By Jessica Podzebenko
By Jessica Podzebenko
Being a keen loyal skier of New Zealand ski fields, I was sceptical about holidaying at an American ski resort whose reputation is ‘not exactly roughing it’.
However I put aside my scepticism and decided on Beaver Creek, Colorado, not least for its reputation as one of America’s top family ski resorts. In February, we embarked on our debut Northern Hemisphere skiing expedition with our two pre-school aged boys and an adventurous spirit
Beaver Creek is a relatively small (1,832 skiable acres) resort near Vail, and a short drive from Eagle County Regional Airport. Co-host of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, the resort is high end and intimate, custom developed and owned by Vail Resorts (which recently acquired the Perisher resort in Australia).
While I can confirm the resort motto does stand true, my scepticism was misplaced. Beaver Creek far exceeded our expectations. Think of it as an American master class in service, ease, understated luxury, snow quality and skiing terrain. It epitomised what a stress-free ski holiday with young children should look like.
Most importantly, the motto belies the amount and variety of challenging terrain – 21% of the ski runs are advanced, 12% expert and an extra 5% ‘extreme’; an entire mountain is ungroomed, with a frightening amount of moguls, and unmarked glades (tree runs) aplenty. Beaver Creek delivered me some of the most challenging and exhilarating skiing and best quality snow I have experienced.
Beaver Creek has more than enough terrain to cater for everyone, and the ski-fields were more than large enough – I was often the only person on some runs. I also had the odd lesson with a fantastic instructor, which meant I quickly got to know the mountain and experienced many ‘locals only’ runs.
The resort itself is beautiful, intimate and quiet with a superbly laid-out base village. The heart of the village is pedestrian only with a plaza surrounding an ice rink. Despite being purpose-built, the resort has a quaint European alpine village feel, underpinned by modern amenities and infrastructure. One development feat is the amazing Vilar Performing Arts Centre, which has excellent acoustics and attracts international talent, and sits hidden underneath the ice rink.
Complimentary features such as freshly baked choc-chip cookies handed out daily, morning hot chocolate at the top of the main chairlift, the ‘dial a ride’ bus service, heated walkways and, best of all, escalators to ferry you between the shops and ski slopes, give a sense of the extra level of comfort and service which make this place magical.
Accommodation is generally ski in / ski out, or otherwise easily accessible to the lifts. We stayed in an apartment at the Park Plaza, overlooking the ice rink. The location was perfect – child-care was located in the same building, ski school was across the plaza, and the escalator to the main chairlift a 25m walk in the other direction.
Although Beaver Creek has a reputation for being an exclusive resort, it maintains a relaxed and relatively understated vibe. Apart from the odd calf-length fur coat, people seemed to be there not to be seen, but to ski and spend time with family and friends. The morning after a 20cm dump of Colorado’s finest, I was reassured to find bleary eyed, diehard powder hounds lining up in droves at the lift to get first tracks – not a fur in sight.
Beaver Creek prides itself on being child-friendly, and the resort delivers – dedicated ski school learning areas, an incredibly well-oiled ski school and the fantastic Buckeroo Gondola. Learning to ski is fun here, with themed days and music while riding the magic carpet. Kids’ menus feature at virtually every restaurant and there is a plethora of free, scheduled activities for youngsters of all ages on and off the snow. The daily ‘s’mores’ at the Park Hyatt fire pit proved a favourite for our children. For older children and teens, there are activities such as disco skating, the rail jam playground and glow-stick skiing.
While our youngest son had a mix of a nanny and resort child care, our oldest son only spent a few days at ski school before he was able to ski proper runs with us down the Buckeroo Gondola – a priceless experience.
Although you can cook in the well-equipped apartment, we did enjoy some of Beaver Creek’s restaurants – ‘Splendido’ was the stand out, and the experience of a ‘sleigh ride’ (pulled by a snow-cat) up to Zach’s Cabin on the mountain was unique and fun. Beaver Creek is not known for its nightlife, so I admit there was nostalgia for pre-kid ‘après-ski’ at European resorts but we did still manage to enjoy a few drinks out and took a liking to the Metropolitan wine and tapas bar. The Dusty Boot Saloon is ideal for a casual beer and burger, while the 1800 Mountainside Bar and Grill at the Park Hyatt was perfect for a cocktail day or night. Breaking up your skiing day with lunch at the delicious Spago at the Ritz Carlton at Bachelor Gulch is worth a mention.
As a young mountain-loving family who normally only venture as far as New Zealand’s Wanaka to ski, Beaver Creek was perfect for our first real Northern Hemisphere ski adventure. The entire package offered by Beaver Creek eliminates stress and gave us that rare thing called a proper family ski holiday. It was easy, and, as parents, we relaxed. For me, having skied only sporadically over the last few years in between pregnancies, breastfeeding and babysitting duties, I was able to fall in love with skiing again. I returned to my happy place – the place where my mind is free and clear, where I fly effortlessly through the snow, and smile ear-to-ear full of adrenalin. That, to me, is luxury.
Beaver Creek, Avon, CO 81620
Splendido At The Chateau
17 Chateau Ln, Beaver Creek, CO 81620
214 Beaver Creek Pl, Avon, CO 81620
210 Offerson Rd #201c, Avon, CO 81620
Dusty Boot Saloon
210 Offerson Rd, Avon, CO 81620
1800 Mountainside Beaver Creek
50 W Thomas Pl, Avon, CO 81620
130 Daybreak Ridge Rd, Avon, CO 81620