Skiing - or snowboarding if you prefer - is one of those sports that was essentially designed to be enjoyed with others. Be it with friends, co-workers or family, sharing the on-mountain experience is better, not to mention safer, with a buddy.
As a parent who loves skiing, I can say there are few things greater than seeing your kids grow to love the sport as well, and once they start to get the hang of things, it's only natural to want to get some turns in with your kiddos. Watching them progress can be exciting, terrifying, and extremely rewarding, but on Colorado's impressive terrain, it can be challenging to know where to go.
ZRankings has scrutinized all of the ski resorts in Colorado via in-person visits—with kids!—to inform our reporting on the best ski resorts for families in Colorado below. What we value most, in skiing with the whole family:
With these things in mind, these are the top ski resorts in Colorado for families:
Telluride was essentially designed to be a beginner skier's paradise. Nearly a quarter of their 2,000+ skiable acres here is beginner friendly, some of which is located at the top, making the jaw-dropping, expansive views Colorado is known for easy to come by. There are dining shacks scattered all over the mountain, each of which has beginner to intermediate terrain running into and out of these areas making them easily accessible for all.
Though the skiing is plenty, on the unfortunate off chance your kids are really not into skiing during your trip (hopefully a one time thing), Telluride also offers snowshoeing mid-mountain providing views and on-snow activity. You can also find a nice sledding hill located behind the Telluride Town Park for after hours amusement.
The heated sidewalks in the village make walking in ski boots bearable for your little ones – and let's be honest adults appreciate it too. It's also one of those mountains that affords you the option to ski right into town. Alternatively, a free gondola acts as a fun mode of transportation taking you from the mountain village into town where you can enjoy a fun après scene and a plethora of dining options.
Undoubtedly one of the most frustrating things about going anywhere, ski resort or not, is parking. Will there be any available? How much does it cost? Is it far away? The list goes on. Luckily Keystone has free parking right at the base of the mountain, and parking doesn't get much better than that anywhere you go.
The second biggest reason Keystone tops the list is the available terrain. With plenty of green and blue run that are wide and easy to follow, keeping the family together is relatively simple task. Even if your group is made of up individuals of differing ability levels, Keystone has trails that will allow you to ride the same chairlift, break off for a run, and come back together at trail intersections or the bottom of the same lift. Keystone also offers a "kids ski free" program when you stay in resort owned lodging.
As far as dining, there is no shortage of options, especially with the nearby towns of Frisco and Dillon. However, if you really want to wow your kids, parents, or whoever else may be in your group with an experience they'll never forget, be sure to book the sleigh ride dinner where you'll enjoy a horse drawn sleigh ride to a historic cabin with warming stoves and a hearty meal.
The views are certainly one of the perks of skiing, however most beginner don't get so lucky to be able to ski at an elevation that allows them to see the full landscape of the area. That's where Beaver Creek comes into play. A large majority of the runs at the top of the mountain are greens and blues, making it a perfect place for any skill level. It also features beginner tree runs, which allow your lower level skiers and riders a chance to see what it's like to zoom thorough the snow-filled aspens.
Plenty of parking is available at the base where free shuttles will take you right to the village. And the best part of skiing the Beav' as the locals call it, is free, warm, fresh baked chocolate chip cookies served on silver platters by chefs in white coats and hats at the base of the mountain rolled out promptly at three o'clock every day.
Additionally Avon, the town below the resort, is filled with affordable dinning and lodging options, as well as entertainment and shopping, including a theater with concerts or live shows nearly every night.
Winter Park has a good mix across its 3,000-plus acres of terrain, which makes it a dream to ski for families. While there isn't a huge percentage of acreage labeled as beginner areas, there are a number of runs that are manageable for beginners. The runs are wide, allowing skiers to spread out, and there are designated areas for beginners and slower skiers/ riders. It's also incredibly simple to get to thanks to a train that runs from union station in Denver directly to the resort.
When it comes to learning to ski, not only are the instructors great, but the ski school here is unlike any other in Colorado, in that they offer half-day lessons, and whether you're concerned with price, family time or your child's ski stamina, this is a great option to have.
Aside from skiing there are tons of places to go snow tubing in the area. An absolute blast, just be sure to dress warm, wear your mittens and maybe even your ski goggles. There is also ice skating, fat tire biking, snowmobiling, dogsledding and even programs for the disabled, truly providing something for everyone.
Magic carpets are key for kids
Arguably the most famous of those on the list, Aspen Snowmass is comprised of four different mountains. Each one of the resort's mountains has its own character allowing you to decide what sort of terrain you want to ski. The four mountains are all connected, but rather than by lifts it's by free shuttle busses. Being separated means less crowding as there's no "bottle necking" going on at the base, and a lower risk of getting lost. Free transportation and fewer crowds are reasons number one and two it's good for families.
