Let’s be honest. Living in Denver with unparalleled access to the mountains means you have to ski. Beyond the stereotypical micro-craft beer, The Broncos and the recreational marijuana, it’s the sweet fresh powder that makes one a true Coloradan.  I used to be quite the winter athlete but, as a kid – after an unfortunate incident involving a sled, a tree and a compound fracture in my femur that resulted in weeks of hospitalization – my love for snow and speed broke as quickly as my leg did.As the proverbial saying goes “once you fall off a horse get back in the saddle” so I decided to conquer my fears, strap on my skis and charge back up that mountain.

With my newfound love for skiing and promise to hit the slopes on a regular basis, I looked at my options for ski passes and reached out to the M.A.X pass team, who provided me with a complimentary pass to experience its offerings and write about my experiences. If you haven’t heard about the M.A.X (Multi Alpine Experience) pass, here’s what you need to know. This ski pass gives you access to 44 mountains all over North America.  Everywhere from Big Sky Montana, to Crested Butte in Colorado, Kicking Horse Resort in British Columbia and Alyeska in Alaska, just to name a few. Pass holders get five days of skiing or riding at each of the resorts. There are no blackout dates and you don’t have to use those days consecutively so that’s a total of 220 days on the mountain.

I decided to test out my complimentary MAX pass at a resort that was close to home. Pass in hand, car packed to the brim with everything we could possibly (not) need for a short two night say, I drove up from Denver with my husband and kiddos to Copper Mountain Resort – located just 75 miles west of Denver in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.

We stayed at Copper One 5-Peak, a 2-Bedroom vacation rental (complete with kitchen and laundry facilities) perfectly located in Center Village. Getting a vacation rental is a great choice for families because you get more space, can bring your own food, which means huge savings on cooking dinner instead of going to restaurants. Just steps from the chair lift (and most importantly Starbucks…mama needs her morning latte), these facilities provided the comfort our family of four needed, just steps away from the action.

Upon arrival we walked around the pedestrian-friendly village to scope out the scene. Copper Mountain was a quaint resort town with a laid-back local vibe. Snowboarders, young families and grandparents alike took a break from the fresh pow to sit in oversized novelty chairs, sip hot chocolate and warm themselves by the fire.

The mountain itself was pretty impressive with some 2,490 acres of  skiable terrain, 24 different lifts and over 140 trails (18% Expert 25% Intermediate and 21% for beginners like me) of naturally-divided terrain. The longest path down from Soliloquy to Roundabout was almost three miles, giving me lots of time to perfect on my turning (and pizza-pie) skills, happily traversing a variety of terrain. It was a beautiful day on the mountain. Copper Mountain had everything I could have asked for as a new skier on a family ski trip: easy access from Denver away from the maddening crowds, accessible chair lifts and lots of easy to moderate runs, central accommodations with fully equipped kitchen/laundry amenities and lots of extra space, cute restaurants and a ton of activities to keep the kids happy.

Things to Do with Kids in Copper Mountain

Beyond skiing and snowboarding, Copper Mountain offers a variety of snow-friendly activities for kids of all ages, from free snowshoeing tours to ziplines and tubing.  Here were some of our favorite things to do with kids when traveling to Copper Mountain.

Ice Skating: There is a great ice skating rink where you can rent skates and take an icy tour of the pond. The ice skating rental facilities share their space with a candy store (brilliant idea), so successful skating begets cotton candy rewards.

Ice Skating Copper Moutain

Ride the Rocky Mountain Coaster: A few months ago, Copper introduced a new alpine outdoor roller coaster that runs year-round. Older kids will love the adrenaline rush of racing around the 5800 foot coaster track with a vertical drop of 430 feet and several dips, spins and 360 turns along the way. Whoo hoo!

Copper’s Belly Button Bakery: This daycare offers full supervision and fun activities for the kids while parents hit the slopes. This was the first time I’ve used a service like this and although it was tough saying goodbye to my kids, those few hours of solo adult time were admittedly lovely. We found that the staff were warm, nurturing and engaging. Lunch was provided but no snacks, so we packed a goodie bag filled with goldfish, bottled milk, changes of clothes and comfort items like a stuffed animal, in case they missed mama. It’s open daily 8:30am – 4pm for ages 6 months – 6 years old and costs anywhere from $88-$123 (you can leave 20% when you book at least five days in advance). Be sure to make reservations in advance since they have limited space.

Kids’ Night Out: Wednesdays through Saturday from 5:30pm – 10:00pm, the Copper Mountain Resort Association offers three hour childcare so you and the hubby can go for dinner. They’ll watch movies, do crafts, play Wii and other related activities. You just need to spend $30 any commercial outlet at the resort during that time and have a receipt to prove it. They ask that you make reservations for the Kids Night Out program at least 48 hours in advance if possible, although walk-ups are an option if there’s space. Kids must be potty trained – 12 years old.

Pizza Party at Gustino’s Lakeside Pizzeria: For a low key spot to grab a pizza for lunch or dinner, we took the kiddos to Gustino’s Lakeside Pizzeria. They serve amazing New York Style pizza by the slice and whole specialty pizzas that will make your mouth water. Let me tell you, it was delicious! We ordered the Greek, smothered in pesto, olives and cheese and it was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. A great spot to take the kiddos!

Critter Land: There’s a tubing hill and outdoor area called Critter Land where kiddos can go mini snow tubing, play in forts and frolic in the snow. While it is enclosed and supervised, this play space is not drop off childcare so parents must be present with their little ones. Follow it up with a trip to Sugar Lips for mini doughnuts and it has the makings of a perfect day!

Click here for more info on Copper Mountain kids ski camps, child programs and babysitting services and the M.A.X Pass

See you on the slopes!

*Featured Image photo by Tripp Fay, Copper Mountain Resort.