Keystone, owned by Vail Resorts, offers free ski passes for kids ages 12 and younger. // © Michael Mundt
Feature image (above): Only 14 percent of the ski trails at Keystone are on “easy” terrain, and the rest are for more advanced guests. // © 2016 Michael Mundt
As a Colorado native, I’m embarrassed to admit this: My family and I had never skied Keystone resort before last year. And as a mom of two boys, I had no idea what we were missing.
Between the resort’s kid-centered Kidtopia and Kids Ski Free programs — which offer free passes for kids ages 12 and younger staying at least two nights, without blackout dates — Keystone, owned by Vail Resorts, has rightfully earned its reputation as one of the most family-friendly resorts in North America. It has also earned the distinction as my boys’ new favorite ski spot.
Here’s why your family shouldn’t wait as long as we did to experience “the place where kids rule.”
For starters, the resort’s Kidtopia family programming is simply unparalleled. Kidtopia Headquarters, located at Dercum Square at River Run Village across from Dercum Square Ice Rink, offers a host of unique activities that kids can enjoy, including playing games, dressing up as a ski patroller or face painting.
There are also plenty of outdoor Kidtopia activities, such as a scavenger hunt or giant-snowball launch. Or kids can go on a “Search for Bigfoot” adventure walk, where they learn about the area while searching for the fabled beast, as well have the chance to meet the resort’s avalanche rescue “avy” dogs.
Additionally, every Saturday from late November to the end of the season, Keystone’s ski-school mascot, Ripperoo, leads an afternoon parade of “ski-school friends” to the ice rink for free cookies. The finale is a 7 p.m. fireworks display over Dercum Mountain.
Something for Everyone
What surprised us most about Keystone is that it’s not just for families; it’s a perfect Colorado destination for just about anyone who loves to ski or snowboard. Located just a 90-minute drive from Denver International Airport, the resort offers more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, roughly the same as nearby resorts Winter Park and Breckenridge.
And not only does the resort claim the longest ski day — 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on nine trails — but just 14 percent of the named ski trails comprise “easy” terrain, leaving the remaining to more advanced runs. Add in five bowls and the A51 Terrain Park, including six sections from beginner to advanced, and my die-hard skier husband was as thrilled as the kids to ski Keystone.
Elevated Mountain Adventures
Most ski resorts also provide a selection of non-skiing adventures, be it sledding, riding in a horse-drawn sleigh or enjoying a snowcat tour. Keystone offers that and more.
For instance, a ride to the top of Dercum Mountain via the River Run Gondola reveals Kidtopia Snow Fort, the world’s largest snow fort. A 60-foot-wide, 75-foot-long, 25-foot-high structure complete with mazes and slides, the fort allows plenty of warm-up for more fun next door at Adventure Point. Designated the world’s highest tubing hill (at an elevation of 11,640 feet), it offers six lanes and 600 feet of downhill delight, followed by an easy ride back to the top via the covered, space-age conveyor.
After working up an appetite, there’s one more gondola ride to the top of North Peak for a fun-filled dinner at Der Fondue Chessel. My kids loved the Bavarian Alps theme, with servers decked out in dirndl dresses or lederhosen. But even more, they loved dipping delicacies into Swiss-cheese fondue and cooking on traditional “raclette” cheese grills. Don’t be surprised, though, by a compulsion to join in the Chicken Dance before dinner’s end.