‘ski big or go home’ mentality where everyone skis from the time the lifts open. In Baqueira, breakfast was still being served at 11 AM (and people were still lingering over their coffee).
This early morning lack of hustle is probably because the Spanish like to dine and to drink late into the night. The Spanish trickle onto the slopes by 10-11 AM. If you don’t keep Spanish hours like our family, this timetable means a more relaxed entry onto the slopes.
An afternoon siesta in the sunshine post-lunch.
The resort is fairly snow-sure. When we went at the end of March for Easter, there was still a base layer of 2 meters of snow. In addition, they have plenty of artificial snow cannons.
More Skiers than Snowboarders
There are also a lot more skiers than snowboarders at Bacqueira. Our instructor told us that only about 10% of the snow sports lovers in Baqueira are snowboarders.
If you have had more than one-run with snowboarders like us, you know it is a good thing. One of the children we went with last year to Val d’Isere broke her leg when she was was run over by a snowboarder. And, the ludicrous part? She was merely standing at the side of the slope with the ski instructor waiting for her ski class to catch up with them.
Plenty of Skiing Options
Baqueira Beret is actually strung along their own version of the 3 valleys similar to France – Bacqueira, Beret and Bonaigua. You will have plenty of choice on ski runs. Having said that, for complete beginners there are only a handful of green runs. There are, however, plenty of blue runs for an easy progression for those people with a bit more skiing experience. There are also a good number of red runs for intermediates.
My kids did their first black run this trip! (And fell over only once). They are officially better skiers than me.
For the more expert skiers, Baqueira Beret has lots of heli-skiing options because really only about 10% of the slopes that are black runs. Once again, they are reasonably priced and cheaper than the Alps. My son is determined to be good enough to heliski now that he knows its an option. If a family is skiing together, then children can go heliskiing, too.
There were lots of families at the resort. We went during Semana Santa (the week before Easter) during which Spanish children have a holiday from school. Baqueira is known for being a family resort. We saw plenty of multi-generational families who were skiing with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in tow.
We chose Marta, an owner and instructor with The Ski Lab skiing school, to ski with our kids because she was a friend of our former nanny. Marta spoke excellent English which was handy because our children learned very little useful Spanish from the 2 1/2 years spent with our former nanny.
Marta, our ski instructor
If you really want native English speaking instruction, there is a Baqueira British Ski School which is associated with Eira Hotel (a British-owned 4 star hotel) in Tanau. Like pretty much most of the area, Tanau is a tiny sleepy hamlet.
This is the main drag of Tanau
As for après-ski, the Spanish kids were just milling around playing while their parents enjoyed a drink. We didn’t have a nanny with us and (as ever) our kids refused to go to the kids club, but we were still able to enjoy a (non-quiet) drink after skiing.
We had excellent service with friendly locals. From my years in France, I know that ski resorts think of their clientele more as a necessarily evil. There are plenty of ski hire options, restaurants, bars and other services that cater to skiers.
Most of the skiers are French and Spanish. We heard a smattering of English and Japanese as well. If you stay in Tanau at Eira Hotel, it is pretty much all English-speaking people from what we could tell.
On the whole though, I found our lack of Spanish knowledge was not a hindrance. Most people spoke English well enough to provide all necessary services, such as ski rental or ordering food.
Cheaper than the Alps
Baqueira-Beret is the Spanish answer to Gstaad with the Spanish royal family having a villa at Tanau (which is another part of Baqueira at 1700 meters elevation). The resort is definitely posh. Yet, it is remarkably cheaper than the resorts we’ve been to in the Alps (e.g., St. Anton in Austria, Val d’Isere and Courcheval in France).
There are other ski resorts which are even cheaper than Baqueira Beret in Spain and, of course, there is skiing in Andorra. Baqueira Beret, though, gives you the comfort and quality of staying at one of the Alps top resorts without the eye-watering prices (especially a problem in the Alps when all of Europe seems to descend in the area for February half-term holidays).
For example, we have hired private instructors for the children’s ski lessons in the past. At Baqueira, our wonderful ski instructor, Marta from Ski Lab, was priced at €50/hour. They had a full day of private class totalling 6 hours (split between morning and afternoon) during the busy Spanish Semana Santa week for €300. We paid our equally great ski instructor from Progression Ski at Val d’Isere €480 for the full day during February half-term.
Churros for Breakfast
Can you get churros for breakfast in the French Alps? I think not. Along with the usual options such as croissants and crepes, you also get donuts and churros. Of course, there are yogurts and fruits because, let’s face it, the stick-thin glamorous Spanish women do not remain that way by eating churros for breakfast. One downside: we did not see any muesli or oatmeal.
Decadent but you figure you can burn those calories away skiing.
