In the Rocky Mountain State of Colorado, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to ski destinations, but which are best for families? As a local, I’ve raised twin boys on the snow and I’ve been to them all! The top things on my mind are accessibility, facilities and most importantly, affordability and my top three meet these criteria:
Why it’s a family favorite:
- Most convenient slopeside car parking of all the three resorts
- Easy for a family with different skiing abilities to stay together on the mountain
- Plenty of entertaining dining options to suit every budget
- Sheer volume of accommodation keeps prices competitive. Budget-friendly accommodation also available in nearby towns of Frisco, Dillon and Silverthorne (10 to 20 minutes away)
Convenient Slopeside Parking
There’s nothing worse than parking too far and having to lug your gear (plus your kid’s gear) to the first lift! Luckily Keystone has a family priority section in its Montezuma lot which is just a short walk to the gondola at the River Run base area. Even if you turn up late and get a rubbish spot that’s furthest away from the lifts, free wagons are provided to help cart all your ski gear across the parking lot and to the snow! Did we mention this lot is free as well?
Keep Everyone Together on the Slopes
If your family has varying skiing or snowboarding abilities, Keystone’s slopes are perfect. With some scrutinising of the piste map and a little planning you should be able to keep your loved ones together on the mountain while catering for everyone’s different levels. Stay in the same area of the mountain, ride the same lifts, and meet up at convenient trail intersections, it’s all possible at Keystone!
For the little ones who want a day off the slopes, you’ll find Keystone Daycare in River Run Village; just make sure book early because spots are limited.
From Dinner Sleigh Rides to doing dinner your own way
Alpenglow Stube ($$$$): Ride the gondola up to 3,556 m and dine in style high up at this AAA Four-Diamond restaurant, the highest of its kind in North America.
Dinner Sleigh Rides ($$$): Hop aboard a sleigh and ride out to an authentic ranch homestead, where live music, hot chocolate and a delicious dinner awaits. Great fun for whole family!
Cheap eats ($$): Head to Dillon and Silverthorne, 10 to 15 minutes’ away, for some good value eats including franchise restaurants and family diners.
Cook yourself ($): Got a kitchen? Pick up all the groceries you need at City Market in Dillon or Target in Silverthorne to make your own hearty meal.
Why it’s a family favorite:
- Best mountain for families who have the same skiing or snowboarding ability
- Hard-to-beat child care and specialised training for aspiring freeriders
- Snow tubing doesn’t get much more fun than here!
- Budget-friendly accommodation available in nearby towns of Frisco, Dillon and Silverthorne (10 to 20 minutes away)
Unique trail layout suitable for families with the same abilities
If everyone in the family has similar skill levels then Copper Mountain is a great choice because the natural topography of the mountains splits the slopes neatly into three distinct sections, beginner, intermediate and advanced. This natural separation helps you to avoid slopes that are too difficult for your nearest and dearest, which is key to keeping your family ski vacation both safe and fun!
Childcare and Kid’s activities covered
Belly Button Babies & Bakery:Belly Button Babies & Bakery looks after little ones up to 6 years old, and offer a discount of 20% when you reserve a spot at least 5 days in advance.
Woodward Copper Barn: Kids aged 6 and over can learn new tricks at Woodward Copper Barn, a 1,802 m^2 indoor training facility with foam pits and trampolines for ski and snowboard training.
Kids Night Out: Simply spend at least $30 USD ($41 AUD) per child at any outlet in the resort when your children are at the Kids Night Out, bring back your receipts and voila, the child care is free! Just remember to make a reservation 48 hours in advance to lock in a spot!
Tubing Hill with magic carpet: Exhilarating, hassle-free, and safe tubing. Hands down, it’s one of the best family experiences I’ve enjoyed, ever. Go to East Village building to buy tickes and reserve a time slot!
Ways to save at Copper
Copper isn’t as convenient as Keystone for parking, but it’s better than our next top resort. You’ll have plenty of parking lots to choose from, although the closer you get to the slopes the more expensive your spot becomes. Free parking is available but you’ll need to hop on a potentially crowded (but free!) shuttle bus ride to one of Copper’s three base villages.
When it comes to stocking up on groceries, a trip over to Frisco is your best bet, 10 to 20 minutes away. Shop at Whole Foods, Walmart, or Safeway, they’re all there.
Why it's a family favorite:
- Wide range of economical dining options within a short drive
- Low risk of altitude sickness while enjoying the most vertical drop of all three resorts!
- Home to the lightest powder skiing in Colorado
Good Value Dining Options
Unlike other Colorado ski destinations with expensive resort owned restaurants, the City of Steamboat Springs was around long before the skiing began. Head downtown and you’ll find many good value dining options including Johnny B Good’s Diner and Steamboat Smokehouse. To feed the family for less, Walmart, Natural Grocers, City Market, Wild Plum, and Safeway are all here. Even if you’re in ski-in/ski-out lodging, it’s just a short 10 to 20-minute drive to practically anywhere within the city.
Comfy Base Elevation and Plenty of Vertical
Altitude sickness can ruin family ski vacations. Luckily at Steamboat you shouldn’t have any problems with this, as its base elevation is the lowest of all the ski resorts across Colorado! Despite its low base elevation, Steamboat serves up the most vertical of all the three ski resorts on this list, 1,118 m to be exact! So you can all enjoy a long family run from top to bottom and even clock up some serious mileage if you all have the stamina!
Some of the Best Quality Snow in the State
After reading about how low the base elevation is, you’re probably thinking that the snow is unreliable here, right? Far from it, in fact Steamboat’s location on Colorado’s Western Slope means it’s the first to benefit from moisture build up as it rises and cools to become snow. The result is dry and fluffy snow that’s a true joy to ski, with Steamboat even trademarking the name Champagne Powder! It’s the lightest powder skiing I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing, and something I’d recommend for every family.
Child Care and Activities at Steamboat
Essential for every family-friendly ski resort, child-care facilities at Steamboat don’t match those at Copper Mountain but they still do a great job. Kiddie Corral Daycare looks after children from 12 months old to 6 years old, with different rooms and activities for different age groups.
As for snow tubing, there is actually no facility on the ski mountain, unlike at Copper Mountain and Keystone. Instead, you’ll have to travel to nearby Saddleback Ranch to try out the Yee-Haw Tubing Hill, which isn’t exactly convenient. There also needs to be quite a lot of snow for the tubing hill to open, which usually happens after Christmas.