Hit NJ's Ski Slopes This Winter
Updated: December 2013
How will you know if your kids are destined to be the next Shaun White or Lindsey Vonn if they never take the plunge? It may sound intimidating, but introducing your kids to the world of alpine skiing and snowboarding doesn’t have to be scary, nor overly expensive. We’ve got three excellent and affordable options, all great for families, right in our own back yard.
Ski season in New Jersey runs from December through March or April, depending on the weather. While all the resorts make their own snow, it’s a good idea to check snow reports for slope conditions before heading out.
Located in Vernon, NJ, Mountain Creek is New Jersey’s largest ski resort, with 45 trails and the state’s highest vertical. South Peak is great for freestylers, and Vernon Peak for skiing families. The resort’s Kids Kamp offers group lessons for skiers ages 4 to 6 and snowboarders ages 5 and 6, for either full- or half-day sessions. Its group lessons and learn-to-ski program for kids ages 7 to 12 have been completely revamped this season, and include lift tickets, professional instruction, and rentals for skiers and snowboarders. Private lessons are available for kids under age 4.
Mountain Creek is a great choice if you have ‘tweens and teens because of the large terrain park with jumps, rails, and quarter-pipes. Lessons for the terrain park are available for kids ages 7 and up.
Families will love: Mountain Creek underwent $20 million in improvements in preparation for the 2011-2012 season, including a new three-story lodge, a mountain coaster, and a snow-tubing park; 973-827-2000.
Campgaw, in Mahwah, NJ, is the smallest of New Jersey’s three ski resorts, with one main trail and five beginner/intermediate trails. It’s a great option for families with first-time skiers, because it’s small and easily accessible, just 18 miles north of the George Washington Bridge. Campgaw offers private ski and snowboarding lessons for kids as young as 3, and group lessons starting at age 4. If one day isn’t enough, check out its five-week Children’s Academy, which teaches the fundamentals of skiing or snowboarding for kids ages 7 and older.
Families will love: Campgaw has a newly expanded terrain park, as well as six 800-foot tubing runs; 201-327-7800.
Hidden Valley Club, also in Vernon, NJ, began as a private ski resort but is now open to the public. It’s smaller than Mountain Creek, but larger than Campgaw, with about a dozen trails. Its full- or half-day Ski Wee program is for skiers ages 4 to 6, and for snowboarders ages 5 to 6. Junior group lessons and learn-to-ski programs are available for kids ages 7 to 12. Private lessons are also available for ages 4 and up. If your little one has already mastered the snowplow, you’re in luck: children 5 and under who don’t need lessons ski free.
Families will love: In addition to being open to the public, Hidden Valley offers a private membership that entitles your family to special privileges, such as a VIP lift line and reserved parking; 973-764-4200.
For families who prefer to keep it horizontal, check out High Point Cross Country Ski Center in Sussex, NJ. Explore 10 miles of trails, including several flat runs that are great for kids. There’s a separate five-mile trail for snowshoeing; 973-702-1222.
In an effort to reduce head injuries on the slopes, New Jersey became the first state to require all children under 18 to wear helmets while skiing and snowboarding and on lifts; the law went into effect Nov. 1, 2011. It’s the responsibility of the parent, legal guardian, or supervising adult to ensure that helmets are provided and worn. Parents whose children who are caught not wearing helmets will be fined $25 for the first violation, and $100 for additional violations.
The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) and Lids on Kids have developed a website, Lids on Kids, to help educate parents about putting helmets on children while they’re on the slopes; visit the site to learn how to choose the right size and fit for your child.
A study done by Morristown Medical Center at Mountain Creek in Vernon showed that while helmets won’t prevent serious injuries in high-speed crashes, they will prevent between 30 percent and 50 percent of injuries at moderate speeds.
All New Jersey ski resorts offer helmet rentals, but if you plan to ski more than twice this season, it pays to buy one.
Carrie Calzaretta, from Brick, NJ, was founding editor of Family Vacation Critic, and has published many articles about traveling with kids.
Going Skiing Out of Town?
Ready to take the show on the road? Here are some ski slopes beyond the NJ border:
- Camelback Mountain Resort, Tannersville, PA
- Big Boulder Ski Area, Lake Harmony, PA
- Jack Frost, Blakeslee, PA
- Shawnee Mountain Ski Area, Shawnee on Delaware, PA
- Ski Big Bear , Lackawaxen, PA
- Skytop Lodge, Skytop, PA
New York State
- Hunter Mountain , Hunter, NY
- Rocking Horse Ranch Resort, Highland, NY
- Whiteface, Wilmington, NY
- Windham Mountain , Windham, NY