Best Colorado Ski Resorts for Families
Colorado has long been regarded as one of the best skiing spots in the nation, if not the entire world. Places like Aspen, Vail, Steamboat, and Winter Park are included in so many “best of” lists when it comes to skiing and snowboarding. But with so many top family ski resorts to choose from, which ones are truly the best for your next family trip? From powdery slopes to tons of offerings for the kids, we’ve narrowed down the six best family resorts in the state.
As all of these resorts offer a plethora of trails, best-in-class ski schools, an expansive lodge area, roomy gondolas, and more, we’ve focused more on each resort’s unique après-ski activities in this piece. Visit any of them for a memorable, fun-filled vacation with your family—and unmatched time on the slopes, of course. Happy skiing!
Crested Butte is away from Denver crowds, which gives it more of a peaceful and rural feel than some of the ski resorts along I-70. Want to hit the slopes at night while the kids are having a blast? Try it out at Crested Butte, where their Kids Night Out event lets kids indulge in the resort’s ultra-fun Adventure Park while mom and dad enjoy the mountain. Crested Butte sports over 1,500 acres serviced by 15 chairlifts, making it a nice size — not so big that you will be competing with tens of thousands of people, but large enough to give everyone in the family something to ski. With a rock-climbing wall, bungee jumping, and all-inclusive dinner and games, it’s a win-win for your entire family.
Crested Butte also has a wide range of trails specifically for kids—such as a replication of the town’s Main Street, where there are a variety of facades along the trail for kids to ski through and play in. In addition,
there’s a trail that winds through the trees (and was specially designed for beginners, of course)! If that’s not enough, kids can also ski through a gold-mining building, a bear cave, and a Forest Service Lodge. Crested Butte’s one-of-a-kind skiing offerings ensure that your family will never run out of activities at this famed Colorado resort.
Because Crested Butte is a little harder to get to than the other resorts along the I-70 corridor, you won’t encounter as many weekend crowds, either. Crested Butte is best accessed from the Gunnison airport, an easy 30 minute drive away. Because of its more southerly location, Crested Butte can have different patterns than the more northern parts of the Colorado mountains, which can be good or bad depending on the winter.
When it comes to upscale Colorado ski areas, Beaver Creek has the market cornered. In fact, behind Deer Valley on Utah’s best family resort list, Crested Butte just may be the most full-service ski area in the US. Built in 1980, it is a newer ski resort as far as ski resorts go.
What’s better than a warm treat after a hard day on the slopes? Beaver Creek has it right—the resort offers hot cookies at their base lodge at 3 PM to all skiers (and you can take as many as you like, so go for it)! For more mountain fun, the resort also offers on-hill story time for young skiers, glow-stick parties on Thursday evenings followed by fireworks, a tubing hill, ice-skating, and the twisty Marmot Maze. The resort also has activities especially for teens—such as their aptly named Beaver Creek Loves Teens Too! Program, which entails a nighttime snowshoe and pizza party, night tubing at Vail’s Adventure Ridge, and a class at the Anti-Gravity Center in a nearby town.
Crested Butte is also well-known for its plethora of tasty and family-friendly dining options—no bland burgers to be seen here. The clientele at Beaver Creek are just as much about the amenities as they are about the slopes. No matter how old your kids are, they will undoubtedly enjoy themselves at Beaver Creek—whether they’re on the slopes or off. Like the others on this list, Beaver Creek is not inexpensive, so be sure to combine it with some of our ideas on saving money on ski trips if budgeting is important for you. Upscale lodging is ample at Beaver Creek, ranging from some of our favorite Marriott ski properties to some excellent privately-owned condos and homes. It is close enough to Vail to enjoy a day on their slopes, without having to be in the sometimes-chaos that Vail can become.
Keystone is a kid-centered mountain—so much so that the resort’s Kids Ski Free program allows kids to ski for free when their families stay two or more nights at any mountain property. While Keystone’s 3,200 acres (serviced by 20 lifts) provide plenty of terrain to explore for everyone, the family vibe is strong here.
The resort’s Kidtopia area is a haven for all things kid—including disco tubing, face painting, fort building, scavenger hunts, cookie hour, and so much more. For a good time that the entire family can participate in, check out the Sunday Pajama Brunch at the mountain’s Bighorn Bistro. After hours, your family can take a guided snowcat tour from the base of the mountain all the way to the top for some incredible views.
If you’re really feeling daring, your family can try out cat skiing—a form of skiing where a snowcat drops skiers into powdery areas and are then guided down by an instructor. Cat skiers get to experience less crowded slopes as well as unspoiled, undiscovered mountain views! (For more advanced skiers only, though). To lessen the burden of schlepping skis, poles, and boots through the parking lot, the resort offers Free Family Front-Row Parking, which is just steps from the gondola. For more on-the-mountain fun, the Family Ski Trail is a great place to unwind at the end of a day on the slopes, as kids can ski with Keystone’s mascot Riperoo and also get to meet the resort’s avalanche rescue dogs. Your vacation to Keystone will certainly be one to remember.
If you want a Colorado ski area that has stood the test of time, Winter Park is it. Around for 75 years, it is the state’s longest continually-operating ski area.
