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Why to Ski Colorado with Kids this Winter

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Ski Colorado, and you’re skiing the best. It’s the most wonderful time of the year in Colorado, and with world-class destinations in my backyard, there are plenty of reasons for this Outdoorsy Travel Mama to rejoice. Many years ago, my first real job was in PR for Utah’s ski industry. I had the opportunity to ski 13 of Utah’s 14 resorts. (Rough start, right?) Since moving to Denver 10 years ago, I’ve had a similar goal to ski all of Colorado’s 25 resorts. I’ve put a good dent in them, but I still have a long way to go in my quest to ski Colorado.

Blue skies bring families out to play in Breckenridge (Photo by Ian Leifallon) - Ski Colorado

Blue skies bring families out to play in Breckenridge (Photo by Ian Leifallon)

Ski Colorado for the Best Family Vacation

I’ve done some digging, and if you’re planning a family vacation to ski Colorado this winter, let this small sampling be your launching pad. Not a skier/snowboarder? With so many mountain events, you don’t need to be. Your family will still have the vacation of a lifetime.

Children's activities abound at Snowmass (Photo by Snowmass) - Ski Colorado

Children’s activities abound at Snowmass (Photo by Snowmass)


Unbeknownst to many, the Aspen area actually boasts four resorts—675-acre Aspen, 3,362-acre Snowmass, 470-acre Buttermilk and 1,028-acre Aspen Highlands. I’ve only skied Snowmass once but plan to rectify that because family-friendly activities abound here. Every Monday through Thursday the resorts have a number of activities during kids’ crafts time.  Kids can take part in snow sculpting, ornament making, story-telling and campfire sing-alongs. Snowmass is renowned for their industry-leading Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center and ski & snowboard school.

On Tuesday nights from 5 – 7:45 pm families can take a snowcat ride up to the Burlingame Cabin in Snowmass for an evening filled with sing-a-longs and a great BBQ Dinner. Enjoy the beautiful crisp nights by ice-skating under the stars with your littles at Silver Circle Ice Rink.

Tip: Want to try something different? Take the family on a FREE naturalist-guided skiing/riding tour on Snowmass with Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.

Deals:  Kids 6 and under ski free at all four resorts. If you want another even better promotion, kids ski and stay free in April.

Location: 200 miles from Denver via I-70 and Colorado 82.

At the International Snow Sculpture Championships, Kids’ Choice voting lets families chime in on their favorite sculptures (Photo by Carl Scofield) - Ski Colorado

At the International Snow Sculpture Championships, Kids’ Choice voting lets families chime in on their favorite sculptures (Photo by Carl Scofield)


If my family was going to buy a cabin anywhere in Colorado, it would be at Breckenridge (read: pipe dream). The sky is the limit here–from ice skating and dog-sledding to the Gold Runner Alpine Coaster’s 2,500 feet of coaster track. Breckenridge has over 2,300 skiable acres and offers Ski & Ride School where children ages 3-12 get to spend the day with the school mascot, Ripperoo. Daily rotating themes encourage fun-filled adventure and help to educate participants on topics such as mountain ecology and skier and boarder safety.

The historic town of Breckenridge has many signature events including Race of the Santas with a new Reindeer Run for kids (jingle bells and antlers are included with registration) on December 3, 2012.  There is a new family night at Ullr Fest January 6-12, 2013 and kids of all ages will be in awe of the International Snow Sculpture Championships (public viewing is January 26- February 2, 2013). Also, be sure to spend some time exploring Breckenridge’s Main Street.

Tip: Huddling around the firepit while indulging in Crêpes Á La Cart is a favorite Breck winter activity. Or summer. Fall and spring are pretty awesome, too.

Deals:  Plan ahead for great deals (even during the holidays) or get 25 percent off four nights or more. It’s a great deal for the family to ski Colorado. Visit or call 800-Go-Breck (800-462-7325) to package with lift tickets, rentals or activities.

Location: 90 miles from Denver via I-70 west to Exit 203. Continue south on Colorado 9 to Breckenridge.

