Keystone Ski Resort

Keystone Ski Resort Colorado is a very modern ski area. It is not based around a historic mining town, like Aspen or Crested Butte; there are no ancient slow lifts like at nearby Arapahoe Basin; you will not see old mine structures like at Park City, Utah. A Keystone ski vacation is about modern, convenient skiing.

Max Dercum founded Keystone Ski Resort Colorado in 1970; the front mountain area is named after its founder. The current owner, Vail Resorts (operators of Vail, Beaver Creek, and Breckenridge in Colorado and Heavenly Mountain in California), has invested heavily in Keystone since the mid-1990s. The result is a smoothly running playground, perfect for families and groups of friends alike. All the lifts are modern and fast, the trails are well maintained and sculpted, and there is plenty of newly opened backcountry-style skiing.

Unlike at most ski areas, the peaks at Keystone Ski Resort spread one behind another, not side to side. There are three lift-serviced mountains, Dercum Mountain at the front of the resort, North Peak behind that, and the Outback at the very rear. All three have terrain suitable for the average skier.

Beginners have a good amount of trails to choose from on the main Dercum Mountain (formerly known as Keystone Mountain). There is a learning area under Discovery Lift and the nearby Peru Express serves some great carving runs: Schoolmarm, Schoolmaster, and Silver Spoon.

From the other main loading area, two high-speed lifts, Summit Express and River Run Gondola, give access to an array of blue runs. A good amount of these trails are open as late as 10 p.m. for floodlight-lit nightskiing. Keystone Ski Resort offers all-day tickets, afternoon tickets (12 noon until close), and night tickets (4 p.m. until close), so you can choose how long you want to stay on the slopes.

During the day, skiers and snowboarders at an intermediate level or above will want to head to North Peak and the Outback. You can ski from the top of Summit Express and River Run to the bottom of the Santiago Express (on Mozart, a nice, wide blue) or take another gondola, the Outpost, to the top of North Peak. It is worth the ride, and not just for the skiing: it is a unique experience on a Keystone ski vacation to enjoy a drink or even an après ski meal at Outpost Lodge, two gondola rides from civilization.

Keystone Ski Resort gets less crowded the farther you go from the main village, so the Outpost is the best place to head on a busy weekend. Intermediates will find some nice groomed or powdered slopes and experts will enjoy the glades (on the left from the top of Outback Express) and the chutes (skier's right from the same lift).

The best thing about Keystone Ski Resort Colorado, for those skiers and snowboarders who like wide-open powder skiing, at least) are the bowls. Accessible only by snowcat, the North and South Bowls from the top of Outback run through open terrain into tree-lined gullies. Snowcats also leave from the top of Dercum and North Peak to Bergman Bowl and the tree runs beneath. The new Independence Bowl has further expanded the options for experts at Keystone.

Keystone Ski Resort Colorado was one of the last holdouts against snowboarding; riders were not permitted here until the late 1990s. Since then, however, Keystone has done everything possible to attract them. In addition to the powdery bowls and tree runs, Keystone has several terrain parks, mostly geared to intermediate tricksters.

Keystone is in Summit County, the heart of Colorado ski country. A Keystone ski vacation lets skiers try out several resorts within easy drive of each other: Breckenridge, A-Basin, Copper, and Keystone. These places are only 90 miles from Denver, so they get busy on weekends and holidays, but there are plenty of places to stay nearby to avoid the traffic. Keystone has a number of base condominiums, bookable through their central reservation number, and the towns of Dillon and Frisco have a surplus of affordable accommodation a convenient distance from Keystone Ski Resort Colorado.

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