Want to strengthen your skiing technique and get to experience your child’s first time on skis? Check out Winter Park—the resort’s one-stop Family Easy Start program enables families to take ski or snowboard lessons together. Whether you want to spend a full or half-day in class together, the packages offered include rentals and lift tickets for a seamless skiing experience. After you’ve spent a full day on the slopes, gather your family and head to the Coca-Cola tubing park for a one-of-a-kind tubing experience—the park has four tubing lanes and even features a conveyer lift!
We like the wide variety of live music acts that frequently appear on the mountain—they make stops at family-friendly restaurants as well as after-hour bars so skiers of all ages can partake in the fun. With 25 lifts and 3000 acres of skiable terrain—you’ll never run out of things to do at Winter Park. If you’re staying in Denver, Amtrak has reopened its route from Denver’s Union Station to the resort for 2017. Just a quick two-hour trip, you’ll be on the mountain in no time. If you drive, you can make it from downtown Denver in as little as 90 minutes — as long as traffic is moving through the Berthoud Pass.
Vail’s sprawling Adventure Ridge snow park will delight and entertain kids and families alike. Located at the top of the mountain and reached by gondola, its many activity offerings include ski biking, ski tubing, a
snowmobile course, a zipline, and bungee jumping. As the park stays open well into the night, it’s the perfect activity to do with your family once you finish up on the mountain for the day. In addition, one of Vail’s ski school offerings has a fun educational twist that will excite inquisitive kids. Kids who sign up for the mountain’s Curious Critters Ski School are given short slope-side nature lessons about the Rocky Mountains from Walking Mountains Science Center Naturalists. Skiing and learning—what could be better?
There’s also the Ski Girls Rock program—designed by Olympic gold medal skier, Minnesota native and Vail resident Lindsey Vonn, it focuses on small group instruction and female empowerment as well as learning the fundamentals of the sport. It has won rave reviews for its emphasis on teamwork and confidence building, which are key elements of being a strong skier.
At the largest ski resort in the United States, you and your family will have a vacation like no other. Like Beaver Creek, Crested Butte, and Keystone, Vail is part of the Epic Pass.
Want to experience after-hour thrills? Head to Copper Mountain, where the resort’s Alpine Rush Zip Line lets riders soar side-by-side thirty feet above its gorgeous skating rink at speeds exceeding thirty miles per hour. Have some fun—and get competitive, too! The resort also boasts a stellar Kids Night Out program, with three hours of free child care complete with games, crafts, and movies. You’ll also find Critterland at the mountain, a kids-only zone featuring a mini tubing hill, a tubing carousel, a snow den, tunnels for kids to climb through, and lots of other activities.
If you and your family want to perfect their tricks, head to Woodward at Copper’s Barn, a year-round indoor playground with ramps, foam pits, and fly-bed tramps—so you can tackle the terrain park with ease. With such an exciting mix of activities, you and your family will certainly venture out of their comfort zone during your time at Copper Mountain. Conveniently right off of I-70, this is a reliable 1 hour, 20 minute drive from downtown Denver if you go when traffic isn’t heavy (avoid doing your drive Fridays or Saturday mornings, when everyone else does).
A great list of family ski resorts would not be complete without Steamboat. One of the neatest ski town around, Steamboat sits by itself near the village of Steamboat Springs, incorporated in 1900. You get the feeling that Steamboat Springs would be there whether there was a ski resort or not, so having such a great ski mountain simply adds to the ambience. With 18 lifts, a gondola, and nearly 3,000 acres of challenging-but-doable terrain, we love the way Steamboat skis. Because of the lack of crowds, it is also a bit friendlier for families than some of the areas right off of I-70.
Steamboat’s ski school is top-notch and well-regarded, and the mountain offers enough area so that anyone can get lost on a lift with runs they will fall in love with. The one downside of Steamboat is also the greatest part of it — it can be a little harder to get to, which means that you don’t have quite as many Denver daytrippers flocking to it on the weekend. Steamboat is not only one of the best in Colorado, but one of the best family resorts in North America.
No doubt, Colorado offers some of the best skiing in the USA, but don’t forget about other great destinations as well. The Utah ski areas hold their own again Colorado, especially considering the convenience of a 45 minute drive from the Salt Lake City airport, and skiing in Washington is completely underrated and needs to be in the same conversation as many of the Colorado resorts.. Out in the East, we like some of the great Vermont family ski resorts as well. If you want to get a lay of the land for family skiing in neighboring Utah, we did a piece on that as well.. It provides a guide on which resorts are truly a cut above. And don’t forget about some of the gear Nordic ski resorts…. While Alpine tends to get the press and media, a day of Nordic skiing is a great workout and incredibly relaxing.
The good news is that no matter where you are going, you can’t go wrong. Here is to good snow!
Paul Miller is the Founder of Family Skier. He is an advanced skier and has extensive experience with family travel and ski schools. An accomplished skier, he has skied in 15 states and provinces and 6 countries. In addition to FamilySkier, his writing can be found on many ski-related websites, and as curriculum for many ski clubs in North America.