Top Lift: 11,440ft
Ski area: 1,815 acres of terrain
Adult lift pass: $444-654 for six days
In a Nutshell
Beaver Creek used to be Vail’s upmarket neighbour: but now Vail is in many ways just as posh. So think of Beaver Creek instead as Vail’s smaller, quieter neighbour, with better snow and a wider variety of groomed slopes.
Essential Advice for the Perfect Trip
Think of Beaver Creek as Vail’s shy but interesting younger sister. Owned by the same company, it’s hidden away from the real world on a private road above the valley town of Avon, 15 minutes’ drive along I-70. You could ski a whole week in Vail and never know it’s there.
Until about five years ago, Beaver Creek was Vail’s posher neighbour, too. But these days, Vail is galloping upmarket, thanks to a string of high-falutin’ hotel, condominium and restaurant openings – and in many ways it now offers a more glittering experience. Nevertheless, Beaver Creek is still an attractive proposition. Here you’ll find a different kind of skiing luxury: quieter, more discrete and more convenient.
It’s still a very comfortable holiday experience
Unlike other upmarket rivals such as Telluride and Aspen, Beaver Creek is a purpose-built ski resort. That makes it less charming – but also more ski-friendly. A lot of the accommodation is ski-in, ski-out, the village centre is pedestrianised, and the authorities have installed escalators to whisk its well-heeled clientele up to the lifts.
Focal point of the main village is an open-air ice rink surrounded by designer boutiques, upscale restaurants, posh hotels and condos, and a plethora of art galleries where prices are only available on request. Meanwhile, on a separate site, but linked into the same lift system, lies the even ritzier enclave of Bachelor Gulch, which is home to one of North America’s most luxurious ski hotels, the cocoon-like Ritz Carlton, and one of its best mountain restaurants: Spago.
The ski area is small, but packed with interest
If all of this talk of luxury has you rushing for the sick bucket – hold on: because the mountain that backs up all this conspicuous consumption saves Beaver Creek from becoming a glorified gated community. At 1,815 acres, it’s a little on the small side, but it’s packed with great skiing – from long, reassuring beginner’s runs, to superfast, fall-line groomers. The resort is also home to the only regularly-used World Cup downhill course in North America. Overall, the balance of runs favours the more gung-ho kind of intermediate, as well as advanced skiers who like steep pistes and bumps – though they will ski the area comprehensively in three days. Beginners and second-week skiers will also enjoy it thanks to a separate area of pistes/trails above Bachelor Gulch which is very easy-going.
Well-heeled families will like it best
For a one-week ski holiday, families with a big ski budget will like Beaver Creek best. Its ski school busts a gut to keep children happy, and the parents can either let rip on the slopes, or sit and soak in their hotel’s spa, when the little ones are having their lessons.
That doesn’t mean other skiers should ignore it. Beaver Creek’s skiing has a different flavour from Vail’s. There’s nothing off-piste to compare with the Back Bowls or Blue Sky Basin: but there are longer, steeper, more sustained pistes/trails. So by staying in one and skiing the other from time to time you can add considerably to your holiday experience. Which one you choose as a base depends on what you’re after. Vail is the place to be if you want nightlife, razzmatazz or a quick access to the Back Bowls. Stay in Beaver Creek if you’re looking for peace and quiet.