Standing at the top of Keystone and looking out over this spectacular view, I felt like I was floating outside my boots. I may have ten reasons to take the family to Keystone, Colorado, but truth be told, the breathtaking view is reason enough.
If I am being honest, the mountain itself overwhelmed me. I was a bit intimidated. Our first run down, I was feeling my 37 year old aging body a bit and things were stiffer than they had been in years past. The ski runs at Keystone are long and some of them are very steep. The longest run is School Marm, which is 3.5 miles long! My legs got quite the workout at Keystone. Luckily, I found the Spring Dipper, which was my favorite run — it was a little more gentle on my legs and let me enjoy the ride a bit more.
If you came strictly for the mountain, you are sure to be completely satisfied. However, there are so many more family-friendly activities off the mountain, which is why Keystone Resort makes for one of the best family ski vacations.
1. The Springs
We were fortunate to stay at one of the Keystone condos at The Springs, and I have to say this was the perfect location and ideal family lodging.The condos are well-equipped with everything you need and include a large kitchen and living room with a pull-out sofa and fireplace. The Springs is just a short walk to the village and as close as you can get to the kids Ski & Ride school, which is located right next to the main Gondola. There are several hot tubs and a pool with a waterslide if you feel like taking the chilling plunge! Watching my kids run through the steam to the top of the waterslide, swimming across the pool and then jumping into the hot tub was one of my favorite memories during our stay. We also discovered the private theatre room and spent an afternoon snuggled up watching the movie Elf, another favorite Keystone moment of mine.
2. The Epic Mix
Lift tickets have gone digital. When you purchase your lift tickets, you will receive a hotel-key-like card. This card can simply be put in your pocket, and you’ll never have to take it out to be scanned. Vail Resorts are using a ground breaking technology that embeds RFID chip into your card, and it tracks everywhere you go on the mountain! You can log into EpicMix.com using the code on the back of your card to see your mountain stats for the day as well as mountain conditions. It will show how many vertical feet you rode that day, and you can earn special mountain pins. You can take photos on the mountain from the Epic Mix photographers and download, share and send them to family and friends. You can also follow your family and friends and communicate with them on the mountain — it’s like your own mountain social network!
3. The Keystone Village
One of the things I love most about snowboarding and ski vacations is walking around the village. The main village at any resort usually gives the mountain it’s personality and adds to the experience. As parents, we appreciated the kids activities scattered throughout the village: a giant checker board and chess board, corn hole, connect four and an ice skating rink. We loved the family ice sculpture, too! The village has plenty of dining options, clothing boutiques and ski gear shops. Keystone Sports is where you will be able to pick up your ski or snowboard rentals. The Snack Shack is a great place for some frozen yogurt or let them fill up a bag of candy. The village also has a small market to pick up any essentials you may have forgotten, stock up on some groceries, wine and beer or grab a few souveniers.
4. Kids’ Ski & Ride School
Unlike many ski & ride schools found at the base of the mountain, Keystone’s learning area is at the top, so your kids will get to ride the Gondola up to start their day. Keystone has an entire learning area called The Schoolyard Family Ski & Ride Zone, which is where ski & ride school takes place and is great area for riding along with your kids. Ski & Ride school starts at 9:00 am and goes until 3:00 pm; the instructors are very professional and will give you a full report on what your child did that day and what they worked on. They’ll also take your kids’ photos, and you can track where on the mountain they went through the EpicMix.
The little red wagons reserved for hauling kids’ equipment may be a small feature, but they’re definitely sanity-saving. We all know that at the end of the day everyone is exhausted, and this is when meltdowns can happen, so having a wagon to haul all the stuff was super helpful.
**Kids Ski Free**
Yes, at Keystone KIDS SKI FREE. Book any two nights, and your child skis free!
5. The Largest Snow Fort
One of the most unique features of Keystone is the snow fort on top of the mountain, and they like to boast that it is the largest snow fort in North America. You will need to take the Gondola up to get to the snow fort, which is fun for the whole family, even if you have a wee little one that is not participating in ski & ride school. We did this one afternoon to take a break from the boards for a bit. The snow fort has a snow cubed maze, a few slides for the kids to go down, and don’t be afraid to stage your own family snowball fight… that’s what a snow fort is for!
