Beaver Creek Review – Spring Snowboarding in Colorado

Let me start this post by saying how impressed I was upon arrival at Beaver Creek. There was that grand gated entrance, a comprehensive welcome folder, well organized signs around the resort and of course the ambience that makes one feel like they have arrived. Staying at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek added to the whole enjoyment of the ski resort as I was able to stroll to the ticket counter after breakfast to purchase my lift tickets. Lift ticket prices were probably on par with what Whistler Blackcomb and Snowmass charges and I think they are somewhat fair considering the scale of the resort was as large as either one. For starters it is definitely not feasible to think one can cover all the terrain in a day of skiing.

Clear morning at the base of Beaver Creek
Clear morning at the base of Beaver Creek
Ski racks at the base
Ski racks at the base of Beaver Creek

There are 3 main areas within Beaver Creek, one being the Beaver Creek Mountain itself, the other major one is the Bachelor Gulch Mountain (where the Ritz Carlton is situated at) and Grouse Mountain which is basically an expert-only area in between the other 2 mountains. The Park Hyatt is located right by the base of the Beaver Creek mountain side and closer to the Buckaroo Express gondola for learners and a stroll towards the main Centennial Express lift that will bring skiers up to the mid-base Beaver Creek. Some of the best views can be had from the Centennial Express lift though it was a pity this wasn’t a gondola. Speaking of gondolas, there were none to be had for getting to the advanced areas in the 2013/14 season when I visited and that was a drawback since gondolas are the best method to get up to the summit. For a luxury ski resort, they sure need to invest in a gondola system!

Morning ride up Beaver Creek
View from Centennial Express chairlift of the Village

From the mid-base of Beaver Creek it was easy to ski/snowboard down since there are trails that match all kinds of capabilities. There are even some short black diamond trails, but even these are nothing scary or any more difficult. The terrain from the mid-base to the bottom are more for cruising and they provide a really nice view. Not only that, the trails are very well-groomed so it is pretty good to ski/ride on!

Skiing down Centennial
Skiing down Centennial run

As the usual in most ski resorts mid-base, there is a large lodge called Spruce Saddle Lodge which is one of the main restaurants in the resort. Skiers could then take the Cinch Express chairlift to reach the summit of Beaver Creek. Unlike my experience at Whistler and the other ski resorts, the summit area is designated as a Family Zone and thus has trails geared for learners and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. There were also a lot of ski instructors bringing their students here. As expected it gets crowded easily after the first to second hour after opening, so if you’re here, do head to the summit first thing in the morning to enjoy the skiing at the top which is a very nice experience.

View of Spruce Saddle Lodge
View of Spruce Saddle Lodge from the upper reaches of Beaver Creek
Spruce Saddle Lodge
Spruce Saddle Lodge
On the Cinch Express lift
On the Cinch Express lift
Ski lessons at Cinch Express
Ski lessons ongoing at Cinch Express
Beautiful day for snowboarding
Beautiful day for snowboarding

For those who enjoy shorter runs at the top, there is the ‘Drink of Water’ lift, thus saving the need to go back to the Cinch Express which can sometimes have longer queues. However, for the more advanced riders and skiers, they are better off taking the Stone Creek Meadows towards the Rose Bowl Express lift. This area have some challenging mogul terrains and a very fast blue run that would delight those who are more stable on skis and snowboards.

Rose Bowl ski area
Rose Bowl ski area
Panorama from the top of Beaver Creek
Panorama from Rose Bowl

And if you need for more speed, head over to the other side of Beaver Creek where the trails are named after Birds of Prey with a Birds of Prey Express lift servicing this ski area. Made up of mainly black diamond runs, there are some intermediate level trails and even accessible via a the twisting ‘Dally’ green run. The bottom of this ski area is the location of another large ski lodge, which is the Talons Restaurant.

