Take a trip to these five hot spots for downhill family fun.
It used to be that Ohio ski resorts catered mainly to ski clubs and serious snow bunnies. Times have changed, however, especially now that there are five resorts offering downhill fun to winter warriors of all ages and skill levels. Even better news for parents is that the resorts of Mad River Mountain, Snow Trails, Alpine Valley and Boston Mills/Brandywine cater to families looking for some relief from cabin fever, with prices and amenities that make a day in the snow appealing.
All of the resorts offer a wide range of trails and lifts to accommodate first-timers as well as those who are ready to hit the moguls. And most feature separate snow-tubing areas with their own lodges and amenities.
Each resort has different seasonal and holiday hours as well as special events, so check their website or call before heading to the slopes.
Mad River Mountain
1000 Snow Valley Road, Zanesfield; 800-231-7669; skimadriver.com
Mad River Mountain Ski Resort and Avalanche Tubing Park in Zanesfield (between Bellefontaine and Marysville) is the largest ski resort in the state. The venue, which opened in 1962, has a snowmaking system with 120 fans that can produce an optimal base when Mother Nature does not.
Mad River has 20 trails in ski areas and four terrain parks. Among the 12 ski lifts are two with handle tows, a rope tow and three surface carpet lifts, making the trek back to the top easier for younger skiers.
The Deer Run beginner trail is a recommended first stop for novices. Youngsters who want to branch into freestyle skiing can test their skills in the Momentum Terrain Park, which has smaller jumps in the beginner's area.
The Snow Sports Ski School has group, private and youth lessons, as well as a Mommy and Me program for parents and kids to get comfortable on the slopes. Children's lessons are available for guests as young as 3 to learn skiing fundamentals.
Avalanche Tubing Park is ideal for families who want a little time in the snow without the commitment of skiing. The park has 10 lanes that stretch 1,000 feet to the bottom. Tubes are single-rider only. There are no age restrictions, though children must be able to sit in a tube alone safely.
“Tubing is a perfect option for the families that haven't tried skiing yet. We have two conveyor belts that take you to the top of the hill for effortless fun,” said Josh Faber, general manager of Mad River Mountain.
The resort has a newly built ski lodge with food, guest services, seating and entertainment. There is a separate lodge at the bottom of Avalanche Tubing Park for convenient snacks and restroom breaks.
Hours: Skiing runs 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sundays. Tubing is open 5-9:30 p.m. Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sundays.
Costs: A weekend all-day ski lift ticket is $49 (ages 13-69), $39 (ages 5-12) and $11 (ages 4 and younger). Tubing is $25 for three hours.
Ski equipment rental: $32, plus $10 for helmets
3100 Possum Run Road, Mansfield; 800-644-6754; snowtrails.com
The Snow Trails ski resort near Mansfield was the first commercial ski area in Ohio and also operated the state's first ski school. Since 1961, it has offered new experiences every season, including the popular “glow tubing” weekends.
Snow Trails has 17 trails, terrain parks and Timberline, which is the longest ski trail in the state. There are six chairlifts, including a slow lift and two ski carpets, in the beginner's area. Group and private lessons are available for ages 9 and older, with additional offerings for ages 4-9.
Children can participate in all-inclusive day programs that include a lift ticket, equipment rental, helmet, instruction, snacks and lunch. Reservations are required, and the program is available on select days.
Vertical Descent Tubing Park is fun for all ages, with carpet lifts to take riders to the top of the slope. A dedicated parking lot and lodge are convenient for families making a tubing-only trip. Single, double and kiddie tubes are available, and riders can link tubes together for a shared downhill experience.
The most popular time for families at Vertical Descent is evening “glow tubing,” offered Thursdays through Sundays. The tubing park and lanes are lined with colorful LEDs, giving the experience a twist. The tubing park lodge has a snack bar, restrooms, a patio with picnic tables and an outdoor fire pit for staving off the winter chill.
Snow Trails has two dining options offering choices such as pizza, deli food and cafeteria fare.
“With limited recreational options in the winter, especially outdoors, we love to provide a uniquely different atmosphere here at Snow Trails. It is so important to stay active, get out in the fresh air, and well … laugh,” said Nate Wolleson, marketing manager at Snow Trails.
