There is an essential truth to ski vacations with young kids, one Aliska Pond has learned well. “It’s no fun for the adults if they’re not having fun,” said Pond, with her husband and two kids, ages 5 and 11, on vacation from Streator, Ill., at Keystone Ski Resort.
That’s why they chose Keystone, which Pond believes is more familyfriendly than other resorts, with tubing, ice-skating, Ripperoo the ski school mascot, face-painting, balloon animals and other activities around the base area, all to keep the kids having fun when skiing has grown boring.
They were on top of Dercum Mountain at Keystone last month for the opening of the resort’s newest draw for kids: a castle made of snow, with ramparts to scale, a snow maze and ice throne.
“I like it. It’s fun to crawl around everything,” said 11-year-old Delaney, about the snow fort. She added, though, that she was most definitely not bored with skiing on the six-day trip.
The effort Keystone officials put into building this snow fort — three weeks of work around the clock by a half-dozen snow artisans, molding 70 tons of snow — shows just what a key market families have become for ski areas.
“The idea behind the snow fort was we differentiate ourselves as a kidfriendly resort, from what everyone else is doing,” said Keystone spokesman Ryan Whaley. “Mom and dad are skiers, and they want to get the kids into skiing. It’s how can we achieve that, beyond getting them into ski school?” The snow fort unveiling was part of Kidtopia, a season-long series of festivals for kids, which also includes disco tubing, cookie decorating and ice-skating and parades through the base village for kids armed with glow sticks.
For upcoming events, visit www.keystonekidtopia.com.
Trade group Colorado Ski Country USA says families are a key demographic among the state’s 500,000 active skiers, and resorts are eager to cater to them. Some activities are free, designed to attract families and offer non-ski amenities, while others cost and are no doubt a nifty little piece of business for resorts, albeit tiny in the overall scheme for the large resorts.
Local ski hills such as Monarch and Arapahoe Basin are still mostly skiing, but larger resorts offer plenty of other things to do.
“It’s evolved from simply providing skiing to offering specialized kids programs, family packages, other on-snow group activities like tubing and ice skating,” spokeswoman Jennifer Rudolph said.
She did not have a figure for how much money such activities bring into the state’s $2.6 billion skiing industry, but she said non-skiing activities, including “arts, entertainment, recreation and other services” account for 5 percent of industry revenue.
Most resorts offer on-mountain child care, but it will probably cost more than your lift ticket.
So what is there for families to do at your favorite ski hill? The list below is just a sampling. Check a resort’s Web site for more opportunities, or Ski Country USA’s site for more.
The city-owned Breckenridge Recreation Center on Airport Road offers two climbing walls, an indoor pool and slide, basketball, racquetball and tennis courts. Day passes are $10 for adults, $5 for kids. Families can ice skate at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena on Boreas Pass Road, for $7 per adult and $5 per child. The Mountain Top Children’s Museum at 605 North Park offers exhibits, activities and “Kid’s Night Out,” when kids are watched while parents hit the town, for $50 per child.
Looking for a free activity? Kids can sled at Carter Park at the south end of High Street.
Take the family tubing at the East Village, next to the Super Bee lift, for $24 to $29 for adults and $20 to $25 for kids, depending on the time of sea son.
Ice skating is free at West Lake; rentals are $10. Take a free familyfriendly snowshoe tour — rentals are also free — 1 to 3 p.m. daily. Every Wednesday through Saturday through April, if you spend $30 at a local shop, Kids’ Night Out will watch the kids from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and feed them pizza, for free.
Adventure Ridge, an on-mountain playground accessible from the Eagle Bahn Gondola and open 2 to 9 p.m., has tubing for $25, snow cycles for $65, kid-sized snowmobiles for $25 and a bungee trampoline for $10. For a more educational experience, stop by the Nature Discovery Center yurt on top of the mountain to learn about the area’s ecology and take a snowshoe tour, or by the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame in the base village to learn about the rich history of the sports in Colorado.
Ice skating in the base village is $5 to $9 per person per hour, depending on age and time of day. The resort offers snow cycle rentals for on the mountain and lessons, as well as nightly snowcycle tours by head lamp Fridays and Saturdays. For $49 a person, take a twohour snow cat tour of the mountain.
Six miles of groomed trails for snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing can be used for free. On the west side of Wolf Creek Pass, take the kids to the famous hot springs in Pagosa Springs, with 22 pools. There is no child care on the mountain, but it is available in Del Norte, Monte Vista and Pagosa Springs; visit Wolf Creek’s site for details.
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