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Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Resort Colorado

by Mommy Frog on December 13, 2023

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If you are taking kids skiing, we have the perfect Colorado ski resort for you! One of the things we love most at Keystone is that kids 12 and under ski for free with select hotel stays. As frogtastic as this family-friendly, year-round resort is with all of its snow activities, it can feel overwhelming knowing exactly where to stay, which lessons to book and what off-mountain fun you can have at Keystone Resort Colorado. That’s where all the tips in this guide come in handy! Additionally, during the spring and fall, we sell the Epic Pass for Keystone and all the other Vail-owned resorts, which can save you even more money! Once they sell out in early December, you'll have to wait until the following spring to purchase.

Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Colorado - Frog Family on Balcony

Overview of Keystone Ski Resort

Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Resort Colorado - Family on mountain

Keystone, Colorado, is a great ski mountain for skiers of all abilities and levels. Founded in 1970 by Max Dercum, along with his wife Edna, Keystone Ski Resort today is owned and operated by Vail Resorts. That means it's included in the Epic Pass!

This particular ski resort offers something for everyone, even the non-skiers who join you on the trip. Keystone has family-friendly terrain for beginners, intermediate, groomed runs for skiers and boarders ready to refine their skills, and about half the terrain is advanced for experts. Plus, it offers a ton of family fun around the mountain including two Snow Forts! One is at the top of Dercum Mountain. The other is at the Mountain House base area. Kids can play while parents enjoy some après time at the Last Lift Bar.

This destination opens earlier than many other mountains — sometimes in October! It usually closes for the season in mid-April. In 2023, the resort opened for the season Nov. 1, 2023. Consider the best time to ski in Colorado when planning your trip. Join us in exploring this family-friendly ski destination so that you can plan an epic family ski vacation in Keystone. (Oh, and we frogs can save you a bundle on adult lift tickets and kid skiing when you combine with your ski hotel!)

Before we get into everything you need to know about skiing at Keystone, don't froget that Keystone Resort is a completely cashless resort! Your cash will not be accepted anywhere. Book and pay online or make sure you have credit and debit cards or Apple Pay set up to use there.

You'll also want to download the My Epic app. Mobile passes and lift tickets are on the app for hands-free skiing. You can also use the app for the interactive trail map, operational alerts, lift line status and to view your personal stats.

Now let's jump into the details so you can plan your epic ski trip to Keystone, Colorado. And you'll see why Keystone is one of our favorite family ski resorts near Denver.

Transportation and Parking Tips

If you are arriving by plane, two airports offer easy access. Keystone, Colorado, is located 98 miles (about an hour and a half drive) from the Denver airport and about 74 miles from the actual city of Denver. The Eagle Airport is about 73 miles away from Keystone. Chances are you will find greater availability and flexibility in flight schedules by flying in and out of Denver.

Many families rent a car and drive to Keystone. However, if you are nervous about driving in the snow or want to go carless, Denver has door-to-door airport shuttles. Providers between Denver Airport and Keystone include Epic Mountain Express (formerly Colorado Mountain Express) and Summit Express. If you have the Epic Pass, you can save 20 percent on Epic Mountain Express!

You can take advantage of free transportation around Keystone with various routes. The schedules vary throughout the season, so you can follow this transportation link to learn more. Here's the shuttle map. Guests of Keystone Lodge and Spa have access to a Toyota courtesy shuttle on select nights.

If you want to venture outside of Keystone, there is a free Summit Stage bus system. That gives you free access to anywhere else in Summit County, but you may need to transfer to different lines. That means travel could take a while. Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain are all on this system as well as Frisco. Some families may want a car to access other popular ski resorts in the area (including Vail and Beaver Creek). A car is helpful for trips to the grocery store or the Frisco Adventure Park.

Whether you choose to pick up a car rental at the airport and drive yourself or relax during the ride, you'll take Highway 70 W, then take exit 205 onto US-6 East toward Dillon. Turn left on W. Keystone Road and you are there!

