This Chic Colorado Ski Resort Is Hiding a Serious Wild Side
A massive hawk's nest is in the tree above me, unnamed peaks tower in the distance behind, and pristine powder beckons ahead, all tucked away between patches of aspen trees. This wild landscape was not the setting I expected for my third-ever ski lesson. But McCoy Park, Beaver Creek's newest expansion, isn't your typical beginner's terrain.
"Most new skiers and snowboarders only get to experience the groomed base area, but McCoy Park gives beginners a taste of that awe-inspiring wilderness feel you find in Vail's Back Bowls," John Plack, senior communications manager at Vail Resorts, explains.
Ten years in the making, this 250-acre area, accessed by the Strawberry Park Express lift, features two new lifts, a warming hut crafted from beetle kill pine, 17 green and blue groomers with names like Serenity and Tranquility, plus plenty of ungroomed terrain to explore. That morning, I'd proven myself in the Ski School Skills Zone. Now, my enthusiastic instructor, Coker Baldwin, had me navigating trees and hitting powder stashes in McCoy — skills I'd thought were way beyond my ability.
"Because the pitch of the slopes is so mellow here, it provides instructors safe options to give novices the feel of being on powder for the first time or doing a tree run," Plack says.
The area may be promoted as a beginner playground, but Baldwin lets me in on a secret: even a few days after a storm, fresh powder remains hidden in McCoy's trees.
"It is truly a paradise for all levels of snow sports enthusiasts tucked away high up in its own little valley," Balwin adds.
Beaver Creek is known as a mellow, family-friendly mountain. And its top-notch ski school and five-star services, including staff members who hand out free cookies at the base, certainly backs up that reputation. But it's also home to some seriously challenging terrain, including the formidable Birds of Prey World Cup racecourse, which features a vertical drop of 2,470 feet.
Following my day at ski school, I took some time to revert to my trusty snowboard to tackle the black and double black diamond runs of Grouse Mountain and ended the day bombing 45-degree pitches in the Stone Creek Chutes area. My adrenaline rush rivaled how I felt as a novice cruising intermediate runs on skis. Beaver Creek has proven the place where you can have it all, or as Balwin says, "It really is a mountain that has something for everyone and lots of treats to reward all efforts and accomplishments."
How to Ride:
Beaver Creek is on the Epic Pass, so if you picked up a pass earlier this season you'll have access. Pricing for daily lift tickets changes based on demand and the day of the week but averages $179 for a full-day adult lift ticket.
Where to Stay:
When it comes to ski-in/ski-out access, the Osprey at Beaver Creek, a RockResort Hotel, owns bragging rights as the closest resort to a ski lift in North America. The Strawberry Park Express chair lift is a 26-foot walk from the lodge's ski valet.
There are other stellar accommodations near the mountain, including Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa, which offers luxe digs in the heart of the base village, along with a signature spa featuring the Aqua Sanitas Roman Baths experience. There's also The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, a secluded oasis with a sushi restaurant that flies in fish from Japan daily for those looking for that little extra something special on their ski trip.
Where to Dine:
The on-mountain dining got a major makeover this season. DIY grilling spot, Mamie's Mountain Grill, located at the top of Bachelor Gulch Express, has been revamped as a German biergarten serving oversized soft pretzels, sizzling brats, and imported brews on tap.
Talons Restaurant and Spruce Saddle Lodge offer cafeteria-style, on-mountain dining with menus featuring burgers, chili, and gussied up grilled cheese.
You can easily fuel yourself on sugar all day with on-piste stops at the Candy Cabin at the top of Strawberry Park Express (Swedish Fish are the ultimate power booster), or at the Ice Cream Parlour at the top of Haymeadow Express Gondola (if it's too cold for a milkshake, the grilled cheese is fantastic), and the Sweet Beaver Treats kiosk at the bottom of Haymeadow Express makes killer cinnamon-dusted sopapillas.
And, at 3 p.m. sharp every day, the resort hosts Cookie Time, a ritual of handing out complimentary, still-warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, which is an event all ski resorts should adopt immediately.
For dinner, there are three cabins that can be reached by snowcat-pulled sleighs at night. Beano's Cabin is known for its signature Rocky Mountain menu, while Allie's Cabin has reinvented itself as a comfort food haven, and Zach's Cabin is now channeling the cuisine of Northern Italy. In the village, newcomer Citrea also offers upscale Mediterranean dishes like citrus-marinated swordfish with Sardinian fregola.