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5 Tips for a Family Ski Trip to Beaver Creek, Colorado

We brought our kids to Colorado to ski when they were 11, 9, 6 and 4. Our friend, who lived there for several years when she was a ski instructor, told us that Beaver Creek was the place to go with kids the ages that ours were. Her recommendation was perfect and the moment we stepped into the village we were in love! We took two more trips that first year and then moved to Colorado and now spend most weekends up in the mountains alternating between skiing Beaver Creek and Vail.

Beaver Creek is the Disney of skiing. By that I mean they have thought of everything and made every detail perfect and their customer service is unmatched. There are employees who will help your children carry their ski gear, escalators instead of stairs, fresh baked cookies, an old-fashioned candy cabin at the mountaintop, and families everywhere. The village feels like you have stepped into a fairy tale. Fun shops, great restaurants and fire pits surround an ice skating rink dotted with twinkle lights. The Hyatt hotel sits slope side and serves s’mores at the end of the ski day. The village is known for their daily kid activities and laid back feeling. Add all of this to world class skiing and Beaver Creek is the whole package.

Here are our top tips for ski trips to Beaver Creek:

Lodging doesn’t have to break the bank if you know how to play the game

If money is not an object, the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch is the place to go. The hotel is one of the largest freestanding log “cabins” in the contiguous United States and absolutely beautiful. It sits on a quieter part of the mountain where most the tourists do not venture. You don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy their public amenities, and I always end my ski day listening to their guitar player play outside by the fire pit.

The Ritz Carlton's fire pit is the perfect place to spend an afternoon

Another splurge hotel is the Westin Riverfront, which has its own gondola to get you to the mountain. We have used Starwood hotel points to stay here a few times for free and absolutely love it. It has a great big outdoor heated pool, several hot tubs for after your ski day, and a massive and inviting lobby with conversational couches facing floor to ceiling windows that look out at some of the most beautiful parts of the ski mountain.

The best priced deal we have found close to Beaver Creek is the Comfort Inn in Avon ($75 per night Thanksgiving week, and other cheap periodic nights during prime ski season). Avon is the main town beneath the ski resort and village of Beaver Creek. While you do not get the slope side luxury experience, you do get a decent pool and a good, complimentary breakfast. There is a shuttle bus across the street that takes you right to the mountain, which runs frequently during the day for skiing and also at night for transportation to the village for dining, ice skating, and the like. The Comfort Inn is surrounded by shops and restaurants within only a few blocks of the hotel, so plenty of options for dinner or any other needed supplies are easily within walking distance.

First-timer, beginner or advanced, Beaver Creek has something great for every type of skier

No matter your ability, the magical thing about Beaver Creek is that every type of skier will feel like the mountain was made for them. We’ve skied Beaver Creek with first timers, beginner skiers, leisure skiers, and advanced, and each night everyone comes back with their tales from the day as if it was the greatest day of skiing ever…because it was.

At the base of Grouse Mountain, Birds of Prey, and the Larkspur Bowl

First-timers (or those looking to brush up on some skills): Although the price of a ski lesson will shock you, it is worth every penny. Our youngest daughter (4 years old) had put on skis one time when we took our first trip. After arriving in Beaver Creek, we put her in a full day lesson. Following her lesson we asked her instructor how she did and what she could do, and he said “Well, really any green or blue”. Our jaws dropped. We were shocked and a little disbelieving. (Mind you a green in Colorado is not like a green in Minnesota or Michigan ski hills. Colorado “greens” are much longer and can have much more pitch to them.) The next day she lived up to her ski instructor’s word, skiing greens and blues with us from the top of the mountain to the bottom, and lasted for 6 hours.

Beginner skiing at Beaver Creek is amazing because some of the most fun (beginner) trails are at the top of the mountain so they are long and scenic, instead of being relegated to the base of the mountain like most resorts. Take the Gondola (or chair lift) all the way to the top of mid-mountain, and then hop on another lift to take you to the summit. From there you can choose from a half dozen of more trails that are great for any beginner to work on their craft, including some “tree runs” and trails through the woods perfect for kids and with little “attractions” along the way (like nature markers or Ripperoo’s (the Epic mountain mascot) dog house).

"Candy Cabin", at the top of the Mountain, can be a great motivator for kids

Over 40% over Beaver Creek’s trails are intermediate (blue) so on virtually any part of the mountain intermediate skiers can find what they’re looking for. The blue’s are long and include some of Beaver Creek’s signature runs, like Gold Dust or Latigo at main mountain, or Red Tail which leads off the gondola drop-off spot down to the main stadium “finish line”, where the professional ski races end. The Larkspur Bowl is operated by a single lift where we’ve barely ever seen a lift line, and has some good, open runs to put in a few good loops.

And just because Beaver Creek has a lot of Blues and killer spot for its Greens, doesn’t mean the expert skier should shy away from this great resort. Almost 40% of the mountain is Back/Double Black, and entire lifts and areas (like Grouse Mountain and the Birds of Prey) are virtually dedicated to the expert skier. Even amongst some of the green and blue areas you can find some black runs mixed in, particularly the Stone Creek Chutes from the top of the mountain (where all those great Greens are) to Centennial that runs right down the heart of the mountain into the main village.

You can find great skiing, and very empty lift lines and runs if you get off of main mountain.

