My crew and I went on an adventure to Colorado this weekend. We were making our way from Denver airport to Keystone, CO to stay at the Keystone Resort. The ride was estimated to be about an hour and a half long. But a sudden blizzard had covered the major interstate with snow, and there were some unfortunate accidents along the way, which slowed us down even further.
While I was stressing about whether or not I was going to make a 6:30pm dinner engagement, I overheard another passenger say to the driver:
“I heard it’s supposed to be 18 degrees tomorrow and continued snow!”
“Oh yeah, this is the best we’ve gotten this early in a long time,” said the driver of the van.
Funny, I thought. In New York City this weather would be defined as the worst, but here the sight of so much snow was cause for great celebration for it meant skiing, and skiing is what it is all about.
We arrived to Keystone Resort around 5:30. The strong breeze blew flakes of snow, forming little rings that brushed up against us as we walked to our condo located at the Dakota Lodge. A large 2-bedroom, 2 bathroom condo, it also featured a full kitchen with all essentials, a full dining room, as well as a living room area, complete with fireplace and pull-out sofa bed.
Our king-size master bedroom connected to a balcony (which also connected on the living room end) and overlooked the village and mountains. The Dakota Lodge features hot tubs and a heated pool, available for guests. We found the lobby-level lockers for storing our ski equipment to be extremely convenient and made good use of the on-site laundry room as well.
The kids immediately got settled in and my husband and I made our way out to meet our host for dinner. We didn’t need to hire a sitter, but that service is available for guests, with information available at registration desk. My taste of the food scene in Keystone is one I want to describe to you with more detail, so make sure to check back later for that because you won’t want to miss it. For now I’ll just say that dinner was incredible.
We took one of the many free shuttles that pass through the various areas of the resort to help visitors get from one place to another within Keystone Village and it’s connecting areas without having to worry about driving and parking, which we heard can be problematic in some areas on specific times.
On our first full-day there we all headed out to the slopes. The 4 and 5 year old went to ski school, while the teen and I took private lessons. One of the immediate things we loved about the ski school for the kids was that we didn’t have to worry about getting the kids fit for their ski boots, or figure out what skis were right for them, or anything other then having them dressed appropriately, and dropped off on time. The staff there took care of it all, which was great for us because it meant hitting the slopes a lot sooner.
Another great experience we had was at the ski rental location. My husband and I agree that the service and attention there was the best we have experienced anywhere. One of the things I hate, yes, I know strong word, but really, hate about skiing is the putting on of the ski boots. It’s just never easy, especially when you have all those layers on, and they aren’t the most comfortable things in the world. Yet, I didn’t need to suffer through the hassle because it was all done for me: the boot was opened up so I could quickly slide my foot in, and because I was running a bit late for my lesson, they also assisted in buckling me in. It was the fastest ski rental process I have ever experienced, and definitely the most pleasant.
My instructor, a Swiss man named Bernhard Schrag, was the perfect fit for me. Aside from being an expert skier with a wonderful sense of humor and the patience of an angel, he is an award winning culinary instructor at one of the most acclaimed culinary programs in the country at Johnson & Wales University. A foodie teaching me to ski? Heaven.
My lesson was an experience I won’t soon forget. After letting Bernhard know I had taken a couple of lessons before, I expected I would go back to my beloved “bunny hill”. Instead, Bernhard took me 11,640 up the summit. Though I didn’t ski all the way down, just being that high up made me nervous. Visions of my sliding down the hill, tumbling over boulders, and crashing into trees filled my head. That is, until I took a moment to look at the sights.
“Most skiers are so focused on other things, that they miss taking in the views,” Bernhard said. What a shame I thought, as I looked out on to the clear white mountain tops, deep blue waters of Dillon lake, and clear blue skies. The hills filled with snowboarders and skiers of all ages. Parents with little ones between their knees slid down the hills. The snow was soft and looked more like powder than snow.
“Pow,” explained my newest friend, Justine, over drinks one night. “Every time we see the white stuff come down we say ‘POW!’ for powder, or fresh snow.”
