Family Vacations to Aspen

Marie Waine
18th September 2017

Why Go?

A great place any time of year, the hip Colorado mountain town of Aspen has long been a magnet for celebrities. The four ski areas offer something for everyone, no matter your skill level. Aspen Mountain looms over the quaint streets of the city and you can almost ski into the shops. Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands are opposite each other on the edge of town. Buttermilk is almost entirely populated by young novices while Aspen Highlands is the haunt of experts. Snowmass, farther afield but still served by free bus, is a mammoth resort for all the family. Each area offers fabulous snow and are all served up with sheer style.

The Skiing

There is truly something for everyone. Buttermilk is rated one of the best places in the country to learn to ski, featuring 21 miles of runs in a safe, rolling, tree-lined environment. It’s also a place for excitement in its terrain park, where the high-adrenaline X Games has its home each January.

Aspen Mountain isn’t for those new to skis, as there’s not a single beginner run, but it’s a place to progress, or at least so you can enjoy the dizzying run with the checkerboard streetscape at your feet. Highlands has some easy terrain but is noted for the fact that more than a third of its slopes are double black diamond.

If the children are decent skiers, tire them out with the 30-minute hike up to the off-piste of Highlands Bowl. Snowmass, were it not part of the Aspen family, would be a major resort in itself, with 150 miles of runs for all levels.

The Resort

Aspen is a full-on place to stay whether you’re hitting the slopes or not, featuring a cute Victorian setting filled with high-end stores and fabulous restaurants. There’s also plenty for happy families, with good value places to eat, the latest movies at the Isis, concerts and other shows at the ornate Wheeler Opera House, pools and waterslides at Aspen Rec and much more.

If the family is tired of skiing but still wants to enjoy the outdoors, try snowshoe tours, balloon rides, dinner adventures by Snowcat and street entertainment. The slope side five-star Little Nell is the ultimate place to stay with its open-air pool and family extras (robes for children), but there is all manner of accommodation, often in quiet streets a few minutes’ walk away. Snowmass is a centre in itself, a growing cluster of family-friendly hotels and condos with its own action and nightlife—you could spend a superb family holiday here without ever visiting Aspen itself.

Children’s Facilities

Buttermilk’s Hideout is a play, learning and mountain adventure for children aged two to four with gentle slope and magic carpet lift plus four interactive rooms. Those aged five and six meet here for their Grizzlies ski and snowboard lessons.

Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center in Snowmass offers non-ski childcare for those aged eight weeks to four years, as well as lessons for older youngsters. If staying in accommodation through the resort, children six and under get free lift passes while those seven to 12 get a free pass with rentals. Each Friday at Snowmass there’s a family party night at mountain-top Elk Camp with activities such as tubing, followed by s’mores around the bonfire. Due to open at Snowmass in summer 2018 is the Breathtaker mountain coaster, more than a mile-long twisting ride for the family.

Getting Around

Various companies offer shuttles from Denver International Airport. Parking’s tight in town and the free bus service between mountains, called the Power of Four, is so good that you don’t need a car; although if you do have one, you can drive down to Glenwood Springs to see the world’s biggest mineral hot springs pool.


Nick Dalton, a U.K.-based travel writer for newspapers, such as The Times, has visited nearly 90 U.S. ski resorts (and another 20 or so in Canada). When not skiing he’s also an expert on cruises, and his children, Georgia and Henry.

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