Photo: Daniel Bayer/Courtesy of Aspen Snowmass

These Colorado Ski Resorts Will Be the Highlight of Your Family Summer Road Trip

Colorado Road Trips Outdoor Family Travel
by Tim Wenger Jul 17, 2020

Colorado’s ski resorts are the darling of winter in the Centennial State, bringing in more than seven million visitors annually. But many of these ski resorts are equally fun in summer, especially when traveling with the family. Recent years have seen them outdo themselves, with crazy attractions even beyond the usual alpine slide, hiking trails, and zip lining courses. If Colorado is on your family’s road trip itinerary this summer, a visit to one (or more) of these mountain resorts will make for a memorable trip.

The bike park and Lost Forest — Snowmass

Photo: Daniel Bayer/Courtesy of Aspen Snowmass

What sets the Snowmass Bike Park apart is the sheer variety of trails: 11 downhill plus an entire system of cross-country trails. On the lower part of the mountain, easier trails like Verde flow past slightly more difficult options like Viking and Valkyrie, allowing riders to hop between trails as they choose rather than having to commit to one trail for the entire top-to-bottom journey. The lower portion is served by the Elk Camp Gondola, which allows riders to bring their bikes inside the car with them, while the upper portion is accessed via the Elk Camp Chair. Work yourself up to French Press, which runs top to bottom from the Elk Camp Chair. To get crazy, channel your inner Hunter S. Thompson and let loose on the Gonzo trail — just be ready for terrain features not found anywhere else.

Also at Snowmass, check out the Lost Forest. Here you’ll find ropes courses and a climbing wall, along with an alpine coaster and kid-friendly bike trails. Many ski resorts have similar offerings in the summer, but Snowmass brings them all together into one on-mountain adventure park that’s big and diverse enough to keep the family occupied for an entire afternoon or longer.

The Hammerhead off-road race track — Purgatory (Durango)

Some summer vacations involve bumper cars, go-karts, or 4x4s. Purgatory, known to locals simply as “Purg,” hosts an off-road track that combines the best of each. Hammerhead, as the track is called, is a high-altitude, high-speed dirt moto racecourse distinct enough that the resort repurposes one of its main winter parking lots for its action each summer. Hammerhead is designed for kids and is a unique way to ensure they have stories to tell from the on-mountain day. Meanwhile, older teenagers and other family members can tackle the bike park, disc golf course, or alpine slide.

The legendary Alpine Slide — Winter Park

Photo: Winter Park Resort/Facebook

For nearly 50 years, the alpine slide tracks of Heritage Square amusement park in Golden towered over western Denver like a sort of adventure beacon. They were long, steep, and famously grueling, at least as far as family-centric rides go. When the alpine slide closed for good in 2015, Winter Park took the reins as the only destination-worthy alpine slide in Colorado. It’s 3,000 feet long and has both quick drops and tight turns, and the dueling tracks mean you have to do at least two laps to get the full experience. Best of all, though, is that Winter Park still embraces the two factors that have always made alpine slides awesome. The first is being able to race your sibling, partner, or that relative who never quite grew up. The second is the fact that the rider actually has to maneuver their craft safely to the bottom. Hit a turn going too fast and what was a casual cruise becomes a real-life Mario Kart experience.

Woodward Copper — Copper Mountain

Photo: Woodward Copper/Facebook

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you can’t ski or snowboard. Woodward at Copper is an indoor ski and snowboard training facility that operates year-round at the resort. Both indoor and outdoor facilities are available for use. Also on offer are BMX and skate parks, and lessons so you can hone those on-mountain skills for the coming winter. Woodward at Copper is among the most unique stops along I-70 because it gives your family the chance to participate in these activities at their ability level, or sit back and watch the mountain’s top athletes hone their skills for competitions. Practice at the facilities either on the mountain or in the “barn” located in the base village. Either way, book in advance for an engaging and fun way to spend an afternoon.

The Mineshaft Maze — Breckenridge

Photo: Breckenridge Ski Resort/Facebook

Breckenridge has long been home to an epic human maze. But what was formerly a concoction of basic wooden walls and an elevated vantage point for advanced route scouting is now the state’s best and likely most challenging maze, known as the Mineshaft. Users can take a leisurely excursion through its corridors or race the clock to try and set a new maze record. Either way, it’s important to keep hydrated and keep track of where you’ve been — it does get frustrating the fifth time you find yourself rounding a corner to the same dead end. The ultimate takeaway here is that collecting the letters M-A-Z-E is just as fun in 2020 as it was in 1990.

The Outlaw Coaster — Steamboat

Photo: Steamboat Resort/Facebook

The thing about alpine coasters is that, unlike the alpine slides, most just aren’t that exciting. The cars move slowly down a fixed track, fastened on tightly to remove any hint of risk or spur-of-the-moment decisions, and worst of all, there’s only one track, meaning you can’t race your siblings to the bottom. Steamboat’s Outlaw Coaster is the exception. Not only is this the longest coaster in North America — at 6,280 feet — it’s actually fun. At points, the ride hits 40 feet above the ground, then swooshes down into tight curves and spins.

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