Colorado’s family-friendly ski resorts are each as unique as a snowflake. Find out which one is right for you!
Shooting stars scar the sky and a bonfire crackles as you roast s’mores(marshmallows and chocolate). Live music plays and the kids unleash their energy snow tubing. This is the template for a perfect winter evening, delivered by Ullr nights, at Snowmass. Snowmass is one of four Aspen Snowmass mountains – its siblings include Buttermilk (with cruisy greens), Highlands and downtown glamour-puss, Aspen Mountain.
But this season, Snowmass prances centre stage thanks to a USD$600 million base development, including the ski in-ski out Limelight Hotel Snowmass, complete with indoor five-storey climbing wall. Check-in at The Hideout at Buttermilk or the Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Centre at Snowmass – award-winning child facilities with ski schools, rock climbing walls and a butterfly room.
With a Wild West cowboy vibe and snow so light they’ve trademarked it – Champagne Powder® – this is family central with unexpected added extras. Instead of rolling out the red carpet, Steamboat rolls out the little red wagons – letting you pull gear, skis, and even kids around Gondola Square when dropping them at the Kids Vacation Club, a Western-themed kiddie haven. On-snow, while exploring fun kids runs (56 per cent of terrain is beginner and intermediate), keep an eye peeled for the new Taco Beast, an on-mountain roaming snowcat serving healthy Mexican eats to hungry tummies. Thaw out in the natural springs at Strawberry Park Hot Springs, or on the waterslides at Old Town Hot Springs.
If Goldilocks had to pick a resort, it would be Vail. It has everything, from steep and deeps to the wilderness of seven back bowls, to mountain-top beginner areas (so everyone gets that ‘mountain summit experience’). There’s even a dedicated area for family learning, with designated slow zones. But when it comes to families, it all boils down to two words: Adventure Ridge. This is a football stadium-sized snow park with ski bikes, a kids’ snowmobile track, a slippery slope of rip-roaring tubing lanes, bungee trampoline, and snowshoeing. There’s also two ice-skating rinks and a bowling alley. Or head to Imagination Station in the Lionshead Parking Structure for experimental play, including a Mad Scientist Lab.
Winter Park is the quiet achiever of the Colorado area, but has serious pedigree. With a 75-year history, Winter Park is Colorado’s longest continuously operating ski resort. A huge drawcard for parents is that there is no need to drive, thanks to the Winter Park Express that travels from downtown Denver to the resort slopes in two hours. Upon arrival, you’ll discover a brimming basket of activities. Cuddle up on a sleigh ride with a hot chocolate pause, meet Siberian and Alaskan huskies while dogsledding, rev up with snowmobiling and tubing or slow down with snowshoeing. Activities amp up on the weekend with free ice-skating lessons and live music at Sunset Après. There’s also a train-shaped jungle gym playground in the village, and kids – and their gear – can be pulled around on one of 200 wagons available for guests’ use.
Ski in-ski out condos, an excellent ski school and long, wide open runs make this laid-back resort a great choice for families. One of Colorado’s hidden gems, Copper Mountain Resort is around two hours’ drive west of Denver. The award winning trail system and naturally divided terrain means it is super easy to navigate. There are three peaks, with the easiest green runs on the right above West Village, intermediate blue runs in the middle above Centre Village, and advanced black diamond runs to the left above East Village. There’s also a tubing hill, snowplay area Critterland, and ice-skating.
Ahhh, we’ve always had a crush on Telluride, that box-canyon town with serious soul. Under the big-name reputation runs the throb of a tight knit ski town with a quiet sophistication. Meanwhile, above town, the ski slopes sing with options. Beginners score this season with The Meadows, Telluride’s popular starter area, upgraded with a new 97m covered surface lift. And if you are a keen spring skier and lover of warmer temperatures for cold-resistant kids [I don’t understand the context of this in this statement-– I think if your kids are cold-resistant you don’t need warner temperatures??], you’ve found the sweet spot – Telluride’s slopes excel late season, when its high elevations and northern exposures preserve snow for an extended Rocky Mountain high. Ski in-ski-out is up in Mountain Village, or stay downtown with a free gondola to the slopes.