There is plenty of family-friendly skiing and other snowy fun at Crested Butte (Photo by Crested Butte) - Ski Colorado

There is plenty of family-friendly skiing and other snowy fun at Crested Butte (Photo by Crested Butte)

Crested Butte

Crested Butte’s quirky vibe makes it my favorite mountain town in Colorado (and that is saying a lot because we have some epic resort communities). My family had a blast skiing Crested Butte’s 1,500+ skiable acres a couple of years ago and I’m eager to go back so we can try the Kids Camps. (Bonus: there is even a night option so parents can have a date night). If you spend the holidays at Crested Butte, December 21 will find Santa and his elves working overtime at Santa’s Workshop. Holiday crafts, science projects, storytelling abound. And you’ll enjoy caroling while Santa cruises down Crested Butte Mountain in a sleigh pulled by a snowcat on Christmas Eve.

Children will love the resort’s outdoor ice skating rink, guided dog sled tours or the Kids Rock Winter Concert Series at the Trailhead Children’s Museum (see the schedule here).

Tip: Trailhead Children’s Museum is a great option during inclement weather and offers everything from Paint Your Own Pottery to the Trail Head Express sleigh ride to great exhibits including a dig pit, dark room and nursery nook. Also, head over to Elk Avenue for The Secret Stash pizzeria. It redefines eclectic with decor showcasing the owner’s world travels and offers my family’s favorite “pie” EVER.

Deals: Ski free on Opening Day (Wednesday, November 21). Kids 12 and under (with one paying adult) pay their age as the price of the lift ticket. Beginning March 16 through closing day April 7, 2013, all kids 12 and under will ski for free as part of their Kids Stay and Ski Free package

Location: 230 miles from Denver via U.S. 285, U.S. 50 and Colorado 135.

Families take advantage of some of Colorado's best snow conditions at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort (Photo by Purgatory) - Ski Colorado

Families take advantage of some of Colorado’s best snow conditions at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort (Photo by Purgatory)

Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort

The only bad thing about 1,360-acre Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort is the seven hours it takes to drive there from Denver. That’s also why it’s so great. This remote enclave in southwestern Colorado offers up some of the best snow conditions to ski Colorado. When you’re not hitting the slopes, thrill your family on the Zip Line Durango Full Blast, soak in the Trimble Spa and Nature Hot Springs, or ride the popular Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Train. The winter views are so beautiful you’ll swear you’re on the Polar Express.

The Durango Mountain Club is one of my kids’ favorite places we’ve ever stayed. Many resorts have alpine clubs but very few cater to younger kids. When my family wasn’t on the slopes, we were playing Wii or swimming with the pool with the spray jets and water slide. Other amenities include a fitness center, hot tub, fire pit, board games and an adjacent eating area.

Deal: Kids Ski Free at Durango Mountain Resort with the Kids Ski Free package. Enjoy four nights lodging, four days lift tickets for mom and dad, and they’ll throw in the kids’ lift tickets for free.  Package starts at $199 per family/per night. Some restrictions may apply.

Location: 337 miles from Denver via US-285 South to US-160 West, to US-550 North.

Destinations on my Ski Colorado Bucket List for the 2012/13 season include (but are hopefully not limited to) Steamboat Springs, Copper Mountain, Winter Park and Breckenridge. Stay tuned for my trip reports!

P.S. Vail (Colorado’s largest single mountain resort) and Steamboat Springs are both celebrating 50 years so be sure to check-out their event line-ups.

And think snow.

What’s your favorite kid-friendly ski resort? Let us know in the comments!

About Amber Johnson, The Outdoorsy Travel Mama

Amber Johnson is a fun-loving mom of two. After a whirlwind career as an adventure-travel writer and publicist in Utah’s ski industry, she married and moved to Denver where her family loves skiing, biking, hiking and climbing 14ers (14,000-foot peaks). She is the founder of The Denver Post’s Mile High Mamas, writes a regular “Family Cents” column for the newspaper and has been blogging since 2005 (you can find her at Amber is excited to be a part of the Travel Mamas team and looks forward to chronicling her occasionally-painful but always-hilarious misadventures! You can connect with Amber on Twitter as @TheMileHighMama.

  1. We always ski whistler but Colorado looks amazing too. We will have to check it out soon.

  2. Amber's The Mile High Mama says

    I’ve never skied Whistler though have vowed to try it after going to the Vancouver 2012 Games. Definitely lots of great choices in Colorado, too!

  3. I’ve been cross-country skiing but not downhill and never would have considered vacationing at a ski resort but after reading your article I’m reconsidering. These resorts sound like they could be fun places for a family vacation even for non-skiers.

  4. Amber's The Mile High Mama says

    Lisa–I think that is the key. There are so many things to do even for non-skiers. Between sleigh rides to tubing to dog sledding to the spa or the alpine coaster, it’s easy to stay busy!

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