It’s no secret that the Colorado ski season didn’t get off to the best start this year. In fact, in early January, the level of snowpack dusting the mountains was at a record low.
Luckily, a few welcome snowstorms have padded the runs, and, for an amateur skier such as myself, the slopes on a recent, late-season visit to Beaver Creek were perfectly adequate. I practically convinced myself that I was on my way to becoming the next Lindsey Vonn as I cruised down Golden Eagle—though I didn’t take home a bronze medal.
Alas, for many skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts, the 2018 season just hasn’t compared to previous years. Not to worry, though—Beaver Creek might be a small mountain village, but the cozy locale has plenty of activities for when the ski runs just aren’t calling your name. Whether that’s due to less than ideal snow conditions or a general dislike of sport, here’s how to experience the very best of Beaver Creek.
Beaver Creek has a number of rustic hotels, which are almost all referred to as “lodges” in ski speak. I stayed at The Pines Lodge, a ski-in, ski-out 60-room resort with all the details one would associate with a cozy mountain weekend—lots of dark wood, stone accents and roaring fireplaces. They also happen to serve cookies every day for après ski. “We curate each guests’ stay with us, whether it’s their first visit or if they return each season,” Houston Perkins, general manager at The Pines Lodge, explained to Observer. That includes planning ski boot fittings, lessons with an instructor or transportation around Beaver Creek.
The Pines definitely attracts crowds of families, so be prepared to see plenty of kids during your stay. For a quieter escape, consider the Osprey, which is a more modern, upscale hotel, and might have one of the best ski-in, ski-outs on the mountain—the lift is quite literally outside the hotel’s door.
From the outside, Trappers appears to be just another log cabin, as quaintly charming as all the others in Beaver Creek. In reality, it’s an exclusive abode that guests can book for a custom stay. The on-mountain lodge is accessed by snowcat, and you can plan for an overnight stay with a chef and cabin keeper or just breeze by for a totally customized meal.
When I dined there, the lunch menu included a variety of sliders, each specially prepared for a variety of dietary restrictions and allergies. There were pulled pork, tuna, beef and vegetarian options, and there was even an angel food cake for those of us unable to indulge in the creamy chocolate mousse for dessert. But be warned: As delicious as the three-course lunch is, you may feel a little slower during your afternoon runs on the slopes.
To be honest, I thought snowshoeing meant I could leisurely stroll through powder while snapping an excessive amount of dreamy photos for Instagram. I was sorely mistaken, as snowshoeing uphill was one of the more strenuous activities I’ve undertaken in a while, and my legs were sore for days. However, I was successful at snapping a number of fairy tale-esque pictures in the woods.
Why not elevate that après ski and go for a full-blown wine tasting? After a tiring day of getting in and out of multiple layers of winter gear, a few glasses of vino are in order. If you’re prepared for the aforementioned excursion, the Fireside Grill at the Osprey offers a full experience that starts out with snowshoeing and ends on the low-slung couches at the hotel’s restaurant, where you can sip a carefully curated selection of reds and whites while warming up by the fire. Catch a perfect view of the last crowd of skiers and snowboarders loading onto the lift and definitely order a cheese plate—you deserve it.
An authentic dining experience at Saddle Ridge
For a taste of traditional Colorado cuisine, including plenty of venison, elk and trout, Saddle Ridge is a solid choice. But it’s more than just a must-visit restaurant; Saddle Ridge also happens to be home to the biggest private collection of American Western artifacts, outside of a museum. The lower floor is filled with pieces like one of General Custer’s hats and Buffalo Bill’s desk. One of Annie Oakley’s rifles was once mounted on the walls, but a mix up over the years resulted in the loss of the rifle and its replacement with a replica.
Stop in Beaver Creek Village
The charming Beaver Creek Village is adorably tiny and centered around an ice rink. If you want to get out of the hotel, but are finished with the slopes for the day, head into town and enjoy a much deserved après ski cocktail. It can be a bit chilly, but many of the restaurants and bars, like Toscanini Umbrella Bar, have an outdoor area with heaters and a fire pit. Pop into of the über cute—yet very pricey—shops, like Gorsuch, to stock up on luxurious winter wear.
Take a sleigh ride
Yes, there are actual sleigh rides in Beaver Creek, sans reindeer and Santa. Make your way to the Ritz Carlton in the evening, and a sleigh, pulled by a snowcat, will transport you up the mountain to dinner at Zach’s Cabin. Zach’s is one of the ritzier dining experiences at Beaver Creek, and arriving under the starry night is a perfect way to end (or begin) your stay. Don’t worry about the chill—there’s a surplus of blankets for your ride to and from the Cabin.