This Colorado Ski Town Turned Out to Be the Best Multi-generational Trip My Family Ever Took
My family tree has a lot of branches. Through marriages, divorces, children, grandchildren, deaths, and remarriages, we range in ages and interests from Sesame Street to CNBC. Miraculously, we all seem to get along well enough to travel, but finding somewhere with something for everyone is about as simple as deciding on pizza toppings. Especially in the winter.
But when we opted to travel together to Snowmass, the appropriately-named sprawling ski village just outside Aspen, everything just clicked. Whether we skied, snowboarded, or sat in the lounge sipping bourbon, everyone came back at the end of the day loving whatever they'd done.
The snow terrain is varied, with runs for all levels, and activities in the area run the gamut from an art collective to a bowling alley to a swanky rooftop lounge. While it wasn't the cheapest vacation we ever took, we were able to give everyone a good time. And having a trip with no sullen teenagers or crotchety old people was definitely worth the price.
Kids and teens will stay about as entertained as they can be
Young teenagers might be the hardest demographic to please. Because even if you took them to see an erupting volcano with Haley's Comet streaming behind it, the most rousing endorsement they'd give is an apathetic "cool." And while I'd say my teenage nieces are far more friendly than your average brooding teen, their attention span still doesn't last much longer than a TikTok tutorial.
Snowmass worked nicely for them, as they were able to head out with the family in the morning, hitting some of the easier green and blue runs from the resort's base village. The Village Express and Elk Camp Gondola offer short rides to less-advanced terrain, meaning they were never stuck doing anything for too long.
Of course, after a couple of runs they needed other entertainment, and they found it at the top of Elk Camp. The gondola's terminus is home to a mountain roller coaster that ascends through the Aspens then screams its way to the bottom, winding through the forest. After 4 pm, they were able to post up at Snowmass Lanes at the Snowmass Mall, a bowling alley and lounge that's kid-friendly until 8:30 pm. Best of all, both the base village and Snowmass Mall – the resort's two amenity centers – had lift access. So as soon as they got bored, returning to the mountain was easy.
Parents can still have fun, with and without kids
My sister and her husband have two kids, about 8 and 6. So while they're old enough to not get us kicked out of nice restaurants, they're still not old enough to let loose on the slopes. But because Snowmass, like most ski resorts, has kids' lessons – many in groups – they could drop their kids for the morning and take on some big kid terrain.
Both my sister and brother-in-law were aggressive skiers, but gave up jumping cliffs when they realized broken legs make kid-wrangling impossible. Still, they were afforded enough time to ride some of the longer lifts like Sheer Bliss and Big Burn, then ski groomed blue runs like Dallas Freeway to the bottom. As the name might imply, it's big, wide, and fast.
Once the kids finished their mornings of wedge skiing, mom and dad corralled them to the ice skating rink at Snowmass Base Village, where we learned my 6-year-old nephew has a mysterious natural affinity for ice skating. Another afternoon, after my 8-year-old niece took a hard spill on the bunny hill, we made her boo-boos better with an afternoon dog sledding trip with Krabloonik Dog Sledding. Because nothing makes a kid forget about a bad day like a dog.
Some days, the kids were tired of skiing, but still hopped up on fruit snacks and Capri Suns. So my sister took them on the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies' free treks through the wilderness. While the kids frolicked among the snow-covered trees, she learned the area's ecology and ecosystems and went home with some newfound knowledge.
Though we ate most dinners in each other's condos, the Wednesday Night Chuckwagon Dinner was the biggest family hit of the week. The big, family-style feasts are served at the scenic Britt Cabin, accessible via either ski or snowcat. With kids, at night, opt for the latter. It adds a big, fun machine for them to ride in too.
Young, single people find excitement on the mountain, and in Aspen
My cousins from Oregon are firefighters and snowboard like they are driving into a burning forest with nothing but a truck and a hose. They spend their summers fighting blazes all over the west coast, and their winters matching that adrenaline on the slopes. Snowmass did not disappoint.
While the terrain wasn't quite as untamed as they sometimes venture into, they shot straight up to the top of the mountain and found what they were looking for. Cirque Headwall, the highest run on the mountain, gave them a rock-filled, high speed cliff experience to get the blood going. Up 4 Pizza, the pizza place just down the hill, gave them extra incentive to ride back up. They also spent a good amount of time at Hanging Valley, which offers runs with high speeds, thick trees, and cliffs dropping into powder fields.
Though they passed most of the days skiing, my cousins spent an equal amount of time après skiing at Sam's, a bar and restaurant at the top of the Village Express lift. I met them there for beers on a few occasions.
At night, we discovered a free bus that left from the Snowmass Village Mall straight into downtown Aspen. It took about half an hour, and a short walk from the Brush Creek Park and Ride where it dropped us we found the W Aspen. Its rooftop bar was the Aspen you picture in movies, where a cocktail-friendly hot tub backs up to a snow covered mountain that looks painted on the sky. Though the rooftop closes not long after sunset, the rest of Aspen keeps going. And though I headed back far earlier, my cousins told me they barely caught the last bus back to Snowmass at 2:30 am. They still beat me to breakfast in the morning.
Seniors who sit and seniors who ski still find excitement
Chuck is a perfectly nice guy. He joined our family later in life via a golden years romance, and though he's as jovial as Santa himself, he also believes that nothing good happens after 8 pm. His idea of a full day is watching the stock market open-to-close, pouring himself a bourbon, and calling it a night.
But while on vacation, his wife was able to pull him away from the ticker for a couple of hours to stroll through the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, where contemporary artists work and open their studios to the public. It's the closest thing to a contemporary art museum in Snowmass, but a far more interactive experience as you'll meet the people doing the work.
We never saw Chuck's face light up quite like it did when we walked into Limelight Hotel's bar, not far from the village rink. While my niece and nephew skated, he met a collection of over 50 whiskeys from around the world, with sports on TV and a menu of burgers and flatbreads. Long after the kids moved on to dinner, he stayed there the happiest we'd seen him.
Though Chuck didn't much care for skiing, his wife was still able to hit the cross-country trails around the resort, a far lower-impact endeavor than downhill but equally as heart-pounding. It got her the mountain winter fix she'd been looking for even if she couldn't do the trails she did 30 years ago. She also joined my sister and her kids on their nature treks, which are simple enough for older visitors too.
Condos keep everyone together, but far enough apart
Our family, much as we love each other, also loves our space. So we rented a series of condos at Crestwood, which had everything from one-room spots for my cousins to three-bedroom units for my sister and her kids. Different families hosted dinner every night, giving us quality time together after our days adventuring on our own. Snowmass also has an abundance of large homes available as vacation rentals, if you really love your togetherness.
We also tried to meet for lunch each day at The Stew Pot, Snowmass's oldest eatery where kids can mutilate grilled cheese sandwiches while grown ups refuel with hearty stews and craft beers. The restaurant also often has live music outside, which makes for a relaxing atmosphere if you're not ready to hit the slopes immediately post-meal.
Obviously we had our down time, and squabble as families do. My cousins missed a lot of meals, because there were other people they were trying to hang out with. My nieces disappeared a couple of times and didn't tell anyone where they were going. But this is the stuff that happens with families, at Snowmass or at home. And this vacation proved to be one where we all found our groove, whether it was speeding down a mountain or sitting on a couch.