Skiing and snowboarding are just the beginning at Keystone Resort. This Colorado mountain resort, 75 miles west of Denver, offers non-stop family fun, no matter the season. Our contributor Heidi Gollub had such a blast mountain biking at Keystone last July, she was thrilled to return with her three boys for a snow-filled adventure in March. The Keystone weather was crazy with 30 inches of fresh powder during their stay (there was 64″ in the first week of March), but they delighted in a scenic sleigh ride, ice skating, the world’s largest snow fort, night skiing, hearty meals, cozy fires, pop-up concerts, fireworks, and more. It was an epic family trip they will not soon forget.
*Heidi and her family were guests of Keystone Resort for the purposes of this review. As always, opinions are 100% our own.
Winter in Keystone Colorado
There are relaxing, low-key holidays, and then there are full-on, exhilarating family adventures. In my experience, the best stories come from the latter. I have three boys—ages 10, 12, and 16—and their idea of vacation is certainly not relaxing. They prefer hopping out of hot tubs to make snow angels, sword fighting with oversized icicles, and skiing clumsily over moguls in the woods (gleefully crashing into trees and each other). These are the kind of wild memories that come from a trip to the mountains in March. And this is why my boys loved every minute of our recent trip to Keystone Resort.
Winter Fun at Keystone Resort
As Texans, we get giddy for snow. Give us a few big, fat flakes from the sky and we turn into crazy people, racing to make snowballs and snowmen. Even as an adult, it’s all I can do to not stick my tongue out in the hopes of catching a flake or two. So, imagine our delight when our first night at Keystone Resort we got a full foot of fresh snow while we slept, blanketing everything in sight. The boys and I threw our ski gear on so fast and were out the door by 8 a.m., ready to play.
Group Ski Lessons at Keystone Resort
After a quick breakfast at Inxpot in Keystone’s River Run Village, my boys were off to enjoy a full day of Keystone ski school. They had only been skiing once before, but what they lack in experience, they make up for in enthusiasm. Seven hours of practice drills on the slopes was a dream come true for them. The classes were small, they got to ski a variety of easy trails, and even had a nice mountaintop lunch in the middle. By the end of the day, my boys had all advanced to level four, and were eager for more.
Private Ski Lessons for Families
On our second day, we grabbed a delicious hot breakfast at Blue Moon Café, and checked in for a six-hour private family lesson. Our instructor, Elle Wellman, kept us entertained and engaged all day. A four-year veteran of Keystone Resort, she knows every inch of every trail and was able to tailor each run for our family. She offered encouragement and personalized instruction for each section of the trail, keeping us all focused and together (no small feat with three boys!).
I enjoyed her creative tips, like “imagine you are skiing around the belly of a pig and have to make a nice, wide circle to get around him.” They were always helpful and fun. Then, on our trips back up the mountain, she chatted cheerily and challenged us to solve a tricky riddle (we never did solve it on our own, but it sure was fun trying).
Après Ski at Keystone Resort with kids
You’d think a full day of skiing would exhaust children. And, you’d be right. But, that didn’t stop mine from begging to keep playing until after dark. My boys were not about to rest when there was more winter fun to be had. Snow forts, hot tubs, and a sleigh ride awaited!
Kidtopia Snow Fort
First on the kids’ après ski agenda: the world’s largest snow fort. We hopped aboard Keystone’s scenic gondola—sans skis—and were whisked up 2,307 vertical feet to the top of Dercum Mountain. Here we found an impressive winter wonderland with snow carvings, towers, tunnels, slopes and slides. The boys scampered up ropes inside the snowy ramparts and chased each other down hills (begging me to film them every time). The fort captured our imagination, making us wish that we too could create snow kingdoms.
Next to the fort, there’s a multi-lane snow tubing hill. We tried this during our summer visit to Keystone and loved it. Tubes fly down the snowy lanes much faster than we were expecting, and a Caterpillar brings you back to the top. So, the whole experience is all fun, no work. Just hop in, ask for a spin, and soar down the slopes!
