2003 Number 5 Resort in North America: Beaver Creek, Colo.


A hallmark of great European resorts is that you see the same people vacationing there year after year. They stay in the same hotels, request their favorite instructors, eat at the finest restaurants and expect to be treated somewhere between royalty and family. Count Beaver Creek as one of a very few places in North America that can meet that expectation. Impeccable service is only part of the European flavor. The pedestrian village offers a stream of family-oriented activities, be it skating in the plaza, performances at the Vilar Center or regular fireworks displays. Escalators-with a convenient Starbucks detour-deliver you to the lifts, which whisk you away to an astounding variety of terrain. Vertical-hungry skiers get their fill on Grouse Mountain's endless bumps, especially on powder days when the masses exit I-70 at Vail. The horizontally inclined "love the village-to-village cruising" to Arrowhead via Bachelor Gulch. Lunch ranges from top-shelf at Beano's to a sun-deck sandwich at Red Tail Camp. Après, kick back with a toddy at the Hyatt fire pit, then segue to the Coyote Café or Splendido. Serious partiers beeline to Vail after dark. One reader grumbles that "Ivana Trump could go broke here." Perhaps, but she'd find a way to come back next year. -Edie Thys

WHAT'S NEW The 237-room Ritz-Carlton in Bachelor Gulch; two new Bachelor Gulch lifts.

A GOOD DEAL Stay for three nights and receive the fourth night of lodging and a day of skiing free, Nov. 23-Dec. 19, $355 per person.

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

HIGH/LOW RANK Service (2), Grooming (5), Lodging (5); Terrain (32), Challenge (32), Value (48).

DON'T MISS Mountaintop cross-country skiing or snowshoeing: breathtaking in every sense of the word.

READER REMARKS (+) "First-class everything." "Friendly atmosphere geared toward families." (-) "Expensive, but you get what you pay for." "Where the snotty people ski."

Great Lodging Deals here.