If you want world-class skiing, head to where the World Cup holds its ski competition: the Beaver Creek ski resort in Colorado.
The Audi Birds of Prey Men’s World Cup—the only World Cup race held in the country—is held at Beaver Creek every year, and you can experience these incredible trails, too. Beaver Creek may not be as big or famous as Vail, but it’s about a 15-minute drive west of Vail (depending on traffic) and located in Vail Valley. This gated ski community has a totally different feeling than Swiss-inspired Vail. It’s tucked deeper in the mountains after a short drive through the small town of Avon.
Beaver Creek spans Bachelor Gulch (which actually connects Beaver Creek to Vail), Larkspur, Rose Bowl and Grouse Mountain. You can ski through Bachelor Gulch all the way to Vail.
Beaver Creek is perched at just over 8,000 feet above sea level and its summit is 11,440 feet. It’s just under two hours up Interstate 70 from Denver, in light traffic. If you’re headed here in the winter, don’t expect to experience light traffic, especially not on weekends.
Beaver Creek gets an average of 323 inches of snow per year on more than 1,800 acres and 150 different trails accessible via 25 lifts.
Overview of Beaver Creek
Beaver Creek has been open for more than 35 years. Vail purchased the land in 1972 and finally opened it for action in 1980.
The World Cup isn’t the only big event to take place in Beaver Creek. The mountain also held the World Ski Championships in 1989, 1999 and 2015. In the summer, it hosts the Xterra Mountain Cup.
Off the mountain, find three distinct villages. Beaver Creek Village is the heart of the resort, with its five-star dining, luxurious hotels and great shopping all centered around a fun outdoor ice rink. The smaller Bachelor Gulch Village revolves around the nearby Ritz-Carlton. And Arrowhead provides the western entry point.
1,800 skiable acres; 3,340-foot vertical drop; 19 percent beginner, 42 percent intermediate, 39 percent expert/advanced.
Beaver Creek offers terrain for all levels, but it’s mostly a mountain for intermediate skiers; that’s what makes up the greatest percentage of terrain. Here’s where to ski, based on your level of experience.
- Advanced: Beaver Creek is known for its intermediate terrain, but don’t overlook the fact that nearly as much (39 percent) is expert or advanced. Grouse Mountain will be your hot spot. Look for Black Bear Glades and Royal Elk Glades. Challenge yourself on the Rodeo Terrain Park. For extreme athletes, check out the famous Stone Creek Chutes. Of course, there’s also the Birds of Prey Run from the World Cup race. If you can handle it, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share the mountain that some of the nation’s best skiers have raced.
- Intermediate: This is the mountain for you. From the Larkspur Express Lift to Coyote Glade near Bachelor Gulch, you will enjoy open, spacious terrain with great views. More advanced intermediate skiers may find a fitting challenge near the Centennial Express lift.
- Beginner: Head to Bachelor Gulch if you’re a newbie. Our favorite beginner trails with a view are at the top of the Drink of Water Chairlift. Also check out Strawberry Park, Dally, Intertwine and the terrain near Arrowhead Mountain’s Arrow Bahn Express Lift.
Adult tickets start at $171 per day in 2019. A child ticket starts at $118. Save money (up to 25 percent) by buying your tickets seven days or more in advance and online rather than at the window.
A popular lift ticket choice is to get an Epic pass that gets you access to multiple different ski resorts for discounted rates.
Food and Drink
Beaver Creek has a charming downtown lined with great restaurants. There are even some on-mountain dining options that are worth adding to your must-try list. Here are a few of our faves.
- Beano's Cabin: Often, mountainside dining involves burgers and beer. But Beano’s Cabin is five-star, fine dining served with perfectly paired wines. Oh, and you can’t just drive there. The only way to get to this restaurant is via a 20-minute, open-air sleigh ride through the powder. Reservations are required to score a table at this award-winning restaurant. Once you arrive, it’s a five-course dinner, so come hungry.
- Hooked: This small seafood restaurant in Beaver Creek Village is easy to miss, unless there’s a massive line out front, which there rightly should be. Score amazing sushi, oysters, king crab, live lobster—you name it. But what made Hooked famous among locals is its Crimpster. That’s a lobster stuffed with a crab stuffed with shrimp. Let that sink in. Hooked is pretty casual.
