Confession: for all the adventures we’ve taken our kids on, we’ve never taken them skiing. Neither of us grew up in skiing families, and our own first experiences on the slopes ranged from terrible to traumatic.
When we do take our kids on their first family ski vacation, we want to do it the right way. Ronnie and I learned the hard way that going to the wrong ski resort can turn you off to the sport for good, so we want to me sure we – and you – have the inside scoop on where to ski with kids.
I’ve asked my friend Jessica of Skiing Kids for her top picks. Jess grew up in Colorado and is now raising her own kids next door in Utah. Through it all, she’s been an expert skier and even an instructor for a time. If you’re thinking about a Colorado ski vacation with kids, you won’t want to miss her insights!
When families think about taking a family ski trip, Colorado is one of the first places that comes to mind. It’s no wonder though because with 26 ski resorts in Colorado, 58 peaks over 14,000 feet and a capital city that’s a mile above sea level, family life in Colorado revolves around the mountains.
In Colorado, family skiing is a way of life for many. You’ll see kids on the ski hill shortly after they can walk, and teens who ski at a professional level. The best part about having lots of skiing families in Colorado is that there is a ski resort that’s perfect for every family out there. I’m going to share the best family ski resorts in Colorado based on location, budget, and personal style.
What to wear on a Colorado Ski Vacation
When you’re planning a ski vacation, the most important thing that you need to remember is to dress in layers. The temperatures can be below 0 in the morning, and easily rise 30 degrees by lunch time. Dress in layers so that you can remove or add clothing depending on the weather throughout the day.
Here are our ski layering basics:
Base Layers: Snug fitting layers that are best when made from or (never cotton)
Ski Socks: Only wear one pair, never cotton. will cushion your feet best.
Insulating Mid Layer: Fleece is our favorite – look for options here and here
Waterproof Gloves: Critical for kids. Check out the .
Waterproof Outerwear: Waterproof and jackets are your best defense against getting wet and cold while skiing.
Also, it’s important to always wear a ski helmet and goggles as well while skiing.
Top 5 Family Ski Resorts In Colorado
Best for budget skiers, laid back families, and families with young kids
Location: Dillon Colorado
Child Ticket Price: $39
Where to Stay: No on site lodging; stay in Dillon, Silverthorne, or Frisco
If I were to pick one family friendly ski resort in Colorado that I love the most, it would be Arapahoe Basin (or A-Basin as all the locals call it). It’s where my oldest three kids first learned to ski, and where I really gained the confidence that I needed to .
Arapahoe Basin prides itself on great skiing, but not being caught up in the image, but rather creating traditions. Imagine what a base area would look like from the 1970’s and that’s pretty close to what you’ll find at A-Basin. A giant A-frame lodge is the main dining area on the mountain, where you’ll find a simple and laid back interior decorated with ski photos from the last 60 years. During a normal year, you’ll really feel a sense of community at A-Basin and it’s common for young kids to hang out with one parent while the other one skis.
Perhaps my favorite thing about A-Basin is the learning area, Molly Hogan. It’s right at the heart of the base area so it’s simple for kids to get there, and come inside for a cup of cocoa when they’re cold. RIght next to that is the Pallivacini chairlift which is a bit of a legend. It accesses some of the steepest terrain and the best powder in the Rocky Mountains, straight out of the parking lot. If you’re teaching your kids to ski, it can work perfectly to have one parent skiing with the kids, while the other is out skiing the “Palli Chair”.
Once your kids are ready for more difficult terrain, parents will love that the entire front side of the mountain funnels skiers back to the base area. That means that your teen who likes to race ahead on skis, and your toddler skier who likes to take their sweet time will both be able to easily meet up at the bottom for a family run together.
Between the great learning to ski area, the advanced terrain that’s easily accessible, and the incredibly low prices, Arapahoe Basin is our #1 family ski resort choice in Colorado.
Steamboat Resort with kids
Best for getting a taste of the wild west, multigenerational ski trips, and lower elevation to avoid altitude sickness
Location: Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Adult Ticket Price: $199
Child Ticket Price 5-12: $139, 12 and under ski free with an adult purchasing a 5+ day ticket
Where to Stay: Anywhere in Steamboat, including at the resort is a good option
Steamboat is located in the northwest corner of Colorado surrounded by sprawling ranches and numerous hot springs. As you ski around Steamboat or stroll through town you’ll be just as likely to rub elbows with a cowboy as you would an olympic skier.
Skiing is a way of life in Steamboat and the entire resort is designed to be extra family friendly. When you first arrive, you’ll be greeted with a row of red wagons for you to borrow and transport your family ski gear (or your tired little skiers) around the base area.
Steamboat pioneered the Kids Ski Free program in Colorado and still allows kids to ski free with a parent or grandparent purchase of a 5 day or more lift ticket. This makes it the perfect place to go for a family ski vacation and invite grandma or grandpa to join in the fun as well.
A family ski vacation Steamboat means that many people can head right to the skis hill since the base area is only you can head right to the ski hill, since the base area is less than 7,000 feet above sea level (of you are traveling from sea level or sensitive to altitude, plan to take a couple days to acclimate).
