Kids will love the bumper boats at Copper Mountain. // © 2017 Tripp Fay
Feature image (above): Colorado offers families the chance to get back to nature during summer vacations. // © 2017 Getty Images
Visitors to Colorado’s mountains can find wintertime bliss schussing the slopes at any of the destination’s renowned ski resorts. But as any local will tell you, the Centennial State’s ski areas can be just as sweet in summer and fall — especially for families.
“With low humidity, mild temperatures and plenty of mountain adventures, summer is the secret season at Colorado’s ski resorts,” said Carly Holbrook, director of public relations for the Colorado Tourism Office.
In fact, she says, Colorado sees slightly more visitors in summer than in winter.
“Ziplines, climbing walls, mountain coasters, alpine slides and more get visitors outdoors enjoying summer adventures at Colorado’s ski areas,” Holbrook said. “The state is seeing several exciting expansions of summer ski-area offerings.”
A key factor in that expansion was the 2011 Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act, says John Monson, director of sales and marketing for Copper Mountain Resort. The policy, finalized by the U.S. Forest Service in 2014, allows ski areas to offer year-round, natural-resource-based recreational activities — which, in turn, could mean increased economic benefit to communities through more jobs and visitor spending, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The mandate was not to turn ski areas into amusement parks, but rather to focus efforts on nature-themed and outdoor-focused experiences for guests in the non-winter seasons,” Monson said. “Mountain towns that once had a longer off-season now have shorter shoulder seasons, mostly because families are planning their summer trips as far in advance as their winter vacations.”
Here are some of the latest mountain adventures awaiting families visiting four of Colorado’s top ski resorts in the warmer months.
The Aspen Snowmass area is internationally recognized as a playground for the chic set to shred the slopes. And, beginning in summer 2018, it may also be known as a hub for outdoor family adventure, as it offers a host of exciting plans and activities at the new Lost Forest on Snowmass Mountain.
“Families and friends can enjoy rides on the new mountain coaster, zip through the trees on the canopy tour or enjoy time at the multi-use gathering sites, where there will be naturalist talks, photo opportunities and beautiful viewpoints,” said Liz Rovira, public relations assistant manager for Aspen Skiing Company.
Rovira says there will also be new hiking and biking trails for all levels, in addition to a climbing wall with different degrees of difficultly.
Breckenridge Ski Resort
Breckenridge Ski Resort has long been in the business of attracting families in the summer months, starting in 1979 with the debut of its Alpine Slide. Over time, the resort has expanded its offerings to include scenic chairlift rides, a human maze and the Gold Runner Alpine Coaster, as well as last year’s addition of the Kid’s Base Camp (for guests under 100 pounds).
This year’s newest offering is Epic Discovery at Breckenridge. Echoing the Epic Discovery at nearby Vail Mountain Resort, the new program at Breckenridge offers similar components, including zipline tours, a climbing wall and a challenge course. But it also includes favorite activities from past summers that guests may have experienced at Peak 8 Base Camp (formerly known as Breckenridge Fun Park), says Austyn Dineen, public relations manager for Breckenridge Tourism Office.
According to Dineen, all new activities are located at Alpine Camp. Specifically, the Alpine Loop Interpretive Trail has been customized to Breckenridge and the Summit County area, including the addition of new information about its high-altitude environment and weather, local wildlife and town history.
Whether at the Gold Summit Climbing Wall, Alpineer Challenge Course or Expedition Zip-line Tour on Peak 7 — which features a 200-foot-long aerial bridge walk — Dineen says Epic Discovery at Breckenridge offers a variety of zones and activities to highlight the rich environment, local history and many adventure options.
Copper Mountain, a resort located 75 miles west of Denver and 20 miles east of Vail, is a local favorite for wintertime fun. And with three pedestrian-friendly village areas replete with lodging, retail outlets and restaurants — along with plenty of summer programming — it’s also a fabulous family destination for summer and fall visitors.
“Families are looking for lodging deals; to avoid crowds; and to vacation in more favorable weather,” said Copper Mountain’s Monson. “And they are also seeking experiences that are laid-back, affordable and ultimately get the kids outside and away from their phones and tablets.”
Copper Mountain positions itself as an accessible resort that welcomes both families who like to plan and those who wish to vacation on a whim; often, guests don’t need to book a campsite or hotel months in advance.
“We offer free weekly programming, events and activities all summer long to help connect our guests with their national forests and inspire the essence of being ‘raised on a Colorado summer,’” Monson added.
In addition to go-karts, minigolf, disc golf and Hydrobike and bumper-boat rentals on West Lake, Copper Mountain offers Kids’ Night Out and Kids Eat Free programs. The resort also hosts free community activities such as nature talks and the “Pedal for Pints” bike rides, where participants receive a free pint of beer (for adults) or a nonalcoholic beverage.
Copper Mountain also boasts unique outdoor adventures, including Woodward Copper’s Big Island Terrain Park — a full-blown terrain park for boarders and skiers of all ages that remains open throughout the summer. And below the park, at the base of Copper Mountain, is the newest addition to the resort: the WreckTangle, a nine-element outdoor ninja course. (Note: participants must be at least 5 years old, at least 36 inches tall and weigh at least 40 pounds.)
Known as “Ski Town USA” as well as “Bike Town USA,” Steamboat Springs is located 156 miles northwest of Denver. Settlers in the 19th century were lured by the area’s plentiful hot springs and fertile ranchland. Today, it also draws visitors for its historic appeal and easygoing vibe.
The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association encourages visitors to explore the town using its Steamboat Summer Boat List. This checklist outlines 30 can’t-miss experiences available during the warmer months — from snapping a photo at the famed Fish Creek Falls to tubing down the Yampa River.
“With so much to do in Steamboat in the summer months, we wanted to create a bucket list for our visitors that features 30 of the top experiences to help them plan their perfect getaway,” said Maren McCutchan, public relations manager for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. “The list ranges from laid-back suggestions to activities that will provide an adrenaline rush — there’s something for everyone.”
This year, the ski resort will offer another reason to visit: the Outlaw Mountain Coaster, which will descend more than 400 vertical feet and have a riding length of more than 6,000 linear feet, making it the longest mountain roller coaster in North America. The new feature, set to debut in August, is expected to operate year-round.
“Adding new attractions to the base area and on the mountain are ways to keep Steamboat at the forefront of year-round vacation destinations,” said Rob Perlman, president and chief operating officer of Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. “Our guests have been looking forward to the summer in Steamboat, and now we are excited to offer even more activities to quench their thirst for summer adventure on the mountain.”