For families who seek out the cold weather and snow, planning ski trips together can be costly. However, different ski areas can match varying family budgets. For example, Aspen/Snowmass and Ski Cooper can provide family-ski Colorado vacations on different ends of the spending spectrum.
At Aspen/Snowmass, families with more disposable income can take in a complete experience with lots of bells and whistles. Based around the tony town of Aspen, the immediate area includes four separate ski areas on an interchangeable lift ticket: Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass.
For families with children just learning to ski, Buttermilk is a good starting place that features a top-notch kids’ ski school. Now also known as the home of the X Games, the 470-acre ski area has long been the beginner’s mountain at Aspen. Tame green runs such as Larkspur and Westward Ho off the West Buttermilk Express high-speed quad build confidence.
In the Aspen/Snowmass lineup, Snowmass tends to be the other main draw for families. The impressive three-story, 25,000-square-foot Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center at the base serves as the family nerve center. The offerings include day-care for children as young as 8-weeks old. For ages 2 ½ to 4, the day can combine a ski lesson with indoor activities at the Treehouse.
Out of an immense 3,332 skiable acres, Snowmass’ best terrain gives families a nice step up in challenge from Buttermilk. The blue intermediate trails in the Elk Camp and Big Burn areas are prime spots for leisurely family cruising. With a name sure to draw snickers from any young boys in the family, Naked Lady is another classic intermediate Snowmass run.
Far from the boutiques of Aspen, Ski Cooper offers a very different ski experience that could be affordable for a wider range of families. An extravagant childcare center or even a high-speed quad is nowhere to be found at Ski Cooper. On the plus side, other skiers and snowboarders may also be tough to find. Located 10 miles north of Leadville, Colo., the entire 400-acre day area may draw 200-250 visitors on an average weekday. For perspective, the new mid-mountain Elk Camp restaurant at Snowmass can seat 300 people.
Also, given the manageable size and generally tame terrain, families can relax and sometimes feel like they rented out a whole mountain for the day. With adult lift-ticket window rates at just $47 (and even lower here on Liftopia), the private ski-mountain flavor seems like an amazing bargain.
“I just look at it as kind of a purist thing if you want to go skiing, enjoy it, afford it, and feel comfortable,” said Dan Torsell, president and general manager of Ski Cooper. “Especially a lot of our clientele likes to bring kids here and they end up at the bottom, because there is no place else to go. It’s just day-skiers. I guess my word is pure skiing, that’s what we do.”
Hero Image Photo Credit- Ski Cooper