Close

Member Login

Logging In
Invalid username or password.
Incorrect Login. Please try again.

not a member? sign-up now!

Signing up could earn you gear and it helps to keep offensive content off of our site.

PRINT DIGITAL

All Grown Up

All Grown Up

Features
By Moira McCarthy
posted: 02/02/2004

My daughter's doctor, a dyed-in-the-wool Alta boy, actually guffawed when I told him I was heading out to Beaver Creek, Colo. In his mind, Beaver Creek is a country club, not a ski area. He bases this opinion not on a visit but on a perception. He's seen photos—of the escalators, of the incredible grooming, of the extravagant slopeside homes—and these alone shape his opinion. He's never glimpsed the rest of the picture.

Yes, it's true, Beaver Creek is peerless when it comes to pampering guests. But it's also true that Beaver Creek is the culmination of resort visionary Pete Seibert's dream: a beautiful, challenging, welcoming and environmentally sound ski resort in the heart of prime Colorado ski country. Seibert may have learned his craft creating Vail, but he honed his skills at Beaver Creek. Had the good doctor joined me last winter, he'd have seen that Beaver Creek may be luxurious, but never so at the expense of just plain great skiing.

That's not to say that Colorado's newest full-service resort doesn't pad the bumps—and I don't mean the bumps of its fabled double-diamond Grouse Mountain runs; they're still as real as it gets. The new Ritz-Carlton at Bachelor Gulch is the finishing touch. Yes, you are cared for. Whether it's the Girl Scout cookies in the liftline, tissues to wipe your sniffles or the ski valet who not only leans over to click your bindings but also remembers your name, Beaver Creek has your back. And what is the harm in that? A lesson I learn on the first day of my weeklong visit last February drives the point home.

It's 2:40 p.m., and I've been skiing nearly six hours straight, gleefully taking in the diversity of Beaver Creek's terrain. But I'm not spent yet, so I head to gnarly Grouse Mountain—the resort's answer to those who say, "Bring it on! Today the groomers have left Grouse alone, and I like that. I'm heading for Screech Owl, recalling a past season's battle with hip-high moguls and wondering if my memories are exaggerated by time. They're not. I pick and pound my way through deep, endless, crazy-but-soft-enough bumps, feeling like a sailor bracing for the next sea swell, riding each wave with a mix of euphoria and trepidation. At the bottom, I pause for a breath, then board the Larkspur lift, a slow triple. Alone, I savor the 11-minute ride, resting my legs and enjoying the solitude. I ascend past Lupine, a bumped-up chute through giant Engelmann spruces. Like a secret garden, I think—but how do you get in there? I head down Larkspur Bowl, where I can let my skis run on the groomed. Below me, a little boy, pole-less, does his first-ever "big run, with Dad cheering him on. The last chair of the day has emptied, and the three of us have Larkspur to ourselves.

I bail onto Primrose, a gliding traverse back to the Bachelor Gulch area and my home base at the Ritz. Atop Gunders, a wide, rolling cruiser that anchors Bachelor Gulch—a mini-resort unto itself within Beaver Creek—I am alone again. The only sounds in the windless silence are my breath and the distant creak of an empty lift. I push off and make slow, meditative carves down the gentle pitch. Bachelor Gulch is famed for its forgiving yet scenic terrain, and right now, I'm thankful for a last run this lovely. Rounding a bend just above the Ritz, I carve past a woman focused intently on her skiing, clearly verging on a stem Christie breakthrough. She wears a fashionable ski suit, worth every bit of a thousand bucks, and the duct-taped diehard in me is tempted to sneer. But there's more to the picture. Moments later, after I've handed my skis to the slopeside valet, I notice the woman side-stepping up the hill, beneath the shut-down lift. The former resort employee in me surfaces, and I walk up to help. "Did you lose something? I ask. "Oh, no, she says with a smile."I just want one more run. I think I've almost got this!

And that, put simply, may just be the whole point of Beaver Creek—what Pete Seibert saw the day he loed out over the old Willis Nottingham ranch. Skiing needn't be about suffering. Take away all that's nasty about the sport—the exhausting schlep from the lot, long liftlines, crowded daylodges—and magnify all that's great about it—modern grooming, well-planned trails, the proximity of nature—and what have you got? I'll answer: the essence of skiing.If you can get to the trail more quickly and with less stress, aren't you going to love that trail all the more?

