Essentially, the Beaver Creek skiing area splits into two big lumps. On the left, as you look up, lies the main massif, rising in two clear stages to the summit at 11,440ft (3488m). Next door to this, Grouse Mountain is actually just a spur of the main peak, and together these two zones provide most of Beaver Creek’s steepish and super-fast groomers – as well as its excellent bump runs. On the right are the much gentler slopes of Bachelor Gulch: which are heaven for beginners and the wobblier sort of intermediate.
This is a smallish resort (just 1,815 acres, compared with 5,289 acres in nearby Vail, and over 24,000 acres in the Espace Killy in France – home to Val d’Isere and Tignes. Some people will find enough skiing here to keep them happy for a whole holiday: notably long-weekenders, beginners, families with children who are still learning, and spa-addicts. Everyone else will find there’s not enough to keep them busy for a whole trip: but that’s not a problem because Vail is just around the corner, and is served by regular shuttle buses if you don’t have a car. Taken together they provide a varied and snowy playground that’s meaty enough for all but expert skiers.
Families will like it best
Beaver Creek’s nursery slopes have their own private gondola. Add to that a highly-rated ski school, and some long and very gentle trails above Bachelor Gulch, and you can see why the resort is so popular with well-heeled families. The children get ego-boosting slopes, while the grown-ups have just enough skiing on the doorstep to get the blood pumping before it’s time to pick the little ones up from ski school.
Intermediate and advanced skiers will have a blast too
Provided they combine Beaver Creek with frequent trips to Vail (or vice versa), then intermediates and more advanced (but not expert) skiers will have a ball here. The main massif is loaded with wide open, uncrowded trails that maintain a steady and exciting pitch, straight down the fall line. Blues like Redtail and Harrier, off Spruce Saddle are a great place to warm up, while black-diamond runs such as Royal Elk Glades, Bald Eagle, Falcon Park, and Osprey off Grouse Mountain will really get the blood pumping. Then, when you’re feeling really loose, it’s time to hit the many bump runs. Those off the Larkspur Express chair are a good place to start.
Not a place for experts
Despite the presence of stomach-in-your-mouth steeps on Birds of Prey, the World Cup Downhill course, this isn’t a destination for true experts. Yes, there are bumps, yes there’s some demanding tree-skiing too. But you’d be mad to come here if your natural playground is a place like Chamonix, Verbier or Jackson Hole.
Surprisingly – a good range of terrain parks
It’s bizarre. Beaver Creek markets itself as a luxury resort – and yet it has three terrain parks and a half-pipe. For really serious freestylers, it’s no substitute for Breckenridge, which is the leviathan of the Colorado freestyle scene. But if you want to try jumps and tricks for the first time (or, more realistically, your children do) then it’s a good choice. The ski school’s Parkology programme is highly-rated, and the diddy likkel features of the 101 park, at the top of the resort, are the perfect place to practice.
All in all, what really strikes us about this mountain is how fast it is. A combination of good snow, fall-line trails and a lack of crowds (thanks to the cost of holidaying here) means that we always end up drenched in adrenaline. You know the feeling – when you look back up a mountain and think “I’ve got to slow down, or else I’m going to really hurt myself”? That’s our experience of Beaver Creek.