By Kristen Lummis, aka Brave Ski Mom
We recently visited Sunlight Mountain Resort, a family-owned ski area located between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.
On this particular day, the kids on snow outnumbered the adults by about 2-to-1. The local Buddy Werner racing team was practicing for their upcoming state meet. The Ski and Ride School was doing a booming business, with lessons all over the mountain.
Sunlight is popular with local and visiting families for lots of reasons. The mountain has nearly 700 skiable acres rising above one base. Parking is close in. Prices, for everything from lift tickets to hamburgers, are low.
Since 1998, Sunlight has offered free season passes to local fourth graders (teeing these kids up perfectly to take advantage of CSCUSA’s 5th and 6th grade passes).
It’s no wonder Sunlight is a family favorite.
Ease and Convenience
One of my favorite things about skiing is that it is a multi-generational sport, where grandparents and teens are as likely to ski together as parents and toddlers.
Still, families with smaller kids have certain challenges and Colorado resorts pride themselves in making winter fun easier for everyone.
Winter Park’s Steve Hurlbert states it well.
“We realize that skiing is an endeavor for families and we strive to make the experience as convenient and affordable as possible.”
Known for providing free “little red wagons” to help transport gear and tired kids through the base village, Winter Park tailors many of the winter offerings in their village to families and children and they try to keep most of them free.
Like Winter Park, Steamboat Ski Resort provides red wagons to help families get from here to there in the base village.
Copper Mountain also has red wagons in their West Village, the home of Copper’s beginner terrain and their Ski and Ride School hub. If you’re trying to get yourself and your kids elsewhere at Copper Mountain, take advantage of their free resort shuttle system.
The logistics are even easier at smaller ski areas like Loveland and Buttermilk, with free, close-in parking lots. Aspen Snowmass also offers a free shuttle between all four mountains (of which Buttermilk is one).
Perfect Places to Learn
Most Colorado ski and ride schools employ professional instructors certified by PSIA and AASI. This means you can count on high-quality instruction wherever your kids (or you) take lessons.
Three Colorado resorts, Steamboat, Winter Park and Copper Mountain, use Flaik trackers for all children’s lessons.
Flaik is a GPS-based tracking system that keeps real-time tabs on all students and instructors. After the lesson is over, parents and kids can sign into their Flaik account and relive the lesson, noting where the child skied, what was taught and reading suggestions for future progression.
At many resorts, kids lessons and rentals are in one location (the Treehouse at Snowmass or the A-Basin Kids Center are just two examples), making pick up and drop off less stressful for parents and kids alike.
Family private lessons are a good option for parents and kids who want to learn together and are often a better value than several individual lessons.
Kids Will Play
Skiing can be especially challenging for families with babies and very young children. The new Family Zone in the A-Frame Lodge at Arapahoe Basin offers a clean, friendly place for parents and children to hang out and play.
Reaction to the Family Zone, at the north end of the lodge’s second floor, has been positive.
“Two thumbs up,” enthused one happy parent. “It is almost as good as the great early season conditions in Pali or Zuma.”
Other playful options, for bigger kids who are either taking a day off from skiing or have energy to burn at the end of a ski day, include the Crested Butte Adventure Park, with bungee trampolines, tubing, mini-golf and climbing. Parents can join in the fun or observe from the deck of Butte 66, a popular après watering hole.
Night-skiing at Steamboat gives freedom to independent teens content to rock the terrain park and several intermediate runs while mom and dad enjoy dinner.
Copper Mountain offers Kids’ Night Out, a free, three-hour childcare service with crafts, games, movies, interactive Wii and more. Parents just have to spend at least $30 per child on shopping or dining in the Village.
Ski For Free
Of course, one of the most family-friendly features at any resort is an affordable lift ticket. While ages vary from mountain-to-mountain, most resorts offer free lift tickets to kids at 5 and under (some go to 6).
Colorado Fifth graders ski for free at 20 resorts thanks to the Passport program from Colorado Ski Country USA (and 6th graders get free skiing after paying a nominal fee), while several resorts including Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Sunlight and Purgatory have Kids Ski Free programs for children under 12 when their parents book certain lodging packages.
For more information, on many more family-friendly features at all Colorado ski resorts, please visit their websites.