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Keystone Village Family Ski Trip Report: So-So location

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Jan 3rd, 2013, 08:01 PM
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Keystone Village Family Ski Trip Report: So-So location

Our family had a lovely first-time ski vacation. Mainly this was due to the fact that our children learned to ski and Keystone has great geography and terrain. Next time, however, we will probably look for a different location for our ski trip.

The statement that I read elsewhere on Fodors: "Breckenridge is a town; Keystone is a resort" is probably a true comparison, though I'm no expert on ski locale. Regarding Keystone, it is about 4 miles long and easy to navigate the stretch of basically 2-3 village areas where the hubs of activity are gathered. There is certainly something to do for everyone: skiing day or night, snowboarding (lots of snowboarders here), all winter sports activities, a 5-acre skating rink (hockey too), and little villages full of bustling and quaint activities, even Lego for the kids.

The food is so-so, even at the high end places. Though we made reservations via Open Table before coming, we didn't need them, as the walk-in restaurants were just as good as far as cuisine and service, and far more convenient. The fondue restaurant was closed the night we'd reserved it because of cold weather. Even grab-and-go food is extremely expensive, as at most ski resorts, but a $6 fountain drink was seemed downright unreasonable. The best place we ate was a Mexican restaurant that seemed to cater to the locals, located across the street from the village and near the convention center.

Keystone is easy to navigate with gondola service, extremely easy to navigate slopes and shuttles to take you between them. The same company runs everything so no matter where you are, someone is glad to help you, whether you need to change out a ski boot (at a different rental shop) or call a shuttle to pick you up (from exactly where you are). Parking is easy (some lots are paid lots) or you can take a shuttle if you prefer that route. Though we found everything we needed right in Keystone proper, we heard that you can purchase tickets that are valid in nearby Breckenridge and Keystone, or Keystone and Copper. There is certainly enough to do right here for several days at least.

Though the Decatur building, the condominium where we stayed in Keystone Village, was extremely dated, it was generously, amazingly roomy. Laundry service was not in the unit but was in the building (coin op). There are ski lockers downstairs for each unit. The rooms were clean but we were disappointed to find that housekeeping did not come daily unless you paid a steep add-on fee. The staff was friendly and told us to call for anything, but when we called because our room key stopped working and were locked out of the building in 1 degree weather, they did not come for 30 minutes. We called again and were told they were too busy, so we finally took the shuttle to the check-in building to get a new key. Also the Decatur building did not have enough hot water. We came in one evening about 6:30 and wanted to take showers before bed but there was NO hot water in our unit. There was no hot water all night until the next morning.

Regarding the ski activity, we found it to be quite congested. Our children took private lessons the first two half days, and we took the lessons with them because we wanted to all stay together. There was no shortage of instructors or help/service at the mountain, and both of the instructors we used were extremely helpful. This was time well spent, of course, for the kids, but more than that, the parents got to visualize what a waste it would have been to put them in the oft-recommended "ski school." The ski school had classes of youngsters who were so crowded together in herds that they were lined up in a full circle around the magic carpet, waiting most of the day instead of skiing. The bunny slopes were so congested it was dangerous. The private lesson afforded us the opportunity to move out of these crowds on slightly different areas. The third day we went atop River Run and saw the snow castle (slides and ice castle for the kids, very cool) and do some larger learning runs with the kids. Hubby got to do some larger runs that day as well. Our last day we put the youngest kids back in a private lesson while the oldest and parents went "real" skiing. By the half day mark all children could go on the big slopes, but the youngest just didn't want to. The big kids (ages 8 and 7) went with dad and I stayed with the 5 year old on the discovery slopes. This was fine except, again, for the congestion. My husband said even the big slopes were terribly packed and it was hard to ski around people. Over on the bunny slope my youngest daughter got completely wiped out by a 9 year old boy who then walked off with HER ski without even glancing back (they collided so hard all skis were off). Keystone is clearly a place where people come to learn, as there are few people who really know what they are doing and most are just figuring things out. This has its advantages because people are generally tolerant of learners but it can also be dangerous when there are too many newbies in one place at a time.

Though we had a nice vacation in Keystone, it was not the resort or the property itself that made the vacation memorable. It wasn't terrible, but we will probably try something else and look for different accommodations next time.
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Jan 4th, 2013, 08:51 AM
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Were you just there over the holiday? Weekend too. High High season, and I understand that the lack of snow has also limited some trails from being fully open.
And there is NOTHING about skiing that is inexpensive, especially food!! We pack lunches a lot.
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Jan 4th, 2013, 08:57 AM
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No hot water would've been enough for me to go somewhere else next time

Thanks for the thorough report.
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Jan 4th, 2013, 06:45 PM
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Gretchen, yes, we were definitely there when it was busiest! But when we have vacation time we have to take it!

