Everything a Skiing Family Craves in California

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mammothlakeIt takes a lot more than a few bunny trails to please families looking for a ski vacation these days. Well one place you’ll find all that – and more – is California.

mammoth2.jpgThese days we parents want ski-in/ski-out lodging, online reservations, family zones and supervised programs for kids ranging in age from toddlers to teens. We just returned from a week’s ski vacation in the stunning Eastern Sierras. We went out on a limb and took along five kids (ages 4, 8, 12, 13, and 14)

Why you ask? What’s in it for you? Well, some 3,500 acres of powder play, a vertical drop of 3,100 feet, access to lift skiing at 11,053 feet, 156 marked ski runs and 27 lifts. Plus a mix of shops to suit every budget, from high-end fashion to outdoor gear for the slopes. The Coach and Ralph Lauren outlet stores offer great deals. We even got to a couple of grown-up eateries for romantic dinners at The Chart House, at Mogul and at Hyde Lounge.

So what’s in it for the kids? Mammoth Mountain is ideal beginner terrain, with all the green runs on its lower rump. A Family Fun Park and Discovery Zone allows junior snowbunnies a chance to try out their new skills in a safe environment. Two learning centers provide ski and snowboard instruction from 3-12 years. Mammoth’s Small World Child Care offers additional care from newborn to 8 years (day packages include childcare, two to four hours of ski or snowboard lessons, lift privileges and lunch. Walk-in hourly rate $25, full-day in advance $99)

Entertainment hub of the Mammoth area is the Village, a pedestrian area where the kids can let off steam, dress-up at Trendy Tots, snack at Bear Creek Pizza Den and grab a hot chocolate at Ben & Jerry’s. During the winter months, the no-hassle 15-passenger express Village Gondola delivers skiers direct from the Village onto the Canyon Lodge slopes in just six minutes. No whining, no crying. Bliss

Where to stay? Mammoth Green offers private, townhome lodging, just five minutes drive from the Little Eagle Lodge and Express chairlift. The luxury two-bed plus apartments feature stacked stone fire places, stylish kitchens and superb mountain views. Or try Mammoth Mountain Inn. At 9,000 feet, you don’t wake up in the mountains you wake up ON the mountain. Steps away from the gondola and Main Lodge, with accommodations ranging from basic rooms to condos and suites, it’s a fantastic way to relax after a long day of playing big.

Helen Truskowski writes the BritishTravelingMom blog for TravelingMom.com