Over 30,000 elementary-school-aged kids in Colorado took advantage of Vail Resorts' free Epic Schoolkids Colorado Pack offer in its first year, during the 2015-16 ski and snowboard season, and Keystone Resort spokesman Russell Carlton says the company is aiming to far surpass that number before the October 9 registration deadline for the 2016-17 season.
The Epic Schoolkids passes, which won a "Best Ski Deal for Kids" nod in Westword's Best of Denver 2016, are good for four free days each at Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail and Beaver Creek — sixteen days total – for Colorado residents in kindergarten through fifth grade. The passes also include one free "first-timer" lesson and a rental redeemable in December or during January's Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month.
"We see it as your birthright, growing up in Colorado, to be able to get out there and learn to ski or snowboard as a kid," Carlton says.
The program was expanded last year from a similar program, which previously offered the same deal to fifth- and sixth-graders.
"The expansion really was intended to give more options to more kids throughout the state, and to be able to start them earlier and give them easier access to skiing or riding throughout those critical K-5 developmental stages, which is a really great time to get kids out and active in the Colorado outdoor lifestyle," Calrton says. "We're hoping to get as many local kids signed up as possible."
In addition to helping ease the lift-ticket burden on families, Carlton says, all four resorts – especially Keystone – have seen an increase in visits from large school groups and student ski clubs from the Front Range. With lift tickets and first-timer lessons and rentals covered under the program, there is now almost no barrier, beyond transportation costs and basic outerwear, to introducing students to skiing and snowboarding.
"The free lesson and rental packages are extremely popular for the first-timers, so we definitely recommend calling in advance and making those reservations early, if you're able to, especially if you're planning to come up on a weekend or planning to bring a big group," Carlton says.
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Registration for the passes is available through Sunday, October 9, at Colorado Ski & Golf, Colorado Ski & Sport and Boulder Ski Deals (children must be present at registration, along with a physical or digital copy of the student's report card, school transcripts, school ID or birth certificate). For more information about the program, visit its website.
Of the four Vail Resorts ski areas in Colorado, Keystone has marketed itself most pointedly at families with kids, offering a full slate of of signature Kidtopia programming. Keystone also offers a "Kids Ski Free" program with any two-night lodging stay booked at its own resort properties.
"I always like to mention that, since Keystone is the closest for Front Range families," Carlton says. "Even if you use up all four days at Keystone on your Epic Schoolkids pass, you can still get those freebies for the kids by coming up to stay with us."
Colorado Ski Country USA offers a comparable program, the fifth- and sixth-grade passport, good for three days at each of its twenty member ski areas. That program is free to fifth-graders and $105 to sixth-graders who register before November 30, or $125 before January 31, 2017, and also includes a free lesson and rental package for first-timers.