Teaching children how to ski and snowboard is no easy gig. That’s why we should leave it to the professionals. (Head here for lesson tips.) That said, even when kiddos get lessons, as parents, you will still spend plenty of time on the learn-to-terrain or the “bunny hill” of a resort during the first years of their progression.

As a parent of two young kiddos that are just getting their feet under them, I took to the resorts of northern Vermont to get a feel for each learn-to area and to extrapolate on their pros and cons. It’s amazing what small details can make or break a great day on the slopes with tiny humans. Proximity to the base lodge can mean the difference between making the trip to the toilet or ending the day early. Covered lifts can be a needed break from the weather. Amusing amenities can distract or soothe a frustrated kiddo. In these beginner areas, the little things matter. So, use this guide to find the right beginner destination in Northern Vermont for you and your family.

Stowe beginner hill
The views of Mount Mansfield from Spruce Peak are a big pro.

Stowe – Best for Amenities and Views

Stowe’s learn-to terrain is located at Spruce Peak, home of a huge timber lodge, skating rink, food trucks, toy and candy stores, and much more. If you need a break from the slopes, you have plenty of options to entertain the kids and grab food and drink for yourself.  Other pros include two magic carpets (conveyor belt lifts) on low-sloped learning areas and a beginner hill that doesn’t have access from above. The adventure triple has space all to itself. Why does that matter? No speedy traffic from harder terrain comes into this area, so no speedy riders are a nuisance to your learning kiddos. Also, the views from this trail are amazing. I’ll let photos tell that story.

The downside? Most of the parking is across the street, and you’ll need to lug the family and belongings up a short hill to the Over Easy gondola. The kids love the gondola, though.

Adventure Triple Stowe
After graduating from the carpet lifts, Ollie is ready for the Adventure Triple lift!

Pros: Hopping base area with lots of amenities. No traffic from above. Views. Fancy hot chocolate.

Cons: Distance from general parking.


Bolton rope tow
Just steps from the base lodge, the learn-to-rope tow at Bolton Valley awaits new skiers and riders.

Bolton Valley – Best for “Learning the Ropes”

Bolton Valley’s beginner area is accessed by the Mighty Might, a short rope tow right outside the main base lodge. You can follow up with one of the two double chairs nearby for a nice variety of more advanced beginner terrain once the rope tow is mastered. The rope tow itself is both a pro and con. It can be a challenge initially, but older kids catch on quickly and love it. For parents with little ones, if you’re comfortable on your skis, it’s easy enough to hold little ones between your legs, but less so as they get bigger. On a snowboard? Not the easiest to assist.

Bolton’s other pro is the family-friendly vibe. A local haunt with a laidback feel, great tavern, and cheery disposition. It’s easy to feel comfortable and unjudged, no matter your experience.

baby skier
Even if you aren’t using the rope tow, the low-angle terrain is great for kiddos getting used to skis and snowboards.

Pros: Proximity to the main lodge. Local vibe. Solid beginner terrain. Good food. Rope tow.

Cons: Rope tow.


Jay Peak carpet conveyor lift
The whole family takes the covered conveyor lift on opening day at Jay Peak. 

Jay Peak – Best for Terrain-based Learning

Jay Peak, the most northern ski resort in Vermont, has got you covered, literally. Covered surface lifts access beginner terrain on both sides of the mountain, Stateside and Tramside. They also protect beginners from the elements, like wind and snow. On stateside, the moving carpet brings you to a terrain-based learning area where sculpted slopes help new skiers and riders comfortably progress. Both sides also have nearby lifts that access a variety of mellow beginner terrain and fun low-angled glades to get beginners introduced to tree skiing and riding early on. The only downside is some other trails from the mountain filter into these areas, so beginners sometimes encounter cross traffic.

When beginners (or their teachers/parents) are ready to refuel, the famous Miso Hungry tram is just a few steps away on Tramside, and delicious poutine awaits Stateside.

baby on snow
Dash takes in the mountains from the learn-to terrain at Jay Peak, Stateside.

