Family Winter Vacation Survival Guide

By Yeti Dec 10, 2019
Tips and tricks for planning a stress-free winter getaway with your family from packing to transportation, dining to activities and much more.
Family Winter Vacation Survival Guide

words by Julia Partain
illustrations by Amy Bertelsen
We get it. Family vacations can be both rewarding— like when your son or daughter smiles up at you proudly as he or she makes the transition from wedge turns to parallel skiing— and relentlessly hard: someone forgets their gloves, ski boots, to put on sunscreen, and on and on. But with a little planning, the quality time can outnumber the time-outs. Following are a few pointers for making your family’s ski vacation to Utah as hassle-free and memorable as it can be before you even leave home.



First things first. Packing begins long before you put your gear in the suitcase. Make a list of the necessities for each member of your tribe: both lightweight and heavier layers (weather conditions are always changing), goggles, ski jacket and pants, neck gaiter/buff; helmet (most ski school programs require them), extra socks and gloves (both have a nasty habit of getting wet or lost), a beanie to wear off-piste, snow boots for walking around or playing in the snow and a swimsuit for some well-deserved hot tub soaking and swimming. After you’ve checked everything off your list, have your kids try on all their clothes. There’s nothing like heading out to ski school and realizing that Johnny’s snow pants from last year don’t fit. Newer to the sport? Here's a great resource on dressing your kids for skiing.

DO bring your ski boots, but leave your skis at home. It typically costs as much to rent as it does to check skis with your baggage onto the plane or to ship them. Once in Utah, hundreds of rental options can be found both on and off mountain. Or better yet, have rental skis delivered to your hotel, condo or house. Most ski rental delivery outfits also arrive armed with a selection of gloves, neck gaiters, hats and hand warmers for purchase. 

And don’t forget to throw a daypack into your luggage for carrying things like extra socks and gloves, snacks, sunscreen, Chapstick, hand warmers and beanies to have while you’re on the mountain.


Getting Around

Most ski destinations in Utah are serviced by efficient public transit systems, Uber and Lyft, making renting a car an unnecessary hassle. Convenient, round-the-clock service from Salt Lake City International Airport to the resorts is offered by several local shuttle companies including Canyon Transportation and Transportation Network 

One major perk of staying in ski-in/ski-out lodging is, of course, you are already at the mountain. But many slopeside lodges also offer shuttle transportation for guests, often as a free service. Be sure to ask about shuttle options at your hotel or condo and plan accordingly.

Staying in the city? Utah Transit Authority provides public bus, light rail and commuter rail transportation throughout Ogden, Park City, Salt Lake City and the eight nearby ski resorts. If Park City is your basecamp, you can enjoy a free citywide bus system that services historic Main Street, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain and all points in between.

Book Ahead

Schedule ski school lessons and childcare as soon as you know your travel plans; both tend to book out, especially on weekends and holiday weeks. Fill out the forms online or print and fill out in advance to save time on the morning of the first day.

Alta, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain and Snowbird all operate on-site, state-licensed daycare for children as young as six weeks. High Altitude Kids in Eden provides childcare services in the Snowbasin/Powder Mountain area. Resort Sitters services Park City resorts, looking out for your kiddos at your location, on your schedule. And Guardian Angel provides childcare, baby equipment rentals and even grocery delivery services in Salt Lake City, Park City and Sundance Mountain Resort. For more info on childcare on the slopes, click here.

For more detailed information on Childcare, click here.

Got a fifth or sixth grader in your clan? If yes, you’ll love this. For a one-time fee of $45, the Ski Utah 5th & 6th Grade Passport allows fifth graders three day passes at each of Utah’s resorts and sixth graders, one day pass at each resort. FYI: A parent or guardian must purchase the Passport online ahead of your visit.


A day on the slopes makes for hungry shredders. Check out the dining options at and nearby your accommodations and make reservations ahead of time. Plan to eat early to keep the hangries at bay. Filling the time before dinner is a cinch with après-ski options for kids of all ages. The Children’s Concierge program at the Lodges at Deer Valley gathers the littles for a sweet après-ski pick-me-up with hot cocoa, treats and supervised activities, giving parents the perfect opportunity to kick back and have a cold one on the ski beach. Alta Lodge has a special kids’ dinner (think pasta, burgers, chicken fingers, etc.) followed by after-dinner entertainment.

If you plan on eating in, streamline cooking back at the condo or house rental by arranging for grocery delivery—many will make the extra trip to the wine and liquor store as well.


Heed the Rule of Three

As much fun as you plan to have on the slopes, avoid the burnout by taking every third day off. Switch things up with sledding or tubing: Brian Head, Cherry Peak and Woodward Park City all operate on-site, lift-served tubing hills. If Nordic skiing and snowshoeing are your thing, Snowbasin, Solitude and Sundance provide miles of groomed trails for ample family fun. For a real rush, the zipline tour and alpine coaster at Park City Mountain has you covered.

Want a break from the snow? Go sightseeing! A few kid-approved local attractions include Salt Lake City’s Natural History Museum of Utah, Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum, and Hogle Zoo, Draper’s Living Plant Aquarium, Ogden’s Union Station and Park City’s historic Main Street.

For more non-ski activities, read Utah's Top Off-Slope Activites Sans a Chairlift

Probably the best way to arm yourself for a family ski vacation is to realize that, as with all else in life, even with the best-laid plans, things will go astray: gloves will be lost, reservations misplaced and patience tried. But along with the bumps in the road there will also be lots of giggles, hugs and other precious moments set against the backdrop of mountains, snow and warming your toes by a fire at the end of the day.

Originally written for Ski Utah magazine