For More Details
Beaver Creek’s First-time Skier/Rider Series start at $145 or $155 (depending on season) for three days of semi-private lessons, lift tickets and equipment rental. Snowshoe lesson fees start at $49, and vary according to season.
For more information on Breckenridge, Keystone, Beaver Creek or Vail, call Vail Resorts central reservations at 1-800-427-8308. Visit online at www.beavercreek.com; www.breckenridge.com; www.keystoneresort.com; www.vail.com.

Before You Go
To plan your trip, stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, TripTiks and TourBook guides. Or, go to our online Auto Travel section.

Never too OLD for the cold
Playing in Colorado’s mountains brings out the kid in you

By Deborah Reinhardt
Managing Editor
Published: Nov/Dec 2001

After a day on the mountain, relax in the village at Breckenridge, a charming resort area that takes on a glow each evening. / Vail Resort photos
“You’re going where to do what?”

Going to Colorado to learn how to snowboard was my reply, but the answer often was followed by a second question.

“Why?”

The response, because it ought to be fun, sometimes solicited another question.

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll break something? You know, you’re not so young anymore.”

They had me there. But the folks in Beaver Creek, Colo., know their business, and they assured me that a 41-year-old woman could learn to ride a snowboard just as an 18-year-old can. Remember, Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

For the 18-year-olds flying down the mountain, Franklin D. Roosevelt doesn’t mean much to them, but they relate to Tom Sims or Jake Burton, professional boarders who wrote the book on this growing winter sport.

As a participant in the resort’s three-day “Learn to Ride” program, I’d be happy if I could link some turns and not fall down while getting off the ski lift.

Easing into the alpine lifestyle

After flying into Denver from St. Louis, I took a shuttle to the picturesque ski village of Breckenridge, the first major ski resort in Colorado to allow snowboarding in 1985.

Upon exploring this historic town founded in 1860 by Thomas E. Breckenridge, I discovered that like most self-respecting Western towns, Breckenridge has a strong tie to gold mining. When gold was discovered along the banks of the Blue River in 1859, things would be forever changed.

Skiing in Breckenridge goes back to the town’s beginning. Miners who spent winters in the Blue River valley in 1859-60 used “snowshoes” made of wood, about eight feet long, with a wide, curled up tip.

However, the resort business at Breckenridge took off in 1961, when Peak 8–the largest of Breckenridge’s four mountains (Peaks 7, 8, 9 and 10)–opened.

The brief visit to Breckenridge also allowed time to see some of the village’s 300 preserved buildings, making it Colorado’s largest historic district. Upscale to funky boutiques, plus fine to casual restaurants, are located in these buildings.

We enjoyed a marvelous dinner at Hearthstone restaurant. Granola-encrusted elk chops and crab-stuffed Rocky Mountain trout were wonderful surprises. Entrees include fresh baked bread, New England clam chowder or salad, rice pilaf or mashed potatoes and vegetables.

An overnight stay at the Great Divide Lodge wrapped me in comfort. The lodge is within walking distance into the village and offers its guests ski-in, ski-out convenience. The next morning, I left Breckenridge to explore Keystone Resort.

Keystone’s casual style

Keystone has a different appearance and atmosphere than Breckenridge. It’s big, booming and very affordable. Upon making a reservation, Keystone guests receive two passes for free activities, such as ice skating or snowshoeing.

I tried snowshoeing for the first time at Keystone’s Alpine Institute. After securing equipment in the new Cross-Country Center, I joined a guide for an ecology walk. She shared stories about mining history, trees and plants, as well as wildlife.

Keystone has more than 20 miles of scenic trails and on this quiet Wednesday morning, I became hooked on this sport.

The shoes no longer resemble tennis racquets strapped to feet. At first, they are a little cumbersome, but after a few steps, users get accustomed. The shoes strap to your boots and have metal teeth at the pointed toe to help pull you up hills, or control steps while going downhill.

A decadent lunch atop the Alpenglow Stube restaurant capped off a short visit to Keystone. The enclosed gondola ride up the mountainside to the restaurant yielded vistas I’d never before seen. Skiers are welcome to remove boots and slip on a pair of warm, wool clogs while dining. Accommodations at Keystone, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, include the popular and cozy Ski Tip Lodge. Once a 19th-century stagecoach stop, this bed-and-breakfast was home to Max and Edna Dercum, Keystone’s founders. Savor a four-course dinner at the lodge, or try a savory soup with fresh bread for lunch. Rates include breakfast.

