Nearly 12.6 million people hit the slopes last winter, and 26 percent of them were kids. To appeal to this active demographic (and wallet-wielding parents), this season, four Centennial State ski mountains are increasing their offerings for the pint-size set with more than $8 million in improvements.
Arapahoe Basin’s addition is an entirely new building: a 7,000-square-foot, $2.3 million partially solar-powered ski school, set to open in spring 2015. The fun starts at check-in, where A-Basin gamifies the process of nabbing height and weight for rental gear sizes. Kids three years old and up step on a scale, then compare their stats to those of wild animals found in the backcountry. Before being placed in groups based on ability and age, budding skiers can practice their skills on obstacles like mini balance boards and low walking beams.
Buttermilk Mountain (pictured) also has a new ski-school home base. Opening this month, the $5 million, fort-inspired Hideout not only aims to be the welcome mat for a day of lessons, but also a cozy place for kids to return to when they need a break from the hill. Inside the 7,500-square-foot Hideout, ski schoolers ages two-and-a-half to 12 years old are enrolled in lessons, snag rental gear, and meet up with their classes. Between trips up the mountain, the two- to four-year-old bunch will find warm, quiet places to rest in the Tent, a canvas-walled room with rock-shaped pillows and books (and, of course, watchful staff members). For Snack Pack–fueled skiers with energy to spare, there is the Lookout, a 25-foot-tall glass-enclosed climbing structure with a platform that overlooks Buttermilk’s base.
Not to be outdone by its neighbor, Snowmass’ Elk Camp offers a new $750,000 lift-served tubing hill with four lanes of easy riding down a 500-foot-long buffed track. It’s kids-only during the day (access to the tubing hill is included in all ski-school lessons), but throughout the season, the Ullr Nights celebrations welcome the entire family to take glee-filled, seated spins down the mountain.
Several hours south in Durango, Purgatory Mountain Resort boasts a new 2,700-square-foot area specifically designed for the smallest shredders. The Burton Riglet Park sets up three- to six-year-old boarders on specialized Burton snowboards with tethers on the noses. Tykes get the feeling of riding on snow as instructors control their directions and speeds. Once they’re comfortable, kids can tackle mini berms, rollers, and boxes. Halfpipe, here they come.