After racing around the mountaintop, we headed back down to River Run Village for a family parade. We had timed our visit to coincide with the the free Kidtopia Music Experience, so there were lots of special events happening during our stay. In addition to the parade, we enjoyed a dance party, a brass concert by the playground, cookies, and fireworks. If we had had more time, we definitely would have tried even more of the free Kidtopia events, including Family Snowshoeing 101, Super Snowy Science, Winter Movie Matinee, and a Milkshake Social.
Hot Tubs in River Run Village
We had just enough time after the parade to visit Expedition Station’s heated pool and hot tub before dinner. It was exhilarating to walk barefoot through snow to get to the steamy water. A hot soak felt wonderful on my tired muscles. And the snowy scenery was the icing on the cake. The boys, of course, hopped in and out, not relaxing at all.
Delectable Dining at Keystone Resort
Post-hot tub, we bundled up again and headed out for some fine dining. In fact, both nights, we had incredible meals in Keystone Resort. There is no greater reward after a day of exercise than a delicious dinner.
Ski Tip Lodge
Ski Tip Lodge is housed in an 1800s stagecoach stop that was once home to Keystone’s founders, Max and Edna Dercum. The sleepy, snow-capped cabin has been transformed into a bed and breakfast with a cozy restaurant. Here, we enjoyed a relaxing evening with a four-course meal and dessert by the fire. I had a glass of fine Argentinian wine, which came complete with table-side decanting and a tale of the vineyard told by our charming sommelier. It was like dining in the woods with a personal chef and an attentive wait staff. Even my energetic boys settled in to enjoy a calm, quiet meal. They loved the steak (evidenced by the fact that the 10-year-old ate almost all of mine) and the dessert (he asked for seconds).
Sleigh Ride Dinner
Our final evening in Keystone, we took a horse-drawn sleigh ride through Soda Creek Valley. Gazing up at the stars, bundled under blankets, we listened as our guide talked about the stables’ draught horses and the original Keystone homestead.
The sleigh took us to a remote cabin on land that the National Forest Service has designated as elk habitat. During migration season up to 200 elk pass through this area. Other animals that you might see from the sleigh include moose, foxes, coyotes, and bears. We didn’t see any animals on our tour, but it was a cold night. Lucky for us, there was hot chocolate, soup, and warm biscuits waiting on our table at the cabin. We warmed up quick, and courses continued to arrive on skillet shaped plates, filling us to the brim. Then, it was back on the sleigh for another ride!
Kids Stay Free at Keystone Resort
We loved our second visit to Keystone Resort, just as much as the first. Both times our Keystone lodging was at River Run Village. Our convenient Expedition Station accommodation was a spacious two-bedroom, three-bathroom condo with three beds and a sofa-bed. There was plenty of room for the four of us, with a full kitchen, dining room, and living room. Plus, there was a washer and dryer. Other perks were a free ski locker on the main floor, and the convenience of being walking distance from restaurants and ski lifts. River Run Village also offers designated free family parking and complimentary red wagons for toting ski gear (and kids).
Play for Free at Keystone Resort
But the very best reason to stay at Keystone is that kids ski free! Children age 12 and younger ski and ride free at Keystone Resort for the duration of any stay of two or more nights booked through the resort. The resort also offers “Play for Free” coupons to guests. These include Free Friday First Tracks (gondola access from 7:30-7:45 a.m.), free yoga or fitness class, free hour of tennis, free night skiing, free ice skating admission, and free nordic center access. These coupons, in addition to the free Kidtopia events, give you plenty of options for budget-friendly entertainment during your stay.
My kids can’t wait to plan our next ski vacation—this trip to Keystone Resort was so magical. On our last day, I asked my 16-year-old if next year he might like to try a different ski resort. He said, “Why? I love Keystone. Let’s just keep coming here.”