A family ski trip doesn’t need to break the bank. For a fun ski vacation, the resorts of the Pocono Mountains feature excellent options that won't disappoint. Once there, you and your kids can explore the 185 trails ranging from easy groomers to challenging moguls. Teens who can’t get enough of rails and jumps will find plenty of terrain parks.
Thanks to abundant snowmaking, the snow lasts all season long—even when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. With six diverse ski areas—Blue Mountain Resort, Camelback Mountain, Jack Frost Mountain, Big Boulder Ski Area, Shawnee Mountain Ski Area, and Ski Big Bear at Masthope Mountain—both beginners and experts will find plenty to love.
People have been skiing the Poconos since the 1940s, and for many families it’s tradition to come back year after year. To catch the nostalgia of the place, stay at a historic property like Skytop Lodge, which still has its own ski hill, outdoor activities aplenty, and afternoon tea time. Love history? Venture off the slopes and stroll through charming towns where 1800s-era mansions, train stations, churches, and museums still stand, silently relaying the story of the Poconos’ vibrant past.
The Poconos are a convenient outdoor escape within reasonable driving distance for much of the East Coast. Pocono ski resorts are an hour-and-a-half to a two-hour drive from Philadelphia and New York City, and it’s a three to three-and-a-half hour drive from Baltimore and Washington D.C. Interstate 80 will easily take you to the Pocono Mountains from New York City or New Jersey, the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike is a straight shot from Philadelphia, and Interstate 84 brings visitors from New York and New England to the Poconos.
Terrain for All
Whether you love skiing groomed corduroy cruisers all day or challenging yourself on mogul minefields and black diamonds, the Poconos has something for you. The region’s resorts have enough varied terrain that both skilled skiers and rookies will find something to love. Many resorts now offer snowmaking on every slope for an improved skier experience all season long. For newbies, Ski Big Bear is the perfect place to learn to ski or snowboard, with gentle learner slopes, magic carpet surface lifts, and lessons to get you and your children mastering skiing fast.
For blue square-skiing intermediates and black diamond fanatics, Jack Frost is rich in your type of terrain. Neighboring Big Boulder caters more to the snowboarding crowd and terrain park lovers, but you’ll find some long greens and blues to ride, too, if you choose to wander while the kids ride the parks.
Once your kids start talking about McTwists and flips, take them to Big Boulder’s eight terrain parks, which are packed with rails, jumps, and boxes of varying difficulty to build skills.
Lessons for Littles
The ski areas all cater to families with kid-specific ski schools that make learning to ski or snowboard enjoyable. Offerings vary by resort, but if your child doesn’t know the difference between pizza and French fry skiing yet, send them to Blue Mountain’s 45-minute Tiny Tot Private Lesson. It introduces kids ages 2-5 to skiing or snowboarding and gets them stoked to learn. They’ll explore the animated Kid Zone while developing ski skills, playing in the snow, and having fun.
Many kids start learning around age 5, but if your child is ready sooner, Shawnee Mountain can help. The resort offers specialty lessons like Skibaby for 3-year-olds, Mommy & Me for a parent and 3-year-old, and Weeriders for snowboarding tots age 4-6. For a longer introduction, send kids ages 4-12 to Camelback’s hour-and-a-half session to test the ski waters, or go all in with a half-day beginner lesson. If you’re staying for a few days, sign them up for Camelback’s affordable Explorer Card that includes three days of lift tickets, lessons, and rentals.
Need a learning program your kids can grow into season after season? Jack Frost and Big Boulder’s Snow Monsters is a hit, welcoming kids as young as 3 for skiing and 7 for snowboarding. The program focuses on skill development through fun, playful learning. Children learn to use the equipment and ride the lift—they will be skiing parallel in no time.
Are your kids too young to ski, but you still want to get out? Many Pocono resorts offer affordable childcare to encourage parents to hit the slopes. Blue Mountain charges just $5 an hour on weekdays and $10 per hour on weekends and holidays for kids age 6 weeks to 5 years. Camelback’s nursery offers supervised care and play during the ski day for children age 1-6 at a rate of $20 for the two-hour minimum and $10 for each additional hour.
More Than Skiing
Everyone’s legs get exhausted or fingers get cold at some point, and in the Poconos there’s still plenty to do once you leave the ski slopes. All six resorts have snow tubing hills that welcome young and old—with Camelback boasting the country’s largest at 42 lanes. Night-time tubing sessions at Camelback’s Galactic Tubing let you keep sliding into the night.
Snowshoeing, dog sledding, sleigh rides, ice skating, and cross-country skiing are also readily available throughout the region. And when the kids are sick of snow and ready to splash, head to one of the Poconos’ four indoor waterparks—where it’s always 84 degrees and sunny.
Written by Jenny Willden for RootsRated Media