If you are staying at a Keystone ski-in/ski-out location (or on the shuttle route), you don’t need to worry about parking to ski. But if you are staying off-site or at one of the other nearby popular Colorado ski resorts such as Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Vail or Beaver Creek, you’ll need to know where to park. (The nice part of having an Epic Pass is that you can take day trips to the other Vail-owned resorts!) Here's where to get the latest news on parking in Keystone. The link covers slopeside parking, shuttle parking lots and overflow lots as well as parking for lodging guests, the spa and Lakeside Village.

Keystone encourages guests to carpool to the resort — especially during weekends and holidays. Groups of four or more can enjoy closer family and carpool parking up front in the River Run and Mountain House East parking lots. Traffic can back up on the weekends, so travel during the week if you can.

Where to Stay at Keystone Resort

Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Resort Colorado - Kidtopia

We cannot discuss where to stay in Keystone Resort without mentioning the kids ski for free deals at select locations, so let's go over those. You can order your kids' ski for free tickets when you make your lodging reservation at any applicable Keystone resort or hotel. Book two or more nights to receive one day of free skiing for kids 12 and under, plus an additional day of free skiing for each additional room night booked. You'll need proof of age for those kids who are 11 or 12 (or look older than their age) so bring birth certificates or passports. You can save up to $502 per child! We love saving some green!

Here are the Keystone lodging locations that participate in Kids Ski Free:

Want to learn more about each location, such as whether it has a pool or kitchen or its distance from the slopes? We have a handy comparison chart. We frogs love having a kitchen to save money on dining. There's a City Market Grocery Store in Dillon and more shopping in Frisco.

Staying within walking distance of the ski resort or village is definitely a good way to save your sanity on a family ski trip, but sometimes you need a budget-saver to make it all possible. One thing is for certain: When booking a ski hotel, the best time to book a ski vacation is well in advance for the best price, location and selection.

Here are the main lodging areas and villages of Keystone (all accessible by free shuttle):

River Run Village

Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Resort Colorado - River Run wagon

This village is the center of the action and is close to lessons.

Mountain House

Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Resort Colorado-People around the fire at Mountain House

The original base is also close to lessons. It's a little more mellow than River Run.

Lakeside Village

Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Resort Colorado - Deck at Lakeside Village

This is close to fun activities but a little further from the lifts. You can check your skis near the River Run Gondola base so you don't have to bring them back and forth.

East Keystone

Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Resort Colorado - People walk into East Keystone

It's near River Run Village but is a bit more peaceful. It's where Keystone's founders used to live.

There are two other quiet areas: West Keystone (near the Keystone Ranch) and North Keystone (near the conference center).

Here's the link to book lodging at Keystone.

Keystone Resort Colorado Tickets

Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Resort Colorado - Kids

We frogs are always looking at ways to save money on a family ski trip. One of the best ways to save money on lift tickets when skiing at Keystone is to buy multi-day Epic Passes before the season or at least purchase lift tickets in advance. You can save $50 per day by bundling lift tickets with your hotel stay.

Undercover Tourist sells regional passes, and both the restricted Epic Pass and the unrestricted Epic Pass for Keystone and other family ski resorts! The Epic Passes for the 2023-2024 ski season (and 1-7 days limited, restricted and limited restricted passes) are available from spring to early December. Whether you are skiing Keystone (or other ski resorts) for one day, seven days or the whole season, you can find lift ticket deals that work for your plans through Undercover Tourist! Epic Pass holders get 20 percent off food, lodging, lessons and more. So get that pass and keep pulling it out for additional savings on your trip.

Once Epic Passes are off sale in early December, you still have ways to save on Keystone lift tickets. You can bundle them with your hotel purchase, but you have to purchase them all in the same transaction to get the savings. You can save about $50 per person per day! Whenever you purchase lift tickets, purchase at least seven days in advance for the best prices.

