Keystone often gets short shrift when it comes to Summit County’s big, famed resorts. That’s all the better for Front Rangers looking to escape the Strafe-draped fray. Keystone’s charms include everything from uncrowded backcountry to runs that the whole family can enjoy to lodging and free parking just a short walk from the lifts. It’s a mountain that gets better the more time you spend exploring it. Plus, it’s just west of the Eisenhower Tunnel from Denver limiting the time you waste on I-70 and putting it within quick half-day striking distance for weekday gondola laps. Best of all, this year, the resort added a new six-pack Montezuma Express chair, which will make both hammering out frontside runs and accessing the back side faster and easier. Read on for our tips on how get the most out of this Colorado classic.
This may make you chuckle, but Keystone lays claim to the best green run in North America. Not impressed? Let us explain. Most greens are glorified cat roads or gentle knolls. The three-mile-long, 2,339-foot Schoolmarm is indeed a real run. And sure it’s a green—anyone can get down it and enjoy it. That means expert skiers, too, who can rail down the perfect pitches en route to the base area. But this baby’s truly best for families: The long, wide slope is a confidence booster for kids and newbies alike. It loads up on weekends and near day’s end, so keep the kids close at peak times, so the traffic doesn’t scare them.
Just like the resort itself, Keystone’s snow cat runs a bit under the radar—all the better for using it to enjoy the soft, deep pleasures of Independence Bowl with Keystone Adventure Tours. It’s also a decent deal: A day of guided cat skiing runs $310 per person. That includes Salomon fat ski demos and lunch in the private, backcountry Indy Yurt. The bowl holds stashes on plenty of tree runs and a long screamer of a run, Two if by Sea. Peek down the back side of the bowl, heading towards Montezuma. This is where the Olympic downhill would have been if Denver had hosted the Winter Olympics in the 1970s. Got energy to burn? The backcountry bowl is open to experienced touring skiers and snowboarders. Skin to it (with a lift ticket) if you’re carrying avalanche safety gear and know how to use it. Check with patrol before you go.
Keystone also runs a $10, one-ride cat that accesses its North and South Bowls in the Outback section of the mountain. Of course you can save your cash and access them via a quick hike, too. Be sure to look for spots to stop and hit tree runs laced with pockets of powder along the way.
Keystone caters to families and kids. That’s a boon for parents looking for to keep their groms happy while they explore expert terrain. You can plan visits around three big bang-for-your-buck kid events. The Kidtopia Spectacular (December 15-24) kickstarts the holidays with a bounce house party, a mountaintop celebration and lighting ceremony of the world’s largest snow fort—plus a visit from St. Nick. Aspiring young chefs will want to check out the new Kidtopia Culinary Festival (February 9-17) and The Kidtopia Music Experience (March 2-10) features parties and kids’ concerts.
On mountain, Labonte’s Smokehouse BBQ at the base of North Peak just added a 190-seat indoor dining room. In River Run village, get your joe at Inxpot (inxpot.com), stacked with locals. Come lunch, order a pie at Pizza on the Run (pizzaontherunkeystone.com) and watch the Broncos. For drinks and romance, head to the Ski Tip Lodge (skitiplodge.com).