Walking the dog at Keystone with kid in tow in a little red wagon.

What Makes Keystone a Great Family Ski Resort?

Young girl snowboarder, dressed all in pink, at Keystone in Colorado.

Many mountain destinations offer deals and attractions that appeal to young skiers, but Keystone sets the benchmark for family ski resorts. While it may be enough to offer one of the best Kids Ski Free programs in the industry, Keystone goes above and beyond in its commitment to being the best ski vacation destination for families. Since not everyone can get to Colorado during ski season, here is a checklist of ideas inspired by Keystone for making any ski resort just a little more family-friendly.

Family Ski Resort Checklist

1) Ski Deals – Keystone’s Kids Ski Free program is outstanding: stay two nights, and kids 12-and-younger ski free. But what makes this ski deal different from what’s seen at other ski resorts is that there are no blackouts, even on weekends and holidays. What could make it even better? Discounts for teen skiers.

2) Free Parking – As many mountain resorts convert premium parking spots into high-priced Valet parking, Keystone’s free, convenient parking is very welcome indeed. Even better for families, skiers and riders who arrive with four or more people in a car can park in a premier parking section in Keystone’s Montezuma Parking Lot which is a short walk to the River Run Gondola.

Keystone parking wagon corral

3) Drop-Offs – Some mountains provide temporary parking near lifts and ski school so that parents can drop off kids and gear, but you still have to schlep all that stuff when you get there. Keystone’s brilliant solution is to provide little red wagons that are both practical and fun.

Walking the dog at Keystone with kid in tow in a little red wagon.

4) Ski School – Ski lessons are essential for first-time and developing skiers and snowboarders. And while many ski mountains provide excellent instruction, Keystone offers programs and incentives that set it apart. Sign up a child for a 3+  multi-day program, and they’re guaranteed the same instructor throughout–the best way to ensure continual progress. Add a Mom, Dad and Me private lesson at the end of the day to learn best practices and overall basics from your child’s instructor; thus aiding continuing progression of skiing or riding ability, as well as letting kids show off their new skills.

Burton Riglet Snowboard

5) Riglet Park – A new addition to ski school offerings, Keystone  is one of a handful of ski resorts around the country who have partnered with Burton Snowboards to create riglet parks where young children (3-6 year olds) are introduced to snowboarding. Playing in a specially-designed park on small rolling hills and a mini-halfpipe allows young children to develop muscle memory for sliding and making turns on sloped terrain. At Keystone’s “Ripperoo’s-Burton Riglet Park, kids wearing a“Riglet Reel” explore a dog house-themed park with ramps that children can ride down, and a balance area.

6) Terrain Park – By now, most ski resorts provide snowboard terrain. Keystone has Area 51, one of the best, most progressive terrain parks in North America–with more than 100 features, 3 main jump lines, and even a dedicated ski lift.

7) Social Media – Keystone is one of 7 Vail Resorts offering EpicMix, an online media program that uses RF-enabled ski passes to upload photos and race results which can be tracked and shared on Facebook and Twitter. Professional photographers are on hand at the mountains to capture free photos, and 6 mountains provide race courses (for a small fee.) You can follow your days skied, track your vertical feet, see where you rode, earn EpicMix pins for your achievements, and collect points. There’s even an option to race against Olympic Gold Medalist Lindsey Vonn’s time.

8) Family Events – Most ski resorts schedule some family-friendly events such as Jiminy Peak’s Torchlight Parade or Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge. Keystone, on the other hand, has daily family programming as part of Kidtopia, which includes: Cookie Hour, Village Parade, Nature Valley Scavenger Hunts, Kids Night Out, Fireworks, and lots of other fun and educational activities.

9) Snow Fort – Keystone’s Kidtopia Snowfort is “any kid’s dream of winter fun.” With a two-story structure featuring tunnels and climbing areas, you might find it difficult to tear your kids away from the “World’s Largest Snow Fort!”

Tubing at Adventure Point - Keystone, CO

10) Tubing – Requiring no special equipment or instruction, tubing is a popular winter attraction found at many ski mountains. But Keystone’s Adventure Point takes tubing to a whole new level with the steepest hill in North America; good thing there’s a state-of-the-art conveyor lift so that you can do it again, and again.

11) Ice Skating – Topping the list of winter fun activities is ice skating, and yet many ski resorts don’t provide even the smallest of ice rinks. Luckily, Keystone offers not one, but two ice skating rinks: ice skating and hockey at Keystone Lake, and ice skating in the new 7,200-square-foot Dercum Square Ice Rink in River Run Village.

12) Kid-Friendly Dining – If you’re going to spend more than a day at a ski resort, it has to have a variety of restaurants that welcome children. Keystone numbers more than 30 restaurants, most with a casual, family-friendly atmosphere. For a special occasion–say to celebrate the end of a great ski vacation–consider splurging (and dancing) at Der Fondue Chessel, accessible only by gondola ride.

keystone mountains

13) Gondola Rides – Even if you don’t plan to ski, riding the gondola can be a fun way to take in the winter landscape. While a number of  mountains offer scenic gondola rides year round, Keystone has two high-speed gondolas. The new 8-passenger River Run Gondola takes you to the top of Dercum Mountain where you can lunch at Summit House, join one of the twice-daily mountain tours, play at the Kidtopia Snowfort, ride the tube lanes, or take off on ski trails or snowboard terrain. The second gondola takes you to North Peak and the Outpost- home to the Alpenglow Stube and Der Fondue Chessel restaurants.

14) Fun Atmosphere – It’s the little things that make a difference. Fire pits, s’more stations, and welcoming smiles can go a long way to setting the stage and ensuring a memorable experience. At Keystone, we loved those little red wagons and the village playground. My teens were a little too old to hit the slides, but that didn’t stop them from trying. And if the Kidtopia snowfort had been up when we visited at Thanksgiving, they wouldn’t have been the only family members traversing the tunnels.

A few more ski resort attractions for your consideration

While Keystone seems to have it all, there are a few kid-centric attractions not found here that we’ve encountered on our family travels:

More Keystone Family Travel Articles:

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