Growing up, my family took annual ski vacations and I have the most wonderful memories of those trips.
Now that I have children of my own, we try to take at least one ski vacation each year and I hope that my children are making their own wonderful memories.
However, I have to say that deciding where to go is always tough. Let's face it, in this day and age, our kids are spoiled. They have instant entertainment at their fingertips and the online video kid "stars" stage elaborate excursions on a regular basis, forcing us parents to up our game.
Therefore, our annual destination has to be not only family-friendly but as special as possible. And, since I have one child who loves to ski and one who could take or leave it, a wide variety of skiing and non-skiing activities is a must.
Enter Colorado's Keystone Resort and their Kidtopia program. To say the Keystone program was a trip-saver is an understatement. With one child who didn't want to stop skiing and one little one who didn't want to go on the trip at all because he didn't feel like skiing that month (insert mom eye roll), Keystone's long, wide, family ski runs, the variety of activities, and super fun events planned just for kids saved our trip. It turned out that both of my kids had an absolute blast.
Keystone is known for being family-friendly and for its extensive and excellent terrain (it is the largest ski resort in Colorado's Summit County with more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain!) but it is Keystone's Kidtopia program that really sets it apart.
Keystone’s Kidtopia takes fun seriously, offering daily activities and experiences on and off the snow throughout the winter. The Kidtopia lineup is free and includes a slew of daily and weekly activities such as daily cookie time, a village parade and fireworks, family game nights, movie matinees, hands-on-learning and crafting activities, live interactive music fun, milkshake socials, meeting Keystone’s Ski Patrol rescue dogs, and more.
Kidtopia Headquarters also has toys and games from giant building bricks and foosball, to interactive activities and crafts. All are designed to keep your little ones and non-skiers entertained all day long. My children found the parade to be one of the highlights of our trip. It was well executed, delightfully festive, and ended with high fives from the instructors, a platter of cookies, and hugs from Ripperoo. Pure genius.
Kidtopia Special Event Series
As if the wide variety of Kidtopia activities every day of the week during ski season isn't cool enough, Keystone kicks it up a notch with their Kidtopia Signature Event Series. This series of events elevates the daily play of Kidtopia with three distinct events, the Kidtopia Spectacular, the Kidtopia Culinary Festival, and the Kidtopia Music Experience.
This season the Kidtopia Signature Event Series kicks off with the Kidtopia Holiday Spectacular Nov. 24 through Dec. 24. The Signature Event Series welcomes the holiday season with a mountaintop celebration and lighting ceremony of the world’s largest snow fort.
We had the opportunity to visit during the First Annual Kidtopia Culinary Festival last season and let me tell you, I could not have been more impressed. The event kicked off with a Carnival Bounce party complete with face painting, bounce houses, cookie decorating, and arts and crafts.
I couldn't believe the kids still had so much energy after a day of skiing, but they ran around the ballroom as if their pants were on fire while I sipped a glass of wine from a comfortable chair at our table.
I loved being able to sit back and watch them play with massive grins glued to their faces. The event ended with a view of the Keystone fireworks show, which we watched from the ballroom windows.
Equally, if not more impressive was the Cooking with Kids: Featuring Amber Kelley and Juliana Malfitano (as seen on Food Network) event.
The chefs demonstrated their signature dishes on stage and then stayed to meet and greet the kiddos. The event ended with a dinner comprised of their dishes, each of which was fabulous.
My children were thrilled that not only were they able to take home cute little recipe cards so that they could try to replicate these dishes at home, but they also had the opportunity to meet the chefs in person.
The events that comprised the Kidtopia Culinary Festival were unique and superbly executed with no detail overlooked. My only complaint is that we could not stay all week to attend each and every event planned during the Culinary Festival! This year's Culinary Festival is scheduled Feb. 8 to 15. Keystone has not released this year's schedule of events, but you can take a look at last season's lineup for an idea of what is in store.
The Kidtopia Music Experience is scheduled March 1 to 10 and marks the beginning of the spring skiing and snowboarding season with music-themed fun including the Snow Pants Dance Party with live outdoor music performances by popular family-friendly acts.
World's Largest Snow Fort
In addition to the Kitopia fun, Keystone offers family fun around every corner. Every winter Keystone erects what they claim is the World's Largest Snow Fort at the top of the mountain. Complete with castle walls and towers, climbing nets, and slides made of snow, skiing and non-skiing kids alike were completely wowed and thoroughly entertained at this super snow-filled playground.
Keystone's tubing area is insanely fun. It is, by far, the most incredible snow tubing setup I have ever seen. There are eight lanes, which means you can race your friends down and then take a magic carpet back to the top. My children and the friends they made during our trip had a great time zipping down the lanes over and over, laughing all the way.
Skiing and Snowboarding
While we had a blast participating in the Kidtopia activities and events, my daughter and I love to ski and snowboard, so we did not miss out on some much-needed time on the mountain.
We were fortunate enough to enjoy several perfect days of skiing on perfectly groomed trails.
One thing that we love about skiing at Keystone is the abundance of dedicated family runs. Our favorite is the Schoolmarm trail, which is nice and wide and crazy long at 3.5 miles. At Keystone, we definitely felt like we spent more time skiing and less time riding lifts.
And the best part about skiing in Keystone? Every day, all season long, kids 12 and younger ski for free when your family books two or more nights at any of the lodging options available through Keystone Resort.
Where to Stay
There are many places to stay in Keystone. We chose the Hyatt Place Keystone, which is newly remodeled and ideally situated. It's just a short walk to the mountain or a quick shuttle ride to the main village.
The hotel has a modern rustic charm. The rooms are lovely, modern, clean, and comfortable and offer spectacular views of the mountain.
What made this hotel stand out for my family was the little touches that make an active vacation with children and gear that much easier. The Hyatt Place offers generous ski lockers so visitors don't have to lug dripping gear to their rooms. There's also a complimentary hot breakfast served in a comfortable dining room surrounded by mountain views, along with a cozy bar overlooking the mountain. For the night owls or the early birds, there's a 24 hour Gallery Menu & Market serving perfectly packaged salads and sandwiches, or freshly-prepared meals anytime. There's also wonderful outdoor hot tubs with stunning views of the mountain -- a perfect way to end the day after a long day of skiing.
Where to Eat
While we had some incredible food at the Culinary Festival, we were happy to have the opportunity to savor a perfectly prepared meal surrounded by rustic elegance at the Keystone Ranch.
Set in an authentic 1930’s homestead with a wonderful centerpiece fireplace, Keystone Ranch offers an upscale, yet cozy dining experience while paying homage to the ranchers and farmers who helped settle the area. After dinner, diners may opt to enjoy dessert and coffee in the signature living room, overlooking the scenic Keystone Ranch golf course and surrounding Rocky Mountain beauty.
With all of the kid-driven activities, it is hard to think of a better place than Keystone for a vacation filled with winter fun for the entire family -- skiers and non-skiers alike. My children were unquestionably impressed and can't wait to visit Kidtopia and Ripperoo again very soon!
All opinions are those of the author. The author and her daughter were a guest of Keystone Resorts and lodging, events, meals, and activities were provided for the purpose of this review.