Colorado Skiing and Riding – Paul Profiles Keystone Resort
Keystone is sick. And I don’t mean that it’s not feeling well. With acres of wide open runs to accommodate skiers and riders of every ability level, tree skiing with a true ‘backcountry‘ feel, bowls galore and all the amenities you’d hope for from a Vail Resorts property, Keystone is one to write home about.
When it comes to Colorado skiing and riding, Keystone has a feel that is all its own, and since it is not one of the resorts that borders I-70, you may be able to have a bit of it that feels like it is all of your own, too. When I think Keystone, I think variety. Like many other Colorado resorts, it is quite large, but from one section of Keystone to another, it can feel like two completely different places.
On Schoolmarm, I enjoy cruising along the well marked routes with plenty of room for wide GS turns. In the Outback, I sometimes have to ask myself, “Are we still within the resort boundaries?” It has a really wild feel to it. Keystone is a diamond in the jewelry box of American resorts.
As a holder of the Epic Local pass, I have unrestricted visits to Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin, and Keystone, and 10 restricted days at Vail and Beaver Creek. Because of proximity, Keystone is a perfect place for northern Front Rangers. See distances below in the Vital Stats section. Frankly though, distance aside, for Colorado skiing and riding, Keystone is worthy of air travel.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy Keystone is to show up to the River Run Village early enough for breakfast before first chair. I enjoy some fuel that I’ll surely need for the day at the Inxpot, hop on the Gondola and access the miles and miles of fresh corduroy that Keystone grooms each and every day. Their wide open groomers are among my favorite places on this planet. I have to stop to rest on most of them because they are just so long! Schoolmarm is 3.5 miles of uninterrupted skiing from top to bottom. We cruise the front side for the first hour or so, warm up with some hot chocolate, enjoy the views from the Summit House and get ready to head to North Peak.
From there we may take some more groomers, or when the snow allows in later season, start to poke into the trees in search of fresh powder stash. We usually can’t wait much longer to get to the Outback. This area of Keystone Resort, especially on powder days, is the type of setting you imagine commercials for Colorado skiing and riding being filmed. The forested slopes do have a high level of difficulty, but they match that with serene, silent beauty and feelings of solitude. It feels like nowhere else I’ve ever been and I can’t wait to be back there, so I can stop, sit in the snow and just listen to the mountain, with whoops and hollers of pleasure coming from frolicking riders in the distance.
Keystone offers CAT rides on a $5 per lift, or all day tour type basis. The lifts don’t give much access to the bowls above treeline, so you have to either hike or take a CAT. I spoke with Justine Spence, Communications Coordinator of Keystone Resort and she related how:
It [CAT skiing] is so much fun! You check in at the River Run base area..they teach you how to use your beacon and you’re sent out with Ski Patrol guides, and they take you up in the CAT…you go to the backcountry into our Independence Bowl or Bergman Bowl. They keep their eye on what’s skiing the best and has the best powder….You can ski anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 vertical feet in a day. And they serve you lunch!
The A – 51 Terrain Park is what you’d expect from a park in Summit County–tabletops you can just cruise over or ones that look like they could launch you into next week. Plenty of features like rails, boxes, etc. I’m not a big hucker or jibber, but I can tell from the looks of it that it is a great park. It’s also worth seeing even if you don’t go off the jumps. This is a training ground for many of the world’s best, so you can count on it being an air show.
County – Summit
Distance from Old Town, Fort Collins – 129 Miles, 2 hours 29 minutes. Map
Distance from Denver International Airport – 97.3 Miles, 1 hour 51 minutes. Map
Accessible Acreage – 3,148 acres
Vertical Drop – 3,128 feet
Trails – 135
Chairlifts – 20 including 2 Gondolas
Keystone’s Trail Map