Larkspur Bowl
Larkspur Bowl ski area with Grouse Mountain at the opposite side

This lodge also serves the base to explore the Grouse Mountain, which is made up of steep expert-only runs and the Larkspur Bowl area, and the latter is perhaps my favourite area in Beaver Creek, but then again it is just due to my terrain preference. Wide runs with a nice concave slope, it is very suitable for intermediate and advanced snowboarders. The fact that there was less crowds in this area made it even better!

Panorama from Larkspur
Panorama from Larkspur Bowl ski area
Panorama from top of Grouse Mountain Express
Panorama from top of Grouse Mountain Express

Both the Grouse Mountain and Larkspur Bowl area are perhaps the most challenging area in the whole ski resort as the last major area is Bachelor Gulch, and this mountain is accessible via the Strawberry Park Express lift from the base of the Beaver Creek village or from the Primrose run at the Larkspur Bowl. Since I was snowboarding at Larkspur Bowl, I took the latter route. Since it has been a sunny and clear day the past few days with little new snow and warmer temperatures, the snow was slushy and very bad at the bottom of Bachelor Gulch. The terrain seems milder here and the trails shorter thus I think the Beaver Creek base is a much better option when seeking to stay in this resort. There is also the Arrowhead Village ski area with the Arrow Bahn Express lift that I did not explore beside Bachelor Gulch.

Ski trails at Bachelor Gulch
Ski trails at Bachelor Gulch

Within Bachelor Gulch itself, one of the runs worth mentioning has got to be President Ford’s run, named after Gerald Ford himself, as Ford is also well-known to have a residence in Beaver Creek and was a frequent visitor to this resort. This run is rated as a black diamond and it is of medium length though I found it suitable for intermediate skiers and boarders as well since it was fairly straightforward. This run will bring skiers back to Beaver Creek village from Bachelor Gulch, arriving at the bottom of Strawberry Park.

Panorama from President Ford's run
Panorama from President Ford’s run
View of the Strawberry Park ski area
View of the Strawberry Park ski area

At this point, you would notice that the names of the runs and chairlifts in this area are really polished and gives a sense of sophistication to the resort maybe? More like it was meant for grown-ups and families. Even the only gondola system in the ski resort was geared towards beginners. And after a whole day of snowboarding, I realized I did not really miss the gondola at all. That has got to do with the clear weather and slightly warmer weather in Spring and I believe it might be a different thing during the peak of Winter.

Ritz Carlton at Bachelor Gulch
Ritz Carlton at Bachelor Gulch

Food-wise, the quality was slightly better than some of the other ski resorts with the Talons restaurant serving gourmet lamb and bison burgers while prices were on par with other ski resorts. As a ski resort, I think it is one of the truly luxurious ones, with hotels like Ritz-Carlton and Park Hyatt. I also tried dining at one other restaurant called Grouse Mountain Grill in the Pines Resort, and ordered a pretzel crusted pork chop. The pork chop was spectacular, and I would consider it fine dining indeed. It is no wonder then that the welcome folder adds in the slogan “Not Exactly Roughing It”, because the resort is built for those who like pampering now and then.

At the top of Bachelor Gulch mountain
At the top of Bachelor Gulch mountain
Welcome back to Beaver Creek mountain
Welcome back to Beaver Creek mountain

As a place to unwind, enjoy fine cuisine, relax by the fireside within grand ski lodges and get a bit of ski action during the winter season, Beaver Creek is one of the best ski resorts to consider. But if the snow and the mountain is your priority, I am not sure if I would pick Beaver Creek at all. Maybe the snow conditions on the day I boarded was not optimum or I was too tired since it was at the end of my travels, but somehow I do not feel for this resort.

Panorama of the Village
Panorama of the Village from the Buckaroo Gondola station

Beaver Creek is easy to reach via air from the major cities in North America, with the Eagle County Airport (EGE) located probably 45-60 minutes away by car. And EGE is a larger airport compared to ASE which serves Aspen/Snowmass so larger planes can land here including 757s, which could potentially mean lower ticket prices.

Getting to Eagle county and Vail
Getting to Eagle county and Vail
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