Family Vacation? You Bet.
Beaver Creek's Ultimate Family Vacation
By Tammie Thompson
Almost twenty years ago (could it be that long?), I visited Beaver Creek for the first time. At first glance I couldn't figure out what all the hype was about. The base lodge consisted of a big tent, there were cranes everywhere, and there was no one around. It only took me a run or two to figure out I was wrong. High-speed groomers down Centennial were all it took. I was hooked, who cared about the base area, the terrain was awesome!
It turns out lots of people cared about the base area. Beaver Creek and its Village have blossomed in the last twenty years. Almost unrecognizable, the pedestrian village, with its ice rink, brick walkways and European design, exudes "vacation". Add family to that and it is indeed the perfect locale for the ultimate family vacation.
There's something about service that is very compelling. Perhaps as skiers we are used to slogging through slush, battling lift lines, and putting up with bad conditions. And as parents, that slogging gets even tougher, almost to the point that is a hard sell to book a winter family vacation. Beaver Creek has recognized this and has made an incredible effort to make a family vacation not only enjoyable but also incredibly easy on parents. So much so, that you actually feel like you are on vacation.
It starts with the little things. If you stay in the Village, a shuttle will drop you off at the bottom of the escalators (no stairs to challenge those little booted feet), as you rise to snow level you are greeted by Mountain Hosts. They are everywhere, smiling, asking if they can help, giving directions, and handing out grooming reports, it's awesome. The service doesn't stop there. You can sign up for a Mountain Welcome Tour Friday through Monday for a personal tour of the huge mountain.
If you are going the kid's ski school route, there's none like it. The Beaver Creek Children's Ski and Snowboard Center is huge. And talk about organized, wow; these instructors greet your child, whisk them away to be fitted to rentals, get them geared up and ready to go. And here's something not found at every resort, three-year-olds (caveat: who are willing) can join the Mini Mice group, which includes lesson, lunch and Magic Carpet rides. Kids over six can choose between ski or snowboard lessons. Here's another plus, instructors are chosen specifically for the children's program. No low roster newbies here, just a bunch of very enthusiastic instructors who want to teach kids. What a concept.
There's so much to discover at Beaver Creek. It definitely takes at least four or five days to get it all in. We crammed in as much as possible, but still found uncharted territory on the trail map. Here's a quick rundown of what we enjoyed.
Day One: We were quick out of the gate. Got the kids rounded up, booted, and on the hill at nine sharp. Up Centennial for some groomed zooms. Dad met us at the bottom. "Just one more!" More zooms. The grooming was fantastic. Headed over to the Westfall lift via Redtail, a great cruising run. The plan was to explore as much of the mountain as we could, then double back to hit the spots we liked. At 11am the plan was scrapped. There was so much to see, couldn't we just slow down and enjoy it? Plan B: lunch at Red Tail Camp (awesome deck) to regroup. And so it went. Too much to see, so little time. Cruised the Strawberry Park Express Lift, lots of blues with one double black mogul run to choose from. Hit the Elkhorn Lift for more, then crossed back over to the Village. Grabbed some Cocoa and chocolate chip cookies (complimentary) on our way out. Marveled at the free postcard. Great homework project!
We grabbed a quick dip in the hot tub and got ready to stroll to the Village for the Monday night Figure Skating Series. Quite a show, but the kids said they would rather skate themselves. Tired from our first day, we headed back to the condo to fix a frozen pizza and call it good.
Day Two: Adventure Park bound. The kids had heard about these incredible adventure areas while soaking in the hot tub. Once again we headed up Centennial Express, then Birds of Prey (famed FIS downhill run) to head over to Jack Rabbit Alley. Home of Jack Rabbit Joe's Lookout and the Indian Burial Grounds, this park caters to the novice set. On to the Spruce Saddle for lunch. They have a great program, "Greet and Seat", where greeters wear Old West Costumes and find you a table. They really do.
More adventure parks on tap. We headed up to Tombstone Territory, with its choice of intriguing trails, racecourse and old western town; everyone was happy. On some days you can get a glimpse of the Buckaroo Bunch cavorting in their Wild West costumes. The big hit was the Bear Cave, complete with the sounds of a bear snoring (scary!) and some relevant bear facts. On to more adventure! The Gold Mine and Old Jail were pretty special. You can ski through the mine and even get samples of gold! We explored all afternoon and had to drag the kids to the bottom. We used the Charter Skiway to get back to the condo. Fun stuff.
More evening adventure. The promised ice-skating session, but only if we could have a "real" dinner. We chose Toscanini for its proximity to the ice rink (large glass windows overlook the rink). What a surprise! The Italian fare was excellent. Fresh pasta, great wine, the perfect dinner after a day on the slopes. And the best part? The kid's menu, Tosca Kids, which offered a choice of Caesar Salad, Cheese Pizza, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Mac & Cheese, Chicken Parmesan, and for dessert Ice Cream and Cookies. The kids powered through their meal and headed out to skate while we enjoyed an excellent glass of red wine. Now that's a great family dinner.
Day Three: Determined to explore the whole mountain we took the Skiway straight to the Elkhorn Lift. It opens up an incredible amount of terrain. Several green trails wind their way over to Bachelor Gulch and some great blue cruisers. If you plan ahead you can dine at Zach's Cabin for lunch, but we were more in the "grab a burger" mode so we took the Primrose trail to Arrowhead to the Broken Arrow Café. We didn't want to linger too long so we motored up the Arrow Bahn Express Lift work our way back to the Village. You can spend the whole day at Arrowhead or Bachelor Gulch, they're areas in themselves. With the addition of the Ritz-Carlton this year, you can even stay right at Bachelor Gulch.
Yippee! It was Wednesday, Kid's Night Out. A wonderful program for kids (and ultimately for parents), Kid's Night Out features a western dinner theatre for kids only (ages 5-12) at the Children's Ski and Snowboard School Center. It is fully supervised and includes music, games, wagon wheel pizza dinner, and a show by The Buckaroo Bonanza Bunch. The kids loved it! And best of all we had a chance to explore more adult dining choices (and there are many - suggest Allie's Cabin, Grouse Mountain Grill, Mirabelle or SaddleRidge).
Day Four: It's snowing! Powder a plenty, and some tuckered kids. Dad opted to get out early for freshies. We slept in a bit and decided to explore the Beaver Creek Cross Country and Snowshoe Tracks. Located at the top of Strawberry Park Express Lift, the area has many mellow trails for snowshoeing and cross-country. They even have a Kid's Telemark Workshop for adventurous kids. The area is beautiful and offers non-skiing families a chance to ride a chairlift and explore the mountains via snowshoe. Great view too!
The report on the powder skiing was darn good. Light and fluffy, my husband got first tracks on Grouse Mountain. A relatively new section of Beaver Creek, Grouse Mountain offers a selection of double blacks (and they really are), with a blue or two thrown in.
The clan was up for one last hurrah. We had a quick bite to eat at the Rendezvous Bar and Grill and headed outside for the Thursday Night Lights. Willing participants can take part in a guest ski-down complete with special glow sticks. An incredible fireworks show follows.
There's so much more to discover: SKE-COLOGY, Adventure Ridge at Vail, The Children's Ski and Snowboard School, more adventure parks... We just have to go back. Soon.
Check out Beaver Creek's four day Family Package. Offered at various times during the season, the rates and family amentities are very attractive. Info here.
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