Top Lift: 11,980ft
Ski area: 3,148 acres of terrain
Adult lift pass: $420-564 for six days
In a Nutshell
Keystone is a schizophrenic ski resort, mixing long nursery slopes and child-friendly activities with powdery mountain bowls, tough bump runs and steepish pistes. For a week’s holiday, it’s best targeted by energetic and adventurous families. Everyone else should regard it as a short-break destination, or an essential day trip from neighbouring Breckenridge.
Essential Advice for the Perfect Trip
There are all sorts of things to like about Keystone. At 3,148 acres, its ski area is a decent size for North America, and offers good, sometimes superb, terrain for all levels of skier.
But that doesn’t stop it being overshadowed by its near neighbour Breckenridge – and the reason why is pretty obvious. Breck is a Wild West mining town with some cool old-school architecture, a buzzing apres-ski scene, and a core of ski-mad inhabitants who give the place some soul. Keystone is a mountain with holiday condos attached. Whatever the virtues of its ski area, most who come for more than a weekend would rather holiday in Breckenridge – and then day-trip to Keystone if they get bored of Breck’s skiing.
It’s marketed primarily as a family-friendly resort
Given how quiet it is at night, especially midweek, it’s perhaps no surprise that Vail Resorts, Keystone’s owners, market it as a family-friendly ski resort. So alongside its inherent attractions – the roomy condos, the lack of boisterous revellers, the good beginner terrain – the resort has added a range of child-friendly activities. These include long, lift-serviced tube riding, an enormous ice-skating rink, and the world’s largest snow castle (snowfall permitting). They’ve even created a special Kidtopia programme, with a weekly parade and daily street performers and several family-friendly features at its ski school. Not surprisingly, kids love the night-skiing here. Prices tend to be slightly lower than in neighbouring Breckenridge too.
We think this resort works best for kids who can already ski a bit – because despite the long beginner runs on Dercum the other trails in Keystone tend to be steeper than the Colorado norm. But for a mid-priced Colorado family skiing trip, it’s worth serious consideration.
But the best terrain is for advanced skiers and boarders
Despite the family-friendly image, the best skiing in Keystone is for more advanced skiers and riders – courtesy of a large area of wide open mountain bowls at the top of the ski area, served by snowcats. There are other treats in store too, including long bump runs, a highly-rated terrain park and great tree skiing.
So does that mean stronger, more confident skiers without children should target Keystone too? No. We agree with the prevailing wisdom. Make Breckenridge your base – and then day-trip to Keystone when you’ve got bored with the terrain in Breck. It’s only a 30-minute drive, and your Breckenridge lift pass will let you ski there at no extra cost. Day-tripping to Keystone a couple of times during your holiday will add enormously to the richness and variety of the skiing experience.