Beaver Creek, Colorado: Rank 20 West, 1997

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Like a precocious little sister, Beaver Creek offers much of the excellence of neighboring Vail¿just in a smaller, cuter package. "The Beav" pampers its guests with the fifth-ranked Service and eighth-ranked Grooming in thecountry. And it always has better snow than its bigger counterpart simply because it doesn't get skied off as quickly. Theresort also boasts a layout and a lift system that make it easy to navigate and fun to cruise. Looking for a challenge? Head to Grouse Mountain for bumps or Royal Elk Glades for expert pitches. Don't be fooled by Beaver Creek's reputation forpampered indulgence: it's also home to bump runs that will make your knees pray for lunch. A small pedestrian village with little traffic and intriguing architecture offers one of the most elegant, if somewhat sedate, ski resort experiences in the country. The dining and shopping are equally upscale, including several AAA, four-diamond restaurants and lodging properties. You can't go wrong at the singular Beano's Cabin or the Grouse Mountain Grill. For après-ski action, hit the Coyote Cafe.

What's New A high-speed quad (Beaver Creek's sixth) replaces Chair 8 from Spruce Saddle to the summit; the "Birds of Prey" World Cup downhill course will be completed in lateNovember for its December debut races, leading up to the 1999 World Championships.
A Good Deal Stay three nights, ski three days and the fourth day and night are free. Good from opening day through Dec. 18 and March 30 through closing; (800) 243-8053.
Medals Gold Grooming, Terrain, Service, Snow Quality, Lifts, Weather; Silver Challenge, On-Mountain Food.
High/Low Rank Service (5); Value (66).
Don't Miss There is no better way to end a ski day than kicking back in front of the Hyatt's oversized, outdoor fireplace,snuggling up under one of the hotel's heavy wool blankets and sipping Hot Toddies.
Reader Remarks "No crowds, outstanding grooming,under-appreciated expert terrain." "Everything is way too expensive."