Colorado Vacations 
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Your Guide to Visiting Colorado with the Kids
Skiing Vail, Colorado with the Family
 When you take the kids skiing at Vail, you find a finely tuned organization dedicated to creating an exceptional family experience.

You can enjoy that experience amidst some of the most spectacular mountain scenery Colorado has to offer.

Some of the best lift ticket deals in Colorado are for kids.

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From 4 packs to fifth-graders skiing for free, families can find relief from ticket window shock.

See our article: Best Colorado Ski Deals and Passes for Kids

The Prettiest Places in Colorado

From Mesa Verde's Far View Lodge to Vail Mountain's Eagle's Nest, Colorado is full of great scenic spots to show the kids.

Check out our article about the
Prettiest Places
in Colorado.

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Photo: Families on a ski vacation in Vail should know about the Vail Cascade Resort. The hotel is the only lodging in Vail with its own ski lift - a very convenient amenity when you are skiing with kids. 

Winter Lodging Options for your Colorado  Ski Trip with the Kids

From rustic cabins to five star resorts, Colorado offers families a variety of choices for tucking the children in.

See our article about the
Best Hotels for a Colorado Christmas Vacation with the Kids.

Photo: The Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs creates a fairyland of twinkle lights for the winter holidays.

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There is more
for a kid to do
in Vail than ski!

Did You Know?

Denver International Airport
has special baggage carousels to accommodate skis.

Vail is known for its world-class skiing, but summer in Vail is just as beautiful and offers its own bouquet of fun family activities.

Photo: Vail's famous Clock Tower and aspen trees in the summertime.

See our article: Best Vail Summer Activities and Attractions for Families

Family Ski Resorts
in Colorado

What is the difference between a ski area and a ski resort?

How do you know what kind of a ski resort is best for your family?

How expensive are Colorado's ski resorts?

Find out in our article on Colorado's Family Ski Resorts.

Photo Credit: Colorado Tourism Office, Matt Inden/Miles 
o families driving by Vail Ski Area on I-70, the mountain looks like a gently rounded loaf, fuzzed with aspen trees, rising from a jumble of village rooftops at its base. You can see lots of ski runs, but they don’t look like the alpine trails of higher elevation ski areas. Not a treeless, windswept basin is in sight. 

However, take the kids on a ride up the Eagle Bahn gondola, from Lionshead to Eagle’s Nest, then drop down to pick up the Game Creek Express lift to the top of the Game Creek bowl, and the whole of Vail Mountain, invisible from below, emerges before you. The immensity of the place begins to dawn. 

Those loaf-shaped hills hide layers of ski trails, rising in terraces from the base. A sweeping series of bowls wraps around the west and south sides of the mountain. Each is nearly big enough to be a ski area in and of itself

From the summits of Vail’s bowls, plenty of high, alpine vistas spread in all directions. Plenty of terrain lies just waiting for your family to discover it. 

Transportation and Location 

Vail, Colorado lies in northwest central Colorado, due west of Denver about 70 miles as the crow flies. However, the jagged bulk of the Rocky Mountains lies between the state capitol and the famous ski resort.  Vail lies right off I-70; it takes 2 or 2½ hours to drive to Vail from Denver, depending on weather and traffic. 

Vail lies about 45 minutes east of Eagle County Regional Airport. During the winter, families can catch non-stop flights from Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York/Kennedy, New York/La Guardia, and Newark.   Six major car rental companies and two ground transportation companies offer visiting families a variety of rides into town. 

The spectacularly rugged Gore Range rises over Vail to the north and east, and the ski area itself spreads across a previously unnamed peak that rises over 3000 feet from its base on Gore Creek. 

Mountain Statistics

The largest ski area in Colorado, Vail boast 5289 skiable acres, with a vertical rise of 3450 feet. 

Amenities at the base include an entire town, complete with restaurants, clinic, equipment rental and repair shops, ski and snowboard apparel shops, ski school reservations centers, lost and found pick up, drop off, and shipping, and lockers.

Photo: The Eagle Bahn Gondola departs the Lionshead area and rises over sweeping ski slopes and mogul fields as it climbs the mountain at Vail, Colorado

Thirty one lifts, including the Lionshead Gondola, high speed quads, and surface transport lifts, serve 193 trails. Eighteen percent of those runs are great for families with beginning skiers, while twenty-nine percent of Vail’s runs are considered intermediate. Over half the mountain, fifty-three percent of the runs, are designated advanced and expert. The longest run at Vail is Riva Ridge, which runs 4 miles down the mountain. 

Vail enjoys an average annual snowfall of 350 inches per year. 

Bird’s Eye View/Lay of the Land

Three base areas or “skier portals” plus the Cascade Village Lift from the Vail Cascade Resort provide access to Vail ski area. 

Golden Peak

As you face the mountain from town, Golden Peak is the base area on the far left or eastern side. Terrain includes runs suitable for beginner, intermediate, and advanced and expert skiers, although the more difficult runs make up more than half the terrain in this area. When we skied it, the runs were so quiet it was spooky. We almost felt like we had the ski area to ourselves. Also, the beginner runs are a lovely pocket of easy tracks hidden near the scenic top of the mountain. 

Vail Village and Mid Vail   

The heart of town is Vail Village, and the base area here surrounds the Vista Bahn Express Lift. This chair lift takes skiers and boarders to Mid-Vail and access to a rich variety and number of runs. 

MidVail is the hub of Vail Ski Area in Colorado.

Photo: Mid-Vail lies in the heart of the ski area for the front side of Vail Mountain in Colorado.