That was Beaver Creek's goal from Day One. But get this straight: It wasn't easy. In fact, Beaver Creek may very well be the longest ski-industry project in history, beginning with its inception in the mid-'70s and ending, well, right about now.

The resort was first conceived as the alpine venue for the 1976 Denver Olympics (after Seibert had been unable to purchase the mountain in the early '60s and turned to Vail for development instead). It got off to a fast start, but when Colorado voters rejected the games, Vail put on the brakes. The ensuing delays—exacerbated by permitting difficulties and environmentalist opposition—stretched out for years.

"It was problematic at the start, recalls Mike Larson of International Alpine Design, a resort designer who worked on the team that created Beaver Creek. "I came over here from Vail, and that was not viewed too positively by some in the beginning. There was a, let's say, 'friendly rivalry.' But that made for the extra effort and creativity that made this place what it is today. We saw it as a time to experiment and define. Our goal was to respect the environment more, yet have people use it better. At times, the issues appeared insurmountable, Larson says. But hindsight, as they say, is everything.

"I think the most fortunate thing that happened to Beaver Creek was taking the time pressure off any development, says John Garnsey, Beaver Creek's operations chief. "That freed up another couple of years to really think about what they wanted. Eventually they struck on the concept of quality, exclusivity and lower skier numbersto keep things comfortable and attractive to a certain market, and they were able to stick with that. That was the most amazing thing through the whole process. It wasmarginal all the way along, and yet they were able tostick with that vision.

It took more than perseverance. If you want to talk omens, consider Beaver Creek's opening day, Dec. 15, 1980. With the base area incomplete, tents served as warming huts, and the early-season snow was the worst in decades. But the VIPs had arrived, and the show had to go on. Beaver Creek opened for a day, showed off what it hoped to become, then promptly closed for lack of snow. At the end of that first season, Beaver Creek's finances were shaky. But rather than give up, Seibert and friends held fast to their belief that they had to create something special to succeed in the shadow of Vail.

PUSHING OFF THROUGH NEW FALLEN SNOW ON THE second day of my visit, I'm glad they did. What I love about Beaver Creek is its ability to reinvent itself daily. They don't just groom, they sculpt the mountain into a work of art.

I'm headed for Rose Bowl, looking for another taste of a run I had the day before.It's a quick shot over from the main base area.Yesterday, I cruised through the gentle, wooded terrain of upper Rose Bowl, enjoying the warm sun on my face, only to turn the corner suddenly onto Ripsaw, which was groomed firm and flat, an intoxicating recipe on a 45-degree slope. It was a rush, after the soft turns, to carve hard and fly down that steep face. And I want to feel that again. Rounding the corner, I brace myself for the fast pace and then stop, surprised. Ripsaw is a different trail today. While I'd expected ungroomed powder above, I thought I'd find speed here. But the grooming machines have left it quite alone. I make my way down with hop turns, taking in each inch of the slope. At the bottom, I feel as though I've conquered a whole new run. I love that kind of surprise. And while Beaver Creek may lack Vail's size, it knows how to use what it has. Say what you want about grooming, but the true art of it, as practiced here, makes a mountain a masterpiece.

Atop the Rose Bowl lift, it feels as if you're in another land. In no direction can you spot the base area, or even any hint of civilization. I stand for a while, gazing at the views. The slopes are busy now, but somehow still quiet. I sneeze, and it echoes in the silence. "Bless you, says a thick grove of nearby trees. I know it's another skier in there, enjoying that same solitude. But I feel it came from above.

Then, realizing the time, I panic, knowing I have to meet Garnsey and Larson over at the base area. I push off, thinking I'll need time to get to where I'm going. But just over the first lip, the bustling Spruce Saddle midmountain lodge appears, and I know the base area itself is just a quick run below that. Amazing, the feeling of solitude just a few pole pushes from the hub.

But it's just good planning. As I ski a few runs with Garnsey and Larson, it's clear their minds never stop working and never stop analyzing the skier experience. Garnsey points out a short section of one trail that annoys him—perhaps 85 feet of vertical on a 4,000-plus vertical mountain. He ponders it, turning it over in his head, skiing back and forth and looking at it from every direction. Larson promises a solution.

They have a great palette to work with. Beaver Creek is immensely varied. Including the Arrowhead and Bachelor Gulch areas, there are basically six separate peaks, each with its own feel, crowd, conditions, even weather. I'm a New Englander, so I'm familiar with the "if you don't like the weather, wait a minute climate. Here, it's "if you don't like the weather, try another lift. It's sunny in one bowl, snowing heavily in another.

