by Jill Adler
They say Beaver Creek is the Deer Valley Resort of Colorado. Despite having a spring session during my stay while it was pounding white stuff in the Wasatch, I was determined to make the most of the firm conditions. I headed out of the Villar Center in the Park Hyatt to grab lunch on the hill at Spruce Saddle. I was starved as we barely had time to get Sage off to ski school before Ralston’s speech.
The fajita wrap lunch was better than the “Epic Burger” the day before but it still doesn’t match the quality and selection at the cafeterias in Deer Valley. What Spruce does get right is the seating. You look around and there are these medieval-size round wooden tables for eight that people naturally share. You don’t have to hover over some poor family waiting for them to suit up just so you can sit down to lunch at a four-top. The diameter of the tables is so big that you still feel as if you have separation from strangers yet you can make the effort and make new friends if you’d like.
We met a group of ski club board members. They were in BC at the Mountain Travel Symposium looking to network with vendors who could help them plan their next ski week. In addition to connecting hotels with tour operators, introducing them all to new ways to do business and a website called OnTheSnow.com hitting them all up for advertising, MTS facilitates ski clubs from all over the country. Club council members can attend and meet up with the companies who provide the elements for their group ski trips- resorts, lodges, equipment, transportation, etc. Utah was well represented. Bringing in ski clubs like Boca, St Louis and Oklahoma ski clubs can only bolster the economy.
We said adios to this elderly lot from Michigan and headed back outside to play in the spring slush up on Beaver Creek’s slopes now that the sun finally did its thing. The resort bustled for a mid-week day in April but with more than 1800 acres there was never a wait at the lift or interference on the runs. The mountain would be a blast in mid-winter, I thought. Beaver Creek may attract the affluent, mostly intermediate skiers but that just means the goods stay good well past when other Colorado front range resorts are tracked out. Just like at Deer Valley- except that BC’s run are much longer. We spied Grouse Mountain and Birds of Prey but dabbling with steep groomed, double black bumps and trees in these conditions would have curled my toes and grinded my teeth.
Over by the Larkspur lift we had about 1200 vertical feet of medium-sized spring moguls. The snow wasn’t Utah powder and while reports were posted on Facebook about Snowbird hitting the 600-inch snowfall mark, we welcomed the soft grits of corn snow under foot. We weren’t complaining; it was a heck of a lot better than that firm scratchy icy stuff we skied the day before. And no one got in our way.
Beaver Creek is one of the best places for families I’ve encountered. The blue runs are well-manicured with a fleet of groomers that have no problem roaming the hillside during the day to make sure things stay buff.
The “magic carpets” (think airport conveyor belts for beginning skiers) are open to everyone who needs it. The little kids meet inside for ski school where they stay warm and fresh until it’s time to go out. (No standing around outside with a crowd of kids and parents in front of a number sign.) They’re tagged with cute buttons that have their name and an emergency code on it so no one else goes home with junior.
The class size isn’t limited but with the early April timing, Sage, my four-year-old, shared her instructor with only four others. And when her instructor, Tom, returned her to me, I heard him say, “Come here, Sweetheart, your mommy’s this way.” Obviously, they had a good time together or he would be using less endearing words. ‘Thing 1’ comes to mind. The whole family thing carries down into the après scene (there is one as opposed to the lack of one at DV). Sage took off her boots and danced with her peers to the family friendly tunes played by a local guy on an acoustic guitar in the lobby of the Park Hyatt. Later, there’s roasting s’mores in the plaza.
Finally, we packed up. Said goodbye to our plush Elkhorn Lodge digs and drove 10 minutes east to Vail. While MTS challenged the left side of my brain with all of the business models, predictions for the future of tourism marketing and people dressed in business casual, the Taste of Vail was about to tickle my right side.
Jill Adler is an award-winning outdoors writer and broadcaster based in Park City, Utah. As a professional skier, rock climber, kayaker, hiker and mom, she goes out of her way to play hard and tell about it. To find out more or to send her a note, follow her on Twitter @pcskigal.