Pros: Covered conveyor lifts. Options at both base areas. Great food options.

Cons: Proximity to high-traffic areas.


dad and toddler on skis
Friends take practice runs off the conveyor lift at Sugarbush, Lincoln Peak 

Sugarbush – Best for Future Park Kids

If you’re not familiar with Sugarbush Resort, it‘s actually comprised of two mountains, Lincoln Peak and Mount Ellen. They are connected by the longest chairlift in North America, which is a joy to ride on a sunny spring day. That said, most visitors stick to one or the other peak. Luckily both have learn-to areas. Lincoln Peak is larger with more amenities, and the beginner area there is first to open and last to close. It’s located just a few steps from the bustling Gate House lodge and can be accessed from the Schoolhouse, which houses ski school, and the Farmhouse (rentals and great coffee). Two conveyor lifts progress beginners from never-evers with very little slope to the Welcome Mat, with a bit more pitch. The Village Quad then accesses a nice wide beginner run to continue progression.

On Mount Ellen, the beginner area runs alongside the terrain park and offers great views of the jumps and rails, entertaining everyone from beginners to pros. Tommy’s Toy, a rope tow, accesses the first-timer terrain, while the Sunshine Quad travels above the park and accesses more green circles that are great for beginners.

The only downside to both peaks is that access to some of the beginner areas is susceptible to speedy traffic, so parents need to keep a watchful eye.

lodge life Sugarbush
One for you, one for me. My love of Mount Ellen’s base lodge comes from time spent with babies watching skiers through its large windows on the second floor and the beer.

Pros: Lincoln: Progressive options. Proximity to lodge. Dedicated beginner peak.

Pros: Mount Ellen: Terrain park views.

Cons: Speedy traffic.



  • We are skiing just about everything now with our 4 and 6 year old after laying the groundwork and now they can’t get enough! Obviously, gear is important (keep them dry & comfortable). But other key factors (just as important) are keeping it fun and knowing when to call it. Stop before the meltdowns. Feed them often (and as a mom who is all about healthy food), I try and let that go a bit and have the mountain be a place for some fun treats (hot cocoa with hot chocolate, giant chocolate chip cookies, etc.) I try to make the whole experience fun and now, they don’t want to go inside and they always say yes to going. We go night skiing a lot so it becomes a time for us to have a fun dinner of their choosing between runs (and we ask for mountain gift cards for Christmas so they can “buy stuff” themselves and we don’t have to dish out a ton of $). We’ll also save by doing hot cocoa in a thermos and bringing a can of whipped cream :) I give them lots of positive reinforcement and we play games on the chairlift and lodge like “eye spy.” It’s all about the fun when they’re young and it pays dividends!

  • Our entire family is new to skiing, so adults are learning right along with the kids! We like to always start on the bunny hills, even if we are ready for some of the easier green lifts. That way we can get warmed up and also see what conditions are like!

  • In the beginning, setting a (realistic) goal of how many runs to complete before getting a sweet treat after said last run. It’s a great idea for adults too, it gets you to push your limits a little and set your goal differently each ski/snowboard day.

  • Some of the resorts don’t charge lift tickets to their beginner surface lifts! Jay being my top choice as my 13yo was raised Jay, and I’m working on 2 toddlers as a single mom now! It’s always worth asking at any resort, but do yourself a favor and hit Jay!

  • We love Jay Peak! It was at Jay Peak all our efforts and bribing with fruit snacks and cliff bars to keep trying paid off. Of course it was April and our youngest finally rocked trails top to bottom, linking turns and not looking back. I owe a lot to dad for breaking his back holding the kiddos up and riding when they were first starting out and helping with mastering chairlifts (mom has to worry about herself and not getting hurt). Keep doing all you can to keep your little ones happy, dry and trying just one more time. Eventually they get there and everyone is on the mountain having a blast!

