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Keystone / A-Basin Crowd Strategies

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I'll be using the Keystone/A-Basin 4-pack from Friday to Monday, staying in River Run Village.  Is there a significant difference in crowds between the two resorts based on the day?


Edit: We're an advanced group that likes to ski / ride trees if that matters.

post #2 of 9
I would venture to guess that on any given day, in general, Keystone will be more crowded. Given that, you may be better off hitting Abasin Saturday and Sunday.
post #3 of 9
Keystone is busier. It's bigger, has lots of condos around, and is more of a destination than A-basin. That being said, Keystone is pretty easy to avoid large crowds as long as you are skiing blues and blacks. Once you get past the front of Dercum mountain, the crowds thin out a lot because it is only blues and blacks from there on to the outback. Every time I have skied there, we go straight to the back without skiing the front. From river run, you can jump on the summit express or gondola to the top, go straight across the summit, and down Mozart.
post #4 of 9
If I had to ski Keystone on crowded days, my strategy would be to stay ahead of the masses. Most people will make their way to the Outback, come back to the Outpost for lunch, and then wander back to the front in the afternoon.

River Run first thing on a busy day is a complete cluster, so for this strategy to work it's critical to get there early and grab one of the first chairs on Summit Express. Most people will be waiting for the gondola, so the trip across the bridge can yield a better spot in line.

From there, the Outpost gondola to get to the top of North Peak is an option, but since you are among the first ones up there you know there is no line at Santiago, so you are better off bombing Mozart and taking the Santiago chair. Head down the back of North Peak to the Outback chair and you should have 1 1/2 to 2 hours of relatively thin crowds back there. Once everyone Shows up, it's a good time to bolt for the front side before everyone heads up the Wayback lift to lunch. Maybe some bump runs on North Peak if that's calmed down, or some laps on Dercum. Around 2 head back to the Outback (you'll be going against traffic) and catch a last run there. I think it closes at 2:30 or 3:00, and by then the bulk of the multitudes are heading down to River Run. Wait for that to thin out while you gradually make your way back.
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

At the worst, how big do the lineups get at the North Peak or Outback?  How about at A-Basin?  


As long as there's half decent snow, you can usually find us in the trees.  We're an advanced group and only hit the groomers when the off-piste gets icy or crunchy.

post #6 of 9

UllrIsLord makes some good recommendations. The Epicmix app shows approximate lift line times at Keystone. Been a while since I hit KS prime time weekend, but the Outback lift maze is pretty small so I wouldn't expect long wait times there too often (although I do recall they can make it double sided). 


Keystone has some good tree skiing if there is enough snow/fresh- Outback is most obvious, but there is also some good trees skiing on North Peak (helps to know where you are going as it is much less obvious) and the backside of Dercum- several options on the way down to North Peak. Personally, I avoid Motzart when I can as the snow there can be quite durable.


If you are talking this weekend, I'd probably go to A-Basin before the predicted weekend storm and hit KS when it starts snowing. While some of the stuff off Pali can have decent visibility during a storm, much of A-B is above tree line. OTOH, if altitude adjustment and finding your ski legs may be an issue, probably best to start with KS.

post #7 of 9

I live in Boulder and have an Epic Local pass, so I've skied a fair amount at both resorts. While A-Basin is considered more of a locals hangout spot and gets far fewer people, it is also a MUCH smaller resort. If you're looking for some serious steeps and want to challenge your skills, then that's absolutely where you should head. However, I've skied Keystone on some VERY busy weekends, and although certain runs will get crowded, there are ways to avoid the crowds.


1) Get there early. If you want to ski the Outback and not be crowded, be in the lift lines before 8:30, and head straight back. By 10-11am those back bowls will be packed.


2) Don't take the River Run Gondola up. Instead, cross the bridge and hop on the Summit Express. They both take you to the top of Dercum Mountain, but the Summit Express reliably has half the wait time.


3) When the mountain starts to fill up, the frontside blues will stay weirdly quiet, especially Wild Irishman and Paymaster. Schoolmarm will be PACKED (though there's a very short run called Hoodoo off of it that is always completely empty), and Spring Dipper will start to get quite busy (though Santa Fe is usually pretty quiet, if you stay to the right about halfway down). Frenchman and Flying Dutchman will also both get their fair share of traffic (though nowhere near as much as Spring Dipper), but I've always found Wild Irishman and Paymaster to be damn near empty.


4) Mozart is a NIGHTMARE when the crowds start pouring in, but there's a not-quite-secret black run called Diamond Back that has it's entrance at the bottom of the bunny slope, so it really doesn't get that much traffic. If there's been a fair amount of powder and no grooming, it can get pretty difficult and bumpy, but in general it's a nice, steep black run with an very straight even slope that can be really fun.


5) Last tip: If you ski down to Montezuma and you're approaching from the Schoolmarm/Last Chance side, ski past the lift line and enter the line from the Spring Dipper side. When the lines start to get long, you can easily shave off a few minutes, just by going around to the other side.


Anyways, hope this helps. Enjoy!

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the great report!
post #9 of 9

You've gotten some good advice.  Pretty much exactly what I would suggest.  Just a couple of things to add.  Saturday will be busy, but Sunday afternoon will be very civilized as the Denver weekenders bail out early to try and beat the traffic on I70.  A-Basin is a gem, but as much of the terrain is above treeline, it is not fun when snowing due to flat light.  Keystone can be a better choice on such days.

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