- Toscanini: Head here for a nice night out in the village, right across from the ice rink. Toscanini’s menu is Italian, with plenty of gluten-free options and innovative menu items. When in doubt, always order the mussels. The roasted calamari (yes, roasted, not fried) taste like bacon of the sea. Don’t skip dessert. If the lemon cheesecake is on the menu, order two. Ask your server to pair your meal with wine. That’s what Toscanini does best, and it boasts a 100 percent Italian wine list.
- Maya: You will have to head down the mountain into Avon for this one, but it’s worth the short drive. Maya, located in the Westin, is one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in Colorado (and that’s saying something). The guacamole alone is worth the drive from Denver; get the tuna tartar version. Tequila abounds (the restaurant has more than 100 agave-based spirits and house-infused tequilas), and the margaritas will warm up your toes after a day in the snow. A great way to spend the evening: next to one of Maya’s outdoor fire pits with views of the mountain and Eagle River with a tequila drink in hand.
Rentals and Gear
There are various places to rent your ski gear on the mountain and in town.
Save money and time by reserving your gear online at rentskis.com. Pick your stuff up slopeside (at multiple locations) or even order it to be delivered to your hotel room or condo. Other rental options (among many): Burton in Beaver Creek Plaza, Beaver Creek Sports Rentals and at multiple hotels, like the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch and the Westin Riverfront.
Lessons and Clinics
Beaver Creek calls itself the “Ivy League of Ski Schools,” and we haven’t heard anyone dispute this. The quality of instructors here is top of the line. One cool feature: Beaver Creek’s ski instructors use video analysis to help teach skills. The school won the National Ski Area Association’s Best Overall Safety Award.
The Beaver Creek Ski School has USSA-certified coaches and even a race-specific staff. There are clinics for all needs, from total newbies to racers. Beaver Creek even offers free clinics.
Skiing and Snowboarding Alternatives
Don't feel like skiing or snowboarding? Beaver Creek has plenty of other activities and events. Here are a few:
- Try a Gourmet Snowshoe Tour: Go on a snowshoe expedition and then enjoy wine-paired apres.
- Don’t miss the Thursday night fireworks shows. Dinner at Allie’s Cabin has great seats, if you want to dine and watch.
- Look for the man in the Village Plaza wearing lederhosen blowing an alpenhorn. That’s Helmut Fricker, and he’s been a Beaver Creek staple since the resort opened.
- Shop, shop, shop. Beaver Creek Village has plenty of options.
- Go ice skating. Or sit by a bonfire and watch other people ice skate.
- Set your alarm for 3 p.m., when Beaver Creek hands out free, fresh cookies — nearly a half a million every year.
Here are a few of the Beaver Creek lodging highlights:
- Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch: This is a ski-in, ski-out luxury resort with amazing service built to look like a dramatic mountain chalet. In fact, this resort was inspired by lodges in the National Park System. This resort has exclusive access to Bachelor Gulch trails, which means shorter lines and no need to park, drive, park and haul your gear. The Ritz is an AAA Five Diamond hotel and also has one of Colorado’s most jaw-dropping spas: an underground, rocky, grotto-style spa where you can relax your sore muscles.
- Beaver Creek Lodge: Prepare to be amazed by the luxurious Beaver Creek Lodge, with its indoor-outdoor swimming pool, breathtaking balcony views overlooking the creek and easy access to the center of Beaver Creek Village. The lodge is a minute’s walk from some of the top restaurants and shops and only steps from two of the lifts. This is a true ski-in, ski-out boutique hotel.
- The best way to experience the Beaver Creek Lodge, especially if you are traveling in a group, is to rent one of the fully equipped, three-bedroom condos. They come with a full kitchen, separate dining room, multiple living rooms and plenty of space to sprawl out and get comfortable. Wherever you stay, though, is a win. Beaver Creek Lodge is the only all-suite resort in the ski town.
- The lodge is lush, comfortable (with pillow-top beds) and elegantly and artistically decorated with repurposed driftwood, crackling fireplaces and a great concierge service. Other features include Keurig coffee makers, laundry rooms and whirlpool baths in your bathroom.
- Trapper's Cabin: Here's a unique place to stay in Beaver Creek. Trapper's Cabin is totally exclusive and isolated, a mountain located right on the actual mountain. Ski right out your private front door. The cabin has four bedrooms and can sleep up to 10.
- Book a package to meet your needs, to include things like breakfast, a personalized concierge, a private chef, ski lessons, ski rental delivery, spa treatments and more. You can even book a private helicopter to bring you from the Eagle Airport to the of the mountain and a starlight snowcat tour and dinner at Beano's Cabin.