  • Lessons combined with some family ski time are the best combo! Plus, reward stickers for their helmet for a good ski day :)

    • I am a ski mamma…i have been the ski mamma for so many more then just my kids…our two kids are raised Jay…and for us to be able to say that it took alot since we lived 1000 miles away. The determination it took to spend entire winters with our children in the green mountains led us to a complete life change and now we live minutes from Jay on the canada side. I dont have any secret insights other then , stick with it, the bonds you , your kids and the mountain create will be for life. My kids are now well beyond my ski desires but it was me that got them there , its there father that kept them growing…Its what we do…

  • My biggest tip (that I keep reminding myself) for family ski outings is to go into it with extremely low expectations– and then count anything above that as a win or a bonus!

  • If possible, two adults to one kid! Our little one was not very motivated when they were attached to a leash in front of a parent! Gets lonely up there! Great to have another adult for face time and to keep the kid excited and entertained. Also, snacks, lots of snacks.

  • Our 6 & 8 year olds learned at 1.5 and 2 @ Stratton & Bromley! Patience and snacks is key! When your family has a profound love of the sport, your babes inevitably do too. Even before we started them on ski’s, we’d bring them to the mountains every week, multiple times, and watch the skiers and partake in mountain events. They WANTED to learn and WANTED to ski the double blacks – and now they do! It’s important never to push it, set your sights low in the sense of time frames and stamina, follow THEIR lead. A few skittles or Swedish fish on the ride up before a run doesn’t hurt either! And the right gear, of course. Keep them warm, dry and comfortable!

  • So much good information in these articles. We have not tried out many resorts in the area with kids except smugglers notch. Lots of good tips.

  • Gear is so important- good gloves, hats, neck warmers, goggles, socks, helmet it all adds up to have a good experience!

  • Snacks as motivation! Also being mindful about having the right gear is critical. My son never gets cold and needs significantly less gear than his younger sister does who is always cold like I am.

  • Ski School at Bolton Valley was a great deal for us. If you stay on the mountain, lift tickets are also very affordable. Very close to Burlington. This place definitely helped create a love of skiing for my kids.

  • My advice is always have a rolled up door mat in your car to have the kids stand on (in the parking lot) to switch out boots or change into/ out of snow pants at the car! And agree with above comment, lower your expectations and be happy with whatever the outing accomplishes! If it’s just 45 min on the magic carpet and then hot Cocoa, celebrate that and keep it positive for the littles!

  • Bromley is a great learning mountain! Super friendly staff, all but one lift at the base, variety of terrain. My kids and I all started of skiing here.

    Best advice is to know all kids will meltdown on the mountain. It is inevitable! But it will get better!

  • What a great post! Very helpful and comprehensive (both for beginner kids and adults). Hope to meet up one of these days for some fun.

  • We are from NH but our favorite ski areas are in Vermont!! We love Okemo the most, also Stratton, Bromley and Snow. we skied Bolton Valley also. My tip go skiing mid week if possible. Also we get more skiing in by not using the most popular lift. Go to an area of the mountain with shorter lines and shorter ski trail. You ski more runs that are shorter but your not waiting in line. Keep your tips up !!

  • Simple and basic, but so critical — use the potty before putting all the gears on! Also, plenty of healthy and yummy snacks to give them energy to last. The least thing I wanna do is to get them out of all the gears just to have a small snack because they can’t wait until the meal time.

  • Getting the kids out on the mountain a day with just mom and dad so they have fun and feel comfortable and want to come back for more. The next time/ day skiing with the kids, go skiing with them before lessons, then take the kids to lessons, and continue family skiing afterwards. When the kids are done with lessons, they can show their parents what they learned and / or improved upon. They will see the parents excitement and want to just keep continuing skiing and having fun on the mountain.

