Pampered Beaver Creek takes edge off winter

BC, mountain shot, resized,1075

The snow that’s terrorizing the nation is making Beaver Creek a winter wonderland.

BEAVER CREEK, Colo.—We were sitting on the terrace of the Ritz-Carlton, enjoying a sun-drenched lunch break during a marvelous day of skiing.

What better way to exact revenge on winter?

The snow that has wreaked havoc elsewhere around the nation has been embraced warmly at Beaver Creek, which figures to have delightful spring skiing this year.

The one-time little brother of Vail is all grown up now. Beaver Creek will co-host the World Championships next year, when it expands its main Centennial lift to a six-person chair interspersed with a 10-passenger gondola.

While neighboring Vail is famous for its vast back-bowls-and-beyond terrain, Beaver Creek has the steep-and-deep Birds of Prey and Grouse Mountain areas, plus an abundance of tree-skiing options, for hearty skiers.

What it also has are a ton of intermediate runs that can be delightful groomed cruisers or improve-your-game bump runs, depending on where the Snow Cats have been working.

Where Beaver Creek is virtually unmatched is in creature comfort. The main village has covered escalators. The impressive new Talons restaurant—conveniently located near the base of three lifts—has an elevator between its two main levels, not to mention an egg-and-sausage flatbread on its breakfast menu. Not to be outdone, the Spruce Saddle Lodge has a variety of tempting Asian noodle dishes.

At uncrowded Beaver Creek, there's often room at roam.

At uncrowded Beaver Creek, there’s room to roam

After enjoying our first morning in the powder of the wide-open Larkspur bowl, my wife and I cruised over to the Bachelor Gulch area to ski alongside—but not through—the trees. The tree experience, we left to the more adventurous, including the young man who came flying out of the woods backwards, narrowly missing us as we stood quietly for a moment, admiring a glorious winter day.

Exploring, we skied down to the base of the Bachelor Gulch lift, where we discovered our lunch spot. The outdoor area of the Ritz featured live music, several food options and, best of all, a sun-drenched setting that made an outdoor break viable even on a mid-winter day.

On the Ritz-Carlton terrace, apres-ski is open all day.

On the Ritz-Carlton patio, apres-ski is open all day

The cheddar burger wasn’t cheap ($20), but it was outstanding. Splittably-huge, it went down nicely with a 16-ounce retro Pabst Blue Ribbon (just $5).

After this glorious moment in the sun, we resumed our skiing adventure. Enjoying the 30 inches of snow that had fallen in the days before we arrived, we cruised down to Arrowhead. The skiing at Beaver Creek’s third base village features gentler terrain than Bachelor Gulch and the main Beaver Creek Village, but that was perfect for the end of the day.

Heading home to the Pines Lodge, near Beaver Creek Village, we caught a few turns on President Ford’s Run, which overlooks the home once inhabited by the former President, who also was a Beaver Creek statesman.

One of the appeals of Beaver Creek, which has 1,832 skiable acres, is that it’s easier to maneuver around than the sprawling Vail (5,289 skiable acres).

In the evening, the upscale pampering at Beaver Creek continues with fine dining and a complimentary on-demand shuttle system that transports skiers in the largely car-free environment.

Whole snapper at Hooked is a feast for the eyes.

Whole snapper at Hooked is a feast for the eyes.

One of our favorites was Hooked, a relatively new casual restaurant that serves shockingly fresh seafood, courtesy of twice-weekly delivery runs from the Denver airport across the Continental Divide.

Hooked serves up everything from fish and chips to sashimi and nigiri to surf and turf. Its specialty, though, is a whole fish, such as snapper, cooked two ways. Its half sashimi/half flash-fried presentation was spectacular.

But there are also budget options. Weary from our day on the slopes, we opted to order in a pizza on Super Bowl Sunday, and Magusto’s in nearby Minturn did not disappoint.

With nonstop flights serving nearby Eagle Airport from major airports around the nation, including Chicago (American) and Minneapolis (Delta), Beaver Creek is easy to access.

With the FIS World Ski Championships, the Super Bowl of skiing in non-Olympic years, coming to Vail and Beaver Creek on Feb. 2-15, 2015, the Vail Valley will be bustling next year.

If the snow is as abundant next year as it has been this season, the world skiing community will be very pleased. If you’re a skier weary of snow in flat parts of the country, a Beaver Creek spring break could be just as uplifting.

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