With nearly a hundred miles of bike and equestrian trails, gold-medal rafting and fishing rivers, an abundance of fresh and healthy restaurants that welcome the kiddos, and a brand-new Snowmass Village Base Area, we think Snowmass is a must for active families. If your idea of a good time involves adrenaline, exercise, and the great outdoors, read on for what to do, where to stay, and why you’ll want to put the coordinates of this Colorado town on your family travel bucket list, stat.
Snowmass Village in All Seasons
Snowmass Village is undeniably one of the best ski destinations in the world. But during warmer weather, visitors can take advantage of the wide open spaces—and incredible peaks—that make up Snowmass. Expect Farm-to-Table Tuesdays with live music, games, and locally-sourced fare at Elk Camp Restaurant, the Snowmass Rodeo on Wednesdays, an all-ages weekly free concert series on Thursdays, and family fun—think outdoor movies and games, as well as an artisan's market—Fridays on the Mall. And all of this comes after a full day of active fun for the entire family.
Insider Info: The Breathtaker Alpine Coaster runs during all seasons, and you can ride on repeat during the days and evenings. It's the perfect kidtainment (and let's be honest—adults love it, too) during Thursday Farm-to-Table evenings while parent's enjoy live music and local fare at leisure.
Snowmass Base Village
2019 is the first summer season of the $600 million Snowmass Base Village project. The Base Village Plaza—where you’ll find an ice rink during the winter and an open lawn for playing games, taking a community yoga class, or learning to slackline during warmer months—is home to the new Limelight Hotel, The Collective Snowmass (the Base Village’s new community center which—when completed in 2020—will have restaurants, a pub, and an epic new kids’ game room), and The Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center (a multi-level childcare facility that in the summer is home to Camp Aspen Snowmass, where kids ages 12 & under can try age-appropriate adventures, such as downhill biking, rock climbing, fishing, rafting, rocket building, mountainboarding, arts and crafts, hiking, overnight campouts, and ropes courses).
Insider Info: The Limelight Hotel's five-story indoor climbing wall is the tallest of its kind in Colorado, and it's open to the public. And for heaven's sake, whatever you do, don't miss the opportunity to grab a crepe from The Crepe Shack by Mawa's Kitchen, just off the village plaza.
Debuting last summer, the Lost Forest is accessible from Base Village Plaza by taking the Elk Camp Gondola, and includes a new Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, a Canopy Run Zipline Tour, a Treeline Trial Challenge Course and a Rugged Ascent Climbing Wall. Spend a morning, a day, or several days getting lost (and found) in the Lost Forest.
Insider Info: The Canopy Run Zipline includes eight ziplines and three sky bridges at heights of 90 feet in the forest canopy. The course is progressive, starting out easy and culminating in a 1,300-foot double-zipline that you can soar down with a pal.
Snowmass offers over 90 miles of some of Colorado’s best biking trails, including lift-served downhill and cross country trails, a Bike Park (sign them up for a clinic before turning the kiddos loose on the jumps, bumps, and slopes of this challenging park), the Snowmass Loop—28 miles of single track combining over 10 different trails, and over 40 miles of paved trail that runs along the nearby Roaring Fork River.
Insider Info: For an easy to moderate (mainly) downhill ride, bike from Snowmass to Woody Creek Tavern, a local gathering place where you can grab a burger or guac and relax among locals—and oftentimes, celebrities.
With only a ride up the Elk Camp Gondola and Elk Camp chairlift, families can find stunning views and plenty of trails for every level of hiker. Or, families can go on a free guided hike by Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), where they can learn about the nearby ice age discovery in Ziegler’s Reservoir, or about the wildflowers that bloom in meadows and forests.
Insider Info: Some of the most photographed peaks in North America—the Maroon Bells—are just a hop, skip, and jump away from Snowmass. And while warm weather means they're accessible via a bus tour, you can also hike the Summit Trail (trailhead located just beyond the Elk Camp Restaurant) to the top of Elk Camp, where you'll enjoy an unique perspective of the Maroon Bells.