Mid-Vail is a hub for the ski area, including a snow-sports school, retail and rental shops, dining court and grill, Kid’s Cafe, restrooms, picnic decks, and an in-your-face panorama of the Gore Range. In addition folks who want to linger over fine cuisine can relax in the fancy new table-service restaurant there. 

Mid-Vail is the eye of the ski area. Over and over again, we’d take some good-looking run from another part of the mountain and end up at Mid-Vail. 


The Lionshead base area is home to the Eagle Bahn Gondola and the Born Free Express Lift. The gondola whisks skiers and other visitors to the Eagle’s Nest area on the mountain, which includes a restaurant, restrooms, lockers, and other amenities. Here is where the Adventure Ridge playpark is located, offering kids a variety of non-skiing fun snow activities like tubing and trampoline bouncing. 

The trails served by the Lionshead base area are long, sweeping, family friendly runs, with a good variety of beginner and intermediate terrain, plus a few advanced routes thrown in for spice. From the top of the gondola, families can venture into the west-facing Game Creek Bowl, which in turn leads to the Sundown Bowl on the backside or to runs leading to Mid-Vail and beyond on the front side of the ski area. 

Cascade Village

The tony Vail Cascade Resort is the only lodging in the Vail Valley serviced by its own chairlift. Guests can rent equipment at a nearby ski shop and a ticket window provides the opportunity to buy tickets and pick up an area map. Skiers can also take the lift back down the mountain from a loop of Post Road ski run, off the Simba trail. 

Family Atmosphere

Vail ski area swarms with kids. Which isn’t to say there isn’t plenty of great skiing for adults. 

It’s just that if you’ve got munchkins in tow, Vail is set up to make the ski trip fun for both children and adults, and easier on everyone. 

Changing Places

On all of Vail Mountain there is one diaper changing station - in the women’s room at Eagle’s Nest. An while at first this may not seem very family friendly, when you think about it, it makes sense. Skiing is a wonderful family activity, but it would be awfully tough on babies and toddlers - to the point of not being safe. So the only place in the ski area with a diaper deck is the location where people visit on foot - at the top of the gondola.  

A Place for the Littlest Visitors

However, while Mom and Dad and older siblings are off enjoying the slopes, Vail does offer child care for vacationers ages 2 months to 6 years old.  

The infant room (ages 2 months to 15 months) has a staff-to-child ratio of 1-to-3, so parents can have peace of mind that their little ones will get plenty of attention. Parents need to bring bottles, food and disposable diapers. 

A toddler room (ages 16 to 29 months) provides hot lunch and snacks to young guests. They also play games, do art projects, go outside, and have nap time. The ratio of staff to kids is 1-to-5. 

Preschool age youngsters can enjoy music, art projects, and outdoor play. Hot lunch and snacks are provided, as is quiet time with a video. One adult works with eight children at this level. 

It’s in the Basket

At several Vail Sports locations at Vail’s base, families can rent baskets and lockers to store shoes and other items. It’s much easier for a little tyke to trek to the slopes in regular shoes than in ski boots. How nice to have those comfy trainers or after-ski boots waiting at the bottom after a long day on the slopes. Many a time our kids have hiked to the condo or car in their ski boots, but it’s better not to have to

On mountain lockers are available at Mid-Vail and at Eagle’s nest. These make a great spot to store a packed lunch, extra sunscreen, extra mittens, and all the other kid items you might want to have on hand, but not have to lug around with you on the slopes. 

Flight of the Yellow Jackets

Yellow Jacket safety team representatives are often stationed in busy beginner and family zones to remind hot-shot skiers to slow down. They are great resources for help if you are confused about your whereabouts or need other assistance. They can even sign you up for ski school on the spot and direct you toward the easiest trail to meet your class.  

Grabbing a Bite

Here and there, picnic tables perch near the trees at the side of a ski run making a great spot for a picnic lunch on a warm spring-skiing day. 

If your budget-minded family is eating in one of the ski lodges or the sunny decks outside, you are always welcome to pack your own lunch. Or you can look for the “Lunch for Less” value meals for $9.95. These consist of entree and side dish, which vary from day to day, plus a drink. Examples include such tasty fare as a wrap and soup one day and pasta and salad the next, keeping the variety in multi-day visits to the mountain. 

Kids’ Adventure Zones

The Coyotes Den is one fun feature of several Kids Adventure Zones at Vail ski area.

Photo: A young skier enters the Coyote's Den in the Coyote's Escape Kid's Adventure Zone at Vail.

Across the front side of Vail Mountain, the ski area has built six special Kids’ Adventure Zones. Designated by rustic log archways, these trails lead through the woods or into and out of special structures like the Coyote’s Den. The nature-themed zones, featuring lots of friendly Colorado wild animals, appeal to the playful side of children and their parents. 

Many of the features are made with wood reclaimed from trees that were killed by pine beetles. In addition, an ongoing effort by the ski area to treat the beetle infestation has led to the removal of several hazard trees from the  Kids Adventure Zone areas on Vail Mountain. Now these play spots have a more open feel than in the past. 


Family ski vacations to Vail are also perked up by the Ske-cology stations scattered around the slopes. In these spots, trails are lined with a series of signs describing the natural environment, much like a hikers’ guided nature trail. 


How’s the Skiing?

I asked my thirteen-year-old son how he would describe the skiing at Vail, and he just murmured, “Lovely,” with a quiet smile. “There’s just so much variety.”

He’s as prone to hip superlatives as the next teenage boy, but my question transported him to some memory of a steep glade or plummeting expanse,  and that was all I could get out of him. Maybe it’s all that needs to be said.  

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Where to Eat with the Kids in the Vail Valley

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Luxury Lodging in the Vail Valley:

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