We definitely packed lunches and I did not expect it to be inexpensive--like you said, a ski vacation is always expensive. Maybe it's just me, but I did think a $6 fountain drink (even the smallest size) was a bit much. It cost my family $30 to have a drink of ANYTHING except the free water in the little bitty 2-ounce water cooler cups at the bar. I've been a lot of places but I have never been anywhere that it's been quite that high. And I didn't seem to be the only one complaining about that either: the one-slice-of-pizza-and-a-drink-for-$16-combo "deal" at the to-go cafeteria was the joke around the mountain house. This alone made me very glad we did brown bag it!

The snow was a little thin/icy in spots and there were maybe a few closures on the trails, but not that bad. The higher up areas were obviously not as powdery as the lower parts of the mountain, but it really was not as much of a deterrent as all the people.

We had friends (both sets travelling with kids, all same ages as ours) in both Breckenridge and Park City this past week and both families just seemed to have an easier time overall, all things considered. Our trip wasn't terrible, I just think we will look around a little more next time.
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Jan 5th, 2013, 04:35 AM
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Oh, I do agree about that being an outrageous price. We haven't been to Keystone for a couple of years but we gathered at some "hut" at the bottom of a run--near a "far" parking lot.
We are going again in March and hope the snow will improve over the season.
And yes, you have to go when you can.
We always loved Vail for many years while our kids were teens. Lots of terrain.
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Jan 5th, 2013, 06:46 PM
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I do hope March is better for you, both snow and crowds. But either way, like I said, it didn't ruin our trip. It was just very noticeable.

I will have to check out Vail for next time. From what I gathered the Keystone properties are managed by Vail Management Co so you can ski both places and/or Breckenridge, depending on the ticket package you purchase. Of course with our young children it was just more feasible to stay in one place, but as they get older it might be fun to spread out a little bit, or at least check out one place or the other. Vail is where my husband learned to ski many years ago and it is still his favorite. Park City is nice too, but I prefer Colorado.

Have fun in the spring and let us know about your trip!
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Jan 5th, 2013, 07:57 PM
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Yes, there is a shared arrangement. I think you did for your family well in the ski school things as you wanted to. We have had our grands in the ski school there (might not have been as crowded) and it worked fine. You just never know. I honestly think "ski school" for tiny ones is baby sitting so parents et al can ski, and that is how we approach it. Even our grand who LIVES in Colorado was in that "semi-circle around the magic carpet"==she didn't care a bit about skiiing!! I was piffed to be paying for her pout!! Just so you know. LOL
But the real deal for little ones in ski school--they take them in and out of the shelter. They can't stay out in that cold (as you say you had). It's an all day affair. They do look after them--age appropriate.
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Jan 5th, 2013, 08:30 PM
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Yes, that is exactly what we decided by the end of the week - it was a step up from the childcare option (they also offered this), which gave the children a chance to at least put on skis. But since we actually wanted our kids to learn to ski, we went the other route and I was so glad! Every time we walked up the instructors tried to steer us towards ski school and we had to sort of insist on the lesson. I am sure this was due to the price difference, but we were happy to pay it, especially since it paid off and our kids were actually on the slopes by the end of the week. I realize I am complaining on one hand about food prices and on the other hand I'm saying it's no big deal to dish out the extra dough for a private lesson, but to me there is more value in acquiring a skill than an getting a sip of Sprite.

Funny story about your grand, LOL. I was so afraid we would get there and our kids would HATE the snow and cold and want to stay inside the whole time. Had that been the case I would not have hesitated to put them in the childcare or ski school. (BTW all the instructors were very attentive.) But they really had a ball and we had to drag them off the slopes each day. It truly was a lovely vacation for the simple fact that they learned to ski and we had great family time.
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Jan 6th, 2013, 08:21 AM
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Well, she is now a dedicated boarder. Age helps.
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Jan 6th, 2013, 10:49 AM
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If you think Keystone is expensive, wait till you stay at Vail! haha

My favorites are Aspen (stay in town), Winter Park, Steamboat and Crested Butte.
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Jan 7th, 2013, 11:03 AM
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Not sure what you are trying to say, Sanibella. You seem to be happy about Keystone but unhappy about the crowds. Unfortunately Christmas/New Years weeks are without question the busiest time of the year. You are going to have crowds and the problems that come with crowds. I don't think you will see much differences at that time of year between Breckenridge, Copper, etc. We have spent several Christmases at Breckenridge and seldom ski except for Christmas Day and New Year Day when the crowds are a little smaller. Living in Denver we don't have to ski at that time. And snow was tight this year but Keystone cannot control that either. I am sure they were making snow entire time. Just cannot make enough.

Vail Ski corp owns Keystone and Breckenridge so you can buy a multi day ticket that allows skiing at any of the three areas. You could move from one site to another during the day but that does make much sense because of the transit time. On a side note - The owners of Copper Mt (at the moment blank on the company) has the management contract for Winter Park (owned by Denver Parks Dept) so those two ski areas have interchangeable tickets.

We actually prefer Breckenridge as a base because it has more extensive services since it is a real town and not just a resort area. Vail is nice but it is not set up as well to handle large crowds and when it is crowded it is crowded. Beaver Creek works much better at that time of year because the lodging is limited, don't have the day skier pressure, and they are not friendly towards day skiers.

