2002 Number 6 Resort In North America: Beaver Creek, Colo.

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Rightfully regarded as "a plush resort with great service," Beaver Creek also is chronically criticized as too expensive. However, most visitors eventually agree: "You get what you pay for." While there is no denying that Beaver Creek sets Colorado's gold standard for the finer aspects of vacationing, its other strengths are often overlooked. "The challenge is spine-tingling," a reader says. "Possibly the best fall-line skiing I've ever seen," raves another. Where else can skiers rip down a world-class downhill like Birds of Prey or cruise "double-blacks that are groomed to perfection" after sipping a mochaccino? As one reader states, "from terrain to elegant restaurants, this place has it all." Some day-skiers bristle at "having to ride a bus to the ski area," but once there, they love the "great, uncrowded runs and fantastic base area" with its "European ambience." And those infamous escalators to the lifts? "They're so wonderful," a reader coos. Beaver Creek realizes that a happy kid means a happy family, and offers "super child care." And after a day on the slopes, kids can enjoy ice-skating and torchlight parades while parents stroll through the village or take in a show at the Vilar Center. However, some visitors denounce the "lack of family dining" and "limited nightlife." Whether you're there with family or friends, one reader attests, Beaver Creek "has just about everything you can possibly want in a ski vacation." And that's well worth the price.

WHAT'S NEW Golden Gliders, a three-day instruction package for intermediate skiers, ages 55 and up; construction begins on 238-room Ritz Carlton Hotel at the base of Bachelor Gulch, scheduled to open late 2002.

A GOOD DEAL The Adult Beginner Series. Get three days' instruction, lift tickets and rentals for $155. Call 970-845-5300.

MEDALS GOLD Grooming, Terrain, Challenge, Lifts, Service, Weather, On-Mountain Food, Lodging, Dining, Family Programs; SILVER Snow, Access, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities.

HIGH/LOW RANK Service (2), Lodging (5), Grooming (7), Dining (7); Terrain (38), Challenge (38), Value (67).

DON'T MISS The Men's World Cup Downhill on Birds of Prey, Dec. 1-2; Watch the best skiers in the world prepare for the Olympics. And it's free.

READER REMARKS (+) "The best overall resort I've ever taken my family to." "Everything is first-class."
(-) "Poorly laid-out trail system." "Help has an attitude." "You'll need all your credit cards."