The phenomenal Kids’ Ski & Ride School at Keystone Resort is one of the things that makes this Colorado ski resort one of the best family ski destinations in the country. The Keystone team has put significant thought and resources behind a program that ensures learning to ski and snowboard is fun for all ages and that kids develop best practices from day one on the slopes.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Fred Rumford, Keystone’s Ski & Ride School Director, and learned why this program is so successful. The big differentiator for me is that the facilities and terrain are deeply customized for kids who are learning to ski. Here are the highlights:
Both of the main base areas at Keystone, River Run and Mountain House, have ski school facilities. The Mountain House ski school facilities are much larger with unbelievable indoor and outdoor infrastructure for both young children and those who are new to skiing or snowboarding.
One of the objectives when first introducing kids to skiing is creating good memories of the experience. Keystone addresses this head on by offering a warm and inviting drop off zone. Kids walk into ski school and see a play zone right inside the door and all kinds of kid-centric signage. It’s a very comforting and comfortable setting.
The learn-to-ski zone is comprised of cordoned off skill zones where new skiers can progressively move to a steeper magic carpet and pitch, until they are finally ready to move to the beginner lift. I’ve never seen a more extensive terrain zone with this level of variation.
Beyond the ski school set up, Keystone’s terrain also supports learning to ski with long green trails that build confidence. The longest green run goes for 3.4 miles from top to bottom so families get plenty of ski time in, even when kids are just beginning to ski.
Keystone is one of the few resorts offering a Burton Riglet park for kids learning to snowboard. It is optimized to teach kids to learn to balance on a board in a safe zone with pint-size bumps and gentle slopes.
Camp Keystone guarantees the same instructor for three or more days of skiing. This is key to foster instructor-to-student bonding and skill development consistency between lessons. Theme days help make sure learning is comprehensive and varied to keep kids engaged.
Monday | Safety Day | Kids achieve safety star – Safety is discussed throughout the day with kids including a review of the Skiers Safety Act and why/how to find a ski patroller. On busy holidays they also have a meet and greet with avalanche dogs.
Tuesday | Ske-cology Day | Kids Achieve small animal pins – Ske-cology day is about learning about local wildlife that kids may/may not see around Keystone. Pine martin, Mule Deer, Black Bear, Porcupine, and Snowshoe Hare (all have been seen at Keystone this year). Kids ski/snowboard around Keystone and find the five information signs, discuss fun facts about them, and collect the pins in a scavenger hunt.
Wednesday | Epic day | Kids Achieve vertical feet pins – Epic day supports the Epic Mix program through Vail Resorts. They track how many vertical feet that each child skis or rides in a day and give the pin closest to their accomplishment. 100’, 500’, 1000’ and 5000’. Every kid gets a vertical feet pin!
Thursday | Race day | Kids Achieve race ribbons and Ripperoo Dog tags – Every child gets the opportunity to compete in some sort of race course. Higher level kids get to race in Vail Resorts Epic Race. Younger kids get to race around gates on a less intimidating slope. 3-6 year old beginners race may be as easy (or hard, there are three) as putting on their skis.
Friday | Kids Adventure Day | Kids Achieve adventure day pins – Keystone has four kids’ adventure zones: Lost Mine, Murphy’s Silver Mine, Ripperoo’s Forest, and Double H Mining camp. The adventure zones include mine-themed tunnels, bridges, dog houses, and an igloo for kids to ski on, in, or around. In addition to adventure zones, Keystone gets kids to the top of the mountain, to the Outback, North Peak, or even a learning adventure area where they receive pins.
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Saturday | Ripperoo day | Kids Achieve Ripperoo zipper pulls – Ripperoo is Vail Resorts kids mascot. Kids have the opportunity to get pictures with Ripperoo, ski with Ripperoo, and be in one of two Ripperoo parades (one skiing parade on disco (learning hill) at Camp Keystone and one parade through River Run base area on a horse drawn sleigh). Kids also can have a kid’s après ski with ice cream and Ripperoo.
Sunday | Fun Facts day | Kids Achieve fun fact brochure & silicone bracelets – Sunday they discuss fun facts about Colorado, Keystone ski area, and Keystone mining history. The children ski around looking at Keystone fact signs spread throughout the mountain, discussing how lifts and ski runs received their name in a scavenger hunt.
Ultimate 4 Semi-Private Instruction
Standard classes for ages 3 to 4 have about a 6:1 student-to-instructor ratio and about an 8:1 ratio for ages 7 to 14. Families can upgrade to Ultimate 4 lessons where Keystone guarantees no more than four kids in a group.
Mom, Dad, and Me Lessons
Families can also sign up for Mom, Dad, and Me lessons, an hour-long instruction as a group to fine tune skills and receive tips in a private, family-only setting.
>> Ski & ride school programs are for ages 3 and up
>> Group childcare available for infants and up
>> All day instruction is the only option available for ages 7 to 14
>> Pricing for full-day ski or ride lessons is $153 excluding the rental fee of $26 per day and lift ticket
>> Kids’ ski free available for children up to 12 years old staying at Keystone properties for two or more nights. Otherwise, lift tickets are $12 with ski school
>> Burton Riglet Park $179 to $191 per day
>> Ultimate 4 is $250 per person excluding lift tickets
>> Mom, Dad, and Me is $110 for an hour of private instruction
>> Registration begins at 8a. Start times vary by age and skill group. Pick up is 3:30p
>> Helmets are required for all ski school participants
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