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5 Colorado ski areas that do the holidays right for families

By Sarah Tuff Dunn

171224 Torchlight Cfrey

Is there anything more magical than sequestering the family at a ski resort during the holidays, when the lights are as sparkly as the snow and Santas ski down the slopes? We think not. So here’s a look at some of the Colorado areas at which to say “cheers” during the most wonderful time of the year.

Aspen Snowmass: Horse-drawn carriages jingle through the snow-covered town as children bake cookies, the Holiday Belltones sing at the Hotel Jerome and the Wheeler Opera House hosts concerts: it’s all part of the 12 Days of Aspen that takes place every December 20 to 31.

Must-Ski Family Run: Long Shot at Aspen Snowmass. It’s a short hike to a 5.3-mile cruiser that will have everyone earning a calorie-laden hot chocolate.

Purgatory: Near the delightful town of Durango, this resort’s Village turns into a winter wonderland in December. Take a ride on the Polar Express, build gingerbread houses and learn how to make wreaths. Don’t miss Santa on the Beach on December 23.

Must-Ski Family Run: Upper Hades and Cherub, off the new detachable Purgatory Village 6-pack. Enjoy views of the southern San Juans before cruising down this gentle blue.

Steamboat: Only in Steamboat does Santa ride downhill on horseback. That’s just one of the highlights in this home of Champagne powder, where a stocking scramble delivers treats from local shops to kids and free cupcakes kick off a torchlight parade and fireworks. It all happens December 23.

Must-Ski Family Run: Ride the Sunshine Express to glide along Tomahawk to Baby Ridge for corduroy conditions and incredible views.

Telluride: At Elks Park, a tree made of recycled skis nods to the deep skiing heritage of Telluride. Discover sleigh rides, a twinkling Main Street full of family-friendly eateries and a torchlight parade that takes place on Christmas Eve, visible from the town of Telluride.

Must-Ski Family Run: Galloping Goose, Telluride’s longest trail at 4.6 miles. Find it off Prospect Express and enjoy breathtaking views of Gold Hill and Palmyra Peak.

Winter Park: Old-fashioned carolers kick off the Christmas Eve torchlight parade at Winter Park, where Doc’s Tavern cooks up a holiday feast at the base of the ski hill so families can spend more time having fun and less time in the kitchen. Sip on hot cocoa at the Hill House after enjoying the tubing hill and spend New Year’s Eve listening to live music from local bands.

Must-Ski Family Run: Butch’s Breezeway, accessed via Prospector Express. It offers some of the best groomed conditions at the resort; try to get first tracks.


Sarah Tuff Dunn recently moved to Louisville, Colorado, with her husband, Carlton, and their two children, Dillon, 12, and Harper, 10. They’re looking forward to exploring the world-class skiing in Colorado, aided by the Colorado Ski Country 5th and 6th Grade Passport Program. Sarah has been writing professionally for nearly 25 years and her work has appeared in The New York Times, SKI, Skiing and Powder, among other publications. Read more of Sarah’s stories here and follow along with her Colorado skiing journey here