When it comes to winter sports, Colorado reigns supreme. It not only has one of the longest ski seasons in the U.S.—which at some resorts lasts from October to June—but it is also home to nine of the 10 tallest skiable mountains in the country. But this isn't an exclusive destination for daredevils and black diamond enthusiasts, and you can find skiers and snowboarders of all ages and skill levels running the slopes throughout the state.
That said, a few resorts stand out as going above and beyond to make families and young skiers feel extra welcome, with specialized group lessons, children's programming, and even tubing hills for when skiing becomes too much. If you want to introduce your kids to alpine sports, look no further than Colorado for your next family winter vacation.
Posh Beaver Creek offers visitors heated sidewalks in its slopeside Beaver Creek Village and free chocolate chip cookies at the base of the mountain every single afternoon through ski season (reason enough to want to ski the 1,832-acre terrain often).
For young children taking ski lessons, the Buckaroo Express is an eight-person gondola that whisks kids to the beginners' learning area dubbed The Ranch. Here, children as young as three learn from upbeat instructors and nosh on healthy meals for lunch. They're also treated to visits from Ripperoo, Vail Resorts' character mascot.
Off the slopes, Beaver Creek Village has a huge outdoor ice rink for evening fun on skates, as well as gentle Haymaker Tubing Hill open in the afternoons to children as little as 36 inches tall. It really is a tame tubing hill compared to other Colorado tubing options.
Daily programming throughout the ski season caters to families with events like glow-stick ski-down-the-mountain extravaganza complete with fireworks, snowshoe tours, and story-time sessions. At certain times of the year, such as Christmas break and spring break, teens have their own activities, too.
Finally, don't miss the Candy Cabin located at the top of Strawberry Park Express Lift and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express Lift, with bulk candy being sold by the pound alongside custom chocolates and classic Pepsi products with real cane sugar.
The four-mountain Aspen/Snowmass resort offers a ton of skiing and boarding fun for families, namely a combined 5,547 acres of skiable terrain across four areas: Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Buttermilk, and Aspen Highlands. That means no matter what level your kids are at when it comes to skiing or boarding, there's an ideal spot for them, whether they are "never-evers" or double-black diamond adventurers.
At Buttermilk, 35 percent of the trails are the easiest green circle trails. Buttermilk alse houses a children's center and ski school home-base dubbed The Hideout, with direct access to the mountain. A short learning hill, Panda Peak, is served by a slow double chair, and the smallest kids in lessons get whisked to the top via a cool, tricked-out snowmobile, where they hold onto a bar and "ski" up.
In addition, Snowmass has a four-lane, lift-served tubing hill designed for ages 4 to 14 at Elk Camp, which is also home to Ullr Nights, activity-filled fun for families every Friday night mid-December to the beginning of April. Besides the tubing hill, kids (and adults) can have fun making s'mores at the bonfire, ice skating, snow biking, snowshoeing, dancing to live music, and playing in the snow playground.
Home base for young children at Snowmass is the Treehouse Kids' Adventure Center, which serves as a child-care facility for babies as young as 8 weeks and a spot to warm up (and play) for preschoolers who may not quite be ready for full-day lessons.
Teens who ski on their own will like the jumps, rails, and boxes at the Snowmass terrain parks, though Buttermilk's are a close second.
At Keystone, kids under age 12 staying with adults at any Keystone Resort property (condominium or hotel) for two nights or more ski for free. This is one of the most generous (and least complicated) "kids ski free" deals in the industry.
Keystone really caters to children. Kidtopia daily programming at Keystone might include anything from a scavenger hunt and cookie hour to giant snowball launching and ice cream with Ripperoo (yes, the same mascot as Beaver Creek; they're both owned by Vail Resorts). Ripperoo's Saturday afternoon parade through River Run Village is a festive affair, and the annual giant snow fort at the top of Dercum Mountain opens for sliding, exploring, and fun photo ops.
Keystone is also home to a popular tubing hill; it's fast and steep, with its own conveyor belt, which makes schlepping your tube up the high hill absolutely painless. Children must be at least 42 inches tall to sample tubing at Adventure Point, but there's a more mellow hill at the Keystone Nordic Center. More off-slope activities for families include two ice rinks (one in River Run Village and one adjacent to Keystone Lodge), sleigh-ride dinners, and indoor painting pottery sessions.
Children can take ski lessons with a home base at River Run Village (where most of the family-friendly condominiums are located) or Mountain House, where Camp Keystone is located. This colorful, upbeat facility is adjacent to a small learning hill with a magic carpet that helps young skiers learn the ropes. If you book three or more days of kids' lessons at Camp Keystone, your child can have the same instructor, which is great for continuity and building trust with someone new.
Finally, Keystone is one of the few ski resorts in Colorado that offers night skiing. Have fun making memories with your kiddos under the stars.
Purgatory at Durango, while it may sound intimidating, it's a fun place for skiers of all ages. Purgatory Mountain offers both expert-level ski runs and something for the kids. The village has a ski school, shops, restaurants, and family-friendly condo lodging. Area winter activities include tubing, snowcat dinners and scenic tours, dog sledding, sleigh rides, and more.
The Purgatory Lodge is located within skiing distance to the lifts and has an outdoor pool and spa. Condos are all privately owned and have kitchens for preparing a family meal.
Downtown Durango is always fun, with its historical buildings, shops, and restaurants. And, there's always the marvelous Durango & Silverton excursion train.
The Copper Mountain Resort is easy to get to and has a variety of skiing terrain including areas ideal for families. You can drive the two-hour distance from Denver or take a bus to get there. The U.S. Ski Team trains at Copper Mountain.
The village is ideal for families, with shops, ice skating, children's programs, and dog sledding. Parents can visit the spa and kids will thrill at the new mountain coaster.
Copper Mountain has unveiled one of the longest alpine mountain roller coasters in North America. The Rocky Mountain Coaster has a 5,800-foot track and a total descent of 430 feet, so those who want a thrilling way to get down the mountain without having to put on a pair of skis.
Copper Mountain has condo-style hotels in the Center Village, East Village, and West Village that are perfect for families.