It’s no secret that Keystone is the most family-friendly resort in Colorado, possibly in the whole world. The place even touts its own kid-specific activity calendar, Kidtopia, with daily offerings ranging from free cookies to scavenger hunts, face painting, snowman building and meeting the avalanche dogs, plus a parade and fireworks every Saturday. Keystone is also home to the world’s most massive snow fort (it’s on par with Superman’s Fortress of Solitude...except there are kids everywhere) and families can hang out at Kidtopia Headquarters five days a week making paper snowflakes and playing with giant Legos. In addition to the array of kid-loving options, here are the top Keystone-based adventures to embark on with your family.
It probably goes without saying that this adventure is already on your list, but the first allure of family skiing at Keystone is that if you’re staying at the resort for at least two nights, your children 12 years and younger get free lift tickets. Secondly, from the top of the gondola, there is a massive, extra wide, top-to-bottom green trail (Schoolmarm) designed expressly for families, featuring glades with small jumps, tunnels and ski-through mines.
The whole front side of the ski area is comprised almost entirely of green and blue cruisers, but if you want to crank it up a notch, The Outback offers numerous more challenging blue runs as well as steep blacks and hiking access to the expansive wilds and chutes of North Bowl and South Bowl. The above-mentioned enormous snow fort is located at the top of the gondola, providing a seamless mid-day distraction for kids—and allowing parents to take turns on a lap or two.
In case you don’t get your fill of carving during the daylight, from Wednesday to Sunday when the sun sets, the lights come on and five wide open trails (including Schoolmarm) stay open until 8 p.m. Lastly, big kids will be stoked to know that Keystone boasts not one but six terrain parks, each designed for beginners, intermediates, or experts, including the massive A51, rated one of the best parks in America with more than 100 features including volcano-sized jumps.
2. Nordic Skiing and Snowshoeing
If you like exploring the woods with your family, it’s high time to get your glide on. Rather than letting gravity and chairlifts dictate your progress, you have to work for it on cross-country skis. It’s really not as complicated as you think, and private lessons are available for families at the Keystone Nordic Center, for both classic and skate technique. There are more than nine miles of groomed trails, including the long and winding Easy Does It, the ideal loop for families to swish-swish their way through forests and along the Snake River. Alternately, snowshoeing allows for even deeper exploration (more than 35 miles worth) and is as easy as walking with big, clown-footed steps. Equipment rentals and trail access are considerably more affordable than downhill skiing and the Nordic Center’s Soup Bistro with its fresh daily offerings, beer, wine, and hot chocolate offers a perfect pick-me-up after touring the wilderness.
From pizza to burgers, chicken fingers to mac ’n’ cheese, there is no shortage of kid-favorite foods at Keystone restaurants, but the incomparable standouts at this resort are its award-winning dinner haunts. These include the Ski Tip Lodge, tucked into a cozy cabin dating back to the 1800s that was once the home of Keystone’s founding family, the Dercums. The Ski Tip’s seasonal menu is comprised of four courses, the options of which always contain something appealing to younger palates, including the scrumptious desserts, which are served in the fireplace lounge.
Accessed by gondola, tucked under a blanket on two separate rides, the Alpenglow Stube is housed on top of the mountain in a Bavarian-style log building and is North America’s highest AAA Four-Diamond-rated restaurant. Also involving an adventure trip up two gondolas, Der Fondue Chessel offers a culinary key to your children’s hearts that you may not considered before. Who doesn’t love melted cheese?
You have two options for tubing at Keystone, the old fashioned way (warmer and better exercise) at Keystone Nordic Center, where you rent a tube with a leash and tug it to the top of the hill or at the top of the ski resort, where tubing is lift-served. Smaller children love tubing with Keystone dog mascot Ripperoo, who visits the Nordic Center tubing hill every Thursday afternoon for a free hour of tubing. At Adventure Point, you get to ride the tube up the hill on a covered conveyor belt, then choose numerous lanes for the ride down, spinning and giggling as you go.
5. Ice Skating and Dog Sledding
Finally, what would family adventure be without one of winter’s most time-tested sources of fun? And we’re not talking about pond skating, here. There are two vast outdoor options for ice skating at Keystone, including the 7,200-square foot rink at Dercum Square in the center of River Run Village. There is plenty of room for holding hands while zipping around and skate-dancing to tunes from the sound system, including a live DJ every Saturday afternoon. Whether your kids are with you or not, you’ll relish the unmistakable childlike magic of your blades gathering speed while the wind kisses your face. Ice rink access is free and skate rentals are discounted for children 12 years and younger. There’s also a fireplace for a break-time warm up. Make sure you’re nearby at 4 p.m. every day for free chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven.
The other option is skating on the lake—the largest Zamboni-maintained outdoor rink in North America—at Lakeside Village. With five acres to cover, one trip around the lake is an adventure unto itself and there is always music playing and festive night lights for inspiration. Home to numerous drop-in hockey games, the lake, also known as Adventure Center Ice Rink, is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. There is an admission charge and skate rentals available on-site.
Finally, what kid wouldn’t love the adventure of going dogsledding? Keystone offers group tours daily from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., where six people take turns between traveling by dogsled and a sleigh pulled by a snowmobile. Smaller groups can take a Tagsled Tour, which features two dogsleds on a mushing adventure. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Originally written for Vail Resorts.