Warmer temperatures, longer days, spring snow and end-of-season festivities make March and April the perfect time to hit the slopes. And while heavy crowds and high prices can be a deterrent during the peak ski season, at this time of year, top mountain towns boast shorter lift lines and discounted rates. Whether you and the kids are avid powder hounds or novices, here are five ski resorts with top-notch runs, excellent lodging and post-slope programming that's perfect for families looking to take advantage of cold-weather pursuits and special rates this spring.
Angel Fire Resort
Angel Fire, New Mexico
The Mountain: Tucked high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Angel Fire tops out at 10,677 feet with 80 runs (21 percent of which are well-suited for beginners). Plus, three terrain parks help keep the adrenaline high for beginners and experienced riders, and five lifts ensure there are no long lines.
The Family Factor: The property is within easy reach of pristine powder, making getting to and from rooms with heavy equipment and taking breaks a cinch, especially with little ones in tow. There's an indoor pool and hot tub, and three on-site restaurants with kid-friendly menus. Night skiing and tubing at the ski area's Polar Coaster tubing hill are available for kids craving a heart-pounding adventure and a sledding hill is just a short drive away from the hotel at the Angel Fire Country Club.
Spring Savings: Angel Fire is offering a 10 percent discount on lodging and lift tickets with a three-night stay minimum. Plus, the Parent Pass allows two adults to share one lift ticket to take turns watching the kiddos. Best of all, Angel Fire's ski school and child care center help ensure even the youngest family members have a good time.
The Mountain: Purgatory Resort is located among the San Juan Mountains, about 25 miles north of downtown Durango. The area offers 94 trails, with 20 percent of the trails catering to novices, and five terrain parks well-suited to varying skill levels.
The Family Factor: Ski-in-, ski-out accommodations make getting on the mountain easy for families. What's more, resort guests have access to the outdoor heated pool and waterslide and hot tub, as well as free Wi-Fi access and discounted lift tickets. Seven base restaurants and two slope-side restaurants appeal to a variety of palates. Plus, the child care center offers programming for children 2 months and up and the ski school offers activities for young skiers and adults alike. Tubing, zip lining, snowmobiling and backcountry skiing are also available.
Spring Savings: Kids ages 17 and under can ski for free when accompanied by an adult paying full adult admission. Plus, rooms are discounted by 25 percent for two-night stays through April 3. Even better, you can take 20 percent off lodging and save more than 30 percent on lift tickets with a two-night stay through Mar. 27.
Park City Mountain Resort
Park City, Utah
The Mountain: With 7,300 skiable acres, 41 lifts and more than 300 trails, Park City Mountain Resort is the nation's largest single ski area. The Quicksilver Gondola connects two ski areas: Park City and Canyons. With vast terrain, Park City offers challenging runs for expert skiers and provides plenty of courses for beginners.
The Family Factor: Just 40 minutes away from Salt Lake City, Park City has six slope-side hotels and more than dozen restaurants, offering options that cater to every family member. The Park City Ski and Snowboard School offers lessons for young kids as well as group lessons, and the Flying Eagle zip line, alpine coaster and night skiing ensure the fun doesn't stop when the main lifts close for the day. Plus, the National Ability Center helps ensure that all family members can enjoy snow sports. And the Little Adventures Children's Center accepts visitors 6 weeks old through age 6 and includes snow play and age-appropriate programming.
Spring Savings: Park City Mountain Resort offers several specials this spring, including a $200 Delta Air Lines voucher for stays that are three nights or longer, 40 percent off lodging, lift tickets and breakfast, and a promotion to stay a fourth night for free.
Big Sky Resort
Big Sky, Montana
The Mountain: With 300 runs across 5,800 acres, Big Sky has plenty of terrain for every level of skier. Lone Peak reaches 11,166 feet, and Big Sky's longest run is 6 miles long. Seven terrain parks offer features for beginning to advanced powder hounds, and 23 lifts keep lines short.
The Family Factor: Beginner and intermediate skiers have 120 runs to choose from across four mountains, and off the slopes Big Sky Resort has its Adventure Zipline Tour, a bungee trampoline, a 30-foot-high giant swing, climbing wall and dog sledding, along with shops at the base village. Big Sky has also boasts more than 30 restaurants, appealing to a variety of palates and picky eaters. Child care (with or without ski lessons) and the Lone Peak Playhouse is open to children 6 months to 8 years old during the day. And the Kids Club, available for visitors ages 4 and up is free from 4 to 6 p.m., and the Solace Spa & Salon, a 3,000-square-foot space, helps grown-ups relax and unwind.
Spring Savings: Guests can take 30 percent off Huntley Lodge rooms through the end of the season.
Sun Valley Resort
Sun Valley, Idaho
The Mountain: With 65 runs across 2,000 acres serviced by 13 lifts, Sun Valley offers plenty of options for skiers. Sun Valley's terrain park includes a 22-foot super pipe, but also features family-friendly courses like Foxy Forest that safely introduces kids to glade skiing. Dollar Mountain is perfect for beginners and has two high-speed quads and the Wundercarpet, which is ideal for the littlest skiers.
The Family Factor: The 108-room Sun Valley Lodge has a destination spa, yoga studio, glass-enclosed outdoor pool and more than a dozen restaurants to choose from on and off the mountain. The SnowSports School has group and private lessons for all ages, as well as adaptive skiing lessons. Another family favorite at Sun Valley: horse-drawn sleigh rides.
Spring Savings: The Unbeated Path package and the Bluebird package allow skiers to take 25 percent off of lodging and lift tickets. Plus, kids under 12 can ski for free when accompanied by a full-paying adult for stays that are three nights or longer. What's more, the Family Stay and Play Package includes a Sun Valley Winter Fun Pass.
Steve Larese is a New Mexico-based travel journalist whose features and photos are found in such publications as National Geographic Traveler, American Way, TravelChannel.com, USA Today Travel, Forbes Travel, Fodor's Travel Guides, New Mexico Journey and other national publications, as well as books. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook at @SteveLarese.