There's a variety of terrain, too. The whole resort, except Grouse Mountain, is accessible to skiers of all abilities. Any low intermediate can ride to the top of the Cinch Express lift, take in the views from 11,440 feet, then cruise down any of a number of trails. The intrepid can take on Golden Eagle; the tame can eat up Piney, a gentle, tree-lined cruiser. One of my favorite runs is Harrier. Skiing it a few times, choosing different offshoots along the way, I'm reminded of Blue Sky Basin. I wonder if this is where Pete's dream of that section of Vail was born.

WHILE I FIND IT HARD TO LEAVE THE SLOPES EACH day, there's more to Beaver Creek than the snow. Seibert and his gang studied other ski resorts, including many in Europe, to come up withthe concept that is Beaver Creek. The village is tucked into a fold of hills, blending with its surroundings. At its center is an outdoor skating rink, which quickly became the resort's hub when Beaver Creek opened. There are restaurants, grand hotels, spas and shops, all connected by heated walkways. One afternoon, I kick off my skis early and wander around. At Gorsuch, I run my fingers along high-fashion ski outfits and dream, then emerge with an expensive but perfect cross-stitch pillow celebrating Colorado powder. In Scandia, I'm immersed in ski culture, so full is the room of those sweaters that say "Robert Redford in Downhill Racer. At the Golden Bear, Beaver Creek's signature jewelry shop, I break down and buy each of my daughters a tiny golden bear, the symbol of Vail and Beaver Creek. My girls loved this place last time they visited, when we browsed through these shops and then took in a torchlight ski parade from our slopeside condo.

But on this trip, my home base is over at Bachelor Gulch, where the new Ritz-Carlton opened last season. The Ritz is the last "big project at Beaver Creek, finishing up the 20-odd-year job. It's a fitting finial ornament—a sublime blend of rustic and elegant, stretching in a giant arc that embraces the Bachelor Gulch base area. The log-cabin design was inspired by turn-of-the-century national park that kind of surprise. And while Beaver Creek may lack Vail's size, it knows how to use what it has. Say what you want about grooming, but the true art of it, as practiced here, makes a mountain a masterpiece.

Atop the Rose Bowl lift, it feels as if you're in another land. In no direction can you spot the base area, or even any hint of civilization. I stand for a while, gazing at the views. The slopes are busy now, but somehow still quiet. I sneeze, and it echoes in the silence. "Bless you, says a thick grove of nearby trees. I know it's another skier in there, enjoying that same solitude. But I feel it came from above.

Then, realizing the time, I panic, knowing I have to meet Garnsey and Larson over at the base area. I push off, thinking I'll need time to get to where I'm going. But just over the first lip, the bustling Spruce Saddle midmountain lodge appears, and I know the base area itself is just a quick run below that. Amazing, the feeling of solitude just a few pole pushes from the hub.

But it's just good planning. As I ski a few runs with Garnsey and Larson, it's clear their minds never stop working and never stop analyzing the skier experience. Garnsey points out a short section of one trail that annoys him—perhaps 85 feet of vertical on a 4,000-plus vertical mountain. He ponders it, turning it over in his head, skiing back and forth and looking at it from every direction. Larson promises a solution.

They have a great palette to work with. Beaver Creek is immensely varied. Including the Arrowhead and Bachelor Gulch areas, there are basically six separate peaks, each with its own feel, crowd, conditions, even weather. I'm a New Englander, so I'm familiar with the "if you don't like the weather, wait a minute climate. Here, it's "if you don't like the weather, try another lift. It's sunny in one bowl, snowing heavily in another.

There's a variety of terrain, too. The whole resort, except Grouse Mountain, is accessible to skiers of all abilities. Any low intermediate can ride to the top of the Cinch Express lift, take in the views from 11,440 feet, then cruise down any of a number of trails. The intrepid can take on Golden Eagle; the tame can eat up Piney, a gentle, tree-lined cruiser. One of my favorite runs is Harrier. Skiing it a few times, choosing different offshoots along the way, I'm reminded of Blue Sky Basin. I wonder if this is where Pete's dream of that section of Vail was born.

