No one could have predicted even two years ago that my family would spend nearly every weekend of our (crazy) Canadian winters on the slopes.
But we do.
Because there's hardly a better way for us to spend time together -- being active and continuing to learn new skills and apply them each time we snap our boots back into their bindings.
It's our way of embracing whatever Mother Nature throws at us from December through April. (And throw, she does. We've skied through blazing -32C windchills at Tremblant's summit, freezing rain and slush at Collingwood's beloved Blue Mountain and snow so thick it looks like fog in the distance.)
If you're still on the fence about what to do this March Break, a family ski (or snowboard) getaway -- even if none of you ski yet -- may just be the perfect choice.
1. Tremblant | Mont-Tremblant, Quebec
We feel about Tremblant the way Dorothy feels about Kansas. And even though it's more than five hours from home, every time we visit, it's a special kind of homecoming. Maybe it's because this is where we became a ski family, maybe it's the pedestrian village magic, but Tremblant has our hearts forever.
MUST DO: Put the kids in a lesson with Tremblant's Snow School so you can get to the summit to enlist an Info Ski Guide to take you all over the mountain for an hour or two. It's free (though they'll appreciate a tip).
MUST EAT: Pulled pork poutine at Le Shack in the upper village.
2. Deer Valley Resort | Park City, Utah
If you want to get your fabulous on, there's simply no better place to do it than in Park City. It's where ultra-chill meets super-luxe and it's also where you'll find some of the world's best powder. Deer Valley is five-star service wrapped up in fantastic skiing. Since it limits the number of lift tickets sold each day, lines are almost non-existent; there's also a free ski valet where you can securely store your skis during lunch and overnight. Heads up -- snowboarders not welcome. If you have the need to board, head to Park City Mountain instead. Just expect a few more lineups.
MUST DO: Strap a GoPro onto your helmet and record some of the prettiest trails you'll ever see.
MUST EAT: The jumbo baked sweet potato, stuffed to the brim with every fixin' under the sun, at Silver Lake Restaurant within the resort.
3. Panorama Mountain Resort | Invermere, British Columbia
Ski or board one of North America's top 10 vertical drops, on either beautifully groomed runs or in Taynton Bowl -- a former heli-ski site that's now within Panorama's bounds and not only easily accessible, but patrolled and avalanche-controlled, too. The views of the Canadian Rockies are absolutely breathtaking, so be sure you make it to the 7,792-foot summit, where there's even a blue trail to take intermediate skiers down the mountain more comfortably.
MUST DO: The heli-fondue tour, which gives you a five- to seven-minute helicopter ride to the top of the mountain where you'll enjoy a hearty fondue dinner followed by a headlamp ski back down to the base.
MUST EAT: Duck wings at the resort's onsite Monticola Alpine Grill.
4. Smugg's | Smuggler's Notch, Vermont
Care to join us? This is where we're heading for March Break! Widely considered the leader in family programming by ski resorts across Canada and the U.S., Smugg's combines versatile condo lodging with packages designed for every budget, as well as après activities like making S'mores and a weekly winter carnival. Its per-head pricing structure includes accommodations, lift tickets and then extras like lessons, too, depending on your package. One of its mountains is solely green runs, making Smugg's the ideal place for those new to skiing and snowboarding.
MUST DO: I'm expecting the Snowcat ride during Thursday evening fireworks to be a WOWer.
MUST EAT: There's a Ben & Jerry's onsite, so...
5. Holiday Valley | Ellicottville, New York
If the allure of value-priced skiing and inexpensive local fare isn't enough, Holiday Valley in upstate New York will charm you into returning time and again. It's got a community feel that you just don't get at many of the bigger ski resorts, and the place is overrun with Canucks who weekend there. We hear the glade skiing on a big powder day shouldn't be missed.
MUST DO: Please put your kids in lessons here. Mine still say the best lessons they ever had were at Holiday Valley.
MUST EAT: Any of the yummy pizzas at The Depot -- an Ellicottville staple.
6. Mount St. Louis Moonstone | Coldwater, Ontario
Although it's not a resort per se, Mount St. Louis Moonstone is perfect for March Break staycations if you live in Toronto or surrounding areas like Durham Region, Barrie or Orillia. Whether you stay at a local hotel or drive in and out the same day, it's a brilliant hill for fledgling skiers and boarders thanks to slower chair lifts and several wide, green runs with easy pitches.
MUST DO: Take advantage of brands who may be onsite hawking the latest in equipment; the reps will let you strap on a fancy new pair of skis and try them out for a run (or three).
MUST EAT: Anything at the nearby Mill Street Bistro. Really -- anything. Every dish is a winner.
7. Camp Fortune | Chelsea, Quebec
Another family March Break trip option is our nation's capital: Ottawa. Drive, fly or skate across the Canal to find a heap of fun waiting for you. And carve out a day to ski or board, because just 16 kilometres from the downtown core you'll find Camp Fortune -- a wonderful family-run hill that's just across the Quebec border. It features not one but two magic carpet learning zones and some of the best ungroomed trails we've experienced in the east.
MUST DO: Scoop up a two-fer and go night skiing. Every Saturday until March 21, Camp Fortune offers two-for-one lift tickets and rentals after 4 p.m.
MUST EAT: Head back into Ottawa and have the elk rib at feast + revel. For an extra calorie splurge, the chocolate tart made with global award-winning Hummingbird chocolate is also out of this world.
So go and conquer those March Break plans. Whether you drive out for the day or fly and stay for a week -- just go. Together. And tear up that corduroy.
All photos by Andrea Traynor.
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