Colorado Vacations 
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Your Guide to Visiting Colorado with the Kids
Skiing Keystone with the Kids
One of Colorado's
most family-friendly
ski resorts, Keystone
 works hard to
make life easier
for parents and
more fun for kids. 

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Families on a Colorado ski vacation at Keystone will find gentle, wide, long ski runs perfect for beginning skiers.

If they ski the back side of the mountain, they will find long, steep, challenging expert runs. 

Either way, the wide-ranging views of the heart of the Colorado Rockies doesn't hurt a thing.


Favorite Keystone
Kid Activity

Photo: Five-acre Keystone Lake is a Zamboni-maintained ice skating mecca in the heart of Keystone Village. 

Photo: Family-friendly Keystone Ski Resort provides skiing parents with
little red wagons to help them tote their kids and equipment to the slopes. 

t can be a long walk from the car to the slopes if you are three feet tall and wearing ski boots. And although she may be keeping up chipper appearances, it can be an even longer haul for your mom who is toting all your stuff. 

Enter the simple genius of a little red wagon. In the base areas of Keystone Ski Resort, little red wagons are everywhere. Anyone can use them. And they are equipped with snow tires, making it easy to navigate winter walkways. 

Families on a ski vacation at Keystone can generally find a wagon near the parking lots in the morning, and at the base of the ski hill in the late afternoon. With sturdy metal sides, they can accommodate skis, boots, equipment bags, or a pile of toddlers with ease. 

And they are just one of the ways that Keystone Resort caters to the needs of skiing families.

Location and Bird’s Eye View

Drive west on I-70 out of Denver into the Rocky Mountains, and in about an hour and a quarter, you’ll descend into Summit County. There, Dillon Reservoir fills a broad valley, and its arms spike out to meet the rivers and streams that fill it.  

One of those streams, known extravagantly as the Snake River, splashes down from its headwaters on the Continental Divide. Along the way, it passes the Keystone Ski Area and Resort, just about three miles above where it empties into Dillon Reservoir. 

Tortilla Chip

Keystone Ski Area is built on north-facing Dercum Mountain. Its face is shaped like nothing so much as a slightly curved, snowy, pine-tree-covered tortilla chip. Its gently undulating  terrain is wide at the base and rises up to a point on top. 

The ski area then extends southward, down the back side of Dercum Mountain and up again onto two cone-shaped peaks, North Peak and The Outback. They seem small when viewed on a map, but ride a ski lift to either 

summit, and you realize just how big these mountains really are. Here families find significant trail access and a perspective like no where else in the state. 


While the tops of Keystone’s Dercum Mountain and North Peak reach over 11,600 feet above sea level, the top of the Outback Express chairlift stretches over 11,900 feet into the atmosphere. 

At day’s end, families gather the kids and ski down into the resort villages lying along the Snake River, at 9,300 feet above sea level. 

Mountain Statistics

Keystone weighs in with 3,148 acres, a vertical rise of 3,128 feet, and 135 trails - making it one of the largest ski areas in Colorado. 

Only 19% of its trails are marked easiest, and 32% are intermediate. But with so many acres, that means there is plenty of friendly terrain for most families. 

Forty nine percent of the ski trails are black runs, most of them concentrated on the bowls and peaks of North Peak and The Outback. Many are reachable only by snowcat or hiking. 

Two terrain parks offer a variety of jumps, rails, and fun boxes to entertain riders and skiers on the mountain. 

Twenty lifts can deliver 35,000 people per hour onto the slopes, and include everything from magic carpets to fancy gondolas. Most chairlifts are high speed quad lifts or six-packs. 

Base Areas

Three base areas serve the mountain, but only two are situated at the bottom of the ski runs. Lakeside Conference Village lies downstream a piece, and is reached by a shuttle bus system. 

River Run Village and the Mountain House base areas both have free parking, equipment rental, basket checks, lockers, restrooms, ski school offices, eateries, and information centers. 

Also, look for folks with spiffy red jackets with a black “i” on the back. These helpful folks are there to provide vacationing families with the information they need, from directions to the closest bathroom to tips on the best restaurants for kids.   

Snowfall and Night Skiing

An average annual snowfall of 230 inches at Keystone Ski Resort is enhanced by snowmaking equipment covering 684 acres on Keystone’s mountains. 