If you're looking for places specifically suitable for beginners, Buttermilk Mountain is the best choice of all four Aspen area mountains. It offers incredible facilities for those newly learning, and has the smallest crowds of all four mountains.
More intermediate skiers should head to Aspen Highlands, not to be confused with Aspen. Avoid the bowl, and you'll be blessed with blues and greens for days, just be sure to keep an eye on signs and trail maps.
If your group is more advanced, check out Aspen Mountain, also known as Ajax. There's no beginner terrain here, but there are also not many crowds as it's such a steep mountain.
A truly family friendly resort Steamboat may have the most slope side lodging of any resort in the state, which may not seem like a huge deal, but when you've got a four year old in tow, proximity to the slopes and/ or ski school can be a real game changer. Its rolling, beginner friendly terrain also plays a roll in making it a great place for a family ski trip. There are also some steeper sections intermingled with the rest of the runs where mom and dad can play while the little ones are in ski school.
Steamboat also has pretty incredible after hours activities. A mountain coaster sits at the base, enticing passersby and for good reason. And when your legs just can't take anymore, there are the nearby Strawberry Park Hot Springs where you can soak morning, afternoon or during the evening hours as an alternative après spot.
There's also the downtown area, just a short drive, or bus ride, away. Here you'll find enough culture in the form of shopping, dining and gallery hopping to keep everyone busy for hours.
Options to stay warm and ski are awesome
Skiing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what makes Breckenridge so great. The peaks are numbered, making finding your way around (somewhat) easier. Terrain available encompasses everything from a peak full of beginner areas and green runs in the Peak 9 area to a challenging T-bar that curves in the middle and the highest chair lift in North America, Imperial Express.
Breckenridge also boasts the worlds busiest ski school. That may sound a bit scary or even off putting, but it stays busy for a reason. Classes have a student "cap" to make sure the classes don't get too full, which allows each student to get ample attention and instruction throughout the day.
In its previous life Breckenridge may have been a quaint mining town, but Main Street is now an adorable downtown strip full of colorfully painting buildings, quirky shops and delicious eats. There's also Downstairs at Eric's. A must when visiting Breck, not only is it the best pizza in town, but this joint is hidden in a basement and also has an arcade, bar and plenty of TVs, enough to keep the entire family entertained.
Seated just 21 miles west of Boulder and 45 miles from Denver, its proximity to the city may possibly the best part of Eldora. It is a more than perfect beginner mountain with minimal crowds and wide-open ski areas. The entire mountain is a natural progression filled with gentle runs and easy-going chair lifts and T bar lifts on one side and steeper, more intense terrain including a bowl on the other. This makes it a great place to learn and a perfect place for burgeoning athletes to quickly progress to a more intermediate or even advanced level.
Another plus is that because of its size, 100% of skiable terrain at Eldora can be reached by artificial snow via their snowmaking efforts. So no matter what Mother Nature is throwing out, they're sure to have a winter, ski wonderland covered in snow.
While it may be close enough to après and dine in the city, the intimate mountain holds its own when it comes to on and off mountain eating and drinking, as well as shopping on Main Street. Aside from skiing, many patrons flock to the area for the great Nordic skiing that can be found here. There's also a carousel for those romantics and sentimental types visiting the area.
What can only be referred to as a hidden gem of Colorado skiing, this resort has far more to offer than what you may initially expect. At Sunlight you'll be able to ditch the crowds and the high prices. Ski vacations can get pricey and fast, but thanks to Sunlight, you can cross kids lift tickets off that long list of expenses.
This modest resort of 67 trails sits on roughly 700 acres, which is made up of 75% beginner and intermediate terrain. The resort also offers a lodging package called "Ski, Swim, Stay" similar to what is offered at Keystone. This package grants a free lift ticket to all kids ages 12 and under when you stay at one of their partner lodges. Staying here also means free transportation to the mountain; one more thing you can cross off that list.
For the uninitiated, getting to Wolf Creek can be a bit intimidating. But for those who normally fly to Denver, it's not too bad. There are lots of connecting flights into Durango on United and American, from Denver, Dallas and Phoenix, and from there it's 90 minutes to Wolf Creek's slopes. Getting to potentially enjoy Durango for a night should be considered a bonus as well, as it's probably the best non-ski town in Colorado. Great breweries, history, scenery and the drive to skiing (Telluride, Silverton or Wolf Creek) is far easier than that from Denver.
Once at the mountain, families will find a laid-back atmosphere and plenty of snow (Wolf Creek draws more of it than anywhere else in Colorado). The mountain's terrain all descends from the same ridge down to the base. There are a few pieces of steep terrain toward the top of the mountain, but most of the runs here hew closer toward the intermediate level, which makes it a great pick for families with kids who are past the beginner stages and love to spend hours on the mountain. This is a ripe training ground for soon-to-be experts, with almost zero lift lines and some of the most steady conditions in Colorado.
Base & Top Elev.