WHILE I FIND IT HARD TO LEAVE THE SLOPES EACH day, there's more to Beaver Creek than the snow. Seibert and his gang studied other ski resorts, including many in Europe, to come up withthe concept that is Beaver Creek. The village is tucked into a fold of hills, blending with its surroundings. At its center is an outdoor skating rink, which quickly became the resort's hub when Beaver Creek opened. There are restaurants, grand hotels, spas and shops, all connected by heated walkways. One afternoon, I kick off my skis early and wander around. At Gorsuch, I run my fingers along high-fashion ski outfits and dream, then emerge with an expensive but perfect cross-stitch pillow celebrating Colorado powder. In Scandia, I'm immersed in ski culture, so full is the room of those sweaters that say "Robert Redford in Downhill Racer. At the Golden Bear, Beaver Creek's signature jewelry shop, I break down and buy each of my daughters a tiny golden bear, the symbol of Vail and Beaver Creek. My girls loved this place last time they visited, when we browsed through these shops and then took in a torchlight ski parade from our slopeside condo.

But on this trip, my home base is over at Bachelor Gulch, where the new Ritz-Carlton opened last season. The Ritz is the last "big project at Beaver Creek, finishing up the 20-odd-year job. It's a fitting finial ornament—a sublime blend of rustic and elegant, stretching in a giant arc that embraces the Bachelor Gulch base area. The log-cabin design was inspired by turn-of-the-century national park lodges and incorporates timbers, stone and other indigenous materials. Inside, it's warm and pleasant in a casual-comfortable way, yet still steeped in the Ritz mystique. Up on my floor, guests mingle in a central lounge area, where snack offerings change five times a day. I meet other guests, and we swap ski tales, debate resort preferences, sip wine and relax. As much as I adore my amazing room, with its fieldstone fireplace, giant bathroom and slopeside balcony looking right onto the lift, I find myself wandering out to the common area more and more often. In time, it starts to feel like a camp for grownups.

On the third day, I leave the Ritz to spend a night with two friends up at Trapper's Cabin. The cabin, a three-bedroom chalet perched atop the Bachelor Gulch area, features its own chef, huge open rooms and a cabin keeper (i.e., a guy with a snowcat who will take you anywhere). When the mountain closes for the night, you're atop it all at Trapper's, and it feels like Beaver Creek is yours. We eat a gourmet meal with wines for each course, spend time snowshoeing on our own private mountain, then relax in the hot tub as giant flakes fall around us. Much as I'd love to see the stars, this soft winter flurry makes the night just right.

In my room, I snuggle down and indeed feel like I own the world. A stay at Trapper's starts at $850 per night per person, but as we eat our chef-prepared biscuits and gravy the next morning and plan to have our runabout take us up for first tracks, it seems well worth it.

The feeling of privilege extends to the slopeside homes—some of them quite grand—that line the trails of Bachelor Gulch. During my visit, I meet the owners of one: Ron Brill, a former executive vice president of The Home Depot and the person credited with catapulting the company to the top of its market, and his wife, Lisa. The Brills, who live in Atlanta, could buy a ski house anywhere. But Ron prizes the convenience of Beaver Creek. "We love the location, he says. "We can hop on a plane and be here by midday.

The Brills also cherish the varietyof the resort. She's a snowshoer, and many of their guests are novice skiers. One son skis, the other snowboards. The family vacation home sits slopeside, and each day a groomer smooths the path to their door.

So close to the action, you might think lurkers would be a bother, but at Beaver Creek, the Brills feel like Everyman. "Let's face it: We have neighbors here who could buy one another 10 times over, says Lisa. "But at Beaver Creek, it's not about that.

In fact, Ron says, one morning he was sitting at his breakfast table when he noticed a group of people outside, peering through binoculars. "I looked out and realized it was Jimmy Carter. That's the kind of place this is. The former president can go bird-watching.

SO THERE IT IS. DECADES OF SWEAT, MONEY AND anxious moments, all to afford mountain lovers a comfortable place to enjoy their world. Beaver Creek is grown up now, living well right next to the megaresort of Vail. Skier visits are high, and the Ritz is the talk of the industry. Next year, the resort hopes to embark on a project that would link the valley-bottom town of Avon, where day skiers must park, to the trails via gondola. There are plans for a new kids' area at the top of the Strawberry Park lift. And the Westfall lift, renamed Birds of Prey, has been replaced with a newer model. Beaver Creek may be done, but improvements will keep coming.

"It's a Cinderella story, says Larson. With a happy ending? I ponder that as I fly down Centennial, Beaver Creek's central artery. It's groomed for fast turns, and below me, the base area is cradled by its surroundings, allowing the mountains around it to breathe and relax. It's busy, but not overly so. Beaver Creek has grown up, and it's a ball. And skiers? They're like the Madisons of Bloomington, Minn., whom I meet on my last day. Dave, the dad, explains to me on the lift why his adult son and daughters sttill insist on family vacations here.

