KEYSTONE, Colo. (CBS4) – So far this season the skiing has been disappointing in the high country, but ski areas are trying something new to appeal to a broader audience.

About three years ago Vail Resorts, which owns Keystone Mountain, decided on a re-branding to make the resort more family friendly. In the first year it saw a seven percent increase in skier visits, and the company says that’s directly linked to “Kidtopia.”

“Kidtopia is everything from disco tubing to ice skating on our Dercum Square ice rink, to face painting to meeting the (Avalanche) dogs; it’s really everything that describes family,” Tucker Vest Burton with Keystone said.

While an Internet search of top kid-friendly resorts does not usually list Keystone, CBS4 found many families that disagree.

“We actually ski schooled, and then we boarded, and today we took a day off and did ice skating and tubing,” said Layne Murr, who is visiting from College Station, Texas. “We’ll board and ski the next two days.”

Melvin Hunt is back in Colorado with his family from Houston, but it was their first time at Keystone.

“I think Keystone is more kid friendly. Just the gondolas and everything, make sure they’re here and safe. Ski instructors were very conscious of everything they do with the kids. It just seemed like a different experience,” Hunt said.

Vail Resorts wouldn’t say how much it spent adding many of the new kid and family programs, but its estimated to be in the millions. And it’s the company’s ability to blend on-hill recreation with lodging that’s started a new program.

“Basically children 12 and under ski for free as long as you stay two or more nights in a Keystone-owned and operated lodging unit,” Vest Burton said.

It’s the Kids Ski Free program that has already shown to be a boost for Vail Resorts. In their last earnings report they said bookings at Keystone were up in a time when they usually don’t sell many hotel rooms.

Vail Resorts won’t announce how successful this season’s push for family friendly activites are until March, but if the programs remain successful, it’s likely a harder push for the family summers will follow.


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