Vail is known the world over for its impossibly light powder, expanse of intermediate trails and quaint cobblestoned ski village. But with that notoriety comes ski lift lines, crowded runs and booked hotels throughout the peak season. If you’re planning one more ski trip this winter, opt instead for Beaver Creek. Just a stone’s throw from Vail, its sister resort is generally less crowded and features equally well-groomed slopes and versatile terrain perfect for families and groups of varying skill level. But don’t expect to skimp on the luxury at Beaver Creek because there’s plenty of that here, too.
Beaver Creek offers more than 1,800 acres of skiable terrain, 150 trails and 24 lifts which connect three villages — the pedestrian village of Beaver Creek, which is the center of events and happenings, and the quietly upscale Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead villages, which mostly consist of private vacation homes and condominiums. All lodging is within walking distance of lifts, shops and restaurants, but you will immediately find out why Beaver Creek’s slogan is “Not exactly roughing it.”
Throughout the day, a free shuttle service arrives on call to transport guests between villages and destinations. Heated walkways throughout Beaver Creek Village melt away the ice and several levels of speedy elevators deliver guests from shuttles to the plaza and slopes. Ski valets store your gear and warm your boots, and each day begins with creamy hot cocoa and ends with warm chocolate chip cookies passed out at the base of the mountain by chefs. Suffice it to say, the hardest you’ll be working over the next few days is on the slopes.
For a stay where romance is in the forecast as much as snow, check into Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch (in-room fireplaces, private balconies). If you’re traveling with family or a group, European-styled The Charter at Beaver Creek, a Wyndham Vacation Rentals-managed resort with spacious living areas and fully equipped kitchens, is a smart choice.
Of course, if you’re simply requesting an elegant stay in the middle of the action, check in at the Four-Star Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa. The ski-in/ski-out hotel, located right at the base of the Gore Range, features fireside suites and slopeside views, as well as a fire pit with a daily s’mores happy hour, a heated outdoor pool and five hot tubs. The front door even opens out to the plaza, home of the Beaver Creek ice skating rink, boutiques, galleries, restaurants and many events throughout the year.
Beaver Creek is known for its incredible ski instruction, so don’t hesitate to arrange afternoon lessons with a private instructor if you need them. After you work up an appetite on the hills, there are plenty of easily accessible lunch options at the base of Centennial chairlift. The Beaver Creek Chophouse is known for its hearty soups, sandwiches and signature charbroiled steak burger that can be ordered with a bottle of Dom Perignon. Tucked in the heart of the village is Hooked, a sea-inspired eatery with lunch options like Colorado bass tacos, spicy lobster po’boys and a seared tuna sandwich with pineapple salsa. Equally popular is the spot’s après ski scene, where locals nosh on sushi and crab legs at the new tiki bar while sipping cocktails out of fresh young coconuts.
After a bite, you can elect to walk around the village, give the slopes another go or, if you’re visiting between March 14 and April 11, you can experience the Beaver Creek SpringFest. Like some sort of light-hearted mix of a county fair, college pep rally and deleted scene from Frozen, the SpringFest is the perfect afternoon distraction for kids of all ages.
Bundle up for dinner and enjoy the scenic sleigh ride up to Beano’s Cabin (the restaurant provides the trip), nestled in the Gore Range, where you’ll trade in your boots for cozy slippers and nosh on the most relaxing fine dining imaginable. Executive chef Bill Greenwood takes “locally sourced” to a whole new level by harvesting daily from Beano’s garden and foraging in the mountains for greens, berries, mushrooms and roots. Not to miss is his exquisite Berkshire pork porterhouse with heirloom antebellum grits, honey-glazed carrots and apple preserves.
Depending on the night, you may also catch skiers illuminated with glow sticks gliding down the slopes with fireworks sparkling above. On other evenings, the village rink might be lively with music and flickering tabletop fireplaces. Of course, a soak in the hot tub before sinking into bed is fair game any night of the week.
Though Park Hyatt’s Four-Star Allegria Spa is a treat, throw on a few layers and head to The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch’s Four-Star spa on this trip. This 21,000-square-foot sanctuary has three gorgeous rock-studded grottos — one is co-ed with lounge chairs and cascading waterfalls, and two are gender specific, each featuring steam and sauna. After you’ve had your seasonal Double Black Diamond facial or Bachelor Gulch signature massage, complete your experience with a soak in their trademark copper tub, which is big enough for two.
Not five minutes away is SaddleRidge, a majestic museum of a restaurant where you’ll feast on lunch with a side of crackling stone fireplaces, sweeping lofted ceilings and rooms stuffed with Geronimo’s tomahawk and General Custer’s hat. Take in the mountain view while indulging in a buffalo sloppy joe topped with smoked cheddar cheese, wild mushrooms, bacon cherry barbecue sauce and crispy cornmeal onions. After the meal, however, you might have a hard time hitting the slopes again.
With so much left to explore, here’s hoping you have some energy left. Now, if you need a change of pace from downhill skiing, the Nordic Sports Center is your one-stop shop for Nordic skiing, Telemark skiing and snowshoeing. Private tours can be arranged for two hours, a half-day or a full day. You can even mix and match different lessons with the Nordic Sampler package. As your instructor points out, “If you can walk, you can snowshoe,” so even non-skiers can enjoy the spectacular views of three mountain ranges from the top of the Strawberry Park Express lift.
When you find yourself needing that inevitable break from the great outdoors, there are plenty of places to shop in Beaver Creek. Stock up on new gear and après-wear at Patagonia, The North Face, Kjus and Gorsuch. Find the perfect art or jewelry souvenir (or memento from your weekend) at Mudhead Gallery, By Nature Gallery and J. Cotter Gallery.
That evening, explore the cocktail program at Buffalos before your dinner reservation at Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Spago, Wolfgang Puck’s 126-seat restaurant within The Ritz-Carlton. Dine in the exhibition kitchen to get in on the action, or opt for a spot in the window-walled dining room instead. Chef de cuisine Jared Montarbo crafts market-driven menus using local meats and produce from the onsite garden. Since no trip to Colorado is complete without lamb, it’s suggested you try the Chinois-style chops with Hunan eggplant, snap and snow peas, and cilantro-mint vinaigrette. Just be sure to save room for a warm nightcap and the toasty s’mores savored around the fire pit.