Only the truly dedicated really like to resort-hop when they head to the mountains. For the rest, the attraction of a ski vacation is to get there, and then stay there to ski, imbibe in the high-altitude atmosphere, eat well and find a few off-mountain distractions to help soothe tired legs. And Keystone–the largest of Colorado’s famed Front Range ski resorts–delivers that precise one-stop experience.
This destination resort includes three mountains, five above-tree line bowls and three villages–River Run Village, Lakeside Village and Mountain House Base Area. Both have plenty of shopping, access to lifts and gondolas and bars and restaurants. Just 90 minutes from Denver, Keystone boasts an impressive 3,148 skiable acres with 128 runs accessible via two gondolas and 20 lifts (all wind-powered), including an eight-passenger gondola that sweeps guests up to nearly 12,000 feet from River Run. This easy accessibility, paired with lively village distractions, has earned Keystone a well-deserved rep for being family-friendly, with great night skiing, an ice rink, tubing and great restaurants.
Keystone is known for its multitude of long, rolling intermediate runs and steep cruisers. Twelve percent of the mountain is dedicated to beginner slopes, and while there’s not a lot of extreme terrain, the resort has enough steep tree runs, moguls and cornices to challenge the most advanced skiers.
Start by riding the lift up to the top of 11,640-foot Dercum Mountain to breathe in the expansive views of Lake Dillon, the Continental Divide and Ten Mile Range. Then choose from a variety of easy, intermediate and expert runs.
Though there are no double blacks on the mountain, more extreme skiers tend to migrate to the upper reaches of 11,660-foot North Peak or the taller Outback Mountain (11,980 feet) to loop runs on the sun-softened snow. From there you can head deeper into the backcountry via Outlook Express, or take an inexpensive snowcat shuttle to the top of North and South bowls, were you can hike an additional 1.5 miles to the unfettered lines found in Erickson bowl–but don’t hesitate, as the back bowls are typically closed by midday. Or go big by signing up for a daylong snowcat trip into Keystone’s Independence Bowl. The package tour gets you fat ski rentals, loads of fresh pow and a gourmet lunch in a backwoods yurt.
Beginners and intermediates have more than half of the resort catering to their skill level, from wide-open green cruisers and bunny slopes that host ski clinics and lessons to dropping into narrow chutes, carving over both groomed and ungroomed blue runs and glade skiing through playfully spaced trees.
Kids love Keystone for many reasons. The resort developed a first-of-its-kind Family Ski Trail, The Schoolyard on Schoolmarm, Keystone’s signature green run, which winds down three miles of pristine groomed terrain. The section includes fun snow features such as rollers and banked turns to aid in progression of skiing and riding skills. In 2013, the resort began a new Kids Ski Free program; children 12 and under ski free every day, all season, with just a two or more nights’ stay in any of the resort's 800+ owned/operated lodging options–just book with the resort’s hospitality center. Kids get a toy from the "treasure chest" when they check in, and are entertained on a daily basis with firework, meeting the avalanche dogs and a majestic snowfort on the top of the mountain with tunnels, slides, snow maze and an ice throne. They also offer a variety of classes and camps geared toward women and children, as well as Kidtopia, a family-centric HQ with snow forts, cookies, and daily scavenger hunts.
Those anxious to test out their creative skills will also find one of the best parks in the country, conveniently accessible via the Peru Express. The 60-acre A51 Terrain Park truly has it all: beginner, intermediate and advance terrain, more than 100 features and a park-specific lift to keep you hucking for hours.
One thing that separates Keystone from the other Summit County resorts is its excellent night skiing. Weather permitting, up to 15 runs and the A51 Terrain Park are lined with huge floodlights. You can ski as the sun sets over the Rockies, and then keep going until as late as 8 o’clock.
The skiing is excellent, with plenty of fresh powder and superb grooming, but Keystone offers much more than on-snow excitement. There’s a 10,000-foot spa in the Keystone Lodge and a five-acre ice skating rink in River Run Village.
In short, you have no reason to want to leave–but if you do, know that other Front Range resorts like Arapahoe Basin, Beaver Creek, Vail and Breckenridge are a short drive away.
DINE: You have to take not one, but two gondolas to reach the summit of North Peak, where you can dine at 11,444-feet in true high-elevation splendor at the Bavarian-style Der Fondue Chessel. The traditional Swiss cheese fondue is delicious, as is the Raclette course, which you cook yourself on table-top Raclette grills. But save room for the chocolate fondue course–we highly recommend the signature Flaming Turtle.
STAY: Set among blue spruce and lodgepole pine, the charming B&B Ski Tip Lodge was once a stage coach stop, and is one of Keystone’s oldest building. Think rustic elegance–from exposed beams and big stone fireplace to down comforters and antique beds. The lodge has delicious food at their AAA four-diamond restaurant, a hot tub, ski storage and a complimentary shuttle service to River Run Village.