The Rocky Mountain state of Colorado sure delivers when it comes to kid's activities. Adventure-centric families flock here each winter, mostly to enjoy skiing and snowboarding at world-class resorts. While winter skiing wins as a favorite kid's activity, down days can be spent exploring much more than the slopes. From getting lost in a massive snow fort to testing kid's skills in the foam pit at Woodward Copper, Colorado has many alternative adventures specifically designed for youngsters. Then, after a day of activity is done, parents can chill in a therapeutic hot springs pool, while the kids play in the adjacent warm water.
Ski for Free at Keystone
The highlight of many a Colorado vacation is hitting the slopes, and Keystone makes this easy by cutting your costs. This resort is well known for its awesome Kids Ski Free program, featuring free lift tickets and events for kids, even on holidays and weekends. Book two or more nights at a Keystone Resort property and your 12-and-under posse can hit the slopes at no cost. This offer is available every day, all season long, with no blackout dates or other restrictions. As a bonus, Keystone often offers discounted lodging rates in family-friendly hotels. Always inquire about their current specials.
Ride the Lift With Santa at Monarch Mountain
What’s better than a day skiing powder? A day skiing with Santa Claus himself, of course. And on Christmas Eve, nonetheless. Monarch Mountain, a resort located 20 miles west of Salida, Colorado, invites you to ski the mountain with Chris Kringle from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. during Christmas week. The Jolly Old Man hops on his skis (he snowboards, too—turns out, he's well versed in winter sports) and poses for pictures with the kids. That is, if they can catch him ... Santa tears up the snow for one last celebration of the season before going to work delivering toys. If you time it right, your child may even partner up with Santa in line and get to ride the chair with him.
Get Lost in Kidtopia
Keystone's Kidtopia program offers a different free activity every day, like torchlight ski parades, snow tubing, a visit with avalanche dogs, craft afternoons, and winter movie matinees. During Christmas week, kids can also meet Santa at the movies, see him in parades, and dine with him at a family holiday brunch.
Arguably, the biggest highlight of Kidtopia is Keystone's self-proclaimed world’s largest snow fort, the Kidtopia Snow Fort. This massive snow mansion, located on the top of Dercum Mountain, contains slides, mazes, and tunnels. Visit the fort daily by taking the River Run Gondola or Summit Express during lift hours throughout the season.
Afterward, make sure to check out Keystone’s Chocolate Village in the lobby of the Keystone Lodge and Spa. This handcrafted work of art is made with over 5,000 pounds of chocolate and contains a functioning gondola and a chocolate waterfall.
Take a Sleigh Ride in Telluride
Load up the family and head to the Schmid Family Ranch (a Centennial farm), just 10 miles west of the resort town of Telluride. Here, you can jump on a horse-drawn sleigh for a farm tour given by the Telluride Wranglers. During Christmas Week, the wranglers offer a sleigh ride complete with kid-friendly s'more roasting around the fire and hot chocolate. After the ride, Santa makes a visit by popping in on his own horse-drawn sleigh with a present for your child in his bag. (Parents are asked to come with a personalized gift for their child, which is then snuck into the bag by the elves.)
Snowmobile With Prospector Vail Snowmobiling Tours
Families with older kids can rev up a snowmobile and go out for a ride with Prospector Vail Snowmobiling Tours. Their tours are suited to families wanting to explore the Colorado high country on snowmobile trails and in wide-open bowls. Parties with children can "double up" (ride doubles) for the two-hour tour, complete with a tutorial on snowmobile use and time spent in the practice area. Prospector is the only operation in the Vail region with sleds sized specifically for children, as well as a "play area" for them to try their hand at operating their own machine. Tours start at 9 a.m., 12 p.m., and 3 p.m., and there is no extra charge for a child-specific sled.
Ski With a Ranger
Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, a non-profit group dedicated to sustainable forest management, partners with the ski resorts of Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain, and Arapahoe Basin to bring free guided tours to the public. Their cultural and natural history tours are suitable for all ages, kids through adults, offering you a different on-hill experience. Rangers will take kids on beginner and intermediate trails, while stopping to point out the natural flora and fauna. Ski With a Ranger turns a fun one-hour ski area outing into an educational or homeschool experience, one that kids can journal about and reflect upon after their vacation is over.
Get Rad at Woodward Copper
Young skiers, snowboarders, skateboarders, BMXers, mountain bikers, scooter riders, and tumble athletes will all find something fun to do at Woodward Cooper. This action sports haven offers on-hill access at Copper Mountain for skiers and snowboarders, as well as a gigantic indoor training facility full of skateparks, Olympic-grade trampolines, foam pits, and indoor ski and snowboard training areas. Book a full day of instruction for your kids in the disciplines of BMX, skateboarding, and scootering. You can also book a two-hour drop-in Barn session for kids ages seven and up, lending full access to the trampolines, skateparks, and foam pits. While on the mountain, take your kids to one of Woodward's nine terrain zones with features that range in difficulty level for building skills.
Go Snowshoeing at Rocky Mountain National Park
While winter access to Rocky Mountain National Park can be limited, Bear Lake Road will put you at trailheads suitable for a fun family snowshoe. Outfit the kids with their own set of shoes and poles at Estes Park Mountain Shop in Estes, Colorado, and then hit the trail. From Bear Lake Road, you can take an easy snowshoe jaunt to Sprague Lake, Bierstadt Lake, and Bear Lake. Or, for the less adventurous, a snowshoe-led ranger tour will get the kids on snow for a professionally-led outing, complete with a narrative about the natural world. Snowshoe-led ranger tours are held from January through March and must be booked in advance.
Chill in the Hot Springs at Glenwood Hot Springs Resort
The world's largest natural hot springs, Glenwood Hot Springs Resort in Glenwood Springs, offers a nice reprieve from skiing and snowboarding. You can soak your tired muscles in the resort's 104-degree Fahrenheit therapy pool, which contains 15 naturally-occurring minerals to soothe away aches and pains. At the same time, your kids can play and frolic in the adjacent 90-degree Fahrenheit large pool (it's 405 feet long by 100 feet wide) while receiving the same therapeutic water properties (they might not even notice, however). On the way out, your kids will surely persuade you to come back in the summer so they can enjoy the Sopris Splash Zone, complete with a whitewater river, mini water slides, and a Grand Fountain.
Go Tubing in Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs' Saddleback Ranch Yee-Haw Tubing Hill provides hours of fun for kids of all ages. Its state-of-the-art tube tow lift system gets you up the hill fast for more runs per hour. Two-hour tubing sessions are available December through March and transportation from the resort to the hill is included. Meet at the Gondola Transit Center on Mt. Werner Circle 5 to 10 minutes before your shuttle departure. All children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.