Here's a money-saving tip: When you book lodging, add in your rental car at the same time to unlock more savings. If you have a car and will be visiting several mountains, you can save money by staying off-site in Frisco and driving to the resorts each day.

Ski Lessons and Childcare at Keystone Resort

Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Resort Colorado - Frog Tadpoles in snow

You'll want to choose the most convenient lesson drop-off area for you since there are two drop-off areas. You might want to pick lessons near your lodging. If you aren't sure, you can call your resort to find out which lesson location is closest.

If you are arriving by car or bus for the day, it’s good to know where you booked your lessons. That way, you know where to park. Lesson meeting locations and child drop-off areas are at:

  • River Run: If your child already has their equipment proceed directly to the Left side of the River Run Gondola and check in under the Blue tent.
  • Mountain House: In front of Mountain House Kids Ski and Ride School in Mountain House village near the base of the Discovery Lift.

All lessons require that your tadpoles have a lift ticket or season pass. Your tadpoles need to collect their ski/snowboard equipment (including mandatory helmets) before heading to the lesson drop-off area. We recommend collecting equipment the day before if you can. If not, arrive an hour early to get equipment. Collect rentals at the River Run Kids Rental Office located in the River Run Village in the Silver Mill Building F3. You can also have your ski rentals delivered to your lodging, which can be much more convenient. We parents love anything that makes skiing easier for us. Book online to save up to 15 percent.

Arrive at the meeting location at least 30 minutes before the lesson start time. This will allow time for check-in, meeting the instructor and getting settled or questions answered. Lunch is included with child full-day group lessons but not private lessons. Send the ability to purchase lunch or make a lunch plan with the instructor.

You can book group or private lessons (for one to six people). Private lessons for several people in your party can be a great value if your whole family needs lessons at the same level. (Plus, you can all ski together.)

If someone in your party has disabilities or special needs, you might look into adaptive lessons through the Keystone Adaptive Center. The program is through the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC). It is located in the Mountain House base area near the bottom of the Peru Express lift. Lessons include one-on-one instruction and equipment. Call 800-453-5633 or email [email protected] for more information or to book adaptive lessons.

Book lessons at least 48 hours in advance to save money. Lunch is included in the price of the full-day child lessons. Lift tickets are needed for all lessons, including beginner lessons. Helmets are required for children 12 and under, and you can add on a helmet rental, as well.

Childcare at Keystone

If your tadpoles are too little to ski, there is childcare available at Keystone in the Silver Mill Building in River Run. Your tadpoles can play while you ski. The Keystone Children's Center watches children 6 weeks to 6 years of age. Parents must remain on Keystone Property while a child is in the center. This is an unlicensed vocational childcare facility that provides arts and crafts, indoor/outdoor play and fun age-appropriate activities.

The center is open in summer and winter. It offers full days and half days depending on availability. Operating hours are:

  • Summer Fridays through Sundays 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Winter Thursdays through Sundays, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Reserve at least two days in advance. The center may fill up quickly at peak times. You can reserve online. Call 970-496-4182 if inventory is showing as unavailable.

The Best Areas to Ski Keystone

Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Resort Colorado - Map of Keystone

Keystone Ski Resort is a large resort with over 3,000 skiable acres, three peaks, 139 trails and five bowls. It also has a terrain park and family ski trails. If you are looking to ski Keystone, you'll find something for every type of skier and snowboarder. You can enjoy the longest ski day in all of Colorado with night skiing and riding on select days (mostly holiday periods and select weekends).

Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Resort Colorado - Night skiing at Keystone

The green beginner trails make up 12 percent of the mountain. Blue intermediate trails are 39 percent of the mountain and black diamond advanced terrain makes up 49 percent of the terrain.

When you are looking at the trail map, you will see Dercum Mountain to the left. Peaking at 11,640 feet, Dercum Mountain offers long, groomed beginner slopes and rolling intermediate runs. This is a great family area, with the world's largest Snow Fort and tubing. You can enjoy a freestyle terrain park, a green family ski train in yellow and runs that can take you down to River Run Village or Mountain House. Summit House at the top offers breakfast, lunch, snacks and hot chocolate.

