From the endless, perfect bumps of Birds of Prey to the treed pow shots of the Royal Elk Glade to the hidden backcountry-esque steeps of Stone Creek Chutes, Beaver Creek serves up double diamonds on a silver platter (along with free cookies at the end of the day). But how this Vail Resorts-owned mountain manages to keep all this expert terrain a secret is the biggest mystery in skidom. “Incredible terrain, and nonexistent liftlines,” says one shocked reader.
Of course, it is known for its long, winding, sun-soaked cruisers (earning it a No. 3 in Grooming), and its staff of blue coats willing to help you with everything from carrying your skis to offering you a tissue (No. 5, Service). Even the walk to the lifts is eased with escalators. This impeccable attention to detail is what gives it a reputation for being family-friendly (No. 5)—though not necessarily budget-friendly (No. 27 in Value). “Great for the family, but you’ll pay for what you’re getting,” confides one reader. “Beaver Creek does things right, but at a high price,” moans another.
The mountain is well laid-out, too, with more than six pods of terrain that keep like-minded skiers together and a stellar lift system that earned the No. 3 rank overall. Beginners and intermediates have their own mountain at Arrowhead and Bachelor Gulch, as well as a surprising number of trails at the top of Red Buffalo and Cinch Express. Grouse Mountain and Birds of Prey, on the other hand, are exclusively expert terrain, which helps keep the zipper lines pristine. When it comes to off-hill activities—save for après (No. 5), when the village is bursting with live music and patio parties—the Beav lacks the art and shopping scene that big brother Vail boasts in spades. Nightlife (No. 16), too, gets a solid “meh,” but then again, Vail is right down the road, along with all the people who took the earlier exit to stand in line at Gondola One. — Kimberly Beekman
2021 Reader Resort Ranking for Beaver Creek: No. 9 in the West
- WHAT’S NEW: An expansion into McCoy Park that will add 250 skiable acres of lift-served beginner and intermediate terrain is “coming soon” (due to COVID-19, this season’s opening has been delayed).
- BRAGGING RIGHTS: Stone Creek Chutes serve up arguably some of the best in-bounds steep-n-deep terrain anywhere, and negates the argument that the Beav is all corduroy. (But go early; the entrance closes at 2:30 p.m.)
- APRÈS SPOT: The Coyote Café is a chill option at the bottom of the Centennial Lift, with great craft beers, margs, and tacos. If the weather cooperates, snag a patio table at the Beaver Creek Chophouse for sunny slope views.
Just behind Beaver Creek in the Rankings: No. 10 in the West – Crested Butte, Colo.
Coming in at No. 8 in the West: Steamboat, Colo.
Beaver Creek’s 2020 SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey Rank: 8th in the West
Beaver Creek sweats the small stuff. “Free cookies! What else can a skier ask for?” gushes a reader. Indeed it’s the details—including those chocolate chip cookies served up warm at the base every day at 3 p.m., along with mountain hosts, a base-village ice rink, and employees walking around lift lines carrying tissue boxes—that make this place stand out as one of the more luxurious experiences in skidom.
That’s not to say Beaver Creek doesn’t nail the big picture, too: Readers rank The Beav in the top five for Lifts, Service, Accessibility, Family Friendly, Grooming, and Lodging (Ritz-Carlton or the Park Hyatt ring a bell?). Readers also rave about the relatively uncrowded lift lines, as the masses tend to exit Colorado’s I-70 at Vail, 13 miles closer to Denver.
“Beaver Creek is a very underrated resort, because big daddy Vail is just up the road,” says one. “Great overall resort with amazing terrain. For an I-70 resort it is by far the least crowded,” says another. They also lauded it for its challenging terrain: The long, fall-line steeps of Birds of Prey—home of the World Cup downhill course—and Grouse Mountain, and the spicy backcountry-like tree shots in the Stone Creek Chutes. There’s no dearth of beginner and intermediate terrain, either, with green runs that go from top to bottom off of Cinch Express and a host of mellow cruisers on sunny Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead. (Kids, be sure to drag your parents—and their credit cards—into the Candy Cabin at the top of the Strawberry Park Express.)
So what’s the downside? The parking—a free shuttle-ride away—can be polarizing, but families appreciate the short walk through the base village to the escalators. Others have legitimate gripes about the cost, but most feel that you get what you pay for. “The prices reflect superior amenities and service,” says one. The nightlife is, well, 15 minutes down the road in Vail, but après spots like C-Bar are especially festive come spring, when patrons spill out on the patios to soak in the sun and live music. Regardless of where you end up, though, be sure to swing through the base village at 3 p.m. Cookie Time, as Beaver Creek calls it, is pretty sweet. — Kimberly Beekman
- WHAT’S NEW: Snowmaking isn’t always the sexiest of upgrades, but this season Beaver Creek expands it into Red Buffalo Park, which could ensure a 3,300 vertical drop on opening day.
- DINNER PICK: Take a 20-minute sleigh ride through snowy aspen groves to Beano’s Cabin, tucked into the base of Larkspur Bowl. Named after Frank Bienkowski, an original homesteader here, Beano’s has been setting the fine-dining standard for more than 30 years.
- GOOD VALUE: Head to local favorite Dusty Boot Roadhouse for a snack and a beer or wine for $8.
SKI Magazine’s 2019 Review of Beaver Creek, Colo.
Beaver Creek’s reputation precedes it. Not a bad thing when what you’re known for is excellent grooming, lots of family terrain, one of the best ski schools in the industry, beautiful hotels, top-notch service, and delicious dining—on-mountain and off. Did we mention the free cookies served at the base at day’s end? The skiing itself is largely underrated—most visitors come expecting wide, groomed boulevards and mostly mellow terrain. And they leave satisfied, but so do those who come looking for world-class steeps (Birds of Prey, the men’s World Cup downhill), bumps (anything on Grouse Mountain), and extreme terrain (Stone Creek Chutes).
And while Beaver Creek has always been a great place to learn, it gets even better with the debut of Haymeadow Park, complete with its own gondola and lift, sculpted terrain designed for newbies, and ice cream shop inside The Ranch restaurant. (This is in addition to Red Buffalo Park, the resort’s mountaintop beginner area that debuted last season.)
No matter your skiing ability, everyone congregates in the cute village for a glide on the skating rink, drinks, dinner, or a stroll through an art gallery. There’s nothing wrong with expectations, especially when they’re met. – Samantha Berman
Come to Beaver Creek for the…
- FAMILY ACTIVITY Allie’s Cabin offers a Family Dinner catered to the young ones, accessed via sleigh ride from the village.
- GROOMING Bird of Prey, when it’s freshly brushed. Period.
- DINING Settle in for a Euro-style leisurely lunch at SaddleRidge. The food is divine. LODGING Stay at the Ritz-Carlton and get the Bachelor Gulch slopes mostly to yourself.
- MANDATORY RUN Cruise down Centennial with the whole family—three miles of perfect blue corduroy that exemplify the Beav’s superior grooming standards.
- BREAKFAST Rimini is a gelato shop, but stop by before 11 for some delicious breakfast crepes.