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Fly into Denver. Drive 120 miles west on I-70. Take exit 167 into Avon and follow signs to resort.
What with the Ritz-Carlton, the Golden Beaver jewelry shop, and all that valet parking, you might assume Beaver Creek is lousy with fur coats and groomers. And it is, but beyond the swanky facade lie scores of steep, gladed snow quarries: hike-to chutes that just sit there waiting for the powder-hungry. What’s more, “The Beav” winch-cats the 45-degree Birds of Prey World Cup Downhill course weekly so all manner of skier may rip it at butterfly-inducing speeds. Better yet, you stand a fine chance of being all but alone on the better terrain, since most everyone overlooks Beaver Creek for Vail—or spends half their time buying cheesy horse art.
Grouse Mountain. Period. Lap the 35-degree pitch of Royal Elk Glades (off Grouse Mountain Express lift), starting off to skier’s right and moving left as it gets skied out. After that, head through the gate to the right of the summit patrol shack, then hike south along the ridge to the steep chutes of the Cross to the west and Proud Papa to the east (not shown).
3 Days Later
Ride the slow but empty Rose Bowl lift to the powder-holding sidelines of Ripsaw, Web, Spider, and Cataract.
Marquee route: From the Cinch Express, let it rip down the fall-away Golden Eagle and follow the 45-degree slope 3,340 vertical feet to the bottom. Or, starting at Red Tail Camp, tuck the mile-long Dally road. If you make it without stopping, you’re ready for the World Cup (well, not really). Off-Broadway: From the top of Grouse Mountain Express, spark some arcs down Bald Eagle until it doglegs to the right. Then sneak skier’s left into the tight trees of Black Bear Glade.
Skate through the gate off the Cinch Express and hike skier’s left toward Bald Spot. The farther you hike, the more open the glades. Warning: Exiting the drainage at the bottom is a luge-like experience. The hike-to trees 10 minutes south of Grouse Mountain are harder to reach but offer longer runs and an easy exit. Colorado Avalanche Information Center: 970-668-0600, or go to geosurvey.state.co.us.
“The hidden, hike-to terrain is pretty killer,” says pro skiercross racer Chris Delbosco. “And it’s set up so the jokers are all spread out.”
More than 60 of The Beav’s 300-plus inches fall in March. Daily temps tend toward the 20- to 35-degree range, with 275 annual days of sun, so pack your sunscreen.
Try skiing the mountain’s toughest runs (in one day) in the Talons Challenge. An instructor acts as your witness. Finishers don’t get money—just a medal and bragging rights.
First, suck down a marg at Coyote Café (two escalators down from the base).Then stroll over to The Dusty Boot, which has a 30-foot drink rail made from one tree.
Mountain Burger (at the base) has breakfast burritos and black-tar java. For lunch, try the Pad Thai at the Spruce Saddle Lodge at mid mountain. Or take a sleigh to Beano’s Cabin (970-949-9090) for a fixed-price, five-course affair.
Up all night
To sip Scotch in fancy leather chairs, head to the Whiskey Elk in the Park Hyatt. Otherwise, bus it to Vail and hit Sanctuary and The Club for dirty dancing.
In nearby Avon, two queens are $115 per night at the Comfort Inn (866-244-9330). Fifteen minutes east in Minturn, a three-bedroom house is $480 per night (800-646-8876, minturninn.com). Or stay at the 3,000-square-foot Trappers Cabin for $950 (970-845-5788, vbcrp.com).