I was feeling a little giddy. Yes, I was stoked to be grinding up the hill in Keystone Adventure Tours’ (KAT) all-world powder snowcat on a bluebird day to the Dead blaring “Truckin’.” But these days, what Daddy really likes is a happy family posse.
I’ll confess that in the four years and four ski seasons since my son was born I have been torn; I could either log major time in magic-carpet land or focus on my own skiing. I choose the latter, in all honesty, as an escape hatch to sanity from the hand-to-hand combat/20-minute pajama negotiations/never-ending toy battery-changing of small-child rearing.
But being in Boulder, I was wracked with guilt watching my son’s toddler peers whipped into pre-Olympic training regimes. If my Logan was ever to emulate Coloradan Lindsey Vonn, “Bon” as he called her, we needed to get with the program ASAP.
I immediately thought of Keystone. I have always felt the resort is one of the most underrated in Colorado.
In the pre-Daddy dirtbag days, I used to happily shred up the always uncrowded Outback, loving the high speed lifts, glades and long vertical on tap everywhere on the hill. I liked the free, close-in parking and the sense of place as you strolled through the River Run village over the wooden bridge, the top-notch java and breakfast at the Inkspot café, the lively aprs scene. Of all the large resorts, Keystone seemed the most low-key, friendly and approachable. The lovely alpine drive back over Loveland Pass was always a bonus, too.
So now, the ultimate challenge is trying to make Pop, Mama and Junior genuinely happy all in one weekend. Who would vote whom off the ski vacation island first? Luckily, despite spending a ridiculous amount of time filling the car with ski swag, snacks to supply a diminutive army, and multiple fleece blankets with every licensed action figure known to mankind, we were off.
First points for Keystone, it is close, and on family road trips every second counts when that Buzz Lightyear DVD ends. Second, it’s affordable, with aggressively priced package deals on lodging and tickets for slopeside accommodations — Daddy digs that. Lastly, because you haven’t run a logistical marathon and bused in from parking lot ZZZ or a condo 20 minutes away, the morning of the vacation actually feels like one, with an easy stroll through the village to the lifts.
Keystone loves on little kids.
Having an enclosed gondola right at the base is a huge bonus, meaning you don’t have to battle cold before you even try to get your progeny to make one pizza pie turn. The gondola drops you off directly next to three strategic items: a giant kid’s snow fort, a restaurant selling hot chocolate and other edible bribes, and an enclosed magic carpet (genius). The appeal of having a safe, low-angle learning area up high with great views can’t be underestimated. The kids feel included and in rhythm with the sport. The highlight of our day was a breezy cruise down the meandering, completely trustworthy and gentle Schoolmarm. This trail is three miles long, and my son was able to make 100 times the practice turns he ever got in an entire day on the bunny hill. He was beaming, and so were we.
The resort continues its child-friendly ways with the Kidtopia season-long series, offering fireworks, movie nights, face painting, western BBQs, teen night adventures, glow bug skate nights, the very popular tubing hill and more. The slogan is “The only rule is that kids rule!” Sounds like our house at Rancho Darley. They know the mindset of their demographic.
Sunday found our boy parked happily at the cheerful and professional daycare right in River Run.
He was thrilled to have the new toys galore and smiling Australian nannies at his beck and call. I was grinning, too, as my ever-game wife and I had booked a KAT powdercat tour in the 12,000-foot-high playground of Independence Bowl and beyond. I have been lucky enough to sample a number of cat operations in Colorado, and while each was dreamy, this is arguably numero uno. It’s the cheapest, and since the only way you get a dollar bill out of my hand is to pry one finger off at a time, me likey.
The cost of $225 seems pricey, but when you factor in that a plain vanilla ticket at any resort is nearly a Franklin, and that the included performance powder skis would rent for $50, and that the gourmet hot lunch served in a private woodstove-heated backcountry yurt would be another $40 easy, it all makes ski-cents. Even better, look for early-season reservation specials on the KAT for $179 that can be booked for the remainder of the year. That’s a Charlie Sheen-crazy low price.
Skiing untracked alpine lines all day with friendly expert guides shepherding you to each delectable stash is a bit beyond words; you need to sample it for yourself. But let me end with this: As our day happened to be around a certain mid-February romantic holiday that gives many husbands night sweats, I heard the words from my bride every man dreams of hearing at 12,000 feet or anywhere else — “Best Valentine’s present ever!”
Go to www.keystoneresort.com for details on family ski trips, KAT powder skiing and ski/stay package deals galore.