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Taking the Kids

A Little Rocky Mountain R & R

June 02, 1996|EILEEN OGINTZ

ESTES PARK, Colo. — Go take a bike . . . or a hike. Raft down a river or race down a mountain slide. Practice that golf swing or tennis serve. Learn to fly-fish or horseback ride. Count the constellations from your sleeping bag. There's so much to do that even the most finicky kids won't complain about being bored.

Parents will be able to relax amid the wildflowers and aspen trees, especially when they realize what a vacation bargain they've bought. There may even be enough money left over to splurge on a chichi dinner in Aspen or Vail. Or a round of margaritas for the adults, as we did after an all-day hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Colorado in the summer offers surprising prices, especially in ski resort towns. And tourism officials say there are still rooms available this summer.

Condos and hotels are typically discounted 50% and more from prime winter rates. It's possible to rent a roomy condo for under $100 a night in ski towns that are just as picturesque in the summer as in the snow. Many cottages and cabins cost less, and campsites are even cheaper. The newly revised guide, "Colorado Cabins, Cottages & Lodges" (Rocky Mountain Vacation Publishing, $17.95), is packed with 275 scenic and mostly inexpensive places to stay. (Call [800] 886-9343 to order.) Or for a free guide to camping locations, call the Colorado Assn. for Campgrounds, Cabins and Lodges, (303) 499-9343. (Allow several weeks for delivery.)

No matter how careful I am, when my family vacations in Colorado in winter, we always spend more than planned. But when we stayed near Estes Park in summer, I was pleased to find it easy to stick to the budget. One of the big reasons was that most of the activities the kids wanted to try were relatively inexpensive or even free, including mountain biking, miniature golfing, fishing and rock climbing. The weather was so good they were happy to spend hours swimming or playing ball. At $15 an hour, even horseback riding was possible as a special treat.

Parents can treat themselves to a day off, too. Keystone, Telluride and Beaver Creek are among the areas that offer day-care for young children as well as adventure camps for older kids.

The grade-school crowd can sleep in a tepee in Beaver Creek or try their hand at a construction project at the Outdoor Construction Museum. They can pan for gold at Kamp Keystone, cook dinner over an open fire in Vail, river raft at Camp Snowmass Extreme or mountain bike at the Steamboat Kids' Adventure Club.

For those who are physically challenged, the National Sports Center for the Disabled at Winter Park offers everything from accessible hiking and camping to raft trips and rock climbing for the visually impaired. (Call [970] 726-1540.)

There are places for hanging out, too. Aspen Youth Center, for one, offers everything from roller-blade hockey games to kayaking clinics to hike and bike trips for kids between 10 and 18. Kids may also drop in at the center to play Ping-Pong or watch a movie. (Call [970] 925-7091.)

In addition to all of these organized activities and outdoor adventures, there are festivals all summer long, many geared to families.

* Fat Tire Bike Week in Crested Butte, June 24-30, where organized mountain biking started 20 years ago. There's an obstacle course designed especially for kids. (Call Crested Butte Vacations at [800] 544-8448.)

* Winter Park Family Hike and Bike Festival, June 22, includes everything from guided hiking and biking tours to clinics on mountain biking and contests for kids. Try Colorado's longest Alpine Slide--it's a half-mile and has 26 turns--or play mountainside miniature golf. Call (800) 977-2754.

* Steamboat Springs' 93rd Annual Cowboy Roundup Days, July 4-7, feature a parade, picnic, fireworks and rodeo. (Ask about the three-night Family Getaway packages for summer that can be under $350 for a family of four, with lodging, a gondola ride up the mountain and admission to a pro rodeo. Call Steamboat Central Reservations at [800] 922-2722.)

* Aspen's Music Festival and DanceAspen's Summer Festival continue all summer long as do Vail Valley Music Festival and the International Summer of Dance. It includes special workshops for dance students, 11 to 14, June 24 through July 7. Hike to the top of Aspen Mountain or ride the gondola on Saturday afternoons for a free Music on the Mountain concert. Free concerts are held in Snowmass Village on Thursday. (Call Aspen Central Reservations [800] 262-7736. For Vail Valley information, call [800] 525-3875.)

(Call [800] COLORADO for a summer tourism guide.)

Taking the Kids appears the first and third week of every month.

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