A member of the mighty Vail Resorts group, Keystone is one of Colorado's most popular and successful purpose-built ski resorts, offering a choice of two modern and lively resort villages, with an extensive and interesting ski area across three linked mountains set in the beautiful White River National Forest.
Keystone's River Run Village sits at the foot of the area's principal Dercum Mountain and is spread over two separate slope-side base areas; Keystone's Lakeside Village is located off-mountain around 2km further to the west and, as its name suggests, sits on the shore of an attractively landscaped lake, which transforms into a huge natural ice-skating rink during the mid-winter months.
Another prime feature of Keystone is that many of the slopes (including the excellent terrain park) on its gondola-served Dercum Mountain are floodlit and remain open long after the sun sets. The resort even publishes a special Night Ski Piste Map.
The Vail Resorts group's other Summit County ski resorts of Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, and Vail itself, are all less than a hour's drive away from Keystone; all four resorts are covered by the group's single 'Epic Pass' lift pass, as is Keystone's nearest neighbouring ski area Arapahoe Basin (A-Basin), which lies just 8km beyond Keystone on the same highway.
Keystone's River Run Village sits at the base of the slopes, with a wide pisted footbridge funnelling the home-run piste across the Snake River, and has a second slope-side satellite base area called Mountain House a few hundred metres to the west. The principal access lift is the fast River Run Gondola, based on the village side of the river, connecting directly with the summit of Keystone's principal Dercum Mountain.
Dercum's tree-lined slopes cover a balanced mix of runs for all ability levels: with a good selection of immaculately-groomed long green and blue pistes crisscrossing down through the forest on the front of the mountain - together with a highly rated terrain park - whilst the back-side of the mountain offers a couple of steep black-diamond descents.
Advanced skiers can also hike along the ridge from the summit to an exciting glade area known as 'The Windows'.
Beginners start off either at the Discovery Learning Area at Mountain House base area or at the Ranger Learning Area on the summit of Dercum Mountain.
Beyond Dercum lie two further lift-served mountains: North Peak and The Outback, the latter the highest and most distant. North Peak is linked summit-to-summit to Dercum Mountain by gondola and is noted for its long and steep fall-line black-diamond runs, a number of which feature tough mogul fields.
The Outback offers further steep terrain and is particularly noteworthy for its North and South Bowls which can be reached by hiking off along the ridge towards the higher neighbouring Wapiti Peak. North Peak and The Outback are also accessible by competent intermediates, who have a fair choice of far-ranging blue runs to explore.
Cat-ski adventures are also available, opening up the huge bowls on Independence Mountain and Keystone Peak out to the east, away from Keystone's lift-served ski area.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Keystone's two resort villages are thoughtfully designed purpose-built developments that have pedestrian plazas at their cores, filled with a good range of shops, restaurants, and bars. Ice skating rinks are a feature of both villages, but the one at Lakeside Village is very special because it covers almost the entire surface of a sizeable ornamental lake.
Between them the two resort villages and their environs also offer a good selection of other activities and attractions: including a fitness centre and spa, a swimming pool, an indoor tennis centre, plus a Cross-Country Snowsports Centre.
Apres ski is fairly animated but relatively low-key. The liveliest spot is usually the 9280' Tap House at River Run Village. Evenings in Keystone are primarily focused on the resort's family-friendly restaurants and diner-bars; there are, however, a handful of livelier sports-bars and music-bars, a few cosy cocktail lounges, plus a couple of disco-bars; locals' tip for a great night out is The Goat, renowned for its live music gigs.
Bars and clubs
Last Lift Bar
New Moon Café
Ski Tip Lodge
Wolf Rock Steakhouse
Pizza on the Plaza