News from the snow
Under the same ownership as Breckenridge and acquired in 1997 by Vail Resorts Inc., Keystone's numerous claims to fame include the largest night-skiing operation in Colorado and North America's biggest ice rink (five acres). The resort's ski area is relatively unusual, resembling Les Deux Alpes in France, in that the trails and mountains stack out in a line behind the resort itself, rather than following the more common model of running side-by-side above the resort valley. The mountains become slightly higher and slightly steeper the further back you go, creating Keystone's heavily promoted 'Outback' area beneath Outback Peak, the third and furthest mountain from the resort base. Here you will find the above treeline open bowl skiing that has become a requirement of all major Western US ski areas, as well as the equally obligatory tree skiing. In common with most of the resorts in the area Keystone's history is relatively short with the familiar meteoric rise to fame of neighbours such as Copper Mountain and Vail. Keystone opened in 1970 with three lifts and a $5 lift ticket attracting 75,000 visitors in its first season. After purchase by a St Louis based company in 1978 the resort acquired neighbour Arapahoe Basin in 1978, at the time allowing it to claim the highest lift-served terrain in the US. Although Arapahoe Basin has been knocked down to third place in the 'highest lifts' league of the US, and is no longer owned by Keystone since the Vail purchase, it is still on a joint lift ticket which also includes other Vail resorts including Breckenridge and Beaver Creek. The Ski The Summit Pass, which was for most of the '90s one of the very few multi-area passes in North America and included Copper Mountain, no longer exists however. The resort had the biggest terrain expansion in the US for ten years in 1984 when it opened its second mountain, North Peak, adding night skiing the following year. The Outback, the resort's third mountain, was opened as part of a $32 million expansion in 1990. The following year the Alpenglow Stube restaurant, the highest gourmet restaurant in North America, opened. The other two major events of the 1990s were the announcement of plans to build a $400 million base village in conjunction with Intrawest in 1994 (this has subsequently grown in to a 15 year $1 billion redevelopment plan) and the purchase by Vail in 1997. The on-going spending means that visitors see dramatic change and new dining, lodging and shopping options every season should they choose to visit regularly, and will continue to do so at least until the current plan is completed in 2009.
Under same ownership as Breckenridge and aquired in 1997 by Vail Resorts INC., Keystone has the largest night-skiing operation in Colorado and North America's biggest ice rink (five acres).
The kat skiing accesses three bowls - Erickson, Bergman and Independence Bowl (added for 2007-8). The kats serve virgin powder terrain and for the best skiers can provide up to 10 ascents on a half-day session at high value prices.
Back on the regular slopes, the most developed section of the lift-serviced ski area is the original front face of Dercum mountain which is largely floodlit for night skiing and contains the snowboarding terrain park as well as the beginner terrain. There are more than 50 forgiving runs on this part of the mountain alone, including Keystone's longest, Schoolmarm, at 5km (3 miles).
Beginners may cut their first turns on the Discovery beginner slope under the watchful eyes of one of the ski school's special trainers. As you get further away from the resort base the terrain gets a little more challenging. The Santiago quad accesses some of North America's best mogul/bump skiing.
The terrain becomes more isolated and challenging venturing beyond the reach of the gondolas to the Outback area for Keystone's above treeline South and North bowls skiing as well as black diamond gladed runs Timberwolf, Bushwacker, Badger and The Grizz. 51% of the resort's terrain is graded advanced or expert. For fine tuning your technique, private lessons are available and skiing clinics hosted by pros like the Mahre brothers, as well as special women only clinics.
Of course most visitors will want to make use of the Vail resort's multi-area pass and ski at Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge if they're making a stay of a week or more. The pass also covers Arapahoe Basin, linked with a free shuttle bus along with Breckenridge.
Now for the 2008/2009 season get the Epic Pass. This provides unlimited skiing in Vail, Breckenridge Beaver Creek and Heavenly for $579. http://snow.com/epicpass/
Ski school starts at age 3 with the Mini Mice scheme, then Mogul Mice from age 4 and Superstars up to school age. Before and after classes children have an indoor entertainment program including games, puppet shows and play in a special playroom. There are magic carpet lifts on the mountain to ease the early lift riding experience.
School age children up to age 14 are graded according to ability, with beginners in Discoverer, intermediates in Mountain Explorer, and the Mountain Diamond Club for the most advanced who can choose between rotating classes with themes such as moguls and racing.
Snowboarding is available for children aged 8 and up with 4 or 5 hours on-board tuition plus indoor supervision. In common with other Vail resorts children's ski and snowboard school incorporates their specially developed 'Ski-cology' environmental education program designed to teach children about the resort's ecology as they learn to ski and 'board. Other schemes help children to learn how to use a trail map properly and give the opportunity to try out new sliding devices.
Special areas themed for children to slide through and play in are located off the Spring Dipper, Upper Paymaster and Silver Spoon trails. Older children tend to enjoy the scene around the Area 51 snowboard park which incorporates a Shack where they can hang out, take a break, watch tv and get a non-alcoholic drink; it's open until 9pm daily.
Children of all ages enjoy the Adventure Point tubing park and there are plenty of family-friendly eateries with dozens more choices for leisure and eating in the greater Summit County.
Those with a sense of culinary adventure can allow the chef to design a personal dinner for them. Next door to the Stube, Der Fondue Chessel offers fondues and raclettes and the invaluable post-dinner opportunity to learn the Chicken Dance accompanied by live Bavarian music. Apart from the Alpenglow Stube another highly regarded restaurant, the Keystone Ranch, also offers six course dinners with Rocky Mountain ingredients. Sample menu items may include venison with chili peppers and blue corn, elk with wild mushrooms and juniper sauce or perhaps Colorado ruby trout wrapped in cabbage.
The Ski Tip Lodge was formerly a stagecoach stop in the 1880s and then a skiers' lodge in the 1940s, making it one of the most atmospheric buildings in the area. It's famous for its Swiss style breakfasts, special coffee and American regional dinners.
Another choice for those searching for something different is to sign up for a cookery class in the Keystone Conference Centre kitchen which ends with a six course dinner with wine and champagne - and you get to take home a recipe book, chef's hat and apron!
Apart from eating, drinking and dining, evening choices include the biggest night skiing operation in the area, the biggest ice skating lake in North America, full moon hiking and cross country ski excursions, sleigh rides and the new Adventure Point fun park for night time tubing antics.
Located in Packsaddle bowl, the park features two half pipes, one designed for beginners, the other goes beyond Olympic spec to maximise big air opportunities. A second terrain park has been created on the Jackwhacker intermediate-advanced trail. The run has been regraded to offer riders a more challenging vertical. The trail features table tops, hips, spines and other jumps of various sizes.