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Beginners in Summit County seek advice

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
We are a family of 4 with reservations in Keystone. Only my husband has skied before. Myself and 2 kids 12 & 10, will need some instruction. My question is...is there a difference in learning terrain with Keystone, Breck, and A-Basin that would deem one better to learn at than the other? We will be getting the 3 of 5 day lift tickets. I am wondering if we would learn enough in group lessons to enjoy the green runs on our visit or would I need to invest in private lessons? Thanks for any input!
post #2 of 23
Hi - glad you're coming to Summit County! I just noticed again your earlier posts from the start of this year, so obviously you've been planning this out for a while. Nice to have visitors who are carefully looking into their options and thinking about what will help them enjoy their visit most.

I teach beginners at Breck, so I know more about our learning terrain than I do Keystone, and I might be a bit biased However we're all one big happy corporate family so I'm happy wherever you go. (But I'd love for you to come visit at Breck!)

One big difference - the major beginner learning area at Keystone is at the top of the mountain! That's because you can take the gondola from River Run up to it, and down from it. Takes a bit longer to get there than being right at the base, but also is kind of neat because new skiers are getting to go up to one of the peaks for that "mountain experience" even without having to know how to ski down from there. I think there might be some base-area beginner area too (perhaps at the Mountain House base?) but I'll leave that to one of our many Keystone regulars to clarify.

At Breck, we've got three bases for first-time learners: the Beaver Run base area at Peak 9 (where I teach), the Village base area at Peak 9, and the Peak 8 base area. I do think we have great learning terrain over at Peak 9. A good mix of protected, flat "learn to move on skis" yards, some gentle learning areas to climb-and-slide, beginner surface lifts, and a 6-person high-speed lift specifically over our easiest green "real runs" once somebody has learned basic sliding and stopping skills. Typically we'd have you out on those runs by the afternoon of your first day, though of course, the lessons are always fine-tuned to the needs and wants of the guest. We have similar stuff over at Peak 8 but I think either Peak 9 base is a bit better for never-evers.

The staff is great at all the locations - Keystone, Breck 9BR, 9 Village, and 8. I do see quite a few folks who take a lesson one day at Keystone and another day with us at Breck or vice-versa, so take advantage of the various locations you can ski with those multi-day passes.

I will say this - if you're staying at Keystone, getting the family out to lessons at Keystone is a heck of a lot more convenient than coming down to see us at Breck! I do think that for the first day or two, you'd be best off taking lessons at Keystone just from the convenience factor. Breck is a good half-hour drive from Keystone or longer on the county's free bus system, so for your first day - hit the hill you're staying at. Since your husband already skis, he might enjoy checking out the Basin one of the days you're taking lessons at Keystone. Then maybe you all come down and check out Breck on one of the days.

A-Basin is a great mountain, but it's not primarily known as a never-ever learning area. I think the actual Vail Resorts-owned properties of Keystone and Breck (we have a marketing agreement with them and some past-ownership commonality, which explains why your multi-day ticket is good at the Basin) ski schools might have more of a focus on having strong never-ever programs.

Private lessons are usually optimal but do cost a whole lot more. Our group lessons are quite good for getting never-evers turned into skiers enjoying sliding down a "real" green run from the top of a lift, in relatively short order. Also, the kids might prefer to be learning in a group of their own age the first time, while you might enjoy not having to be responsible for them at all while you're learning.

Group lessons the first day and maybe the next, followed by a "Family private" might be a good lesson strategy. I think you'd get more benefit out of the private lesson once you and the kids had all gotten the first-time basics out of the way. And by then, you might all enjoy showing each other what you've learned and learning together.

