Planning a family ski trip can be tricky. Especially when it involves young children. From the pounds of equipment you have to lug around, to managing ski school, lift tickets and navigating unknown terrain, families can be intimidated by the mountain experience. Crossing as many items off of our “prep list” as possible, my family and I recently took a trip to Keystone, Colorado and found that the stresses of ski traveling aren’t quite so burdensome when you find the right resort.
When researching our options, we settled on Keystone for the many kid-friendly amenities they offered. We were quickly sold on the "Kids Ski Free" program for families staying two or more nights in one of the resort's accommodations, which was a great selling point for our family of three since ski trips can get expensive. It was the first ski experience for our three-year-old, and we were most concerned about giving him the best introduction to a potential life-long activity.
The resort also happened to be offering "Kidtopia" family programming while we were in town, featuring activities and events including the fourth installment of the World's Largest Snowfort for kids to climb through; snow tubing for little ones of all sizes, weekly parades; fresh-baked aprés ski afternoon cookies; mountaintop fireworks; stargazing parties and scavenger hunts. This year, following a particularly blustery mountain day, we were able to take advantage of the Kidtopia indoor activities as well, including a little pottery painting at the Ready, Paint, Fire shop in River Run Village.
Accommodations are plentiful on the resort, but for ski getaways, vacation rentals are great because you can recreate a sense of familiarity even though you’re away from home. We like enjoying a few meals out at resort restaurants, but it’s nice to be able to wake up each morning and have a home-cooked breakfast around the kitchen table in our pajamas before hitting the slopes. Vacation rentals also offer the benefit of more space at an affordable value. We were able to stay in a two-bedroom unit with a full kitchen, living room and dining space that allowed our little one his own bedroom in addition to a large master suite that allowed a little privacy for us adults—a challenging thing to find with most hotels. We stayed in a ski-in/ski-out condominium in the River Run Village area, which was walking distance to an array of shops, restaurants and ski lifts. HomeAway.com is a great resource for finding these kinds of properties.
As a family, we were also able to enjoy the new "Schoolmarm" family ski trail, which was designed specifically to engage skiers of all ages and ability levels to enjoy together with different terrain features that helped us take our skills to the next level.
For our little one, we took advantage of Keystone's ski school, which engages kids as young as three years old from the second they step in the door with everything from custom equipment fitting to interactive games that help build on ski abilities. Within minutes, our little tyke was up on skis and on the magic carpet conveyor belt along with his instructor for his first run. It was thrilling to see his first run down the hill - and there were many more that followed throughout the weekend.
His three-day enrollment in school guaranteed him the same instructor each day, which allowed him to transition into new learning throughout each class. As parents, we were also able to meet him at the end of each day with his instructor to pick up tips on how we could help him progress when skiing together as a family.
While it was often great to enjoy dining together in the comfort our condo, we also took advantage of some of Keystone's unique dining options, including the Bavarian-inspired Der Fondue Chessel, which hosts a family-style fondue experience at the top of an 11,400-foot mountain. To get there, you have to take the gondola up the peak, which can be pretty chilly, even with the gondola blankets the resort provides at the base of the mountain. But the festive experience is well worth the effort, and there’s really nothing quite as fun as dipping all sorts of treats into a bowl of warm, gooey cheese to warm the soul. Western-themed dinner sleigh rides are also available led by a team of Belgian Draft horses through a snow-covered valley to historic Soda Creak Homesteads. Be sure to wear warm layers for the brisk ride that leads you to a rustic cabin for a pioneer-style dinner served by friendly horse wranglers. Pre-fixe dinner options vary, but the warm cup of soup with fresh biscuits that greet you at your arrival are a mainstay of the experience.
And let's be honest, no ski trip with the kiddos is complete without a little "me time" for mom. I scheduled some time at the Keystone Lodge & Spa where they offer any number of luxury massage, facial or hand and foot treatments are available to restore a little order back to the one person who's likely organized the majority of the trip. It was one of the better spa experiences I've had! There's nothing like feeling warm and cozy during an invigorating massage or facial while watching the snow softly fall on the mountain terrain outside.
When it comes to family vacations, the most important thing is the memories you take away. For us, everything about our Keystone experience, from our adventures on the slopes to the quiet moments relaxing in our vacation rental, was unforgettable and will provide us with a lifetime of memories to enjoy for years to come.
Jessica Dupuy is a freelance writer with writing credits for National Geographic Traveler, Imbibe, The Hollywood Reporter, Texas Monthly, Texas Highways, Fodor’s Travel Publications, and numerous regional publications. She has also written Uchi: The Cookbook, in conjunction with James Beard Award-winning Executive Chef, Tyson Cole and The Salt Lick Cookbook: A Story of Land, Family and Love on the iconic Texas barbecue restaurant.