If you’ve got kids who like to ski in the trees, like my kids do, Steamboat is perfect for them. A big portion of the resort is composed of well spaced aspen trees, making it ideal for little skiers to wind their way through the tiny ski trails in the trees, while still allowing Mom and Dad to clearly see where they are.
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Copper Mountain with kids
Best for learning tricks and free snowcat skiing included with lift ticket (advanced skiers)
Location: Frisco, Colorado
Adult Ticket Price: $159
Child Ticket Price: (Ages 6 – 12): $99
Where To Stay: At Copper Mountain Village or in the towns of Frisco, Dillon or Silverthorne
If you’ve got older kids or more advanced skiers, you’ll want to head to Copper Mountain for your Colorado ski vacation. While many kids would love to be able to do the tricks and stunts that they see in ski videos, developing those skills is an entirely different story.
At Copper Mountain, you can enjoy the expertise of Woodard at Copper where kids can learn to do tricks and park features in several different environments depending on their ability. With 9 different ski and snowboard park areas, as well as an indoor training area complete with foam pit, trampolines and indoor ramps with roller skis. The entire program is designed to help kids progress in their skills to be able to safely execute them alone in the terrain park.
Another thing that will completely amaze your kids is the free snowcat skiing to some of the most advanced terrain on the mountain. Many kids dream of one day being able to go on a heliskiing or snowcat skiing trip at some point in their lives, but the huge costs associated with trips like that (and the often remote destinations in Canada and AK), mean that it will never be a reality for most. Imagine how thrilled your teen would be if they could go snowcat skiing on a family ski trip? It’s going to blow their mind.
If you’re looking to plan a few non-ski days while your on your Colorado ski vacation, I highly recommend signing your kids up for another action sports class at Woodward, or for their open barn times. Also, if you’re looking for a great evening activity, drive 15 minutes east to the Dillon Ice Castles.
Loveland Ski Area with kids
Best for beginning skiers, budget conscious families, and convenience from Denver
Location: Georgetown Colorado
Child Ticket Price 6-14: $35
Lesson for Kids: $129
Loveland ski area is another ski area that packs a lot in at a great budget price, making it a perfect choice for a Colorado ski destination for families.
If you’ve got family members who are learning how to ski, you’ll be impressed that Loveland ski area has a completely separate area just for beginners, called Loveland Valley. It’s a great low pressure area for kids to learn to ski where they don’t have to worry about the increased traffic at the rest of the resort. It’s also a great place to learn to ski since all of the terrain is designed specifically for beginners. If you’re teaching your own kids to ski and are worried about navigating new terrain, Loveland Valley is a great place to start.
For more advanced skiers on your family ski trip, make sure to check out Loveland Basin. This is the main area of the resort that has ski terrain for all abilities as well as some incredible wide-open bowls near the top of the mountain.
Since Loveland does have lower priced ski tickets, you’ll often see lots of families on the ski hill together, giving it a really friendly feeling overall.
Vail with kids
Best for style, high end dining and 5 star hotels
Location: Vail, Colorado
Adult Ticket Price: (Ages 13+) |$219
Child Ticket Price: (Ages 5 – 12) |$89
Where to stay: All lodging within 30 minutes of Vail is VERY expensive, though Avon is slightly less money
If you’re looking to take a family ski trip somewhere that everyone has heard of, make sure to head to Vail. It’s one of the most high end ski resorts in Colorado, with prices that accompany the service on everything from your parking and ski valet to your burger for lunch and your nightly accommodations.
Since Vail is such a well known name in the ski industry, it’s incredibly crowded during the holidays and on long weekends, and ski lift tickets also cost significantly more during that time.
If you want to really appreciate Vail and all the incredible terrain that is there, try and ski Vail during the week. If you’ve got advanced skiers in your family, the Back Bowls are going to make you feel like you’re in heaven. The powder is incredible and the terrain is open and challenging.
Vail really shines for ski families with all of their Kids Adventure Zones. They are scattered all over the front of the mountain, but you’ll find the highest concentration of them between the Avanti and Game Creek Lifts. This area is a tree skiing kids paradise with lots of fun character themed trails as well as plenty of little jumps and fun signage for the kids.
If you’re looking to take a non-ski break with the kids, Adventure Ridge at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola is sure to delight with ski bikes, kid snowmobiles, tubing and even a mountain coaster.
Mapping the best ski resorts in Colorado for families
All of these Colorado family ski resorts are west of Denver. Steamboat Springs is the farthest from the city at about 3 hours, while the others are less than two hours away. Denver International Airport is the most convenient option, and fortunately you can find flights there from nearly any city in the US. Check flight prices here.
While there are shuttles available from Denver to the main ski resorts, the price tag for a family is pretty hefty at roughly $150-200 per adult and $80-100 per kid round-trip. I recommend renting a car and driving yourself, which also gives you the flexibility to explore other areas of Colorado before or after a few days of skiing.
Of course with over 26 ski resorts in Colorado, everyone can find the ski resort that feels just perfect for their family ski vacation. Whether you’re looking for a laid back area to teach your kids how to ski, or you want the glitz and glam that accompanies high end ski resorts, Colorado has a bit of everything for ski families.
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Jessica Averett is a travel blogger and writer at Skiing Kids. Jessica is a former professional ski instructor who grew up in Colorado and is now raising her 5 kids in the mountains of Utah.
This content was originally published here.