Enjoy the trip - Summit County is a great place - and make sure to get out to the restaurants, live theatre, workout studios, shops, and other fun stuff in our towns here too!
post #3 of 23
yeah, well i may have the other perspective as i learned to ski(in 1 day) at keystone. now, i learned in april; so i got one on one instruction for a group rate. cant promise you get that.
anyways, i would recommend keystone as they do have their own learning area that is for beginners that is quite a large area w/ its own lift. so, you dont have to watch out for other skiers or worry about getting off the lift and holding up other skiers, everybody is a beginner. that would also do well to probably keep the family together and if you take the gondola up, its no problem.
a second reason i would recommend keystone is once you can ski good enough on your own, they'll take you down schoolmarm. once you can ski that, you can ski greens at copper, loveland and the greens at breck and even the blues bonanza, country boy, briar rose at breck as its my opinion the greens at keystone are a little steeper than most mountains; but they are good and wide; so really no problem. if you start taking a lesson at breck and head over to keystone, it may be a little imposing.
post #4 of 23
A-Basin is definitetly not a beginner's mountain. Loveland Valley, which is a small offshoot from the main Loveland area, is almost all beginner terrain, and only 15-25 minute (depending on weather) drive from Keystone.

Probably best to park yourself at Keystone, though.
post #5 of 23

Breckenridge

Definitely Breckenridge...lots of beginner terrain and a very family friendly vibe. The Quicksilver chair area would be a great place to get your "ski legs" under you.
post #6 of 23
MarkXS is giving you great advice.
Since you are new to the sport, I would advise you to ski close to where you stay, you really can't go wrong for beginner lessons at Keystone.

Staying local will help you maximize your experience. Arranging for rentals in different and unfamiliar places every day will cost you more money and is a time waster, so is carrying them from place to place for 3 people. If you forget goggles, gloves, poles or some other essential, (easy with kids in tow) you'll be able to compensate without shelling out extra money.

Maybe you'll be interested in going somewhere else for your last day, when you're comfortable with the whole process and you may feel prepared to explore with more experience behind you, but you need not see everything on your first trip. Hopefully you will love it enough to come back more often.
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 

MarkXS....

Thanks for the informative reply! I appreciate your time! Since you are an instructor you would be good to ask; I am wondering if the lessons taught in the Breck-Keystone locations are the 'direct parallel' method? I have heard that this method gets the student skiing much quicker. Thoughts on this method?
post #8 of 23
jkpaulson, the training director at Keystone is our own Bob Barnes/Colorado who posts most frequently in the Technique forum here at EpicSki.

The areas that you're considering all will focus on getting you to parallel quickly, but will adjust the approach based on what the instructor sees in your physical capabilities, transfer of other sports' skills, and so on. None are strictly "direct to parallel" or hard-locked into a single progression, either.

If you would like recommendations for instructors at Keystone, I'm sure that there are a number that we could recommend, including my friend Jim Curtis (PM me for details, if you'd like). If you decide to visit Breck, I'd confidently recommend Mark XS for your family, and I'm sure that he could recommend others, as well.

He gave you great advice in his post, too. Wherever you go I would expect you to be able to comfortably ski greens before you leave, and, depending on your physical abilities, perhaps moving beyond them as you depart.
post #9 of 23
On a side note...

Travel between Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin may be even easier this coming winter. The Summit Stage, our county's free transit system, has mentioned a desire to run a fairly direct route between the three. Although no confirmations or details have been offered just yet.

Many of our visitors utilize the free bus systems especially when driving conditions get exciting.

Also, Keystone's tubing hill at the top of the Gondola is a popular activity with families (check the website for dates/hours/prices).
post #10 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by ColoradoDave View Post
A-Basin is definitetly not a beginner's mountain. Loveland Valley, which is a small offshoot from the main Loveland area, is almost all beginner terrain, and only 15-25 minute (depending on weather) drive from Keystone.

Probably best to park yourself at Keystone, though.
Well, I've got to disagree with this. I'd have to say that after a few days lessons, ABasin might be the only place in Colorado where a beginner-lower intermediate can take a lift to the top and ski down easy blue/green trails to the bottom. That's 13,000 feet at the top and the best views anywhere and an easy cruise all the way to the bottom. Both my boys at age 4 did it many times.

