Insider’s Guide To Keystone
A51 Terrain Park is one of the best. (Keystone/Facebook)
At Keystone, the motto is “It’s all here.” From renowned terrain park to wide groomers to high-alpine bowls, the Colorado resort does have the full package. Aimed clearly on the family vacation business, Keystone focuses on how to keep the kids engaged, the teens entertained and the parents challenged.
Terrain. Keystone Resort’s three mountains specialize in the blues. Its vertical and acreage are close in number: 3,150 acres with 3,127 vert. The front-side Dercum Mountain – named for founder Max Dercum – is a groomer’s delight, with only two short expert sections among two dozen intermediate boulevards. Gondola and Summit Express chair run side by side to the top to disperse frequent big crowds. Alternatives are Argentine and Montezuma high-speeds. Designated as a “family ski trail,” novice run Schoolmarm runs from top-mountain ski and snowboard learning center to bottom, with slow-skiing zones all the way.
The backside goes deeper into the wild, with conical North Peak and The Outback. The runs pitch strikingly the same on both hills (they were volcanoes), but Keystone’s only black runs are there. Take a hike or snow cat into a half-dozen alpine bowls that spread out below a trio of 12,000-plus peaks. They close at 2 p.m., for the return trek requires a couple of lift rides to get back to the front. The A51 Terrain Park on front side is massive, one the largest in Colorado. Its 60 acres divide into six zones for varying abilities, with a dedicated chairlift serving more than 100 features. Lights come on at 4 p.m. for the most night skiing terrain anywhere – top to bottom on front side with 2,000 vert -- until 8 p.m.
Play. Keystone is all about kids. On the hill, the mountaintop tubing park is open until 8 p.m., and Keystone has the best night skiing in the West. Kidtopia, which headquarters in River Run Village with oodles of kid stuff, has daily activities and season-long special days – plus a snow fort atop Dercum Mountain. Ice skaters glide on two ponds. For adults, snowmobiling, scenic gondola rides, snow-biking, X-C are choices. Or, take the family for a drive up to Loveland Pass for views of 14-ers and Continental Divide.
Eat. On the mountain, there’s the Summit House on the front side, and The Outpost and Labonte’s BBQ in the Outback. At base area are typical lodge fare; for a change, check out Nordic Soup Buffet at the Nordic Center. Take two gondolas to the Alpenglow Stubbe atop North Peak for ala carte lunch or top-end dinner. In the villages below, the variety ranges from burgers to fondue, and Dillon and Silverthorne offer more – including supermarkets with sandwich makings and all the fixin’s.
Stay. Tons of condos and vacation rentals, plus a few hotels, populate three “villages” near base. Resort owns a bunch of properties. Very limited ski-in ski-out. Down the valley in Dillon and Silverthorne is plethora of lodging options – from franchise motels to condos to homes for rent.
Travel. Fly in to Denver International Airport and hop a shuttle or private limo – or rent a car -- for 90-minute-plus ride up to the mountain. Or, get a flight into Vail-Eagle airport. Traffic on I-70 from Denver can be daunting, especially on weekends and holiday weeks. And Keystone can be one of the most crowded areas in Summit County. Get an ultra-early start but expect delays; on snowy days, state police hold “cohorts” of vehicles on either side of Eisenhower Tunnel to reduce accidents. Parking at the mountain means taking a shuttle or paying extra to get close. Summit County has one of the best mountain bus systems.
Deals. Kids ski free if family stays in resort-owned property. Keystone can be skied and ridden with an Epic Pass. There’s a Keystone-only option, and a Summit Value Pass for Keystone, Arapahoe Basin and Breckenridge. The Epic Local Pass is good for those three plus limited ticketing other Vail Resorts mountains. Check online for ever-changing bargains.