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For adults, a ski or snowboard trip may be simply that — a trip on which they go skiing or snowboarding, maybe with some après ski entertainment and a good night’s sleep. For children, skiing and snowboarding is just one part of a trip to a winter wonderland, especially if snow is a novelty to them. If you want to have hoppy skiers, do a little research into more family fun beyond the ski slopes. We promise that you will be pleasantly surprised by how much fun you too can have off the skiable part of the mountain. Channel your inner child and find the fun.
Each ski resort offers different kinds of family activities, so it’s a good idea to find out what each resort offers. Take these things into consideration when choosing a ski resort or ski hotel as well the best days to ski. A few activities may be located offsite, and several of them can be done for free or at least affordably, which offers you a fun way to save on a family ski trip. But even if you have to purchase some activities or rent equipment, you cannot put a price on forming these hoppy family memories. So read on for our top tips for finding family fun beyond the ski slopes!
Engage in Snow Play
You would be shocked to see what kids can turn into a snow play area. A strip of snow near a parking lot or at the base of a ski resort becomes snow ball central — you’d better keep your guard up because you may be a snowball prime target! If you can find a fresh glade, even better, but mostly all it takes for snow play is a little patience to let the kids have some unstructured time in the snow for throwing, digging or building. Fresh snow is better for making snowmen, snow angels and forts. But kids will work with whatever nature gives them, and the best thing about snow play (for parents) is that it is FREE. If you happen to be at Keystone in the winter, your kids will be king and queen of the snow hill at the Kidtopia snow fort, complete with tunnels, slides and a snow maze.
Jump in a Pool or Hot Tub
Choosing a ski hotel with a heated pool will make your afternoons or evenings affordable and stress-free. Swimming in warm water outside in the cold (preferably with a snow bank for snowball fights) is no-brainer easy entertainment. It is like the best of both worlds for kids to have a snow and a swimming vacation. And you can enjoy easing your own sore muscles into a hot tub. Ahhh … something for everyone. Some locations such as Steamboat and South Lake Tahoe also have nearby natural hot springs, which are quite therapeutic for those overworked muscles. The Glenwood Hot Springs Resort in Colorado can make a fun day trip or post-ski activity that’s about a one-hour drive from Aspen, Beaver Creek or Vail. You can swim in large swimming pools filled with warm soothing mineral waters that flow from local hot springs.
Woo hooo! Go Tubing
Many mountains or ski towns offer snow tubing hills. There is a cost involved with tubing, but that magic carpet or towrope ride up the hill saves your tired legs from climbing and makes it all worth it. Some tubing hills are on or near the resorts (like at Lake Tahoe Resorts such as Palisades Tahoe, Northstar and Heavenly) and others are a short drive away (such as with Park City and Steamboat). At Keystone, you can find the tubing hill and other activities at the Nordic Center. At Vail, you can take the Eagle Bahn Gondola to Adventure ridge for tubing and other fun winter activities.
You can also take your own sleds and fly down nature’s hills for free. But be sure to stay off private property. Do not sled on ski runs. Follow any signs or parking rules in an area. At the Resort at Squaw Creek in North Lake Tahoe, you can check out sleds to use right there on the property.
Go Ice Skating
Many hotels, ski resorts with villages and Nordic centers offer ice skating rinks. Some have broomball or themed skate nights. Plan ahead so you have that perfect 80s or disco outfit with you if you dream of going in theme.
Try Cross Country Skiing and Snow Shoeing
Cross country skiing or snow shoeing can add a new adventure to your ski trip, and at resorts such as Northstar and Keystone you can pull your tadpoles behind you on a special type of sled. The Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System offers over 60 miles of free cross-country and snowshoe trails. Breckenridge also offers these activities at its Nordic Centers.
We have tried snow shoeing, and the adults found this hike through the woods more fun than the froglets did. Keystone offers guided tours that educate guests about animals and nature. Vail also offers guided snowshoeing tours with a naturalist (ages 10 and up). Kirkwood’s Cross Country Center offers 80 km of groomed trails and snowshoeing paths, including a “Kiddy Kilometer” for the tadpoles.
Scale Climbing Walls and Ice walls
Some resorts offer ice climbing or even indoor climbing walls. Palisades Tahoe has an indoor climbing wall. If you have Spider-man wannabes in your group, put them to the test by letting them scale a frozen waterfall through ice climbing at Snowmass.
Go Snowmobiling — Vroom vroom!
The whole family can go snowmobiling (check age limits), but tadpoles can hop on their own mini snowmobiles to ride around a track at some destinations such as Vail, Park City or Palisades Tahoe.
Ride the Scenic Gondola and Alpine Coasters
If you have non-skiers who would like to check out the view from the top, you may be able to purchase a less-expensive pass to take a gondola ride. Some, such as Vail, are free to ride in the afternoons. At Vail you will find activities and even a Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Heavenly’s Mountain Coaster (and tubing hill) can be found at the top of the Scenic Gondola. At Olympic Valley at Palisades Tahoe, the aerial tram accesses the Olympic Ice Rink Pavilion. Breckenridge also has a Gold Runner Alpine Coaster that runs winter and summer.
