Skiing in Keystone

Keystone Ski Area

Keystone is surrounded by the high peaks of the Continental Divide and the Ten Mile Range. To the west is scenic Lake Dillon and to the east is Loveland Pass.

The resort nestles below three big mountains: Dercum Mountain at 11,640 feet (3,548 m), behind which is the 20 feet (6 m) higher North Peak, and behind that is the highest and largest summit, The Outback, at 12,200 feet (3,719 m). This gives a vertical rise of 3,128 feet (953 m) and you are not just skiing across the front of a mountain at Keystone but skiing and riding deep into the mountains-truly exploratory.

The three back-to-back-to-back mountains offer just about anything the skier or rider cares to tackle, but with only 19 percent of the trails designated as easy, the emphasis is on advanced and intermediate skiing. So it’s the more demanding trails on North Peak and The Outback that beckon, with plenty of terrain to explore and the hikeable bowls catering to expert skiers and riders.

The front side of Dercum Mountain attracts skiers for its superbly groomed cruising trails that overlook a vast expanse of pristine National Forest, two of the villages, and the beautiful Snake River Valley below. Night skiing and boarding is also available with lighted terrain, including a park and halfpipe, well into evening hours-something not on offer at many other Colorado resorts. It adds up to 235 acres (95 ha) of skiable terrain, 17 trails with the longest trail of three miles (4.8 km) and a vertical drop of 2,340 feet (713 m).

Keystone Beginner Skiing

Keystone’s beginner skiing is located entirely on the front the resort’s three peaks. Beginners are advised to stick to Dercum Mountain, which caters especially to first-time skiers with a range of easy green and slightly more testing blue trails—and a reduced chance of being intimidated by more experienced skiers and riders.

The front side of Dercum Mountain is best for beginners, including the Discovery Learning Area by the Mountain House Base Area, and the learning area at the top of Dercum Mountain. Beginners start on the Discovery slope but progress is swift from there onto the long and narrow Schoolmarm, or onto the next stage-the Flying Dutchman blue down the side of the mountain.

The green (beginner) trails, on Dercum Mountain and North Peak, allow beginners to enjoy the views from the River Run and Outpost gondolas and ski in different areas. Keystone’s longest trail is three and half miles (5.6 km) and it is a beginner trail. Remember that this is high-altitude terrain and you could be susceptible both to chilly winds and headaches because of the thin air, which can make the learning experience uncomfortable.

Keystone Intermediate Skiing

Intermediates make up the majority of skiers in every resort and so it is here too.

Improving skiers can test their legs and last year’s skills on Dercum Mountain and then find good trails all around the area, notably on the North Peak which has five blue trails of varying character, with the Star Fire trail being the most demanding. It’s pretty steep and right below the lift, so you need to look good!

Another good trail is to take the River Run Gondola up Dercum Mountain and drop back to North Peak on Mozart trail. Then take the Santiago Express to the summit of North Peak and follow Spillway to Coyote Caper in The Outback. The Outback is even more challenging terrain with plenty of tree trails and steep groomers without the crowds. Lunch at the summit of North Peak is a must, so try the Outpost or the Alpenglow Stube for much more than a lunchtime pit stop.

Keystone Expert Skiing

All three Keystone mountains have some challenging trails—there are six double black diamonds on the generally intermediate North Peak for example.

However, the hardest skiing around Keystone is on Outback Mountain, where the Black Forest has a number of steep, moguled trails, made yet harder by snowboarders. So make your way three mountains back to The Outback and play around in the Black Forest and the Outer Limits. Nothing beats the hiking terrain atop the Outback.

The Outback Bowls (North and South) beckon with the toughest skiing-especially The Windows and The Black Forest. From the top of the Outback lift, off-piste skiers can ski across to these open, steep-sided bowls, well above the treeline, and just great after fresh snow. The South Bowls is best for powder.

Keystone Boarding & Freestyle

Boarders first came to Keystone in ’96–97. Freeriders head for the Outback Bowls and hike beyond to find good start-off points.

Keystone has two terrain parks featuring more than 12 tables, 15 rails, and a halfpipe-reputed to be the best in Summit County. Keystone doesn’t have long “catwalks” so it’s relatively easy getting around the slopes. However, as a family resort, Keystone has made a special effort to cater to teenage snowboarders with a 20-acre (8-ha) fun park in Area 51 with plenty of pipes and nighttime illumination.

Otherwise snowboarders head for the Black Forest trails on Outback, or cruise happily down the steeper trails on Keystone Mountains or North Peak.

Keystone Mountain Restaurants

Fine dining and a family atmosphere do not always sit easily together but Keystone manages to cater to both.

To go upscale, take the gondola to the Alpenglow Stube mountain restaurant, which claims to have the best haute cuisine of any ski resort in North America-it stands at 11,444 feet (3,488 m) so one hopes the “haute” is not a pun. The Wild Boar is recommended and the wine list extensive. Another restaurant requiring transport is the Soda Creek Homestead, reached by horse-drawn sleigh, but for a really reliable gourmet evening try the Ski Tip Lodge or the Keystone Ranch-both highly rated by regular customers.

You can eat very well indeed in and around Keystone-and, as a final tip, try the steaks at the Keystone Lodge. Keystone has four mountain restaurants: two cafeterias, one gourmet dining, and one BBQ.  At night, one of the cafeterias converts to the Der Fondue Chessel, a Bavarian-style fondue restaurant complete with raclette, live music, dancing, and lots of food.

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