To be fair, all the food was excellent. The food was fairly international. Our hotel had one restaurant called Le Fondue (what else?) which went with the usual-Alps tradition of melted cheese with everything. Since I’ve had more than my share of melted cheese for lunch and dinner on past ski-holidays, I saw no reason to eat there. There were great local wines available as well.
You’re always greeted with olives at a restaurant.
We had a delicious meal at Tanau Sabor which was recommended for its chicken curry. We were a bit dubious but it was delicious. Turns out the owner grew up eating Indian food because his mother was born in India when his grandparents worked as a doctor and a nurse in Calcutta many years ago!
Remember what I said about the Spaniards eating late? Well, on the plus side for us non-Spaniards, the restaurants are pretty empty at 8pm when we like to eat. The restaurants tend to have 2 seating times – 8pm and 10pm. You can guess which one is the popular one!
My kids were in asleep by 8pm when they were young enough to eat from the kiddie buffet!
Lack of Scandi Yellow Pine Decor
The Spanish resort is blessedly free of reindeer motifs and that horrible yellow pine wood decor that seems a must in many of the Alps hotels. Even our beloved Hotel Christiania was not immune to its fair share of traditional decor.
Yes, there are uber-cool places like Le Blizzard in Val d’isere. They are so achingly cool, though, that it’s hard to picture little children at the hotel. People we knew who stayed at Le Blizzard all had teenage children. There were plenty of younger children at our 5 star hotel, Val de Neu, and they were actively welcomed with amenities such as children’s toiletries and bathrooms, children’s menus and a kids club.
Our contemporary hotel, the Val de Neu
Here’s my Steller Story on our hotel, Val de Neu.
Choice of Villages
You don’t need to stay in Baqueira Beret to ski at the resort. The resort of Baqueira itself is pretty small. I walked it in about 20 minutes.
There are charming little medieval villages strung along the valley. These villages, too, are tiny but they all seem to have the obligatory Romanesque church. They have accommodation as well as some restaurants. My friend Rachel from the blog, Rachel’s Ruminations, did a tour of the Romanesque churches in the Val d’Aran.
We didn’t rent a car and that was a huge mistake. The taxi service comes to your remote hamlet from the regional centre of Vielha which in our case was 20 minutes away. In addition, the basic call out rate is €30 for a taxi even if you are going 5 minutes by car to the next village. Walking is not a good idea though – the road is windy and there is no easy pedestrian byway on the side of the road.
Even in Baqueira itself, the section that is Tanau is not an easy walk.
There is plenty of parking and ice/snow on the roads is not a problem as it is cleared regularly.
Activities for Non-Skiers
There is plenty in the Val d’Aran for non-skiers to be kept busy. I consider eating and drinking my way through a series of medieval villages very entertaining in the manner of Rachel who did not ski when her family went skiing.
There are the usual horse and sled rides as well as dog-sledding. The dog-sledding is in the mornings though from 10-1 and my ski-or-die family refused to take a morning off from the slopes to check it out. For the more active, you can also go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
Our Opinion of Baqueira Beret
I had to think twice about whether I really wanted to share this little gem of a resort. Despite great reviews from even The New York Times, this place is still relatively undiscovered. We will definitely be returning.
A lone skier in the morning mist.
What do you think of my reasons on why you should take the family skiing in Spain? Don’t get me wrong – I still like ski holidays in the Alps. I think it’s just an easier/cheaper experience in Spain especially because we are limited to travelling when everyone else is skiing during school holidays.
Practicalities of Family Skiing in Spain
We booked our stay ourselves using online resources. We flew into Toulouse, France on Easy Jet and arranged for a private transfer to Baqueira-Beret. Toulouse is only a 2 hour drive away through the valley of the Pyrenees. Barcelona airport is also an option but it is 4 hours away and you will need to drive through the mountains themselves. We stayed at the Hotel Val de Neu right in Baqueira because it is a 5 minute walk to a ski lift. Our instructor was from The Ski Lab, a small ski instruction company. We rented ski equipment through a local store. The resort is open from November to the week after Easter (no matter how early Easter is in the calendar!).
This post is linked up with Monday Escapes, Travel Photo Thursday and Weekend Wanderlust.
Richard Orlinski is one of France’s most famous contemporary artists. I had not heard of him before I saw his works at the Val d’Isere ski resort in the French Alps.
Orlinski mostly works with contemporary materials like resin and aluminium. He is known for creating works that are Pop Art influenced in industrial materials. His works reflect the theme of “Born Wild” – looking at concepts of savagery and civilisation. Born in 1966, he has been a sculptor since 2004. His pieces are very much marked as “price on application” – if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. We were told the Val d’Isere pieces run about €150,000.