Never flyfished? No problem. Colorado waterways around Snowmass are so abundant with fish, you'll be hard-pressed not to reel one in. Increase your chances (and enjoyment) by learning from a local guide, who will not only take you to the best fishing holes, but who can also keep your lines untangled and flies tied so that you can focus on your cast in the area's Gold Medal fly fishing waters.
Insider Info: Aspen Flyfishing can arrange float trips or bank trips for families, providing full- and half-day experiences with local, knowledgeable guides. They even offer a shorter version of their half-day wade trip for kids ages 10-14, and can take the younger ones to a stocked pond for an easier catch.
Snowmass Whitewater Rafting
Whether you’re looking for Class I or Class IV rapids, you’ll find them within a stone’s throw of Snowmass. Rafting can easily be arranged through Blazing Adventures, which is conveniently located in Snowmass, for expeditions to Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers.
Insider Info: Not sure you want to spend your time on the river in a boat? Try kayaking or Stand Up Paddle Boarding, instead, which can also be arranged through Blazing Adventures in Snowmass. Just remember, these are snow-melted rivers, and they are seriously cold!
Just a bike ride, walk, or a 5 minute drive from Snowmass Base Village is the Snowmass Rodeo, which happens every Wednesday evening in the summer. In addition to the bull riding, roping, and barrel racing you’ll see during the official rodeo, your kiddos can try their hand at the mechanical bull, bounce in the inflatable, meet the horses (and their cowboys and cowgirls), and practice roping their own steel steers. Dinner and drinks are available for purchase, and there’s a campfire sing-a-long following most rodeos in the summer.
Insider Info: For a comprehensive look at the Rodeo from a kids' perspective, click here.
When to Go
With some of the world’s best and most hassle-free skiing in the winter (did we mention that 95% of all lodging is ski-in/ ski-out or slopeside in Snowmass?), and warmer weather sunshine that outpaces the number of sunny days in California and Florida, there’s really no bad time to take the family to Snowmass. However, you can anchor a trip around one of Snowmass’ incredible festivals—from Yoga on the Mountain in July to Jazz Aspen Snowmass in September—to experience even more of the unique vibe that makes Snowmass a must. Check out the entire list of Snowmass festivals and events, here.
Insider Info: Yoga on the Mountain Festival, which sits squarely in the middle of summer, is just the right event to experience total-family wellness. Kids will love the silent disco, where you dance the night away with multiple channels of music to choose from on a headset.
Calling all picky eaters! Dining options in Snowmass are wide and deep, but they all have one thing in common: they're fresh. Don't miss duck wings at Sake, the veggie burger at Woody Creek Tavern, crepe pops at The Crepe Shack, roasted beets at Elk Camp Restaurant during Farm-to-Table Tuesdays, and guac at Venga Venga Cantina & Tequila Bar.
Inside Info: Head to Heritage Fire for a festival on the mountain of all things meat: charcuterie, barbecue, and butchered. Don't worry—the line-up also included heirloom vegetables on the table.
Where to Stay & How to Get There
If you’re in Snowmass, you can be assured that wherever you decide to stay will be convenient to everything you want to try, since Snowmass offers 95% ski-in, ski-out lodging (which translates in to 95% hike or bike-in, hike or bike-out lodging during the summer). The Crestwood is located slopeside in Snowmass Village and features a range of lodging just steps away from Snowmass Ski Area, while the new Limelight Snowmass Hotel boasts 99 hotel rooms (many are adjoining to make family travel incredibly easy), a restaurant, and a state-of-the-art climbing wall. For a full list of lodging options in Snowmass, click here.
Snowmass is located between four regional airports, including Aspen/Snowmass Airport (ASE)—just six miles from Snowmass, Eagle County Airport (EGE)—67 miles from Snowmass, Grand Junction Walker Field (GJT—116 miles from Snowmass, and Denver International Airport (DEN— 196 miles from Snowmass. Once you get to Snowmass, there’s a free bus service from Snowmass to Aspen and various points throughout the valley, a local shuttle service for activity areas in Snowmass Village, and miles (and miles) of paths and trails that make walking, running, or biking a breeze.
Note: This trip was paid for by Snowmass Village Tourism, but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.