  • I do agree with leaving it up to the pros. I taught all three of my boys to ski. Once they turned 6 I put them in the race team. It was the best decision I made. All three boys 17,13, and 10 are amazing skiers and can ski anywhere.

  • We just started the mini mites program at Smuggs with our 4 and 6 yo. They loved the first lesson. Can’t wait to see them grow into this sport.

  • My two boys who are experienced skiers (age 9 and 16) decided to give snowboarding a try last season. We used our Indy passes for lift tickets at Bolton and Jay and they took lessons at both. Great experiences at both mountains! Wonderful learning programs.

  • If you have flexibility in your schedule try to go mid week and also on a warmer day. Keeping warm is key for the littles and parents. Also it will be more fun vs needing to wait for the magic carpet or lift if you go on a busy weekend.

    Depending on age and skill level, remember; The kids get tired quicker than us and might only really have enough energy to ski for a few hours. If they have ski lessons, maybe try to ski an hour or so after and bring them back to the lodge/condo to relax. We were at Smuggs last year, and our 6 year old took 2 morning lessons, and skied for a while after with us, but we took full advantage of being able to go back to the condo where we were staying. We all got to warm up and get refueled It was up to our daughter(s) if we went out as a family after lunch. Our 6 year old said yes, but our 10 year old said I’m done.

    If you can pick a resort that has a good learning area & beginner terrain, thinking Stratton ( Terrain off Tamarack lift) or Smugglers Notch (the Village area/Morse Mountain.). Both areas have magic carpets with easy access to a beginner chair lift or two. (Compare that to Mount Snow, ski school and learning area is on the right of resort but have to skate walk to the left to get to the green trails.) Yes other beginners are skiing there, but you don’t have to worry as much about trail mergers with expert skiers coming in fast.

    Try to teach them the responsibility code early. Some key takeaways: Stay in control, Stop where you are visible and don’t block the trail, Downhill skier has right away.

    Most importantly have fun, end the day with hot chocolate either from home or the lodge before packing up for the day.

  • All of these places offer great beginner options. I would highly recommend Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond as an amazing place for kids to learn to ski. As a nonprofit, it’s prices are extremely reasonable and they have a wonderful Friday after school program, plus inexpensive spaghetti night. The instructors are awesome; you can’t beat getting lessons from former gold medal olympians. There’s a tow bar and a t-bar, no chair, but it’s good for kids to learn how to use all types of lifts. Very family-oriented and friendly.

  • Like all things with kids rewards, praise, and timing! Rewards- lift treats like non-freezing candy for a quick sugar rush, and my daughter always loved the privelwdge of picking something from the gift shop at the end of a weekly lesson session. Praise- keep it positive. We used to video them and put it on our personal YouTube then share with family members. When Grandma and Grandpa call to say what an awesome skier you are you feel like a rock star. And timing- skip the really cold days with littles, don’t stay out too long or know when to duck in the lodge for cocoa, and if you kiddo had a rough night- reschedule. Gotta go into skiing happy with littles and when done right, leave happy!

  • Just started with my 3 and 9 year old this year, I was able to get them acclimated with all there gear ahead of time in their own bedrooms with carpeted floors. Taught them how to put on their boots, skis and helmets, and allow them to walk around the their rooms, Plus it gave me a heads up what I was going to be up against when we got to the mountain.

  • We are novices but want to take a 4 snd 8 year old this year, as like everything else, we are thinking it will be easier to learn when they are young and fearless.

  • we love Jay and Bolton. Between those two it was much easier to master the beginning terrain. We live in Northern Ny, and frequent Vermont ski mountains. We have always loved Jay as there is always something fun to do and plenty of ski trails. The covered magic carpet is a plus for beginners. My daughter has graduated into the trails now so we ski all over that mountain and it’s easy for her ti get around at her level. Bolton is fun as well but hands down Jay Peak can’t be beat.

  • Patience and snacks has paid off.Amazing skiing with 5 year olds second year on the hill but they are with us .Please follow the rules when you are more experienced and not zip to cut them off !