Mark and ssh have some good advice and are right on.
post #11 of 23
I agree with Lars. A-Basin actually has a few very nice greens, from short and flat Molly Hogan (for only $10/day) to long and exceptionally scenic Wrangler (the "easy cruise"). The only thing to be aware of is the elevation (10,780 base), which is a bit higher than other already elevated places. If you ski 3 out of 5, I would say take a day to acclimatize, then ski at Keystone for couple days, take a rest day, and then spend a day at A-basin to enjoy scenic terrain.
post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by 100+days Chris View Post
On a side note...

Travel between Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin may be even easier this coming winter. The Summit Stage, our county's free transit system, has mentioned a desire to run a fairly direct route between the three. Although no confirmations or details have been offered just yet.

Many of our visitors utilize the free bus systems especially when driving conditions get exciting.

Also, Keystone's tubing hill at the top of the Gondola is a popular activity with families (check the website for dates/hours/prices).
Thank you for mentioning the Summit Stage. It may take a bit longer, but it's a beautiful ride, and it really helps ease the traffic problems during high season. In some cases, such as Copper Mountain, the bus stops closer to the lifts then the parking lots!
post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 

Wow! Thanks for all the thoughts!

Everyone!

I appreciate all the thoughts so much! There is one thing I am curious about. While there are some split opinons on A-Basin for first timers....why in the world is the private lesson cost so wide spread? I have a quote of 1/2 day at Keystone for $390 (3ppl), and a phone quote at A-Basin for $80 per hour (3ppl). They are sister companies, right? Why would one offer a lesser quality lesson?
post #14 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkpaulson View Post
They are sister companies, right? Why would one offer a lesser quality lesson?
Sister or not, but skiing EVERYWHERE but at A-basin is overpricely expensive, especially for a family. And I'm pretty sure that the quality has nothing to do with the price.
post #15 of 23
they're not really not sister companies anymore. Altho' they were once both owned by Ralston Purina, when Vail Resorts bought Keystone and Breckenridge, they were required to divest themselves of A Basin.

A Basin is really what is commonly called a "gems" ski area, that is, a much smaller resort than Keystone or Breckenridge - really just a small ski area with limited base facilities. Don't bother with their learn to ski package (sorry if there's any abasin instructors reading this). Their beginner slope is very small, and not much in the way of slopes you could go to immediately (like the afternoon after getting the 1st lesson).
post #16 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
and not much in the way of slopes you could go to immediately (like the afternoon after getting the 1st lesson).
Yeep, A-basin is pretty much for skiing only, BUT all possible kinds of, from racing to East Wall powder. If someone needs totally unrelated stuff like tubing, etc. this is not the place.
post #17 of 23
Keystone and Breck are great places to learn to ski but be prepared for $140 or more each for an all day lesson, lift and rental. You have to get there early. They tend to be more crowded but both have excellent instructors, great lifts/gondolas, and gentle terrain. Plus you can hang out in the ski base after a hard day on the slopes.

A-Basin and Loveland are where I'm taking my kids because we can have our base camp right at the car. The "free" lot at A-Basin is right next to the beginner area Molly Hogan lift and they have a magic carpet too. You can either picnic for lunch or the prices in the cafeteria are alot cheaper than Breck or Keystone. Same at Loveland. The great thing about Loveland is the beginner area is completly separate from the rest of the ski area.
post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkpaulson View Post
Thanks for the informative reply! I appreciate your time! Since you are an instructor you would be good to ask; I am wondering if the lessons taught in the Breck-Keystone locations are the 'direct parallel' method? I have heard that this method gets the student skiing much quicker. Thoughts on this method?
Sorry, been away from the forum for a bit or I'd have replied sooner.

"Direct To Parallel" is just one of the many approaches that PSIA instructors can use to match up a lesson plan to their guests. Honestly, in most cases where I teach, I and my fellow instructors don't use a pure DTP approach. Why? Because among other reasons, DTP tends to require a larger teaching yard than we have available - there's more turning done early, learning to use direction change and terrain as a stragegy for going at the speed you want to go. That takes more space initially, and frankly as a big destination resort, Breck (and the other Summit County resorts) gets many students, especially at holiday times. So most of the time we'll use a gliding wedge (NOT an old-fashioned "snowplow") as one of the early techniques to let people know they can control speed even before they can control direction. I'd guess Keystone is similar, and I know I've seen that kind of progression taught at Copper when I've hung out over there.

