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Weekender: Spring Skiing in Summit County, Colorado

Raymond Patrick

Photo: Raymond Patrick

No region gets into spring skiing with more uninhibited zeal than Colorado's Summit County. As temperatures soar into the forties, tans deepen, moguls soften, and snow lovers take to the slopes in beachwear and boots. Arapahoe Basin often keeps its lifts — and skiers' adrenaline — running through Independence Day, while the more upscale resorts at Breckenridge and Keystone stay open well into April. After exhilarating days on the mountain, the revelry continues in A-Basin (as locals affectionately call it) at the Beach, a flat patch between the parking lot and the lifts where barbecues are a daily ritual, and down the valley in the pubs, cafés, and fine restaurants of modern Keystone and historic Breckenridge. So grab your skis, dust off the hibachi, and hit the road; it's springtime in Summit County.

Where to Stay

Ski Tip Lodge 764 Montezuma Rd., Keystone; 970/496-4950, fax 970/496-4940; doubles $100—$175. It's hard to imagine a more perfect ski lodge. In the 1940's, this former stagecoach stop on the banks of the Snake River was the house of ski pioneer Max Dercum, who founded Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. While the 11 guest rooms (some with shared baths) are nothing fancy—faded quilts, no phones or TV's—the inn itself, with its intimate, antique-filled sitting rooms, hand-hewn beams, worn wood floors, and rough-plaster walls, drips with nostalgia and unselfconscious charm. Après-ski, guests gather by the fire and take meals in the highly praised dining room (reservations required).

Keystone Resort Lodges at River Run Hwy. 6, Keystone; 800/222-0188 or 970/496-4242, fax 970/496-4343; doubles $152—$467. Yes, its faux-frontier architecture is Disneyesque, but don't let that put you off. A pedestrian promenade lined with shops, restaurants, and galleries makes this a convenient place to stay, as do the heated outdoor pools and on-site gondola. You can book anything from a studio to a deluxe four-bedroom unit in one of eight mammoth timber-and-stone lodges.

Keystone Lodge Keystone Village, Hwy. 6, Keystone; 800/222-0188 or 970/496-4242, fax 970/496-4343; doubles $167—$300. If you want location without cutesiness, search no further. The plain cement block isn't much to look at, but inside, most of the 152 spacious rooms have unobstructed views of Keystone Lake and Village. Guests can take a shuttle bus to the slopes at Keystone (just five minutes away) and A-Basin, and also have access to the adjacent Keystone Fitness Center and its heated outdoor pool.

The Pines Hwy. 6, Keystone; 800/222-0188 or 970/496-4242, fax 970/496-4343; one bedrooms $147—$358. Just off Highway 6 in Keystone's Forest Neighborhood, this comfortable condo complex offers good, affordable lodging. Since it's not close to much, you'll have to shuttle to the area's slopes and shops. The accommodations run from studios to three-bedroom units (144 units total); all have hot tubs and/or outdoor pools nearby.

Allaire Timbers Inn 9511 Hwy. 9, Breckenridge; 800/624-4904 or 970/453-7530, fax 970/453-8699; doubles $145—$250. Hearty breakfasts and après-ski drinks are served fireside in a soaring two-story great room that's the centerpiece of the angular, window-filled lodge. Each of the 10 airy guest rooms has a handcrafted log bed, private bath, and small deck with glorious views of the Ten Mile mountain range. The two suites come with in-room fireside whirlpool baths. There's also a hot tub on the inn's sundeck, a quiet reading loft, and a slate-floor sunroom. With all these adult accoutrements, it's no wonder kids under 12 aren't allowed.

Lodge & Spa at Breckenridge 112 Overlook Dr., Breckenridge; 800/736-1607 or 970/453-9300, fax 970/453-0625; doubles $165—$275. This cliffside stone-and-log lodge is a few miles out of town, but the dramatic views of the Hoosier Pass, Breckenridge trails, Ten Mile range, or Mount Baldy make up for the slight inconvenience. (Be sure to request a room without a parking lot vista.) Each of the 45 rooms gets the full antlers-everywhere, Old West treatment, while modern amenities abound in the modest spa, with its massage and therapy rooms, aerobics and yoga classes, small indoor pool, and well-equipped weight-lifting room.

Little Mountain Lodge 98 Sunbeam Dr., Breckenridge; 800/468-7707 or 970/453-1969, fax 970/453-1919; doubles $160—$230. Built in 1994 on a quiet side road just off Breckenridge's busiest thoroughfare, this whitewashed-log B&B is appealingly casual; staying here feels as if friends lent you the keys to their mountain home. The décor veers into the hyper-cute arena (cowboy theme in one room, fly-fishing in another), but families with teenagers will feel at ease playing pool, watching movies in the basement rec room, or hanging out by the communal fire. (Children under 12 are not permitted.) Rooms are bright and spacious; some have whirlpool baths, fireplaces, and private decks. A complimentary shuttle brings guests the few blocks to "Breck"'s downtown area and ski slopes.

Corral at Breckenridge 700 Broken Lance Dr., Breckenridge; 888/609-9600 or 970/547-9600, fax 970/547-9275; doubles $150—$345. The peaked-roof chalet, within walking distance of the shops and bars on Main Street, stands out in a sea of nondescript complexes. Inside, the comfortable condominiums have gas fireplaces, high ceilings, whirlpool baths, full kitchens, washer/dryer units, and small decks off the living room.

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