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Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
Beaver Creek. Beaver Creek is a piece of nirvana, partly because of its system of trails and partly because of its enviable location two hours from Denver. Although only a third the size of Vail, Beaver Creek is seldom crowded. The skiable terrain extends from the runs down Beaver Creek to the slopes around Bachelor Gulch to the network of trails at Arrowhead. You can easily ski from one village to another. The omnipresent and helpful ambassadors are always willing to point you in the right direction, and even give you a lift back to your lodge if you forgot your goggles.
Beaver Creek has a little of everything, from smoother slopes for beginners to difficult trails used for international competitions. Grouse Mountain, in particular, is famed for its thigh-burning bump runs. Beginners have an entire peak, at the summit of Beaver Creek Mountain, where they can learn to ski or practice on novice trails. And newcomers can return to the village on one of the lifts if they are too tired to take the long trail all the way to the bottom. Intermediate-level skiers have several long cruising trails on the lower half of Beaver Creek Mountain and in Larkspur Bowl. Both locations also have black-diamond trails, so groups of skiers and snowboarders of varying abilities can ride uphill together. The Birds of Prey runs, like Peregrine and Golden Eagle are aptly named, because the steepness of the trails can be a surprise for skiers who mistakenly think they are skilled enough to take on this challenging terrain. The days of snowboarders getting snubbed in Beaver Creek are long gone, and shredders can tackle a series of terrain parks with increasing difficulty from Park 101 to the Zoom Room and on to the Moonshine half-pipe.
The slopes of neighboring Bachelor Gulch are a mix of beginner and intermediate trails. Here you can often find fresh powder hours after it's gone elsewhere. Many of the open slopes weave past multimillion-dollar homes; cost of real estate is even higher than in Beaver Creek. The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, which sits at the base of the lift, is one of the region's most beautiful hotels. A stop here is a must for any architecture buff. Many skiers plan to arrive in time for a hearty lunch at Remington's or an après-ski cocktail in the Buffalo Bar or the Fly Fishing Library. There are shuttles handy to take you back to Beaver Creek.
The third village in the area, Arrowhead, has the best and usually the least crowded intermediate terrain. Locals take advantage of sunny days by sitting on the spacious deck at the Broken Arrow Café. It's not much more than a shack, but the burgers can't be beat. The European concept of skiing from village to village was introduced here in 1996, when the new owners, Vail Associates, decided to connect Arrowhead, Beaver Creek, and Bachelor Gulch via lifts and ski trails. Beaver Creek, CO, 81620. 800/404–3535. www.beavercreek.com. Late Nov.–mid-Apr., daily 9–4.
4,040-foot vertical drop; 1,805 skiable acres; 19% beginner, 43% intermediate, 38% advanced; 2 gondolas, 10 high-speed quads, 2 triples, 2 doubles, 1 surface lift.
Lessons and Programs
Beaver Creek Ski & Snowboard School. At Beaver Creek's excellent ski and snowboard school there are about 600 instructors; lessons are available in more than 20 languages. Special clinics run throughout the year, like workshops for women, teen sessions, and telemark courses. Beginners take three-day courses that include equipment rental and lift passes. Beaver Creek, CO. 970/754-8245. www.beavercreek.com.
Few skiers pay the walk-up rate of approximately $97 for a one-day lift ticket. Most vacationers purchase lift-and-lodging packages for Beaver Creek, or go online to www.snow.com and purchase multiday lift passes at discounted rates. A lift ticket purchased at Beaver Creek may also be used at Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Arapahoe Basin.
Beaver Creek Sports. Ski equipment here rents for $54 to $69, depending upon whether you choose regular or high-performance gear. Beaver Creek Village, Beaver Creek, CO, 81620. 970/754-5400. www.beavercreeksports.com.
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