Also, Keystone offers a rare chance to ski after dark. Bright lights illuminate nine trails in the Night Park, allowing skiers to enjoy the slopes after most folks are done for the day.

Family Ambiance

Keystone bills itself as “Colorado’s kid-friendliest resort”, and is working hard to meet that expectation. Everywhere you turn the resort has added small details to make a parent’s life easier, and a kid’s vacation more fun. 

From the little red wagons at the base areas to the snow castle on the top of the River Run Gondola, Keystone bends over backwards to create a positive family experience. 

The centerpiece of all this family focusing is Keystone’s Kidtopia program. During several weekends throughout the winter, (think Christmas, New Years, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, spring break, and some in-between) the ski area sponsors events and activities. These are in addition to the permanent features of the mountain that are particularly attractive to kids.  

Castle on the Mountain 

Kidtopia’s showpiece it the snow fort, which really looks like a castle, at the top of the River Run Gondola. Like a giant, snowy playground, the castle has a tunnel for climbing up and sliding down, walls to scale, and a sparkling, carved ice throne. (Don’t forget your camera!) 

Arts and Crafts on the Mountain

When we visited this year during Kidtopia, my youngest son and I stumbled into a kids’ arts and crafts lodge at the River Run base of the ski runs. Friendly helper-ladies greeted us, and showed us to tables near large, sunny windows. My son got a break from the cold while I relaxed. He created two cute crafts (a springy snowman and a snowflake) to take home, free of charge. 

On really frigid days, the arts lodge fills up with kids getting out of the cold, and with parents delighted to find such entertainment for their youngsters at the bottom of the slopes. 

Pick up a Kidtopia map at the ticket windows to see where special Kids’ Adventure Zones are situated on the mountain as well as such features as the tubing hill and Camp Keystone, where ski school begins. 

How’s the Skiing?

Family ski vacations at Keystone give everyone from preschoolers to grandparents  a ski experience they can appreciate. 

The Learning Area

The Learning Area, behind the Camp Keystone buildings is a wide, gentle slope with four surface lifts. (They look like flat, rubber escalators.) The small Discovery chair lift serves this area, too. The Learning Area makes an excellent place for ski school students to learn to manage their equipment, to stop and turn at will, and to ride a lift. 

Keystone’s Front Side

Once ready to venture higher up on the mountain, families discover that the front side of Keystone has a wide selection of long, groomed cruising runs. These appeal to beginners and intermediates, alike. 

As kids ski along, they are likely to discover one of the four Kidventure zones sprinkled here and there across the mountain.

These special areas, where all adults must be accompanied by kids, offer woodland trails and fun structures like igloos that kids can ski through and explore. Look for names like “Klondike’s Adventures” and “Lost Mine” to engage kids’ imaginations.

A-51 Terrain Park
Early morning at the A-51 terrain park at Keystone

Even the terrain park at Keystone is designed with the whole family in mind. It's jumps and jibs are smaller in the far eastern section, called Freda's Incubator, creating an environment more comfortable to young riders. As you progress to the west, the features (and the kids) get bigger.

A chairlift, called A-51, of course, is dedicated to just the terrain park, giving riders the chance to do more tricks.     

Keystone’s Back Side 

For families with more advanced skiers, the two backside peaks provide wonderful opportunities to explore and wide open views of whole mountain ranges. On North Peak and The Outback, long blue and black runs funnel down into valley trails leading to high speed quad and six-person lifts. At certain times of day, these valley trails can become very crowded. However, the lifts are fairly efficient at pulling people up to the top again. 

The Outpost on Keystone's North Peak

More adventurous and skilled skiers can explore the bowls and tree runs of Keystone that are accessible only by hiking while carrying your skies or by snow cat. 

What a Sight

The views from Keystone are some of the prettiest and most unique I have experienced. From various points around the ski area, you can see the west side of the Front Range, including the 14,000-foot behemoths Grays and Torreys Peaks rising from the Continental Divide. Look to the west, and Summit County spreads before you, with the dark, frozen waters of Dillon Reservoir lying beneath the crests of the Tenmile Range. The ski runs of Breckenridge sprawl across Peaks 7, 8, and 9 of this range. Farther to the north, the jagged spires of the Gore Range scrape the sky and whisper of Colorado high country adventures yet to come.   

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