My lesson started out a bit tough, as I tried to conquer my fear. As I made it through my first hill without fail Bernhard cheered me on. “Great job, Carol! Now, breathe and smile.”
Oh yeah, breathe.
After I got the breathing down, and a few other techniques, we would go on the chairlift again, and Bernhard would share his favorite eating spots in the area, and favorite runs. He also shared how skiing has been that one thing that has always brought his family together, even his teen who often would rather be doing something with friends. The smiling part came easily, it was all so beautiful.
And I thought about my little ones in their little skis, big smiles on their faces. Then I saw my teen sliding down a hill on his snowboard, while my husband tried to conquer the summit.
I envied Bernhard, and everyone else I spoke to about their lives there. They all worked hard, some, including Bernhard, had more then one job. But it was worth it they all said. People I connected with loved working at Keystone and most especially, loved living in the area. This is something that came through every where we went and this joie de vivre was contagious. Waking up in the mornings to the view of snow covered mountains only further complimented that feeling.
“You should come back in the warmer months,” said Bernhard. “The hills are full of wild flowers, and you can hike for miles. The kids would love the camping too. I favorite the fly fishing myself.” He pointed to his favorite camping spot along Dillon lake, and I envisioned those white hills covered in green and flowers. It took my breath away once again.
There was a lot more going on in the summit besides skiing and snowboarding. Keystone Resort has a wonderful kid’s club called Kidtopia, the centerpiece of which is a large castle-shaped igloo. It was still being worked on while we were there, but according to the few people I spoke to about the club, it is a kid favorite.
Said one grandmother, “Last year, my grandson would not leave, he was having so much fun,” she smiled as she recalled the moment. “I waited and waited, and finally had to snatch him up once he came down the hill!”
Another fun activity for the whole family is tubing. This hour-long activity is great for kids 42′ and higher and though a bit pricey, it was totally worth being able to share such a fun time with my boys. If you have smaller children, the Nordic Center offers tubing as well and other activities that are fun for children 3 and up. They also have a wonderful soup bistro there that is worth checking out.
We only went for a long weekend, but wish we had gone for much longer for a couple of reasons: there was a lot to do, both as a family and as a couple and it took us a few days to adjust to the altitude – my little ones especially had a bit of a tough time adjusting and were feeling best on the day we were leaving.
We enjoyed the fact that there is a lot going on right on the site, but should guests want to venture out, the free shuttles are convenient, constant, and comfortable. There is a small grocery market, and lots of eateries and coffee shops, as well as shops for small gift items and clothing, all within walking distance from our condo. Our favorite coffee shop in the area (besides the Starbucks) is Inxpot, our least favorite, New Moon Cafe.
I took a shuttle one early morning to the nearby Keystone Spa, where I enjoyed an 80-minute long hot stone massage and a light lunch. It was an incredible little retreat, and one that set me up for all the activity of the day.
My husband and teen enjoyed the night skiing, while my little ones took advantage of the gondola rides up and down the mountains.
We also got there a week too soon. All the holiday festivities are kicking off just as we left, and there is a lot going on, from Chocolate Villages to visits from Santa…and of course, the opening of Kidtopia.
As we drove away from the lodge, and made our way to the airport, I couldn’t get enough of the mountain views.
“Do you ever just not notice the views, you know, feel jaded?” I asked the driver as we slowly drove away from one of the most fun places I have visited in awhile.
“I have lived here 31 years,” he replied. “And still there are moments when I am going to work that I catch sight of it and can’t help but think of how lucky I am. I love it here.”
I am happy that I was able to enjoy it all with my family at the Keystone Resort, and am grateful to everyone we connected with who took the time to share their stories, their hometown, their experience, and most of all, the awesome Pow!
Check out www.keystoneresort.com for information on rates, activities, upcoming events and more.
Disclosure: Individual travel and accommodations were provided courtesy of Keystone Resort for the purpose of this review. The views and opinions expressed here are strictly my own. For more information please refer to the disclosure page.