Beaver Creek’s main village is right at the base of the main gondola and chair lift for getting you up the mountain. This part of Beaver Creek (main mountain) has great, classic runs and gives you access to almost everything you would want in a ski resort: an abundance of greens for beginners to work on their technique; long, scenic blues for those more competent skiers; and varying levels of extreme black runs to pound the moguls or follow in the footsteps of some of our most famous ski racers as you take on the World Cup race course (which, in parts, literally feels like you are going down the face of a wall it’s that steep). One of the main drawbacks of main mountain is that at times, the most popular lifts can get long, especially the lift that goes from mid mountain back to the top. The good news is that Beaver Creek resorts three mountains, Main (“Beaver Creek”), Bachelor Gulch, and Arrowhead, are all connected via various ski ways and chairlifts so it is easy to get away from the crowds.

Hitting a tree run in deep powder

Some of our favorite runs are the main area at Bachelor Gulch where there is a good variety of blues and greens to ski, especially the many tree runs that can have powder stashes for days after a dumping of snow. Many tree runs are clearly marked and part of Beaver Creek’s “kids’ zones”, areas throughout the mountain that have fun parts for kids along the way. Our kids can spend half a day exploring these areas because every time you drop in, you can take a different path than the last time finding small jumps and other fun features. One of our favorite runs in Bachelor Gulch is what is affectionately known as “bridges and tunnels” (on the trail map it’s listed as “Roughlock”), which has gentle drops through small tunnels and over bridges through one of the nicer on-mountain residential areas. So in addition to skiing down what feels like a mini-roller coaster of a trail, the views of these homes makes you dream of what “might be” someday. Roughlock takes you right to the base to the Ritz fire pit, outdoor grill, and guitar player. We will let our kids loop that run as much as they want while we get in some of our downtime in paradise. Even less crowded than this area is the Arrowhead mountain. This area is geared for the people who live there so you are usually surrounded by good skiers and very few crowds.

Skiing between the various villages and connected ski mountains is scenic (and easy)

Beaver Creek has more than skiing, for those in your family who may not want to ski everyday (or at all)

A perfect ski day for us is a Skiathalon (we made that up). If we can ski, swim and skate in one day we feel like we have had a great day. Our kids love the fact that you can swim outdoors when it is freezing outside because the pools are heated. Many even have slides to bring a little more variety to the swim.

The heated pools (and walkways) at the Westin make winter swimming a great post-ski activity

The outdoor skating rink right in the center of the village bakes with the sun during the day (and it feels so good!) and comes alive at night with all the lights around the rink and the village, with some good music to boot. If you have your own skates, you can skate all day for $5 or $15 including rentals. It’s a must-do Beaver Creek experience, at least once during your time in the village. But I bet you won’t be able to stop at “once”.

Sometimes the zamboni can't keep up with the snowfall. No complaints about that in ski country!

Beaver Creek is also home to McCoy Park, which has almost 20 miles of cross-country skiing and showshoe trails. McCoy Park is accessed by two of the main chair lifts and while I haven’t seen many cross-country skiers on the lifts, I have seen many snowshoers that disappear in the Park in search of the solitude and tranquility the park offers.

The Vilar Performing Arts Center, located right in the heart of Beaver Creek Village, has Broadway theatre productions, concerts, comedians and shows like Cirque, RENT, the Nutcracker Ballet, and Jim Gaffigan year round. This mountain theatre is beautiful with its ornate woodwork and beautiful acoustics. We have seen touring productions as well as the local children’s theater and have been impressed every time.

Food in Beaver Creek Village isn’t the most affordable, but neighboring towns have some great priced family-friendly options

We usually do not eat meals in the village because it is expensive. I mean, a pepperoni pizza at the in-village Blue Moose Pizza costs close to $30. That’s for one pizza! (But in a crunch we have been known to eat there from time to time. It’s good, but $30 good?) We’ve also eaten at the Dusty Boot (good bar food) and on mountain at Talon’s, which seems to have the greatest variety of good, warm comfort food (again, not at all cheap, but you’re paying for the convenience). We've also bought various meats at the grocery store and carried them up in our packs for a mountain-top lunch using the free grills located around Beaver Creek.

Stepping away from the main village can get you some better prices – and in our opinion better tasting – food for your family. If you have a car our three favorite places are located in the neighboring towns. In Eagle-Vail (less than 10 minutes away) we love Rocky Mountain Taco, a food truck permanently parked in between the Vail Brewing Company (very nice taproom with good beers) and the local dispensary. (I bet the taco truck gets great business on Friday and Saturday nights!) In Avon, just down the mountain from Beaver Creek Village (5 minutes by car, or walking distance if you’re staying in Avon), we’ve had numerous great meals at Gondoli’s Pizza (more than half the price of Blue Moose up in the village) and Montana’s Smokehouse, which serves up killer burgers. The Riverwalk area in Edwards (10 minutes by car) is filled with great places like the Bookworm (book shop) with crepes and sandwiches, the Gore Creek Brewery (more good beers, burgers, and sandwiches), and Woody’s Bar & Grill, which has a great happy hour menu. Zino may have the area’s best Italian and Henry’s has really good Chinese takeout.

Lastly, if you need groceries or other snack/household supplies, there is a Walmart on the outskirts of Avon (a little more than a 10 minute drive from the village). I would normally never tell people to go to a Walmart, but this one is a notch above most (it has a live lobster tank in the deli section, for goodness sakes) and is the place for all essentials.

Beaver Creek is a special place designed with families in mind. We’ve visited a number of ski resorts across the United States, and while many are good, Beaver Creek Resort hands down is the best of the best.

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