I know those are big words, but I’m seriously not still suffering from altitude sickness. It was just so PLEASANT for me, for my husband, and for our teenage daughters.
Yes, it was exhilarating, awesome, and challenging, but I have never had a more pleasant skiing experience. My husband and/or I have vacationed in Vail, Beaver Creek, Jackson Hole, Killington, Smuggler’s Notch, and Snowshoe, WV. While we have enjoyed the skiing in all of those locales, at Keystone, the skiing was perfect and it just had a “happy place” feel to it that earned it my “Disney-like” accolades.
Keep in mind, this is just a girlfriend sharing her awesome vacation with you because we’re buds. This is NOT a sponsored post. I had to sell my left ovary just like everyone else to pay for lift tickets.
The “ease of it all” feel of this vacation really began with getting there. You fly into Denver which gives you a greater chance of finding a direct flight. It’s also a heck of a lot cheaper than flying into someplace like Aspen AND you avoid getting on puddle jumpers. I just do not like small planes. The resort is only about an hour from the airport which is much closer than Vail.
When we got to our condo, my real love for Keystone started to blossom. C’mon, there was a waterfall in the lobby of The Springs at River Run.
And that waterfall traveled under decking to the outside to flow down a waterslide into a heated pool. I KNOW!
We basically just loved our condo. You can see the exact one we rented through SummitCove.com here.
But let’s get to the nitty gritty: the skiing. Here is what set Keystone apart for me as a family resort.
Something as simple as providing complimentary wagons to make it easier for you to haul your gear makes all of the difference, especially with kids. And while my teens can technically carry their own equipment, they do not do so without complaints. Loved not starting and ending each day with “whine.” Bonus: there is a fantastic wagon story at the end of this post.
The way they have the gondola and chair lift network set up, you don’t have to worry about getting “stranded” at the top of a mountain. This is an important reassurance for novice skiers who may lose their nerve after checking out a slope or for someone like me who is babying a bum knee.
Are you wondering why I even went skiing?
Anyway, the layout of Keystone is such that North Peak is behind the main Dercum Mountain and these two ski areas are connected by a gondola. I honestly would have never gone over to North Peak because of my knee issues if I thought my only way “home” was to ski back. And I was right to feel that way because after having a blast on North Peak I was suddenly done and I was so grateful to be able to take the network of gondolas all the way back to the condo. Saved me from the spectacle of taking a ride in a ski patrol sled.
And no, I did not ski The Outback. While I was pushing my knee, I decided not to push my luck that much.
3. The Top of Dercum Mountain is Grand Central Snow Fun
There is more than just skiing up there. In addition to the lodge where you can grab a bite, there is a whole hub of fun.
Learning Area: Often times it seems like the bunny slopes are to hell and gone away from the more thrilling terrain. If your group has any beginners, they are often bid sayonara by the black diamond daredevils until sunset. Not so much at Keystone because there is a learning area at the top of Dercum Mountain. Everyone can easily meet up periodically throughout the day.
In fact, the top of Dercum is the great starting point for a bunch of slopes making it wonderful even for my more experienced family since my knee made me miss out on the Terrain Park. It was so easy for us to go our separate ways for a run or two and then pair up again.
Snow Fort: This is where Keystone really starts to embrace it’s inner Disney. There is a huge castel-like snow fort built with slides, tunnels, and thrones. Even bigger kids like it. It’s just cool.
Tubing Park: Right behind the fort is the the best tubing park I have ever experienced. The runs are huge and fast. The personnel serenade you as they ask you if you want to be spun. And there is no “one rider at a time” nonsense here. Up to four tubes can link up to quadruple the thrill. We had a gorgeous day, but I love how the “magic carpet” lift is enclosed. It would have made a huge difference in keeping things fun if the wind had been kicking up.
4. River Run Village
Things can get pretty fancy at some of the ski villages out west, but I found Keystone to be perfect for families. This is not a fur coat and cowboy hat kind of place. This is where the locals come to knock out a couple of fabulous runs when they get off from work. Of course there are great steakhouses and pricey boutiques, but there are also pizza places and reasonably priced t-shirts. There are tons of fun extras around the village too, like musical instruments, huge Adirondack chairs for photo-ops, ice skating, and ice sculptures.
5. The People
I probably should have led off with this one because it was the Disney World-esque customer service and friendliness that really upped my enjoyment. From the gondola line employee leading us in song and handing out granola bars, to the girl who helped me find an Ace bandage for my blasted knee, I felt well taken care of. They are so smooth, I even got the warm fuzzies when one employee tried to kill me. Wait? What?
I was walking toward the foot bridge leading back to my condo, balancing my travel tray of Starbucks, when I saw a utility vehicle heading towards me from the opposite side. Remember those wagons I was raving about? They have to be rounded up and this guy had a loooong train of them snaking behind his vehicle. He seemed to be going pretty fast and I was in no hurry, so I stepped off the path right before the bridge to wait for him to pass.
Unfortunately neither he nor I realized there was a pretty significant dip-bump combo at the base of the bridge. He hit that flying and his train of fifteen wagons cracked up in the air and . . . that’s when everything went into slow motion. As they came crashing to Earth, I barely missed being crushed by leaping over a snow bank.
His reaction must be read in a surfer dude voice: “Whoa, that was intense. You ok?” Maybe I was surfing the wave of serenity from all of the previous great, relaxed service or maybe it was because I did not spill one drop of my $25 coffee order, but I just laughed it off. That counts as magical, right? For me it does.
One more thing. Honorable mention needs to go to the grocery delivery service: Peak Provisions. While not part of Keystone, they were recommended and I see why. Their gourmet prepared rib meal was delicious and they rolled with my delivery time change like it was no inconvenience at all. And they deliver alcohol. Enough said.
6. Night Skiing
There is not a lot of night skiing in Colorado, but Keystone has it. While I don’t like to ski under the lights, I do like the chairlifts staying open past 4pm. Somehow that last 5pm run was the best.
And then on some nights, after the night skiing was done, there were fireworks! Kind of sounds like Disney World, right?So just in case I wasn’t clear, I highly recommend Keystone even though my knee wishes we had gone to Key West.
Need some vacationing reading or maybe just a book that will make you feel like you’re on vacation?
Click here to buy “I Just Want to Be Alone.”
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By Ellen Williams Erin Dymowski