Try Biking on Snow
Riding a bike on snow … I am picturing the boy on the bike in the 80s movie "Better off Dead" chasing the skier down the hill for his $2 in newspaper delivery money. It turns out that ski biking is actually a real and fun thing you can do. Vail offers nighttime guided ski biking tours for ages 10 and up. Fat Tire biking (offered at Northstar) is also supposed to be a lot of fun.
Flip Out Over Bungee Trampoline
These frog legs were made for jumping. After a day of skiing, your kids can work off any kick left in their legs by jumping on a bungee trampoline. You can find this hoppin’ activity in the villages at Northstar, Heavenly, Olympic Valley at Palisades and Steamboat.
Make S'mores at a Fire
Whether you find a fire pit or a fireplace at your hotel or ski village, nobody can turn down s’mores. You can often buy s’mores kits on site for a premium. But you can also pick up some supplies at a nearby grocery store to get more for your money … but don’t forget the skewers. Northstar hands out free pre-made s’mores in the village at 3:30 p.m., but there is nothing like making your own. To top that, Beaver Creek hosts Cookie Time every day at 3 p.m., where chefs supply guests with trays of fresh, warm cookies. They also offer cocoa every day at 9:30 a.m. at the top of the Centennial Express Lift. Have some cocoa and some fresh corduroy groomed runs to start your day off right.
Be a Winner at Game Nights and Theme Nights
Some resorts and lodges offer themed nights and game night or even carnivals or play times. Be sure to check the itinerary at your hotel and ski resort so you don’t miss out. For example, Friday nights at Aspen Snowmass honor Ullr, the Norse God of snow, with a winter wonderland party at Elk Camp with a bonfire, tubing, snow slide, ice skating and snow bikes, plus guided snowshoe tours. They also have free daily kids programs from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. so that the fun continues after they have detached themselves from their skis or board. Beaver Creek offers disco nights, carnivals, story times and other family-friendly entertainment.
Snuggle Together During Sleigh Rides and Dogsled Rides
Taking a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh or one pulled by dogs is a fun treat for the whole family. Plus it involves very little work on your part. Cuddle up together under a warm blanket and enjoy the ride. You can find dogsled rides at Palisades Tahoe and Breckenridge and horse-drawn sleigh rides at Park City. Keystone offers both dinner and scenic sleigh rides. Beaver Creek offers open-air sleigh rides to dinner in an on-mountain cabin, complete with fireworks views on Thursday nights. You can find dogsled and sleigh rides near Heavenly as well.
Take a Snowcat to Dinner
At Aspen Snowmass or Beaver Creek you can ride a Snowcat up the mountain for a family-friendly dinner on the mountain. The kids will love the ride. Foodies will love the unique dinner.
Enjoy Museums and Nature Centers
Many ski areas offer museums, from the Heber Valley Railroad Museum near Park City to the Alf Engen Ski Museum in Park City to the Olympic Museum at Palisades Tahoe. Vail is home to the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum Hall of Fame in the village.
It also has a Nature Discovery Center filled with fun exhibits at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Breckenridge boasts both a mountaintop children’s museum and an underground gold mine tour.
Get Festive at Holiday Events
If you are traveling over a holiday period, be sure to inquire about holiday entertainment, like skiing with Santa, New Years Eve fireworks/parties, or even egg hunts in the spring. Don your beads for Mardi Gras in Breckenridge.
Parades and Fireworks
These types of shows shows aren’t reserved just for theme parks. Keystone has a parade that runs through the village on Saturdays, followed by a free fireworks display every Saturday night of the season. Beaver Creek provides fireworks on Thursday nights.
If your froglet has had enough skiing and needs some craft time you may be able to find some more sedentary activities. Park City has a Color Me Mine location, and the Villager Candle Shop in the Village at Northstar offers candle making or pottery painting for crafty kids and adults.
Go Fly Fishing
You might be surprised to learn that fly fishing can be done in any season at Keystone or Breckenridge. You can go fishing in the Lake Tahoe area as well.
Explore Other Activities
It seems that there is no limit to off-mountain activities or family entertainment. Beaver Creek has special programming for teens (ages 13 to 17), with trick classes in the Anti-Gravity Center and twilight snowshoe, pool, and pizza parties. You might think of horseback riding as a warmer weather activity, but near Steamboat you can take a winter horseback ride, followed up with hot chocolate and fresh cookies. At Breckenridge you can take hot air balloon ride in both winter and summer or get out of the cold while work your brain to get out of an escape room.
No matter what your froglets are into, you are sure to find more family fun beyond the ski slopes at any family-friendly ski resort. What is your favorite fun family activity off the slopes? Share it in the comments below!
If you need help in planning and saving money, we are hopping into ski vacation planning to assist you along the way. You can book ski hotels and Epic Passes and Ikon Passes through Undercover Tourist. Now that you have a sense of what kinds of fun activities are offered at various ski resorts, you can consult our handy ski resort decision matrix to learn more about top ski resorts and all they have to offer both on and off the mountain.
Family Ski Vacation Planning
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