Life in the Midwest has a lot to offer, but mountains aren't a part of it. Are you looking to take your family on a world-class ski trip, but don't want to break the bank? Flights into Denver are plentiful and affordable. Chicagoans can get a round-trip ticket for just $150.
There also are a flurry of family-friendly perks, including an incredible promotion that lets fifth-graders ski free at more than 20 of Colorado's best ski resorts, including Steamboat Springs, Crested Butte and Telluride.
Apply online for the passport at www.coloradoski.com/Passport. The application deadline is Jan. 31, 2014, but it's important to apply several weeks before you plan to ski, so there's time for processing and mailing the passport.
Here's a Rocky Mountain roundup of some of the best ski deals this winter:
The family that plays together, stays together, right? This resort, just 67 miles northwest of Denver, lets families do just that with its "Family Easy Start" package.
For one all-inclusive price ($679 for a half day/$859 for a full day), a family of four can get four lift tickets, four equipment rentals, a private instructor and access to the Private Lesson Center, where you'll find lockers, ski/equipment storage and refreshments in a lounge area.
When it's time for a break, have lunch atop Winter Park Mountain at the Lodge at Sunspot, with its breathtaking views. Take the chill off at the end of a ski day with a tasty home-cooking treat at Goody's Mountain Creperie.
Fly into Denver in the morning, and you can be on the slopes at Copper Mountain in the afternoon. With Copper's "One, Two, Free!" promotion, stay two nights at any one of Copper's three villages, and the third night is free.
Along with that, your third day of ski rentals and third day of group ski lessons are free. Plus, kids under 12 ski free the entire three days, and, if an adult rents equipment, the kids' rental is free.
There's plenty to do off the slopes at Copper Mountain as well. Got an extreme skier or snow boarder, but don't want an extreme injury? The Woodward at Copper Barn is an indoor tricks facility where kids can practice their moves in a safe environment before trying them on the mountain. Using foam snowboards, trampolines and foam pits, instructors at The Barn will give your powderhound a crash course in how to take their sport to the next level safely.
Kids rule in Keystone, one of the areas's most family-friendly ski resorts. Kids 12 and under ski free when you spend two nights at Keystone lodging. New to the resort this year is the Family Ski Trail, a kid-friendly way for families to safely enjoy the slopes in a fun area that includes navigating bumps over Magic Moguls or maneuvering over changing terrain in Tornado Ally.
Come out and take a free ride at the ski resort that opens earlier than any other in the nation. This year, for the first time, kids under 14 ski free through December 20 at this old-school ski resort just over an hour west of Denver. A-Basin, as it's commonly known, isn't as built up as some of its nearby cousins. But what it lacks in aprés-ski, it makes up for on its scenic slopes.
Think it's just the rich and famous who call Aspen home for the holidays? Your family could join the celebrities who vacation in this tony town by taking advantage of the gift Aspen is offering families.
For the first time this year, kids ski, stay and eat free December 20-25. Check out the net savings available at www.stayaspensnowmass.com.
Ready for an epic adventure? Already a snow loving family of avid skiers? Consider investing in an Epic Pass.
Once you get over the initial sticker shock ($709 for adults, $369 for kids) you'll see it could mean mountains of fun, as the pass grants you entry to 26 different locations, including Vail and Beaver Creek, resorts in Park City, Utah, and Lake Tahoe, Nev., as well as Midwest ski destinations in Minnesota and Michigan. You can even take to the slopes of Europe with the Epic Pass.
Another Epic perk that will make you smile? You know all those pricey pictures the professional photographers take of you and your family on the mountain that you'd love to buy? They're all free if you're an Epic Pass holder -- you automatically get the digital copy of every picture taken. See whether the Epic Pass makes sense for your family, or whether you should just, ahem, take a pass at www.snow.com/epic-pass.aspx.
Affordable flights and kid-friendly deals make a trip to one of Colorado's world-class ski slopes within reach for lots of families this winter.
• Disclosure: Information for this article was gathered on a research trip sponsored, in part, by the Colorado Tourism Office.
Andrea Guthmann writes for TravelingMom.com.