However, how somebody moves into a gliding wedge, and the intent of it, is very different from the old-school snowplow moves that we (hopefully) don't teach anymore. The intent is still "GO", and the basic movement patterns used, are the same patterns of rotary, edging, pressure control and balance that upper-level parallel skiing is built upon. If someone is teaching modern technique, whether or not a slight wedge is part of what's pulled out of the bag of tricks isn't as much an issue because right from the start, you're learning body movements and intent that build up to parallel skiing.

That said, if there's room and there's an athletic, eager group, I and other instructors there can and will use a DTP approach. In a private lesson, you could certainly request that approach. Some students discover it themselves building on the guidance they've gotten about movement patterns even before putting on their skis, and if they're working well with it I and others will drop the wedge approach and have them work DTP right away, even if others in the class may be working with other skills.

Anyway you do it, a good instructor any any of the areas here is going to help you get started in skiing in a way that you don't have blocking movement patterns and things you'll have to unlearn later. Whether that's a DTP progression, a wedge-based progression or some mix, you'll get an approach that logically builds up to expert skiing.

And hopefully you'll have a barrel of fun while doing it!
post #19 of 23
Well said, Mark! JKP: DTP is appropriate for some beginners, not for others. Your instructor will be trained to customize your lesson to the skills, background and desires of the student. The goal is to provide the most positive experience possible for that particular person.
post #20 of 23
Thread Starter 

MarkXS.... & Mike_M...Thanks for your reply

I am really glad I ran across this forum! You guys are great! Now, can someone tell me about ski rentals for beginners? Is there a reason that I should get the performance package instead of the sport package? If I understand it correctly, the sport package skis are 'shaped' and the performance skis are less shaped?? If the sport package will make learning easier for my girls and I, that's great. But if the performance would offer a better learning experience..... Advice??
post #21 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkpaulson View Post
Now, can someone tell me about ski rentals for beginners? Is there a reason that I should get the performance package instead of the sport package? If I understand it correctly, the sport package skis are 'shaped' and the performance skis are less shaped?? If the sport package will make learning easier for my girls and I, that's great. But if the performance would offer a better learning experience..... Advice??
Sorry, cant help you much here -- never rented skis
post #22 of 23
pretty much any rental skis nowadays are shaped skis. Don't know breck or keystone specifically, others can help you on them. Pretty much all (maybe ALL) new skis within the last 8 or so years are shaped skis. You pretty much only see straight skis as rentals at small ski areas that don't see much rental traffic.

Don't pay attention to JONGS.
post #23 of 23
The best deal a beginner can get at many mountains is a complete package: skis, poles, boots, all-day lesson and beginner lift ticket (beginner lift tickets are MUCH cheaper than unlimited, all-mountain ones). The Copper price for this is about $110. Breck and Keystone probably have something similar. If you're not locked into your pre-purchased lift tickets, you might consider this option. Even if you are, a combination equipment rental/lesson is worth pricing. Shaped skis are the norm everywhere up here. The least expensive package will be just fine. If you take a series of lessons during your stay, the rental shop will let you switch to a slightly more advanced ski, if appropriate, at a nominal increase in price. Obviously it's easy to do this if you rent at the mountain and any problems can be rectified immediately. The resorts usually give you a good deal if you buy everything at the same time and place (and from them!). Usually, a good strategy is to go to a ski school desk EARLY (about 8 AM) and ask if they can set you up with everything. That beats the crowds and rushing from place to place. You'll have enough stress on your first day! If you're taking a lesson at Breck and want Mark as your instructor, that might be able to be arranged, even in a group lesson. He'll know the Breck policy on this. He might even be willing to meet you and walk you through the rental, lift, and lesson-purchase process. (We try to be helpful up here!) Good luck and have fun!
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