Having skied almost all of the major resorts in Colorado, I was eager to visit Beaver Creek for the first time. Unfortunately, my first opportunity to ski the Beav was at a time when most of the Birds of Prey area was closed and no new snow had fallen in two weeks. I arrived on a Thursday and the base was down to 37". I made the trip as a fifth wheel with two pairs of father-son duos. I had just two weeks earlier spent a week in Utah.
I was able to get on the mountain early and enjoy some really nice corduroy as my travel companions were buying boots on that first morning. I mainly skied Centennial from the top with a few variations before trying out Larkspur Bowl and the Strawberry Park area. I was immediately impressed with how easy it was to rack up some significant vertical there at Beaver Creek, as there were numerous fast lifts and plenty of long runs. I especially enjoyed the runs Double Diamond and Buckboard as they were steep groomers that were seemingly ignored by almost all of the other skiers. The snow on those two runs was in especially good shape on that first day. Redtail, Harrier, Larkspur and Yarrow were rather icy, but still enjoyable.
I hooked up with my friends a little before noon and we spent most of our time on the Centennial and Cinch lifts for the rest of the day, with a minor foray into the Rose Bowl area (Cataract). I ended up skiing a little over 34,000 vertical feet on Day 1.
Day 2 was cloudy with the possibility of snow. Three of us began the day going all the way to the top and enjoyed a few warm-up laps on upper Centennial (Cinch lift). Beaver Creek is truly unique in its upside-down terrain as the upper part of the mountain is beginner paradise with numerous green runs going in all directions. Even though I typically avoid skiing green runs, I somehow always enjoyed this part of the mountain as it really was a great area to cruise. Once joining the rest of my friends, we ventured west to see what the areas of Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead had to offer. As we quickly discovered, not much. First of all, getting from the bottom of Centennial over to Strawberry Park involves some polling/skating. Then upon arriving in the Bachelor Gulch area, we were shocked to find that it was an absolute zoo of kids, snowboarders and beginner skiers. We couldn't get out of there fast enough....but it wasn't all that fast as we actually had to wait in a lift line at the Bachelor Gulch Express Lift. We ventured farther west and found the Arrowhead area much calmer, but the terrain wasn't particularly interesting. We hit the runs Pow Wow, Cresta and Tomahawk before tiring of the long run out and wanting to head back to the main area (Centennial). It wasn't as easy as we had hoped to get back.
The map showed that there was a traversing run from the top of the Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express which would eventually get us to the Birds of Prey lift. We followed what we thought was this run (Ford's Way). We got stuck in an open and untracked area next to Beano's Cabin and eventually found the catwalk to get us to the lift, but it proved to be more interesting than we would have liked. We rode the Birds of Prey lift while gawking at the downhill courses that had been meticulously maintained for the World Championships which were to begin on the following Monday. It had begun to snow at this point in the day. We then headed over to the Spruce Saddle Lodge for a lunch break.
After lunch, we headed to the top of the mountain and ventured down Red Buffalo to peruse the entry points to the Stone Creek Chutes. They were open, but we were all intermediate skiers and decided it would be best to stay alive for another day. We were challenged plenty by heading into the Rose Bowl and tackling Ripsaw. We spent the rest of the day in the Centennial area before quitting early as it continued to snow and visibility was becoming difficult. Day 2: 23,000 vertical feet.
After two days of overcast skies, the forecast for Day 3 (Sunday) was looking good. There was 4" of new snow reported (the first snowfall at Beaver Creek in two weeks). We got out early and had some fabulous cruises down Gold Dust, Barrel Stave, Fool's Gold and Latigo. I also ducked into the glade known as Corkscrew. A few of us were feeling good so we headed to the top of the mountain with the goal of getting a taste of a Bird of Prey.
Goshawk was the only Bird of Prey open due to the World Championships and we wanted to give it a try. I led the charge and was in a nice rhythm halfway down the initial steep stretch when my ski popped off while cresting a mogul. When I couldn't clip back in, it became apparent why my ski came off as the heel of my boot had completely broken off. I was dismayed and shocked as I had no way of getting down the mountain from where I was.
I ended up sliding down the rest of this mogul stretch on my rear to Westfall Road. I called Ski Patrol and they provided me with a ride down to the bottom where I was able to catch a bus back to Beaver Creek Village. I grabbed some rental boots for the rest of the day and joined back up with my friends. We rode up Centennial, skied down Redtail, rode up the Larkspur lift and had a great run down Larkspur over to Grouse Mountain, where we skied down a fairly tame (though icy) Raven Ridge. From there, we headed up the Birds of Prey Lift and spent the rest of the day on the main mountain (Gold Dust, Latigo, Centennial, Buckboard, Moonshine and Bootleg). Day 3: 28,000 vertical feet.
Off the snow: I ate dinner at Beano's Cabin (fun!), Hooked (yum!), Blue Moose Pizza (also yum!) and Coyote Cafe (weak). I also enjoyed a nice breakfast at Rocks. Beano's Cabin was definitely a unique experience for me.
Final thoughts: Beaver Creek is a nice ski mountain with lots of vertical, but is not all that challenging. Having just been to Utah, the Beav pales in comparison to the steeps of Snowbird, Alta, Snowbasin and even Solitude. Goshawk was the easiest double black I've ever skied and was even easier than Corkscrew glade which is labeled a blue. Though I didn't give them much of a chance, I couldn't tell that the Arrowhead and Bachelor Gulch areas had much to offer. I was frequently frustrated with the long run outs (Dally and Cresta) and even more frustrated with crossing the bridge between Centennial and Strawberry Park. I am glad to have visited but would definitely prefer Aspen, Telluride and/or the Salt Lake City area for my next ski trip out West.
Edited by Lofcaudio - 2/5/15 at 8:14am