The Play Pen: Take the Family to Vail This Summer

Whine-Free Ascent: A quick ride up the gondola gives access to high mountain hikes that would normally require more time (and chocolate bribes) to access. Photo: Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts

I’m not too proud to admit it. I’m held hostage by my children. Aw, that’s not a nice way to say it. Let’s put it this way—I love them and at this point my weekends and vacations are pretty much tied to finding ways to get outside with them. They’re in that in-between state: they are no longer toddlers, they still like their parents and they want to play hard but can’t beat me (yet). Parents, let me tell you, I have found the answer, and it was not where I thought it would be. It’s Vail.

Adventure Ridge

From the Lionshead base area, the Eagle Bahn whisks passengers (and bikes) to the top of Adventure Ridge where pent-up families will find everything from a frisbee golf course to stables with horseback rides across the mountain. There’s a nature center and slacklines. But expect to wait in line for the bungee trampolines—they offer the chance to give four-year olds a taste of big air. All that activity means that uber-active parents can switch off here (“honey, you bike while I watch the kids bungee”) and still feel as if everyone in the family is truly enjoying themselves. This summer Vail is also building a four-line zip course and two aerial challenges that will add to the menu of fun kids (and, hey, parents, too) can have up here. The resort hopes for them to be ready for action in August. The gondola is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 7-9 and June 13-16 and then opens daily for the summer from June 20-September 2 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Prices have not been set as of press time.

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Hiking and Mountain Biking

Eagle Bahn doesn’t just access Adventure Ridge—it also puts you and your family in the middle of one of the best networks of high mountain hiking and mountain biking around. The shining stars of the bike system here are the flow trails, Big Mamba and Radio Flyer. These are rides that a wide range of mountain bikers will enjoy. Best of all they end at the bottom of the gondola for a quick ride back to the top. For a hike, head off into the Back Bowls, where you can identify wildflowers and take in the view. The four-mile Ptarmigan Loop gets you away from the crowds.

Farmers Market

Farmers markets are not just a phenomena of Front Range hipsters. Vail boasts one of the best markets around and it’s worth a stroll even if you are just driving through on a Sunday. It’s more than fresh veggies; the event is also an art show. It runs June 16-September 22 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.


There’s a lot going on in Vail this summer from the GoPro Mountain Games June 6-9 ( to the Bud Hot Summer Nights free concerts June 11-August 20 ( to the inaugural Vail Rocks event benefiting Love Hope Strength ( on June 15—200 hikers will ascend the mountain alongside Brett Dennen and G. Love. But don’t miss the Keen Vail Kids Adventure Race ( on August 8-11.

Parental Playback

Soaking (and working out) in style at the Vail Mountain Lodge 

If you decide to stay in Vail this summer instead of just making a day trip up from the Front Range, there’s one spot that amounts to summer camp for overachieving grown-ups—the Vail Mountain Lodge. You could just come here and relax, enjoy the spa and the quiet of your room after dining at the Terra Bistro. Or you could take full advantage of guest privileges in the Vail Vitality Center, which is located downstairs. It’s home to the Vail Athletic Club, no ordinary hotel gym. There’s top of the line exercise machinery in the 18,000-square-foot space, as well as a climbing wall, power yoga classes, personal trainers on call and the. The center hosts a wide range of nutrition, wellness and training workshops, so engaging you may forget about the sports outside. Then there’s the spa.

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