Behind Dercum, to the right on the map, is North Peak at 11,660. Timber Ridge offers food and restrooms at the top. Labonte's Smokehouse BBQ is at the bottom. North Peak offers more challenging terrain, including a long bump. But there is also a green-run family trail down.

All the way to the right on the map The Outback is the furthest peak. It is at 11,980 feet. Come here for powder and tree skiing. You'll encounter mostly difficult and intermediate terrain.

Behind those peaks, you have the bowls, with over 1,000 acres of high alpine terrain. Many of those pristine powder bowls may involve hiking, but we have hopping good news! In 2023-2024, there is a new lift, which opens up more areas to play in! The Bergman Bowl Expansion — accessible by a new Bergman Express 6-passenger, high-speed, detachable lift toward Keystone Peak — debuts in winter 2023-2024. It offers access to 16 new trails and an additional 550 acres of terrain in both Bergman and Erickson Bowls! You'll find intermediate and difficult terrain here, but there is a green run from Bergman Express back to North Peak. The hike is over (unless you want to venture even further for that untouched powder at Independence Mountain or Wapiti Peak).

Where to Eat in Keystone Resort Colorado

Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Resort Colorado - Family eats fondue

Keystone offers all kinds of dining. Remember to pull out your Epic Pass to save 20 percent on food at select locations.

On-mountain dining choices include:

  • Sumit House at the top of Dercum Mountain for a quick breakfast, lunch and hot chocolate while you play in the Snow Fort and post-tubing.
  • Timber Ridge Lodge at the top of North Peak, where you can get pizza or street tacos at this newly renovated quick-service location.
  • Labonte's Smokehouse BBQ at the bottom of Santiago Express and Ruby, below North Peak. This outdoor ski beach has smoked BBQ, brews and more fun in the sun.
  • The Outpost Lodge is a cafeteria during the day but is Der Fondue Chessel, a fondue restaurant with a polka band, at night.

Mountain House Base Area:

  • Go Big Burger is at the base of the Peru Chair at Mountain House Day Lodge.
  • Last Lift Bar is where you can après all day at Mountain House.
  • Mountain House base dining is the OG base area that serves breakfast, lunch and coffee.

River Run Village:

  • 9280' Tap House is a full-service ramen and rice bowl that also hoppens to be a great place to watch a game.
  • Lakeside Deli is a place for morning coffee, grab-and-go options as well as made-to-order sandwiches.
  • Ski Tip Lodge was once an 1800s stagecoach stop. Then it became the family home of Keystone Resort's founder. Today, the Lodge is a quaint B&B as well as one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country, offering a reservation-only, four-course dining experience.
  • Montezuma Roadhouse has a fresh, modern menu.
  • Steep Brewery & Coffee Co. is good for après.

West Keystone:

  • The Ranch offers a memorable Colorado dining experience in rustic elegance. Reserve online.

Lakeside Village:

  • Bighorn Lounge offers a full dinner menu in a casual setting with beautiful lake and mountain views.
  • Tenderfoot Lounge is a cozy spot to get a bit or drink with friends.

Adventure Center

  • Sleighride Dinner Dining Experience: Go dashing through the snow to a charming homestead in Soda Creek Valley. Upon arrival, you’ll enjoy a hearty meal. This true Wild West experience has wranglers sharing stories of yesteryear and the area’s earliest settlers.

On the mountain, you’ll find lodge dining. While the food is tasty enough, the prices have us wishing we had stowed a sandwich in a pocket that day. Note to self: Next time drink the free water instead of buying a bottle. If you have access to a kitchen, make your own meals. You can make a pot of chili and feed your family for two days for much less than one person’s lunch at a ski lodge. And you can always order a pizza from Pizza 101.

