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Several of the largest cities in the States of Ohio and Michigan are under a three-hour drive from our three Ohio skiing picks. They all offer a warm welcome to beginners, as well as reasonably priced accommodation and lift tickets. But which to choose?
Boston Mills/Brandywine clinches our vote just. The beginner facilities and the layout of the runs are ideally set up to help newer skiers progress their skills.
3. Snow Trails
Snow Trails is located near the small town of Mansfield halfway between the cities of Columbus and Cleveland. Interstate 71 provides good communication across this Northeastern part of Ohio, in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains.
What’s the Skiing Like?
Snow Trails originally opened in 1961 making it the first ski area in Ohio and to this day it remains the highest in the State. Although it is family orientated the staff at Snow Trails has always emphasized the importance of teaching youngsters with a range of lessons aimed specifically at kids.
There is a well-designed beginner area with speed controls, so skiers and snowboarders can concentrate on their learning without looking over their shoulders every five minutes. There are two carpet lifts and a longer chairlift in the beginner area, with two green runs, Possum and Bunny to enable you to practice turns and balance.
To move on to runs with more of a challenge you can take either Mt Mansfield or Alpine, which run on either side of the beginner area and take you to the top of the mountain, Upper Glade. From here you can come down on several short blue runs, which soon link up with the green runs in the beginner area.
If you’re not sure which are the easiest blue runs to try you can also always ask a lift attendant or instructor, who will have a good idea of the layout of the mountain. Snow Trails ski area has a good level of snowmaking to make up for any shortfall in the season.
Snow Trails has a popular snow tubing area, which has seven chutes and offers plenty of fun for the whole family.
Learning to Ski
Kids are well catered for at Snow Trails for lessons, with the Children’s Polar Private Program for ages 4-9. All lessons can be booked in advance online, which is advisable as there is generally a good demand.
There are private and semi-private lessons for all ages above nine, as well as group lessons, which are organized by age, ability, and the number in the group. Lift tickets and ski rentals are not included in the price of the lesson.
Off the Slopes
There is no slope-side accommodation at Snow Trails however there are numerous options available in nearby Mansfield and the surrounding country. You can choose between hotels, inns, as well as rentals in cabins and lodges.
What We Love About Snow Trails
- The ski area has been pitched at families but just as importantly beginners
- The instructors understand how to pace the lesson for maximum learning
- Snow Trails is unlikely to appeal to more advanced skiers and snowboarders
Snow Trails Stats
|Summit Elevation:||1475 ft (450 m)|
|Skiable terrain:||200 acres|
2. Boston Mills/Brandywine
You can be sure the infrastructure and amenities at Boston Mills and Brandywine are going to be some of the best quality as both resorts are owned and managed by Vail resorts.
Both ski areas are accessed via the same entrance from the road with the snow tubing park closer to Brandywine, while Boston Mills, just a short five-minute drive away. Lift tickets and season passes are interchangeable between the two resorts
What’s the Skiing like?
First-timers will find better beginner terrain at Brandywine as opposed to Boston Mills. Brandywine has a dedicated beginner area just in front of the parking lot. Here you’ll find green runs with gentle slopes, a short chairlift, and a carpet ride. There are three green runs to choose from, Frosty, Easy Rider, and J’s Way.
From the beginner terrain, you’ll be able to see across to the action on the terrain park, Progression Park, as well as the Tubing Park in the distance.
Once you’ve conquered the green runs it is easy to progress onto the blue runs on Brandywine and then to try out the green run, Summit, and the two blue runs, Peter’s Pride and Buttermilk at Boston Mills. Brandywine has well-groomed runs and a simple layout making it ideal for beginners.
If you like the idea of skiing in the evening Brandywine is a popular destination towards the weekend. The late-night skiing runs from 8 PM to 1 AM during the peak winter season. Boston Mills tends to cater to a younger crowd of snowboarders and terrain park skiers.
The tubing park, Polar Blast, is to the right of the runs at Brandywine. There are 20 chutes to choose from making it a popular local draw. A conveyor lift ferries tubers to the top of the hill.
Learning to Ski
Brandywine/Boston Mills are very keen to welcome first-time skiers and snowboarders. On the website, their First Timers Guide offers lots of practical advice about what to expect, booking online, lessons, clothing, and much more.
Lessons are available for skiers and snowboarders at Brandywine/Boston Mills. The ski school understands people have different requirements and so as much flexibility as possible has been built into the tuition program.
You can choose from a one-to-one private lesson for dedicated personal tuition, or you can add members of your group or family to create a semiprivate group where you have the best of both worlds.
Group lessons are generally more economical, and they have the advantage of being more sociable and fun when you interact with other members of the group. Ages from 4 to 14 are welcome, as well as adult ski lessons. You can choose either morning or afternoon for half-day lessons or a full day.
Lift tickets and ski rentals are not included in the lesson price, but you can book them at the same time as a lesson at a reduced price.
Both Boston Mills and Brandywine have cafeteria-style diners, where you can enjoy quick meals such as burgers, veggie burgers, chicken tenders, salads, mac n’ cheese, and soups.