The Keystone Lodge is a AAA Four-Diamond hotel with renovated rooms and suites

After another day of glorious winter sunshine, fresh air and inspiring surroundings, I was ready for Beaver Creek and my first snowboarding lessons. How hard could it be?

Hitting the slopes

On a perfect, sunny January morning, our small group met Chris “Zusch” Zuschlage in front of Beaver Creek’s adult ski school. For the next three days, Zusch was to become our coach, friend and confidant. Therefore, it seemed reasonable to me that someone inquired about the big bruise on his forehead. Afterall, we were trusting this man with our safety.

“Oh, I slammed into a tree the other day,” Zusch said, rubbing the spot.

Uh huh.

Actually, we couldn’t have had a better teacher. A Level III certified snowboard instructor, Zusch’s easy-going motivational style was well-suited for our diverse group. And trust–in yourself and your instructor–as I learned, is 75 percent of this game. The other 25 percent is sheer nerve.

After renting boots and boards from Beaver Creek’s Snowell shop we made our way to a snowy field shared with adults learning to ski. Zusch got us up on our boards right off the bat. He held our hands to guide us through the motions at first, and when he thought everyone was ready, allowed us to try something on our own. By mid-morning, we were on the boards sliding down gentle slopes. Turning was a challenge, but Zusch reminded me to take my time and be patient.

But by the end of the day, I realized this wasn’t for me. After doing a full split on a fall, fear had set in and I was finished.

That’s what is great about a Colorado resort vacation. If downhill skiing isn’t your bag, try boarding, ice skating, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. I spent the rest of the weekend snowshoeing, and I was in the perfect place to do it.

Beaver Creek is rapidly emerging as a mecca for snowshoe enthusiasts. A big reason for this recognition is the resort’s McCoy Park, one of only a few North American mountaintop parks dedicated for snowshoe and cross-country ski enthusiasts. The park is accessible by the Strawberry Park Express lift. The 9,840 foot elevation makes for spectacular views while exploring the groomed trails.

On a guided snowshoe hike, however, the tour’s highlight was leaving the trails and plunging into virgin snow that came up to my hip. Our guide showed us how to roll out of a hole if we got stuck.

The park is so large, we seemed to be the only four people on the pristine mountain. It was a memorable morning and I’d visit Beaver Creek again just for a similar experience.

Other delights

Another great aspect to a Colorado resort getaway is not all entertainment has to be outdoors. I excelled in the aprés ski arena.

Spruce Saddle Lodge was another good location for lunch. The Dusty Boot Saloon had good Mexican fare, and a favorite hangout with the younger crowd was the Coyote Café.

Dinner choices were varied and plentiful. For an unusual experience, try dining at Allie’s Cabin. Located in an aspen grove on Beaver Creek Mountain, dinner guests ride up to the cabin in an open-air sleigh. We were welcomed by an attentive wait staff, and stepped inside the 80-seat cabin that featured a three-story fireplace, vaulted ceilings and magnificent nighttime views of the village below. Executive chef David Sanchez treated his guests to a five-course gourmet meal.

On another night, we enjoyed a superb dinner at Grouse Mountain Grill, where chef Rick Kangas prepared entreés including grilled beef tenderloin and pinenut-encrusted chicken.

Following dinner, I enjoyed a terrific concert featuring jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves at Vilar Center for the Arts, located at Beaver Creek. What a cultural treasure the center brings to the village–and surrounding community. Beaver Creek guests should sample seasonal offerings of theater, dance and music.

After feeding my stomach and soul, I balanced mind and body at Spa Struck, a full-service facility at the Charter, a European-style mountain lodge.

I knew snowboarding would bruise me on places I didn’t know I had, so I scheduled the pain-relief sports massage. By the end of the 50-minute treatment, the massage therapist could have poured me into a mug, I was that relaxed.

The Allegria Spa at Hyatt Regency Beaver Creek was a more upscale experience. The spa offered a variety of massages, plus wraps, water treatments, scrubs, plus face, hair and nail treatments. I enjoyed a facial. At the end of the treatment, my face glowed–especially after the brisk walk in the cold back to the Charter.

This ski-in, ski-out property, located just 100 yards from The Elkhorn Lift, offers guests lodge rooms as well as one- to five-bedroom condominiums. Each condo has a living room, fireplace, kitchen and balcony or patio. Other amenities included swimming pools, hot tubs, restaurants, a health club and sport shop.

A Colorado resort winter vacation will stimulate and relax you. I’d go back in a (pounding) heartbeat.


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