Bars

  • Keystone Warren Station
  • The Goat
  • Snake River Saloon

What Not to Miss in Keystone Ski Resort

Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Resort Colorado - Women tube

Keystone is a winter wonderland. You can go night skiing, mountain-top snow tubing and play in the world's largest mountaintop Snow Fort! There's also a snow fort at the Mountain House base area. Kids can play while parents enjoy some après time and a live DJ (select days throughout the spring) at the Last Lift Bar.

There are two places to ice skate — at Dercum Square and Lakeside Village. Even nonskiers can take a scenic gondola ride to take in the breathtaking views from the top of Dercum Mountain. Go KAT skiing or on a Mountaintop Family Adventure Tour! The tadpoles may enjoy the playground at River Run.

Family Insider’s Guide to Keystone Resort Colorado - Ice skating at Lakeside Village

Go dashing through the snow on a Stables Sleigh Ride from Lakeside Village. Or visit the spa and salon for some pampering. It's a perfect resort for families who want to ski just as much as they want to play in the snow. Be sure to check the events schedule to find all the fun hoppenings at Keystone. And they are not just for kids. Adults, or what we like to call kids at heart, have plenty of entertainment too!

If you want to give some other winter sports a chance, head to the Keystone Nordic Center. It has over 17 kilometers of groomed trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or skate skiing. You have access to 40 kilometers of backcountry trails. It's located off Hwy 6 at:

155 River Course Drive

Keystone, CO 80435

The Frisco Adventure Park and Frisco Nordic Center are about 10 miles from Keystone. It also offers tubing, sleigh rides, sledding and cross-country skiing. If you want to go snowmobiling, Good Times Adventures in Breckenridge offers a Ride the Divide snowmobile tour with jaw-dropping scenery.

What About the Altitude at Keystone, Colorado?

Keystone’s base elevation is 9,280 feet, which is almost double the elevation of Denver, the Mile-High City. Keystone's peak elevation reaches 12,200 feet. It's just a few hundred feet lower than nearby Breckenridge, which is known for its high elevation.

Some people have a hard time adjusting to the altitude at Keystone and can develop altitude sickness. If you live in a low-altitude area and are planning to visit Keystone, you need to take steps to prevent altitude sickness. Altitude sickness symptoms include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • difficulty breathing
  • coughing
  • diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • restless sleep

If your symptoms persist, you’ll need to seek medical attention. Hop over to our hopful post on how to prevent altitude sickness, and follow these tips to prepare yourself for altitude:

  • Begin your journey well-hydrated (start drinking water before your trip)
  • Continue to stay hydrated with water and electrolytes throughout the trip
  • Allow time to gradually acclimate to the altitude (stop in Denver for a night)
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco and salty foods
  • Eat frequent meals. Carbohydrates help get you used to altitude
  • Get plenty of oxygen (you can rent it)
  • Keep the room cool. Lower thermostat to under 68 when you sleep (avoid high heat)
  • Get plenty of rest — don’t overdo it
  • Bring ibuprofen or acetaminophen with you in case of headaches
  • Do not use sleeping pills, which can suppress breathing

If you are flying in, give yourself time to acclimate after landing by staying under 7,000 feet for the first day. You can fly into Denver and stay the night at a hotel near the Denver area. Denver is at 5,280 feet. Then, take the drive out towards Keystone the next day. A good night’s rest and taking time to acclimate to the altitude should ease you into it. Be sure to take time to rest during your trip. If you begin to experience signs of altitude sickness, increase your water intake. Try to get to a lower elevation if possible. You can order oxygen delivered to your resort. Supplemental oxygen can help alleviate symptoms!

Keystone offers something for skiers of all kinds! What are some of your favorite activities at Keystone Resort? Let us know in the comments below. If you are looking for Epic Passes, ski hotels (including stays with kids ski for free deals!) or rental cars, we can help. Check out our ski trip deals and discounts.

Related: Best Ways to Save on a Colorado Ski Trip

Related: All the Details of the Upcoming Ski Epic Pass

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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