In early February, my husband and I threw ourselves a party. For reasons too complicated to go into here, we missed our birthdays this year.
So being that we love to ski, it made sense to plan a celebration at one of our favorite resorts.
We chose Beaver Creek.
#1: Not Exactly Easy Skiing
“Not Exactly Roughing It” is Beaver Creek’s long-time tag line and many people who’ve never visited the resort associate this with easy skiing.
One friend, a diehard Alta skier, referred to the tagline and emailed back the following: “Nothing says we’re getting old like skiing at Beaver Creek.”
We beg to differ.
We think Beaver Creek is a challenging mountain in Colorado, especially if you spend a day burning your legs out on Grouse Mountain. Think steep, deep and long, with an array of ungroomed black and double-black runs thick with moguls. It’s one of the few places I know where you duck into glades to give your legs a break.
These runs, almost all of which are named for birds, are part of the annual Talon’s Challenge. This is a one-day event where participants attempt skiing 14 black and double-black runs spread across the Birds of Prey area, Grouse Mountain and Larkspur Bowl.
Ski them all and you’ll log over 26,000 vertical feet of moguls, as well as one leg-burning, fear-inducing speed run on the icy Birds of Prey World Cup downhill course.
While we’ve never skied all 14 bump runs in one day, we enjoy testing our ability to hold an edge on “race surface” snow on the DH course every time we visit.
Still, while I love skiing Larkspur Bowl and Grouse Mountain, my absolute favorite lift is the Rose Bowl Express, which serves everything from relatively flat green runs at the top to yet more steep (although shorter) shots of relentless moguls under and adjacent to the lift line. When coverage is good, the Stone Creek Chutes are also worth a ski.
#2: Not All Moguls, Either
Of course, all great ski resorts have a wide variety of terrain and Beaver Creek is no exception. Fully 43% of the runs at Beaver Creek are intermediate, making it an outstanding destination for most families.
As for beginners, you’ll find beginner and teaching terrain in abundance off of the Buckaroo Gondola and the Centennial Express lift in Beaver Creek Village. Higher up, the Cinch lift takes guests to the resort’s 11,440-foot summit.
Back in the village, and just across a flat bridge, the Strawberry Park Express lift serves terrain of all sorts and provides quick access to the Candy Cabin (yep, it’s a cabin full of old-fashioned candy and artisanal chocolates). As you might imagine, this is a popular spot for kids.
From here, beginners can return to Beaver Creek Village along meandering green runs or work their way west on Primrose to Bachelor Gulch, where they’ll find fewer people and a good variety of terrain.
Follow Primrose even further west to Arrowhead Village. While there are some black runs at Arrowhead, there are also numerous green and blue runs, as well as some well-spaced, confidence building glades.
What you won’t find at Arrowhead are very many people.
#3: Not As Busy As You Might Imagine
Our family lives on the Western Slope of Colorado, where the land is vast and the people are few. Consequently, we’re not used to skiing in a crowd.
While Beaver Creek is easily accessed from Denver via I 70, it’s just far enough west and far enough past the Summit County resorts and Vail, that fewer Front Range skiers make the trip. Many of the guests are destination visitors (who easily fly into the Eagle Airport) or day trippers from nearby communities.
Beaver Creek is big with 1,832 skiable acres, but also the smallest of the resorts in the Vail Resorts family. Just for comparison, nearby Vail has 5,289 skiable acres, while Keystone has 3,148 and Breckenridge has 2,908.
The smaller size gives Beaver Creek a more intimate feel.
While you should pay attention to lift closing times, especially if you’re trying to get back to a secondary base village, like Arrowhead or Bachelor Gulch, it’s easy to plan on-mountain meeting points and find your family throughout the day.
Spruce Saddle is the primary on-mountain lodge, a good spot for lunch and the only place to take advantage of my favorite EpicMix feature – photos. Here you’ll also find Tombstone Territory adventure terrain (including a free race course) and Epic Mix racing (for those who want qualifying times).
As for Epic Mix, while I’m not a fan of many ski apps, I love the free Epic Mix app.
In addition to photos, I’m all in on EpicMix Guide. Pick your resort. Choose your skiing or riding ability and how long you plan to be on-mountain. Then let your phone be your guide. You’re not going to learn local secrets, but the well-planned itinerary will get you oriented and make the most of your day.
EpicMix Time, providing real-time lift status updates, is new this season. While the weekend waits at Beaver Creek in February ranged from 0 to 4 minutes, my son, who skis Breckenridge frequently, tells me it’s a life-, time-, and sanity-saver.
#4: Not As Expensive As You Might Fear
Last year, we spent a week at Beaver Creek during the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. We stayed at a spacious 3-bedroom condo in Arrowhead for a (relative) song. We bought groceries at the nearby City Market and cooked in.
Seriously, it was one of the best deals we’ve ever scored.
Looking to repeat, we booked early again this past fall and, again, got a really good deal in Arrowhead. And if you’re looking for even better deals, nearby Edwards and Avon both have inexpensive (for ski resorts) hotels.
While we’re happy to be on the quiet side of the resort, the posh-factor goes up, way up, at Bachelor Gulch and in Beaver Creek Village. Here is where you will find every sumptuous accommodation, private clubs and luxury amenity imaginable. Not exactly roughing it, indeed.
But you don’t need to do this to have fun.
And that’s why we love Beaver Creek.
A quick note on lift tickets and passes: Beaver Creek is on the Epic Pass.
Depending upon where you live, or where you plan to ski, the Epic Pass is a terrific value, with skiing at Park City, Utah; Heavenly and Kirkwood, California; Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail and Beaver Creek, Colorado; as well as some Midwest and international destinations.
If you don’t have an Epic Pass, look online for Epic Day ticket discounts. They’re not very large discounts, but they are better than paying full price.
More Beaver Creek and Vail:
- Why Our Family Loves to Ski Beaver Creek, Colorado, January 7, 2015.
- Vail, Colorado: Tips for Skiing This Massive Mountain, February 6, 2015.
- Happy Birthday Vail! January 9, 2013.
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