Hours: Skiing runs 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to midnight Fridays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tubing is open 5-9 p.m. Thursdays, 5 p.m. to midnight Fridays, 9 a.m. to midnight Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Costs: Lift tickets are $52 on weekends and peak days ($42 after 4 p.m.), $41 weekdays ($31 after 4 p.m.). Discounts are available for children. Tubing is $25 for two hours, $15 for ages 5 and younger.
Ski equipment rental: $37 ($27 for ages 12 and younger), $10 for helmets
Alpine Valley Ski Resort
10620 Mayfield Road, Chesterland; 440-285-2211; alpinevalleyohio.com
Alpine Valley Ski Resort and Polar Blast Tubing Park near Cleveland has trails to suit every skill level and a tubing area that offers a day in the snow even for those with no skiing experience.
The ski side of the resort has 11 trails of varying difficulty, with the longest running 2,000 feet to the bottom. There are double, triple and quad chair lifts, plus a surface lift.
The Snow Sports School offers 90-minute beginner group lessons. Private and women-only sessions are also available. A Kids Ski Academy has lessons for snowboarding and moguls taught by instructors who are specifically trained to work with children. Note that some classes have age restrictions.
Polar Blast Tubing Park is an easy activity for families and children of varying age ranges. Getting to the top is as easy as hopping onto the conveyor belt, so parents don't have to haul tubes for the kids. Riders can link multiple tubes to travel in a group.
“Snow tubing is especially awesome because it is conducive for individuals of all ages and abilities. It requires no previous experience, and children as young as 2 may enjoy this attraction,” said Thomas Conti, public relations manager for Peak Resorts, which owns Alpine Valley as well as Boston Mills/Brandywine.
The tubing park has its own lodge, but both resort lodges feature snacks suitable for kids, such as chicken nuggets and pizza, as well as healthier options including veggies and protein snacks. Restrooms, lockers, free Wi-Fi and fireplaces are available, so parents can rest inside while watching the kids from the lodge's hill viewing areas.
Hours: Skiing runs 1-9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 1-11 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. Tubing is open 5:30-10 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays.
Costs: Lift tickets are $44 for adults ($39 after 3:30 p.m.), $39 for ages 5-12 ($34 after 3:30 p.m.) and $11 for ages 4 and younger. Tubing is $25 for three hours.
Ski equipment rental: $25 to $30, $10 for helmets
Boston Mills/Brandywine Ski Resorts
7100 Riverview Road, Peninsula; 800-875-4241; bmbw.com
1146 W. Highland Road, Sagamore; 800-875-4241; bmbw.com
Boston Mills and Brandywine operate separately but are owned by the same company, Peak Resorts, and offer some of the same amenities. The facilities, located between Akron and Cleveland, are five minutes apart, and passes are valid at both.
The resorts have a combined 18 ski trails and three terrain parks. There are four beginner, five intermediate and six advanced trails. Traditional chair lifts are located throughout both ski areas, but families can utilize the conveyor lift and four surface tows for a less-intimidating ride.
Boston Mills and Brandywine offer a range of lessons, from beginner group programs to private lessons and instruction for snowboarding, moguls and racing.
Brandywine is one of the only resorts in the country to stay open on Friday and Saturday nights until 1 a.m. for special skiing and snowboarding sessions.
Polar Blast Tubing Park at Brandywine has several lanes and its own lodge at the bottom of the hill. Events and discounts throughout the season can benefit large families or those who plan to go multiple times.
“These activities are healthy alternatives to the winter blues and a great way to get active in the colder months,” Conti said.
Both resorts have family conveniences such as $1 lockers, full kitchens for snacks and meals, fireplace seating areas and large lodge windows to watch the action outside.
Hours: Boston Mills – Skiing runs 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. Brandywine – Skiing runs 3:30-9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 3:30-10 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. Tubing is open 5:30-9:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. Friday and Saturday late nights are 8 p.m. to midnight.
Costs: Lift tickets are $44 (ages 13-69), $39 (ages 5-12) and $11 (ages 4 and younger). Tubing is $25 for three hours.
Ski equipment rental: $27 to $32, $10 for helmets