Big picture, the thrill of skiing with kids can happen at the simplest resort with few amenities, but we are spoiled in North America with all of the excellent family ski resort options offering vastly different experiences. Keystone Resort in Colorado is unique in that it was purpose-built just for skiing. Imagine whiteboarding the “perfect” ski experience and then building a town around it. That’s Keystone.
Families were incorporated into the master plan and Vail Resorts continues to invest in meaningfully crafting a ski experience optimized for all ages. The result is a ski resort that is truly family-focused, not just family-friendly.
Family-Focused Ski Experience at Keystone
Build family-focused infrastructure at a world-class ski resort and they will come. Kids – big and small – are everywhere at Keystone enjoying the benefits for all ages at this resort.
>>Plethora of green and blue terrain (easy and intermediate): The interesting thing about Keystone is that the lift-served portion of the resort is filled with green and blue runs and you’d never know that 49% of the 3,148 skiable acres are rated as most difficult.
This is possible because a huge swath of the resort includes hike-to and cat skiing expert terrain, creating optimal conditions for skiing with kids as the aggressive skiers are in their own separate place. Parents don’t have to ski with their poles out in fear their kids will be run over.
>>Outstanding Ski & Ride School Infrastructure: Keystone’s Ski & Ride School for ages three and up has some of the best infrastructure I’ve seen anywhere to teach kids to ski and snowboard. It’s worthy of a dedicated post (stay tuned) but I was blown away by the thought that has gone into making kids comfortable and excited about skiing and snowboarding, as well as providing best-in-class magic carpet and beginner lift options to match skill progression at the Mountain House Base Area.
Camp Keystone is their program for three or more days of lessons where kids access the same instructor to enhance continuity and engage in an array of on and off-mountain activities. This multi-dimensional product helps ensure the ski experience is positive for kids.
>>Award-winning terrain park: Keystone’s A51 Terrain Park has features for every level and it’s served by a dedicated chair lift for easy and immediate access. This exciting park means Keystone has big appeal for tweens and teens too, not just little kids.
>>Kids under 12 ski and snowboard for free: All of this goodness and all kids under 12 ski free at Keystone Resort every day of the season, including weekends and holidays!
More On-Mountain Treats for Kids
In addition to skiing, kids have a few additional on-mountain treats, part of Keystone’s branded Kidtopia program, developed just to entertain kids during family ski trips.
The snow fort on Decrum Mountain includes a maze, slide, and lookout tower. There’s also a conveyor lift-served tubing hill at Adventure Point. We didn’t get a chance to do this but the blog community has raved about it for years.
Kid-Focused Off-Mountain Activities and Atmosphere
After wandering through River Run Village my first morning and meeting entertainers there for the sole purpose of creating a fun base-of-the-mountain atmosphere, I knew Keystone was a different kind of ski resort truly invested in families.
In fact, the Kidtopia program was expanded this year to include daily activities from Cookie Hour après ski to the Riperoos Village Parade. It’s not about the kids following the adults around at Keystone; it’s the other way around.
There’s also an appealing ice skating rink in River Run Village with cozy chairs for lounging. Meanwhile, a second exciting skating opportunity for families is available at Lakeside Village on the largest (five acres) naturally frozen, outdoor ice skating rink in North America.
Keystone Operated Condos
There are 900 condos sleeping from four to six people from which to choose in the resort village. Operated by Keystone Resort, quality and services are managed consistently across the portfolio. Most of the condos are not true ski-out facilities, but given the purpose-built set up extending across the base of the mountain, many are just one step away where families only need to walk a short distance to access a lift or gondola.
Many of the condos offer year-round pools and hot tubs offering families yet another off-mountain activity. Casual restaurants are available, although the condo set-up with full kitchens means less expensive meals at home are an option too.
There are no big-name five-star hotels in Keystone, although the Keystone Lodge and Spa is an AAA four-diamond property with 152 rooms and suites plus fitness facilities, a spa, restaurants and comprehensive guest services.
Dining at Keystone
I had two excellent on-mountain meals at Keystone including a gourmet lunch in slippers (!) at the Alpenglow Stube, the highest AAA four-diamond restaurant in North America. I also tried the Summit House Food Court at the top of Dercum Mountain. It looked like a typical ski lunch spot, but the food quality was fresh, well-priced, and delicious.
We also had a very special adults night out dinner at the historic Ski Tip Lodge. I’ll save the details for a dedicated post, but suffice to say this restaurant with a rotating four-course menu is an absolute must for any parent who wants to experience a truly exceptional, atmospheric dinner out worthy of a vacation splurge.
Getting to Keystone
Keystone is only a two-hour drive from Denver, making it the closet resort in Summit County to Denver International Airport. We used the Colorado Mountain Express to get there as Keytone offers an on-demand shuttle service to guests using their lodging, i.e. there is zero need for a car.
Keystone’s base is at 9,280 feet and the highest peak is at 11,444 feet. It’s high! Everyone reacts to altitude differently. I didn’t sleep a wink for three nights. Next time I’d bring something to help me fall asleep. Drinking water around the clock is a must. Don’t let this stop you from going — the reward outweighs any and all discomfort.
Editorial Note: Keystone Resort provided complimentary lodging, meals, and lift tickets so Ciao Bambino could review the resort. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy
Best family ski resorts for 2013 (North America)