The Scenic Dinner Sleigh Ride is a great family dining experience that takes you to a small, tucked-away cabin deep in the heart of Colorado’s back country. The moment you load the sled, they offer you warm blankets for your family to get cozy and cuddle up under the stars. It happened to be snowing the night we went, so it was the perfect winter night for a sleigh ride. The little log cabin is filled with family style picnic tables set with red and white gingham napkins, mason jar drinking glasses and small cast iron pot bowls for your chili. It is a traditional Colorado cowboy dinner, with your choice of beef or chicken served on a skillet. The live entertainment is from a Willy Nelson type music man and his guitar. It’s a very fun night, and I would highly recommend it.
Another dining experience for families is Fondue on top of Keystone’s North Peak Mountain. Foundue Der Chessel
7. Inxpot Coffee
Coffee is always important to me. Inxpot Coffee is more than just a coffee joint — it’s a locals’ favorite hang out to grab coffee, a cocktail or a cup of soup. Inside it is a cozy little cave with couches, tables, a fireplace and wall-to-wall book shelves filled with books. So leave the kids with your spouse and settle in for an afternoon by yourself! There is a Starbucks in the village, too, but whenever you can have a local favorite cup of coffee, do it. It’s a traveling shame if you don’t.
8. Dining Options
The first night we ate at Zuma, which is new to Keystone and had just recently opened. This is very family friendly and has a cool, chic, diner vibe. I loved the decor, plenty of room for families, a nice kids menu and great food. They also have a small game room for the kids!
My favorite food in the Village was at Kickapoo Tavern — we ate here twice. We had the tortilla soup, chicken lettuce wraps and the BBQ salad and all three were fantastic! it gets crowded and can be a bit loud, but that is also what i liked about it. Everyone brings their energy from the mountain inside with them!
9. More Mountain Family Adventures
Snow tubing, ice skating, night skiing and Mountain-Top Snowcat Tours are all available for families and let you take a break from all the skiing or snowboarding. I know my kids have a hard time doing back-to-back ski and snowboard days, so it’s great when there are other family activities to try. Snow tubing is always a favorite; it’s a lot less work but still a lot of fun. Keystone’s tubing hill is just off the Gondola and has a covered conveyor belt that brings you back up the mountain. You do need to make reservation, and you are scheduled for one hour. There are two ice skating rinks, one in the village and another one right outside the Adventure Center.
We were scheduled to do a snowcat tour, but because of the zero visibility on the top of the mountain that day, we were unable to go.
10. Kidtopia & Art Camp
Kidtopia at Keystone is what makes both the kids and parents happy! Kidtopia activities run daily and vary each day but include things like scavenger hunts, cookie hour, ice cream socials, giant snowball launch, face painting, fort building, disco tubing and art camp! When I asked our kids what their favorite thing at Keystone was, they both shouted, “Art Camp”. I realize our kids were there to snowboard first, but this was by far their absolute favorite thing they did at Keystone. Even I wanted to stay and paint with them! Ready, Paint Fire is the art studio that offers pottery and canvas painting classes during the week and has an art camp on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00am – 12:00pm. This was a huge hit with our kids.
Keystone has really thought of everything when engaging families both on and off the mountain. There is so much to do that it was hard to get it all in in just four days. We could have definitely stayed longer and still had plenty to do. Keystone has all the key pieces that make a family ski vacation not just great but really quite exceptional.
*I also know I have fallen in love with a place when my husband and I talk about possibly living there, and I buy a coffee mug to take home. The coffee mug is my official “travel tell”. It means I liked a place so much that I want to sit and think about it as I sip my coffee in the morning long after I have left.
Disclosure: This was a media stay for the purpose of my honest review of Keystone. Parts of my accommodations and activities were comped. We paid for all our travel to and from Keystone. I share this with you to help you make the best travel decisions for your family.
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