Lay of the Land
Sometimes referred to as Vail’s little sister, Beaver Creek, about ten miles west of Vail along Interstate 70, has in many ways surpassed its sibling. A true alpine village, tucked up in a high valley with towering, pine-clad peaks on three sides, Beaver Creek has raised the arts of pampering and individual attention, both on the slopes and off, to formidable heights. With over 1,800 skiable acres, 149 trails, and 25 lifts, Beaver Creek is pretty grown up.
One look up at the mountain will make you understand why Pete Seibert wanted to build his ski resort here in this valley before being rebuffed by the ranchers and then moving east a few miles to start Vail in 1962. The village sits at the confluence of a series of north-facing slopes, bowls and glades, with another complex of slopes converging at Bachelor Gulch, a few chairlifts away. The real heart of the terrain is the nearly 50% of slopes that are rated intermediate. The quintessential example is Centennial, 2.75 miles long, winding right down the face of the mountain; it’s as perfect an intermediate run as exists on the planet. The steeper terrain of the so-called Birds of Prey trails regularly challenge the top World Cup racers, and will leave virtually everyone else’s knees shaking. In between them is enough perfectly groomed corduroy to put any men’s haberdashery to shame.
The easiest way to reach Beaver Creek is via a nonstop flight into Vail/Eagle County airport (EGE), a 25-minute drive or shuttle ride from the slopes. Nonstop flights are offered from major US cities, as well as from Toronto. Book well ahead as these flights sell out, and the alternative, flying through Denver, greatly increases the odds of both you and your luggage arriving late. Eagle County Airport is located in a famously warm and sunny pocket of the mountains, and most flights arrive and depart at midday, when the weather is likely to be at its best. Those flying into EGE can ski free on arrival day. (Go to www.vail.com for details.)
Rental cars are really more of a burden than an asset in Beaver Creek. Most lodges offer transfers from the airport, as well as shuttles to get around the base area day and night. Taxis and vans are also options from the airport. Once in the compact main village, getting around on foot is easy, especially given the plethora of heated, covered, ski-boot-ready escalators. Dial-A-Ride service is also quick and free.
Tip: Beaver Creek Village is at a little over 8,200 feet and the top of the mountain is 11,400, so it’s wise to hydrate and take it easy your first few days to avoid altitude sickness.