Lacquered wood, fine art, superplush baths and floor-to-ceiling windows welcome us to our three-bedroom luxury condominium in Aspen’s new Dancing Bear development, but what really delights us is the circus tent. A big box of loaner toys is parked beneath the massive stone fireplace in the living room, and my toddler lands on the pile like a moth to the bulb. “Make it, dad,” she begs as she yanks out the poles and multicolored nylon that will, with his help, become a turret-topped, four-foot-high “house” all her own.
The kiddie care package might’ve seemed incongruous just a few years ago, when luxury properties catered exclusively to adults. But kids are fast becoming the courted demographic. New developments include family-oriented amenities, and existing properties are rolling out services to welcome junior guests—meaning that mountain buyers no longer have to choose between high-end and kid-friendly amenities. They're increasingly coming in the same package.
"Kid-friendly luxury developments are definitely a growing trend," said Eric Burgund of Vail's Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate agency. One reason is that affluent buyers are spending more time with family and considering their kids’ needs when they travel. “Families and especially children are starting to drive real estate and vacation decisions about where to go and where to stay,” Burgund said.
The residences at Vail’s Four Seasons Resort recently rolled out new kid-welcoming services. Little, child-sized robes hang in the closets. Custom-made chocolate letters spell out the tyke’s name across their bed. A pop-up tent placed in the residence creates a special nest for small ones. “Kids see that and dive right in,” Burgund said. “They feel right at home immediately.”
Thunder Spring, Sun Valley’s most upscale condominium development, offers a heap of kids' programs through its Zenergy health and fitness facility (touted by CNBC as one of the nation's most-luxurious fitness clubs). Tykes learn tennis, paddle with kayaker Gerry Moffatt, flip and leap on gym mats, and swim in the facility's indoor/outdoor saltwater pools. A fleet of loaner sleds lets families hit the toboggan hill. But to preserve Thunder Spring's luxury ambiance, "We pay careful attention to scheduling," said General Manager Derek Agnew. For example, the kid camps used to last all day, but now they end by early afternoon to maintain a resort ambiance for the many adults using the facilities in the afternoons.
Dancing Bear also separates families from romance-seekers. Its rooftop patio and hot tubs appeal to couples, while the kid facilities are located several floors away, in a basement that houses a 16-seat movie theater and a massive game room with billiards tables, video games and a separate wing that’s suitable for toddlers. Families aren’t the only ones to enjoy some screen time (guys have been known to occupy the theater during football games) but these amenities expand Dancing Bear’s appeal to all ages. Of course, movie popcorn is provided—because this is luxury, after all.
THREE MORE LUXE FAMILY GETAWAYS:
“We’re the luxury choice here in central Oregon, and we’re certainly family-friendly as well,” said Edward Jackman, Director of Sales and Marketing. The pool complex pairs a quiet adult area with a separate, shallower pool where kids can splash and slide down the rock waterslide. Parents can keep an eye on their young’uns, but other adults can soak without interruption. The adjoining Basecamp complex houses video games and pool tables. And the summertime Camp Pronghorn programs lead children (5-12 years old) off-property to enjoy rafting, mountain biking and the Paulina Plunge (a backcountry waterslide).
The small, private ski area makes families feel safe enough to let Junior ski or snowboard on their own. A tubing hill offers kid-friendly fun. And snowmobiling is offered for all ages—even children, who ride on smaller machines that max out at five mph.
The property’s signature drink is the kid-pleasing Constellation Cocoa. Snowman-making kits give families the tools to enjoy this wintertime family ritual while traveling. An on-property arcade features two PS2 Playstation pods. And kids four and older can participate in the Kid’s Club at the adjacent Ritz-Carlton, where supervisors lead children in treasure hunts, arts and crafts, cookie decorating, pizza parties, and movie nights.