Summer Resorts 2002-Southern Rockies: Vail/Beaver Creek, Colo.

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Vail/Beaver Creek, Colo.

While winter may be the Vail Valley's first love, the summer is her mistress. The warm weather that turns snowy slopes a brilliant green also melts Gore Creek's icy veneer, revealing a paddling paradise. Vail has capitalized on spring runoff by creating the Vail Whitewater Park, where rocks and boulders have been rearranged to create waves and holes so kayakers can play. Tamer but just as fun is a guided trip down the Shoshone section of the Colorado River. Just 20 minutes west of Beaver Creek, it winds past the deep walls of Glenwood Canyon. Or, for a truly heart-thumping, Class-V whitewater experience, join a Gore Canyon trip.

Dry off while exploring the summits of either resort. Both are lift served and together boast more than 100 miles of maintained trails. Learn mountain-ecosystem secrets by joining a guided hike, or self-guide on one of the resorts' Hikeology trails. By mid-July, the wildflower meadows can be waist-deep in places such as China Bowl.

Around here, dirt gets as much respect as flora. Minutes from downtown Vail, the winding, technical Lost Lake Trail takes riders to an alpine lake deep into the Eagle's Nest Wilderness. Sign the kids on for a day at Adventure Camp, pack a picnic, and spend a romantic day by the lake.

When you regroup at day's end, head to low-key Vendetta's for Italian. The kids will be all talk about the rock wall they've climbed and their compass-reading skills. If you hadn't already booked tomorrow's wrangler outing to the 4 Eagle Ranch, you'd enroll them again. Oh well, there's always next summer. ¿N.K.

DON'T MISS Beaver Creek's Vilar Center hosts contemporary concerts and music, dance and theater presentations, and at Vail free Tuesday-night concerts at the Ford Amphitheater are a summer tradition.

best deal Get one night at the Hyatt for two, two 50-minute massages, two fitness classes and unlimited access to the fitness facilities for $304 per night. 800-554-9288; www.hyatt.com.