Ski resorts offer summertime mountain magic for families looking for value-packed vacations.
Why? Because keeping the condominiums and hotels booked and the restaurants full when wildflowers bloom and lift lines fade from memory makes good fiscal sense.
What attracts families? Scenic views, rates that range from 20 percent to 45 percent below those in prime snow season and great services -- including health clubs, organized children's programs, mountain biking, golf and tennis clinics, water slides, nature hikes, hot air ballooning, horseback riding, river rafting and concerts under the stars.
Here are some resorts across the United States and in Canada that make heading for the hills great family fun.
Gray Rocks, St. Jovite, Quebec
Gray Rocks, 75 miles northwest of Montreal and sprawled on 2,000 acres in the Mount Tremblant area, comes complete with a lake, an intensive tennis program and a view of the snow-capped Laurentian mountains. The children's program operates from 9 a.m. to noon and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. It is divided into four age groups -- 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 and teens. Besides water games for everyone, preschoolers pick strawberries and climb on jungle gyms; older children fish for bass, ride horses, windsurf and go kayaking, canoeing and mountain biking.
Parents can add the five-day intensive tennis package of 20 hours of instruction and unlimited court time for $225-$285. Since the U.S. dollar buys you about 12 percent to 15 percent more than the Canadian dollar, Gray Rocks becomes an even better bargain (All rates are in Canadian dollars).
A five-night stay in a one-bedroom condominium without a meal plan costs $300 per person, double occupancy; $235 per person, triple occupancy. A five-night hotel package with three meals a day starts at $430 per person, with children under 2 free, 3- to 5-year-olds $85 for five nights, and ages 6-16 half-price. Call: (800) 567-6767.
Waterville Valley, N.H.
This town with the White Mountain National Forest as a backdrop transforms itself into a summer family destination where kids under 12 stay free. Choose a country inn, a lodge or a condo. With the Waterville Valley Recreation Department's half-day and weeklong programs for ages 4-7 and 8-12, children enjoy nature walks, crafts, swimming and berry picking. With limited space, reserve these programs in advance.
You and your kids can sign up for tennis clinics and take to scenic bike paths. Every Monday and Thursday in July and August, there's old-fashioned fun with campfire sing-alongs and block parties. Five-night packages for two adults range from $220-$490. Kids under 12 stay free. Call: (800) 468-2553.
Smugglers' Notch, Vt.
This self-contained condominium community in the Green Mountains offers semi-inclusive packages that make budgeting easy. The resort's FamilyFest five- and seven-night stays include lodging, evening games, movies and bonfires as well as daylong activities for parents and children ages 3 through 17.
At Discovery Day Camp, kids 3-6 fly kites, visit the beaver pond and listen to stories. At Adventure Day Camp, children 7 through 12 compete in mini-Olympics, splash down the water slide, try a ropes challenge course and spend a night at a mountain lodge. Teens add mountain bike treks.
Parents enjoy tennis, tai chi and taking it easy. For an additional fee, Alice's Wonderland, a licensed day-care facility, watches tots from 6 weeks to 6 years.
FamilyFest rates start at $725 for a five-night stay for a family of four in a studio condominium. Added bargains: from June 5-25, child care at Alice's Wonderland is free, as is extra tennis court time. Call (800) 451-8752.
Keystone Resort, Colo.
In summer, Keystone Resort brings you the Colorado Rockies complete with hot-air ballooning, white-water rafting, back-country Jeep tours, horseback riding, sailing and even concerts by the National Repertory Orchestra and the Summit Brass. The all-day and half-day programs for kids 3-12 offer flower hunts, forest walks, paddle boats, as well as horseback riding and canoeing for older kids. Family fun includes golf, tennis, breakfast trail rides and dinner hayrides to a cookout at a 19th century log cabin.
Kids programs cost $42 daily. Various packages at hotels and condominiums are available. The summer mountain activities package starts at $62 per person, double occupancy; it includes a trail ride, a sailboat cruise and several sports activities. Call: (800) 222-0188.
Combine wildflower walks, tennis, golf and mountain biking with jazz and classical concerts. Be sure to pamper yourself with a soothing herbal wrap and a massage at the Cliff Spa. For more mountain magic, take a rock-climbing course. At the end of your vacation, dazzle your kids with your rappelling flare.