What makes Colorado’s Keystone Resort a family destination is much more than its Kidtopia of children’s activities or other kid-friendly events and attractions. The idea of families spending time together in the historic ski resort community is as old as its hills.
In the 1930s the resort became popular with vacationing families who came to the mountains to enjoy the Rockies’ spectacular vistas and ample snowfall. Visitors would traverse the ranges with their wooden skis by day and gather with family and friends to dine at fine restaurants by night.
As the resort grew and matured, it stayed faithful to creating a family-friendly experience. Besides hosting one of the best youth snow sports learning centers around, the Children’s Ski and Ride School, Keystone is home to the industry’s leading Kids Ski Free offer for kids 12 and younger, for guests who book two or more nights. For our family’s annual alpine vacation, Keystone was the perfect destination.
For my son and his cousin, who were at different levels of snowboarding ability, we worried they would not want to be split up for their semi-private lessons. It ended up their instructors were “the coolest,” and they not only didn’t mind being separated, they met new friends in their classes. They also had great stories to tell each other about their adventures and proudly showed off their certificates of achievement of leveling up in their skills.
Of course you can’t talk about the kids experience at Keystone without mentioning the resort’s signature Kidtopia program of free, daily kid-centered events and activities. A particularly popular event is the annual Kidtopia Music Experience in March, a series of concerts and activities where kids can dance their snow pants off, yodel their hearts out in singalongs, play musical games, and learn all about different instruments, topped off by spectacular fireworks.
Every day, all around the resort are family and kid-oriented activities. Around 3:30 pm when many of the trails close for the day and night skiers begin to arrive, it’s party time at the base. The resident DJ at the base turns up the volume, and the skiers and boarders fill the River Run Village for après ski happy hours, skating at the ice rink or warming up around fire pits with hot cocoa and s’mores.
For the whole family, there are attractions and amenities like a Family Ski Trail, designated free family parking, and complimentary red wagons for carrying gear and excited kiddos. For skiers and riders of all levels, there’s 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, including three peaks—the highest at an elevation of 12,500 feet, five above-tree-line bowls, night skiing and an in-bounds cat skiing program. Even on peak days, with so many trails, the runs are rarely crowded, and super-fast chair lifts like the new six-person Montezuma Express, keep people moving swiftly up the mountain. When we took lessons, we skipped the lines altogether through a special lane just for classes, like a Disneyland Fast-Pass.
History buffs will enjoy the lore of Keystone, from the story of the Dercums and the Bergmans, the resort’s First Families, to tales of gold miners and loggers who established the first homesteads and villages. Many of the historical figures and towns of the region are memorialized by lift and trail names, like “Lower Gassy,” “The Frenchman,” “Jackwhacker,” and “Saw Whiskers.” A particularly poignant memorial is Ina’s Bridge, a creek crossing that leads from the River Run Village to the base of the slopes. The bridge, adorned with a plaque and flowers left by visitors, is named in memory of Ina, a beloved woman who worked at the resort for decades, known for her cheery disposition and ready smile, who passed away in 2019 at age 93.
Besides skiing and snowboarding, there’s plenty to do and places to eat in and around Keystone proper, which stretches seven miles along the Snake River. There are two major villages, the Lakeside Village and River Run Village, where there are dozens of shops and restaurants, from Pizza on the Run to the upscale casual 9280’ Taphouse. On-mountain dining includes the Alpenglow Stube, a two-gondola ride up the mountain, and the Overlook Grill at Summit House, for awesome views at 11, 640 elevation.
For a truly exquisite four-course dining experience, the humble looking B&B, Ski Tip Lodge, which served as a stagecoach stop in the 1800s and became the original lodge for the resort, boasts superb service and a unique rustic gourmet menu – with entrees such as elk and venison loin, earning it acclaim as one the best restaurants in America.
For adventurous diners, there is a sleigh ride dinner experience, which departs from Lakeside Village, that carts guests back in time, bundled under blankets in a horse-drawn sleigh through a snow-covered valley, while a wrangler tells tales about the area and spun jokes. As part of the tour, our guide informed us that bathroom facilities for the evening would be two outhouses, and she pointed out which was which: “The women are always right, and the men get what’s left.” Guests also threw out jokes on the 20-minute ride: “What’s a deer with no eyes?” The answer: “No i-dear.”
The sleigh ride ended at a homestead-era log cabin built in the 1800s, featuring a roaring fire, a hearty dinner, and entertainment. While we adults regaled in the folk singer’s James Taylor ballads, the boys’ long day of riding the mountain caught up with them, and they collapsed after their steak dinners, falling into a brief slumber at the table. They woke up pretty quickly when it was time to go back to the condo. Temperatures had fallen to freezing and the blankets, covered with a glaze of ice, offered a chilly ride home, though hollering the whole way seemed to warm them up.
There are many options for accommodations at the resort, from the luxurious River Run Townhomes to the convenient Hyatt Place Keystone. Our family resided at the The Springs Condominiums, in a premier model which featured two spacious bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen and a living room with a hearth.
Each night after a day of skiing and snowboarding, we gathered in the living room to tell stories around the fireplace and lay out our gloves and boots to dry. The boys loved that the condo featured an outdoor heated pool with a waterslide. They were amazed that they could be surrounded by snow mounds while they stewed in a hot tub. In the evening, the boys enjoyed playing billiards in the condo’s game area, or when they were weary, they sat out on the condo’s balcony, bundled in their parkas, while they people-watched and drank hot cocoa.
In all, we experienced four fun-filled days at Keystone. After two days of lessons, the boys progressed impressively in their snowboarding skills, and they are ready to take on some steeper slopes; and after a couple days of refreshing my muscle memory on the slopes, I even dared a few black diamond trails, high in the backcountry, where breathtaking views were as thrilling as the skiing.
My only complaint about our Keystone vacation was that it was too short. When it comes to family activities, we just touched the tip of the iceberg – or as it were, the peak of the snow-covered mountain.