Off the Slopes
There are several larger local hotels and inns all in the vicinity of Boston Mills and Brandywine. They have a good level of amenities including swimming pools and on-site restaurants. However, book early as there is high demand for rooms every year.
What We Love About Brandywine/Boston Mills
- Brandywine/Boston Mills are both well set up to cater to beginners
- Late-night skiing extends the skiing day
- You have the choice of two separate resorts with their own identity
Brandywine/Boston Mills Stats
|Summit Elevation:||871 ft / 266 metres|
|Skiable terrain:||85 acres|
1. Mad River Mountain
Mad River Mountain ski area has been attracting families since it opened in 1962. Midway between Bellefontaine and Marysville, just off Route 33, the resort is close to Peninsula (49 mins away– 51.6 miles), and 2 hrs and 21 mins away from Cuyahoga Valley National Park (162.0 mi via I-71 N).
What’s the Skiing Like?
The skiable area at Mad River Mountain extends to 144 acres across the face of the hill. The 20 trails are mostly green and blue with a few black runs in the form of glades and moguls, so the terrain is ideal for beginners, where they can gradually progress to more difficult runs. The resort has 11 lifts in total with the six chairlifts taking skiers to the top elevation of 1460 ft (450 m).
The annual snowfall is only 36 in (91 cm) but the resort has invested heavily in snowmaking equipment. So now 130 snow cannons cover all the trails and Mad River has the reputation for the largest snowmaking system in the whole of Ohio.
There are two beginner areas, which are quieter and away from the crowds just to the left of the Main Lodge. Named Discovery and Fanny Hill, they offer plenty of open space to practice on gentle slopes.
From the Discovery Hill beginner area, it’s a short walk to the Sundowner Triple Chair, which will take you to the top of the mountain. Turn left as you leave the lift and pick either of the green runs, Sundowner and Valley View, which will take you back down to the Lodge. These are longer tree-lined runs that give plenty of opportunities to practice turns.
Similarly, you can try the Momentum Triple Chair just to the left of the Main Lodge, which will give you access to the long green run, Deer Run. When it’s time for more of a challenge there are numerous blue runs spread across the resort to progress onto.
If you feel like a break from skiing the tubing park is a great way to relax and have a good laugh. The park is open to all ages, and the only condition is that you must be taller than 42 inches. There are two conveyor lifts that speed you to the top of the 1000 ft hill.
Each of the chutes is sculpted on the way down to make for a more exciting run. The tubing team is well-organized offering lockers to store your gear, equipment rental, and a dedicated Tubing Rental Lodge, where you can find a cafe, bar, and areas to relax.
Tubing is always a popular activity at Mad River Mountain, so it’s always best to book well ahead online.
Learning to Ski
Mad River Mountain has full ski and snowboard rentals, where you can hire as much or as little equipment as you need.
There is plenty of flexibility when it comes to lessons at Mad River Mountain. Kids on either skis or snowboards from 4 to 14 can learn either in private lessons one-to-one or as a small group of family or friends.
Lessons can be booked as half-day in the morning or afternoon or as a full day. All abilities are catered for and complete beginners are particularly welcomed.
Off the Slopes
Mad River Mountain resort has partnered with two local inns, where you can get discounted rates for accommodation. Choose from Marysville Comfort Suites, with an indoor swimming pool, fitness room, and free Wi-Fi or the local Hampton Inn.
Alternatively, there are hotels, condos, and homes for rent in the nearby towns of Bellefontaine and Marysville.
What We Love About Mad River Mountain
- The resort is compact making it less stressful for beginners
- The snowmaking covers all the trails
- The lessons are versatile and can be adapted to beginners’ requirements
Mad River Mountain Stats
|Summit Elevation:||1460 ft / 445 metres|
|Skiable terrain:||144 acres|
Why Choose Ohio for Skiing?
While Ohio may not have the heady peaks of some of the mountains out in the west, it does have convenience in bucket loads for beginner vacationers from Detroit, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and other large cities. There is no need for the hassle of flights or never-ending car journeys, as Ohio offers plenty of skiing fun on the slopes. Snowmaking in both our suggested resorts should address any natural shortfall in snow, so you can concentrate fully on the task at hand, learning to ski.
How Did We Order This List?
To help rank our top selection of ski resorts for this list we compared the following ranking factors:
|👨👩👦 Ranking Factor||📈 Power to affect Rank|
|Amount of Beginner Trails (Mi)||4x|
|Amount of Skiing Area (Mi)||3x|
|Cost of two adult tickets + child ticket||1x|
|How many magic carpet lifts||1x|
We gave each factor its own weighting depending on how important we feel it is for family fun across all ages. For example, a resort with more beginner trails is higher ranked than a resort with a lower-priced family ticket – with all else being equal. That’s because while cost is a factor, it’s not a primary one. We may also use our editorial judgment to remove or add resorts that we believe should make the list.
When taking all of this into account, it gives us our awesome list above. We hope it was helpful in planning your next family ski vacation.