Come back next year but just know their will be large crowds.
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Jan 7th, 2013, 04:06 PM
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It wasn't the worst place I have ever stayed, but I wasn't thoroughly happy about Keystone, for reasons listed in the trip report (the accommodations were below my standards for sure, among other things not having to do with snow or crowds). But what I was trying to do was list a thorough trip report for anyone who has not been to Keystone in awhile, since I had researched it before going and had not seen a recent one on Fodors before leaving. That's all. Just tried to report the facts as they were. Yes, it was crowded, which I noted, and anyone researching a trip in the future might like to know that detail if wanting to go on the same week(s). If it's that crowded in other areas too, they can research that too, and know that going in. But we had to take vacation time when we had it, and honestly, I don't think Keystone properties did a super job handling the crowds (especially if they know it's high season as everyone here seems to be aware). Letting us sit outside in one degree weather and telling us they are too busy to bring us a key, the shuttle not working on schedule, no hot water, these are all indications that they cannot handle the crowds, and to me, that means I will look for a place that can handle it better next time. (One with better food options, by the way.) Because it was a trip report I was trying to be a little more objective in my post but since you seem to be so confused now you know "what I'm trying to say."

Thanks for the info on Breckenridge. As I have stated previously, I think we will look elsewhere next time, probably there or Deer Valley. (And before the flames begin: I am fully aware that a ski trip is expensive and Deer Valley is likely more expensive: in my TRIP REPORT I was simply trying to update the information here on Fodors for future researchers and list what the costs might be for any interested skiiers in Keystone, which I did find to be a bit pricey, although not surprising.)
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Jan 7th, 2013, 06:43 PM
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If you want great food, go to Aspen! (seriously, you won't run out of excellent restaurants in Aspen)
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Jan 8th, 2013, 08:33 AM
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That is true but you may run out of money. Deer Valley does have the advantage that they shut off ticket sales when they reach a certain "capacity." Even with limited ticket sales, it can be very crowded. And, of course, snow boarders are ban. The food at the ski bases is a notch or two better than most ski areas.

You might look at the Beaver Creek complex the next time as it provides a higher level of services and the mountain is much better and larger than Deer Valley.
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Jan 8th, 2013, 08:39 AM
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<<>>

Good point
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Jan 10th, 2013, 10:55 AM
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DH and I love Deer Valley. It is more expensive for lift tickets but we think it's worth it. It also has the added advantage of being a few minutes from Park City which is a real town and only 45 min from the Salt Lake airport. It is lower in altitude than the CO areas so adjustment is easier. Other ski areas in Park City you may enjoy are Canyons and Park City Resort. There is a free shuttle bus among all areas and the town. Ski areas everywhere will be mobbed and have top prices over the Holidays bcs, like you, most families have to adhere to the school vacation schedule. If you don't need to stay right at a resort, check out condo prices in locations a few min drive away on sites like vrbo. Some of our grown sons' favorite memories are of ski trips we took as a family when they were in school. Enjoy.
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Feb 18th, 2014, 09:46 AM
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We are at Breckenridge this year. Another holiday weekend, I might add. Everyone here (staff) is pointing out that it is a crowded weekend. While the chair lifts were pretty crowded on the weekend, much more so than the weekdays have been, we didn't feel the strain of the crowds at all. Breckenridge has been SO much more pleasant this year than our experience last year! They can seriously handle the crowds -- there is much more staff present, they are manning the chair lifts, the slopes, every common area with all hands on deck to keep things moving along, everyone is just prepared.

Meanwhile, the village is super cute and quaint with plenty of attraction...and within walking distance for us, so no waiting on the shuttle this year for us. Which, by the way, the shuttle is a large size bus which appears to be running continuously.

Our condo is more dated than others here, but *we have housekeeping every day* and *plenty of hot water* and it's convenient to slopes and village. Couldn't be an easier location. I don't remember seeing anything like this in Keystone, but I might have missed it.

And, the food is great! We have eaten in four restaurants, not including the ones that are slope side. All have been reasonably priced with a variety of food options, and we have a party of TEN! Seated us right away (holiday weekend, oh my!) and great service. And the slope side restaurants are decent too. And hello--you can get a variety of meal entrees for $8-10 and a variety of drink options for $2-5. REASONABLE. I like. A lot.

We have done ski school and private lessons with various ages represented and been very, very pleased with the size of the groups and also the one-on-one lessons. Kids have been up on the mountain several times with small group lessons and one of the more athletic adults went from beginner to level 3 in a day. Money well spent all around.

Our experienced skiers in the group have been way up the mountain and found plenty to challenge them. True there are not as many blacks and double blacks, but they have plenty to do.

We have now been to Park City, Deer Valley, and Snowmass with adults only, but only to Keystone and Breck with kids and extended family. Again, we did not have a terrible time in Keystone, it was *fine* but we are just loving Breckenridge for the bigger group!
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