Vail: Size and variety: Vail is the ultimate in Alpine vacations. We’ve got 300 days of sunshine a year, great powder, 31 lifts and 5,300 acres of terrain, including huge bowls, and a stylish, pedestrian-friendly village with Euro flair. Vail is the largest single-mountain ski resort in the U.S.—with the backdrop of the Colorado Rockies.
Jackson Hole: The best part about Jackson Hole is the really relaxed atmosphere here; everyone is so friendly. People come here because they want to ski and experience the beauty of this place—it really is unlike any other. That’s why so many people come here to visit and never leave. Our mountain has 5,500 acres of terrain: 2,500 acres of in-bounds and 3,000 acres of backcountry. Yes, we have a reputation for being the hardest mountain in the U.S., but there really is something for everyone here. Our ski concierge can assist with the latest mountains updates, access to ski school, kids’ ranch and so on. Because we are slopeside, you can ski in and ski out. And we’re just one mile from the entrance of Grand Teton National Park.
Vail: During the holidays, Vail puts on a series of events called Holidaze filled with concerts, ice shows and family activities going on through the week.
Jackson Hole: Holidays are a magical time here because there’s so much to do. We focus on daily activities for the kids such as making ornaments and gingerbread houses. The village is lit up, the snow is flying and everything looks like a true winter wonderland. Another great time to visit is late January/early February because, by then, the snow is really good. If you are coming to ski, it can’t be beat.
Vail: Our top five would be skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, dog sledding and tubing. Vail Resorts offers skiing and snowboarding lessons, both private and group lessons for adults and children. At Adventure Ridge, there’s tubing, ski-biking, ice skating, a bungee trampoline and kid-size snowmobiles. The place really starts hopping after dark. At Four Seasons, we work with a dog sledding guide who leads trips through the best trails; for example, historic Camp Hale or down in Wolcott at 4Eagle Ranch. For a fun family adventure day, I’d pair dog sledding in the afternoon with a sleigh ride dinner at the ranch.
Jackson Hole: Skiing is the No. 1 attraction. Because our mountain is a little more challenging, there’s lots of great skiable terrain for older kids: 40 percent of the mountain is intermediate; 50 percent is expert; and 10 percent is beginner. We do also have a great kids’ ski school for the younger ones.
Families who don’t want to ski every day can go dog sledding or snowmobiling. In the heart of winter, you can venture into Yellowstone National Park. (That’s really cool. And kids 14 and older can drive a snowmobile in the national forest.) Also you can do snowmobile trips on trail and off trail, and go soak in Granite Hot Springs. We offer our own in-house wildlife tours. These are especially great for multi-generational families. Our guides will take families out for a four-hour driving tour in and around Grand Teton National Park with one of our in-house biologists looking for moose, elk, big horn sheep, birds of prey, bison and wolves. The Nordic center, just minutes from our property, has great tours and 10.5 miles of groomed trails.
Vail: The best thing to avoid is last-minute reservations. A lot of the activities, such as dog sledding and snowmobiling, sell out fast so plan ahead and make a reservation. Other pitfalls? Safety. A lack of snow early in the season can unfortunately mean accidents. So be sure to check current conditions, always wear a helmet and to ensure kids are skiing with caution. Be aware of altitude sickness: we’re at 8,000 feet above sea level, which can cause nausea and headaches. The best thing to do is drink lots of water.
Jackson Hole: Over scheduling is a huge one. People think they will ski, then continue on with the day as if at home. But really, kids are exhausted by the time it is over. I recommend one activity per day. It’s better if you break up the skiing days with a day of non-skiing activities somewhere in the middle of your stay.
Vail: Lots of warms clothes. We love our UGG boots, warm mittens, cozy hats with fur and fun ski outfits. It’s easy to spot our kids in their crazy helmet accessories!
Jackson Hole: Warm layers—that’s the key here. And jeans. You can wear jeans at any of the fanciest restaurants in Jackson. Being in Wyoming, ours is a cowboy culture. And a good pair of snow boots; even going out to dinner, everything is covered in snow.
Vail: There is great dining on and off the mountain. The 10th elevates fine dining slopeside to a new level. On your ski break, try “fast-casual” Bistro 14 and Two Elk Restaurant (pizza, wraps, pasta).
The best après ski spots are here at Four Seasons’ Fireside Bar & Lounge (sushi, cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, French fries, Kraft mac & cheese, great views); plus The Red Lion (kids’ menu: mac ‘n cheese, corndogs, PB&J) and Swiss Chalet (cheese and chocolate fondue, Euro cuisine in a homey Swiss setting). The breakfast buffet at Four Seasons’ Flame (steakhouse) is amazing, and we’re not just talking eggs and pancakes; for example, just-made sushi and Latin American churros. At the hotel, we have our complimentary Sugar Shack snacks, daily from 3 to 4 pm, in the outdoor pool area. In traditional Québécois Canadian fashion, an attendant pours hot maple syrup onto a trough of snow, where it hardens and can be rolled into lollipops. (Grown-ups can enhance with sea salt or chili.) The kids will also love our warm cookies, s’mores and famous (complimentary) hot chocolate.
Jackson Hole: Here at Four Seasons, our signature steak house West Bank Grill is a fantastic spot for families. In-room dining is fun. Kids love our Cowboy Cookie, a chocolate-chip cookie prepared in cast iron skillet. The resort kitchen can also pack bag lunches for any activities. The Peak is ideal for lunch and après ski. The waffle fries are quite popular, as is our hot dog cart, with slopeside elk dogs and refreshments. Outside in the village, Il Villagio Osteria: it’s within walking distance and serves tasty Italian, including wood-fire pizza, braised meats, fish and homemade pasta.
Vail: Dog sledding, snowmobiling and hot air ballooning with Vail Valley Tours. Walking Mountains Science Center hosts free activities, including moonlight family snowshoe tours and nocturnal wildlife viewing sessions. There are public skating rinks in Vail Village and Lionshead.
Jackson Hole: The Town Square. There’s a National Elk Refuge and feeding ground for thousands of elk in wintertime on the north end of Jackson. You can go on sleigh rides and get up-close and personal. Elk just hang out, and you can go right by them on the sleigh. The National Museum of Wildlife Art is a really great museum with a special kids’ area, and it overlooks the elk refuge.
Read more on Vail in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read more on Jackson Hole in Four Seasons Magazine.
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