He has a sculpture reflecting his theme of Born Wild. This piece shows clearly his love of Pop Art and is an homage to American artist, Robert Indiana, famous for his sculptures of the world “love”. Indiana had the letter “O” in his love statues tilted to show that love could never be perfect. I wonder what the tilted O and backward N and D in this piece means.
image: Richard Orlinski
There are several works of Orlinski at Val d’Isere that we saw – Wild Kong, Panther and Superman. Two works, Wild Kong and Panther, are in the mountains.
Our ski instructor told us that he’d seen Panther go up in a ski lift to where it would eventually be placed. The Panther is sculpted similar to a diamond and the light bounces off the different facets of the carving. I think the faceting highlights the sleek power of the panther’s muscles really effectively.
Wild Kong is, of course, based on the iconic character of King Kong. It’s pretty effective in conveying the born wild concept of the Orlinski – the beast that is capable of love and destruction. My son couldn’t resist mugging with Wild Kong.
I didn’t actually get a photograph of Superman even though I passed it every day. The sculpture is right at the bottom of the slopes where the ski school classes meet. Every day I thought I must get a photo and, of course, never got around to it. Superman was set pointing to the apres ski crowd in the village. I think he would have been more effective in the mountains like the others.
image: Le Dauhine
Orlinski modelled the Superman on Bolshevik art and asks the question what if Superman had landed in the USSR instead of the USA? The “S” symbol on Superman’s chest is replaced by the Communist symbols of a hammer and sickle.
Say what??! It might all be a little high-brow for me because frankly Superman is a fictional character. Superman is also a very American character – friendly, farm boy who goes to the big city and fights for good causes. There’s not nearly enough angst, family dysfunction, repressed sexuality, hopeless causes and death for it to be Russian. My husband says this attitude is the American in me speaking.
Orlinski’s works are also on exhibit also at the nearby ski resort of Courcheval, such as this bear.
Image from Instagram @RichardOrlinski
Cool isn’t it?
I think it is a fabulous idea bringing art to the French Alps. I find it amusing thought that both French resorts chosen (Val d’Isere and Courcheval) are known to have well-heeled clients. Art for the masses is good, but art that brings in wealthy clients for the artist is even better.
As a general rule, we don’t stay in the same hotel more than once because we like to try new places and experiences. The only time we have broken this rule is sking in Val D’Isere and the Hotel Christiana. So you figure the Hotel Christiana has to be something special for us to keep going back there!
front of hotel
We returned for our third year in a row to the Hotel Christiana a couple of weeks ago for a week of skiing during half-term. In fact we stayed in the same room as previous rooms as well. It’s a family suite with a separate bedroom/bath for the children. Our friends’ rooms are on the same floor and it’s easy for the children to run across the hall to each other’s rooms.
The hotel staff greeted us warmly and remembered our preferences. Pretty amazing considering we are only back for 1 week every year! The bartender makes this grog for me every year because invariably I have a sore throat at some point. The grog is a mix of rum, honey, cinnamon, lemon and hot water with an Earl Gray infusion. Yum!
I also like that the hotel seems to have a regular clientele which return every year. We meet the same families and our children play together. The hotel guests are a mix of European and English with no clear majority of any nationality.
The food is superb. There is an extensive breakfast buffet. We’ve never been around for lunch because we like to try out the restaurants in Val d’Isere. We always take half-board at the hotel because dinner is also excellent. In fact, we sometimes go out for drinks but return to the hotel restaurant for dinner.
The hotel run a play/crafts room near the dining room during school holidays. Our children like to hang out with their friends there while we eat dinner.
The location, likewise, is excellent. It’s a short few minutes to the main ski lifts and to the main street in town. There is a garage under the building should you chose to drive. Across the street is the very popular night spot, Dick’s Tea Bar. We, however, have heard no noise from Dick’s because the hotel closes its metal shutters at night.
Although traditionally decorated with its dark wood, velvet curtains and sofas, I noticed touches towards modern decor such as the Tom Dixon tea lights scattered around. This hotel, however, is comfortable in itself and isn’t trying to reinvent itself as anything. One night we were there, the King and Queen of Norway was having dinner in the restaurant as well. With a fairly staid clientele, changes to the hotel are never going to be radical.
This hotel, however, is not stuffy. My children regularly pad about downstairs in their socks. I’ve noticed some children coming down to the children’s dinner in pyjamas. When I hurt my knee skiing, I limped down to dinner in my complimentary spa slippers.
The spa, by the way, is very good. I’ve eased away the ski aches and pains with an excellent massage. There is also a pool which our children use most evenings and they have made friends with some of the other guests’ children playing in the pool.
Why do we return? The convenient location, nice family rooms, impeccable service and great food are all important. Most important, however, our children think of the Christiana as a ski home away from home. You can’t place a price on warm, fuzzy feelings!