Steamboat vs. Keystone – Comparing Two Kids Ski Free Resorts

Skiing is a sport where the costs can rack up… fast. This is especially true when you have four kids in tow. Lift tickets alone are often $125/day per child. That’s $600… before even putting on a ski! Then there’s lunches, ski rentals, and lodging. For the last five years, we’ve been taking the skis skiing out West, but only at places that offer Kids Ski Free deals.  I start hunting for Kids Ski Free deals towards the end of summer, as resorts change their offers from year to year. We discovered Steamboat 5 years ago thanks to their kids ski free benefit. Then this year, when they required a 5 day adult lift ticket to “free” kids lift ticket, we moved to Keystone.

2015/2016 Kids Ski Free Mountains: (these change yearly and are announced in early Fall)

  • Arapahoe Basin (2 days of free kid skiing)
  • Aspen-Snowmass (free kids’ lift ticket with each day of ski rentals sign up by 1/31)
  • Steamboat (Kids ski free with a 5 day adult ticket purchase)
  • Keystone (Kids ski free with a 2 day adult ticket purchase)

skisLet’s face it, skiing with kids is a labor of love. There’s so much gear to schlep. So much encouragement to be doled out. So many tears to dry. It’s all worth it when you finally reach that day when you all glide easily down a sun lit slope, broad smiles on everyone’s faces. But that day takes WORK. Years of work. But I promise you, that day is pure magic. This year, Jack and I snuck out for an afternoon in the trees. We were both a little scared… but made it down in one piece, thrilled by our time together and our mad ski skills.

Jack TreesWhen we began to take the kids skiing out west, I had only one goal in mind. No yelling. I wanted our family ski vacations to be guilt free. I love to ski. It’s what brought my husband and I together. I didn’t want my passion for skiing to be altered by welcoming the kids into it. That’s why finding kids ski free mountains was so important. Free lift tickets means no second thoughts when the kids want to stop skiing and go to a babysitter. No money paid, means to regrets, no yelling, no crying.

Steve and Sophie skiingI wish I could give you some thoughts about ski schools, but we’ve taught the kids to ski, supplementing with a private family lesson here and there. It saves us money and make a great thigh work out. Steve and I are both confident skiers, and all the kids have spent a couple of years working on their pizza and french fries between our legs. We take the beginner skiers out for a few hours in the morning and then hand them off to a sitter we have booked for the day. Older kids can also go to the sitter, whenever they’ve had enough. No pressure. They’re skiing for free! Whoever stays after lunch has to be ready for anything. Blues, blacks… no holding back in the afternoon. We like to bill it as aspirational, but it’s really pure selfishness. A full day of greens gets boring!

Babysitting Services We Have Used:

jack and bella skiingFor the past five years, we have skied at Steamboat because of their generous Kids Ski Free Program. Steamboat is a fantastic mountain. Tons of beginner slopes and lots of more advanced terrain for our strong skier afternoons. We fly directly to Steamboat Springs and take the shuttle to the hotel. No need for a car in Steamboat. The hotel shuttle can get you to town where there are tons of fun restaurants to choose from. The supermarket is also conveniently reached with the hotel shuttle and very well stocked. Steamboat feels like a true Colorado town, and along with its hot springs, has many other attractions beyond just skiing.

Druckman kids skiingThis spring, we decided to try a different mountain and headed to Keystone which also has a Kids Ski Free program. The mountain was also huge and in three days we still had many trails we had not skied. Because it’s located less than two hours from Denver, the resort filled with day trippers on the weekend, and the dining options were very limited. The price of food was astronomical, and the staff was not nearly as friendly as at Steamboat. The dining options were very limited as there isn’t a big town. Although we enjoyed exploring a different mountain, we probably won’t return to Keystone.

Next year, we hope to take advantage of the Epic Pass to ski more and get in a trip to Vail and a trip to Breckenridge. Vail Resorts has purchased local Chicago mountain Wilmot and is now included in the Epic pass unlimited skiing. That makes the epic pass much more attractive to Chicago residents! Adults are $609 and kids are $319. The pass includes unlimited skiing and boarding at Breckenridge, Keystone, Wilmot, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton and Arapahoe Basin and has some holiday blackouts at Park City, Heavenly, Northstar & Kirkwood. Also includes a total of 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek. Another option (around the same price) is the Epic 7 day pass that gives you 7 days without date restrictions at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, and Arapahoe Basin AND 7 days at Wilmot.

Sounds like a nice flexible way to make sure to get more skiing in 2016/2017!

Leave a reply