Why it's special: This authentic old west cowboy town has one of North America's largest ski mountains, along with a magical man-made Ice Castle (walk through and get your picture taken on the frozen throne -- it's especially beautiful at night). Nicknamed Ski Town USA and celebrating its 50th Anniversary this season, Steamboat was the first resort to ever offer the now-commonplace "Kids Ski Free" programs: Children under age 12 ski and board free when you buy five or more days of adult lift tickets.
Children's programs: The Kids Vacation Center has daycare starting at 6 months, ski lessons starting at age 2, and snowboarding instruction for ages 5 and up. Beginners learn on dedicated slopes with Magic Carpet conveyor belt lifts (hop on and ride up the hill). Seasoned young skiers (and their parents) can blaze the Sunshine Family Trail (past towering trees and cartoon cut-outs), and master moves in the kids-only Rough Rider Basin terrain park for ages 6–15, with ski-through tee-pees and a frontier-style fort.
What to do off the slopes: If you can't get enough of the white stuff, go snow tubing (kids 5 and under are free), dog sledding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Or switch it up by horseback riding through forest trails. You can soak in the Old Town Hot Springs pool (warmed by water from local hot springs) while kids swim and zoom down the waterslides. End your day with an authentic cowboy dinner at the mountaintop Western BBQ restaurant -- you can ride the gondola there.