  • Patience walking around the house and snacks has paid off.Amazing skiing with 5 year olds second year on the hill but they are with us .Please follow the rules when you are more experienced and not zip to cut them off ! They even carry their own stuff.

  • with 2 kids 3 and 9 it was best to use a carpet as the pull toes are hard on the back! The straps to hold younger ones is also great.
    With 2 of us it was good to have someone at the top and someone in the middle or bottom and allowed for break taking!

  • My son learned at Okemo, we loved it because it was full day and so much fun for him. I wish I had known more about some of these other places. Stowe seems amazing! It is definitely important to have other fun things to do as being a little skier is exhausting!

  • Always loved Burke for the kids. The lower Mtn is a great learning area, and having it totally separate from the upper mountain is great. Also, crowds are usually manageable and result in short to no lift line waits

  • I am a new mom and lifetime ski $ snowboarder and I can’t wait to take my little one on the slopes! We dont want to feel like we’re missing out this season and these tips were so helpful! My husband and I met in Vermont and knowing the daycare and ski club/ lesson options is so helpful!

    My recommendation for all parents is get your kids hyped to try skiing or boarding and instill in them the confidence they will need to succeed before first putting on their boots! I started skiing at 2 and vividly remember my dad helping to abolish all fears before even starting. Most importantly, have fun! <3 your little ones will remember these moments, forever.

  • The most important thing for me was the proximity to the magic carpet from the parking lot. If the ski hill is very popular and you have to park far away that is very tiring for me. All the regular stuff still applies like having warm clothes, comfortable gear and a snack.

  • Great article! Although, we’ve been a fan of smugglers notch. Both our kids learned to ski there. They have a lift designed for littles! The characters are fun too!

  • We have loved cochrans for teaching our 3 young kids to ski. It’s a shorter drive than the bigger resorts with less crowds, shorter lines and a closer parking lot! So many little families and a really amazing atmosphere. As long as the kids are happy we start them as young as possible!

  • To see the young children explore new experiences and enjoy the Great Outdoors at a young age is a great thing it brings such Joy to see it and I hope they love it as much as I do

  • Just need to put a plug in for Mad River Glen! They also have a learning area with palma-tow and a great family-friendly atmosphere although it is a bit of a hoof from the parking lot to the lodge with littles in tow (and holding 3 pr of skis). Amazing ski school too!

  • Always start on the greens for a warm up no matter what. Spend the day giving lots of positive affirmations. Take plenty of breaks when needed. Push to do more advance runs when you see the confidence level growing because you’re always better than you think you are. And know when you’re done for the day :) and never leave without a stop at Waffle House

  • Bolton has the best Bunny Hill (very slight slope) but the rope def has a learning curve.

    Cochrans is steeper and more crowded with same rooevtow learning curve.

    Smuggs has the Magic carpet (i think they added a second one to the same hill) that is easy to use. The hill is a bit steeper at the top then less step but still steeper than bolton.

    Sugarbushes bunny hill, accessed by a chairlift is the best chairlift bunny slope. It is relatively flat, steeper at the top, and is very wide and long.

    I would suggest getting skis and have her just walk around in them. First inside if you have a space, then outside. Then try her on some slight hills, small enough that you can just let her go and she will stop at the bottom. I also taught my little to walk up hills with the skis as well as to get towed by my skipole.

    The edgy wedgie was awesome for us just for the first few times. I personally would not use the harness, it throws off their body weight and encourages parents to take kiddo on terrain above kiddos ability. My LO wanted to go on the chairlift so bad so I used that as incentive. She needed to stop on demand, do basic turns and get up by herself before we went on the lift. She had it down after 3 or 4 non lift bunny hill days. I also taught her to walk up hills with the skis as well as to get towed by my skipole.

    Once she got on the lift of course she wanted poles. So she now holds one short pole in front of her, palms up. It helps with form and she can use it to push herself.

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