Thinking of Aspen often conjures up images of great skiing, fine dining, movie stars, Prada, Gucci and other high end shopping and fashion. But world class kids resort? Family friendly? I wouldn't have put these family oriented labels on the resort until after a terrific long weekend trying out the fantastic kids program at Snowmass resort, I am convinced! Snowmass may be the world's best family friendly skiing resort. Located just 15 minutes away from the town of Aspen itself, Snowmass Mountain is the largest of Aspen's four mountain resorts (Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass). In fact, Snowmass is one of the largest ski resorts in North America and is larger than its three sister mountains combined.
Aspen Ski Company's Kim Edwards tells me: "Snowmass is known for 2 things - the greatest selection of ski in ski out lodging, and the kids program at the Tree House".And therein lies the secret- 95% of the lodging is right on the Mountain. If you have ever tried to ski with a large family, you know the trials and tribulations of getting the little ones dressed up in their gear, packed into the car, carried from the parking lot and onto the lifts - only to find that Jr has left one glove back at the house, and his sister has left her goggles at breakfast. Everyone enjoys staying right on the mountain, but this is especially valuable for families. It means no shuttling back and forth. If a child gets cold or hungry, or has forgotten something, its just a quick path down the trail to the home or condo.
The next challenge for family skiing is trying to teach your kids to ski yourself. While this can often work, it is amazing how much better kids respond when among their peers in a well run - ski school. The complaints of "Mom, I'm tired", "Dad, I'm cold", "I want a cookie" often turn into focused attention on improving and impressing their peers in class - "I bet I can beat you to the chairlift", or "watch me do the S turns". We dropped our 3 and 4 year olds off at Snowass's new TreeHouse ski school facility each day of our vacation. They immediately joined age and skill-appropriate groups, spent half of the day on the runs with their teacher and half in the TreeHouse's indoor facility where they ate lunch, played with toys and watched movies. By the first night, they were telling us about their new friends and bragging about what level they were able to meet in their ski class.
The TreeHouse kids facility is one of the best that I have seen anywhere. Situated right in the Snowmass base village, it includes several age-specific indoor play areas. Our one-year-old worked on her walking skills and played for hours with the doll houses before retiring to a special nap area. The boys played in the indoor "treehouse" - a collection of rope bridges, swings and suspended platforms and perches, as well as several other toy rooms. Older kids get to visit the Treehouse's cabin in the woods, a wonderful camp-like setting right in the middle of the beginner area, where the classes stop for lunch and more play in between the ski lessons. A small NASTAR-like slalom course is set up right there, and the kids can watch their peers compete as they sit at the picnic tables in the woods eating their hot lunches.
The TreeHouse has programs for all ages of kids and all levels of skiing. They provide the kids with meals, naps, ski lessons and play - everything they need to have a wonderful adventure. Packages that include lift tickets and rental equipment save money and are also readily available. For my wife and I, knowing our kids were safe, secure and having fun allowed us the luxury of spending the days skiing together and exploring the rest of the Mountain. The skiing was great, the scenery was beautiful, and the food was terrific - make sure to try the fantastic BBQ at Sam's Smokehouse at the top of the Sam's Knob lift! Our conclusion: Snowmass is first class for families!