Aspen/Snowmass a kids’ paradise

<p>It’s what passes for après-ski time among the under-6 crowd in the Tender Loving Care Room, and the clutch of kids watching a widescreen version of Finding Nemo are mesmerized by the colourful show.</p>


Skiers’ sanctuary launches huge adventure centre



Jeremy Swanson/ap


There are endless entertainment opportunities for children at the new 25,000-square-foot Treehouse Kid’s Adventure Center, above and below, at Aspen/Snowmass. By 2012, the $17-million play-and-learn facility should be surrounded by restaurants, upscale condos and an aquatic centre.


It’s what passes for après-ski time among the under-6 crowd in the Tender Loving Care Room, and the clutch of kids watching a widescreen version of Finding Nemo are mesmerized by the colourful show.

There’s not a tear — or a TV zapper — to be seen in this cosy kids’ paradise. That’s because this tropical display is the real deal — a more-than-metre-wide fish tank that doubles as a window into this relaxation room, and a reminder the whole world isn’t cold and white.

It’s been a record season for snow in the Colorado Rockies with four metres already blanketing the slopes and about 20 centimetres more piling up almost daily.

If all that champagne powder, not to mention the strong loonie, still isn’t enough to put Aspen/Snowmass on the ski and snowboard radar of Canadians this winter, then the new $17-million The Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center at the base of this family friendly mountain should be.

daniel bayer/aspen/snowmass


Just opened last November and the centrepiece of more than $3 billion US worth of redevelopment planned for Snowmass, the sister property to famed Aspen Mountain, The Treehouse is already breathing new life into what had become a tired, 40-year-old family ski resort.

While Snowmass may lack the flash and fur of Aspen — a 25-minute shuttle-bus ride away and famous for some of the best celebrity sightings, and trendy restaurants, on the planet — it’s destined to become a perfect, if somewhat pricey, family getaway.

Where Aspen has a long history as a mining town first and a spectacular ski hill second, Snowmass was purpose-built as a family destination. And now, finally, the amenities are about to catch up to the mountain experience with upscale hotel/condo developments planned for the base, along with restaurants, stores and an aqua centre.

“I’m very excited about what’s going on here and that it’s going to be ready in time for my son,” says longtime local Grant Sharp, who hopes to get his two-year-old up on skis for the first time this spring.

Ryan Loeb, a co-ordinator in the adventure centre, a silver sheriff’s star pinned to his shirt, is peering into The Treehouse’s colourfully painted Fox Den where a handful of preschoolers are passed out on floor mats after a busy morning of some of the best skiing here in more than two decades.

“This is my favourite room,” Loeb says of the welcoming space where a crawl-through fox tunnel stretches the length of one wall and doors lead to an outdoor play area and the kids’ learn-to-ski hill at the base of the 3,813-metre Snowmass Mountain.

Just down the hallway is the Butterfly Meadow Room for children ages eight weeks to 18 months, the Trout Haven Room (with its clever plastic “pond” and colourful stuffed fish mat), and Beaver Lodge (with its realistic play dam) for toddlers.

Upstairs in this 25,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art kids’ facility is the 700-square-foot Alpine Climbing Room with a simulated miner’s cabin, which celebrates the area’s rich gold and silver mining past. There’s also the Bear Den Room with a theatre for storytelling, puppet shows and impromptu performances by three- and four-year-old preschoolers — when they’re not riding the mountain’s magic carpets to the top of the learners’ hill and getting tips from some of Snowmass’ 800 ski and boarding instructors right outside The Treehouse’s doors.

a few facts...

  • Snowmass is the biggest by far of the four Aspen-area mountains run by Aspen Skiing Co., and is 11 kilometres from tiny Aspen airport and 350 kilometres from Denver International Airport.

  • The area boasts 300 days of sunshine a year — supposedly more than Miami.

  • Daily lift passes cost $87 for adults (all prices U.S.), $78 for youths and seniors, and $55 for children ages 7 to 12.

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