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Guide to Off-Mountain Family Fun in Aspen

Dogsledding, snowmobiling, swimming, skating, puppet shows, and more—Aspen and Snowmass are chockablock with experiences for active kids.

By Catherine Lutz November 24, 2018 Published in the Holiday 2018 issue of Aspen Sojourner

The lazy river in the pool at the Aspen Recreation Center

Not every kid’s (or adult’s, for that matter) eyes light up at the thought of a fifth, sixth, or seventh straight day on skis. Whether it’s taking a breather from the hill, accommodating non-skiing family members, or just getting to know more about this multifaceted resort, options abound for every whim. If …

Kids need a break from alpine ski boots but still want to play outside.

> The Aspen/Snowmass Nordic Council grooms nearly 60 miles of free cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. Start at the Aspen or Snowmass Cross Country Centers for rentals and lessons; on Saturdays closest to the full moon, Moonlit Trek in Snowmass includes guided naturalist tours and dinner at the Black Saddle Bar and Grill.

> The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies offers naturalist-guided snowshoe tours (ages 7 and up) at Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, and Ashcroft Ghost Town.

> An ice-skating rink debuts this winter in Snowmass’s Base Village, surrounded by fire pits and seating areas. Other options include Aspen’s outdoor Silver Circle Ice Rink (by CP Burger), the indoor Lewis Ice Arena, and a rink at the Snowmass Rodeo Grounds. Or slide on snow at the Aspen Rec Center’s popular Whoa Nelly sledding hill (BYOS—you can buy one at City Market).

Kids want to be outside but not in constant motion.

> Snowmass institution Krabloonik provides the thrill of being pulled by a team of energetic huskies through the wilderness, plus lunch or apps at the outfitter’s log-cabin restaurant. The historic T-Lazy-7 Ranch offers snowmobile tours to the Maroon Bells, to a mountain cabin, and up Independence Pass—the latter two feature lunch with the ranch’s grass-fed beef.

> Just for kids, V.I.K. Snowmass encompasses daily après-ski activities and entertainment (some indoors), from sing-alongs and puppet shows to arts and crafts and cookie decorating.

The energy level’s still high, but it’s time to go inside.

> Tackle the three self-belay routes on the new Snowmass Limelight Hotel’s glass-enclosed, five-story climbing wall—the tallest of its kind in Colorado. 

> The Aspen Recreation Center’s two pools include a water slide and a lazy river; there’s also a climbing tower. Young children love to tumble and roll with shaped mats, doughnuts, and fit balls during Playhouse at the Red Brick Recreation Center (, Tuesday to Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings. The Snowmass Village Recreation Center has the area’s only outdoor, heated saline pool and hot tub, plus a climbing wall, a bouldering cave, and a basketball court.

Getting creative at the Aspen Art Museum

A dose of culture is called for.

> The Aspen Art Museum hosts regular art classes, plus a monthly family workshop. Or just stroll through the galleries of contemporary exhibits—admission is always free. Peruse the Wheeler Opera House’s calendar for kid-friendly events—this city-owned historic venue brings in a huge variety of performances.

> What kid doesn’t like big, prehistoric animals? The Ice Age Discovery Center on the Snowmass Mall commemorates the 2010 local find of more than 36,000 bones from 52 different species—think mammoths, mastodons, sloths, and giant bison—with cast replicas, exhibits, and photos, plus an on-site paleontologist.   

> The children’s area of the recently remodeled Pitkin County Library lets kids curl up with books in cozy reading nooks, play with toys and learning games, or attend story-telling sessions. 

You and the kids need a break from each other.

> Book a 60-minute treatment at the Westin Snowmass Spa and you can drop off the kids at a supervised play area for up to two hours–for free.


The ice-skating section of this article has been updated in January 2020

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