"You know, when they were younger, they loved it, he says, "but I'm not sure they got it. Now, they've had a taste of the real world and, man, do they like to get away. I say, 'How about somewhere new,' and you know what they say? They're like, 'Dad, we know Beaver Creek will be perfect. Why mess?' So here we are. dges and incorporates timbers, stone and other indigenous materials. Inside, it's warm and pleasant in a casual-comfortable way, yet still steeped in the Ritz mystique. Up on my floor, guests mingle in a central lounge area, where snack offerings change five times a day. I meet other guests, and we swap ski tales, debate resort preferences, sip wine and relax. As much as I adore my amazing room, with its fieldstone fireplace, giant bathroom and slopeside balcony looking right onto the lift, I find myself wandering out to the common area more and more often. In time, it starts to feel like a camp for grownups.

On the third day, I leave the Ritz to spend a night with two friends up at Trapper's Cabin. The cabin, a three-bedroom chalet perched atop the Bachelor Gulch area, features its own chef, huge open rooms and a cabin keeper (i.e., a guy with a snowcat who will take you anywhere). When the mountain closes for the night, you're atop it all at Trapper's, and it feels like Beaver Creek is yours. We eat a gourmet meal with wines for each course, spend time snowshoeing on our own private mountain, then relax in the hot tub as giant flakes fall around us. Much as I'd love to see the stars, this soft winter flurry makes the night just right.

In my room, I snuggle down and indeed feel like I own the world. A stay at Trapper's starts at $850 per night per person, but as we eat our chef-prepared biscuits and gravy the next morning and plan to have our runabout take us up for first tracks, it seems well worth it.

The feeling of privilege extends to the slopeside homes—some of them quite grand—that line the trails of Bachelor Gulch. During my visit, I meet the owners of one: Ron Brill, a former executive vice president of The Home Depot and the person credited with catapulting the company to the top of its market, and his wife, Lisa. The Brills, who live in Atlanta, could buy a ski house anywhere. But Ron prizes the convenience of Beaver Creek. "We love the location, he says. "We can hop on a plane and be here by midday.

The Brills also cherish the varietyof the resort. She's a snowshoer, and many of their guests are novice skiers. One son skis, the other snowboards. The family vacation home sits slopeside, and each day a groomer smooths the path to their door.

So close to the action, you might think lurkers would be a bother, but at Beaver Creek, the Brills feel like Everyman. "Let's face it: We have neighbors here who could buy one another 10 times over, says Lisa. "But at Beaver Creek, it's not about that.

In fact, Ron says, one morning he was sitting at his breakfast table when he noticed a group of people outside, peering through binoculars. "I looked out and realized it was Jimmy Carter. That's the kind of place this is. The former president can go bird-watching.

SO THERE IT IS. DECADES OF SWEAT, MONEY AND anxious moments, all to afford mountain lovers a comfortable place to enjoy their world. Beaver Creek is grown up now, living well right next to the megaresort of Vail. Skier visits are high, and the Ritz is the talk of the industry. Next year, the resort hopes to embark on a project that would link the valley-bottom town of Avon, where day skiers must park, to the trails via gondola. There are plans for a new kids' area at the top of the Strawberry Park lift. And the Westfall lift, renamed Birds of Prey, has been replaced with a newer model. Beaver Creek may be done, but improvements will keep coming.

"It's a Cinderella story, says Larson. With a happy ending? I ponder that as I fly down Centennial, Beaver Creek's central artery. It's groomed for fast turns, and below me, the base area is cradled by its surroundings, allowing the mountains around it to breathe and relax. It's busy, but not overly so. Beaver Creek has grown up, and it's a ball. And skiers? They're like the Madisons of Bloomington, Minn., whom I meet on my last day. Dave, the dad, explains to me on the lift why his adult son and daughters still insist on family vacations here.

"You know, when they were younger, they loved it, he says, "but I'm not sure they got it. Now, they've had a taste of the real world and, man, do they like to get away. I say, 'How about somewhere new,' and you know what they say? They're like, 'Dad, we know Beaver Creek will be perfect. Why mess?' So here we are. hters still insist on family vacations here.

"You know, when they were younger, they loved it, he says, "but I'm not sure they got it. Now, they've had a taste of the real world and, man, do they like to get away. I say, 'How about somewhere new,' and you know what they say? They're like, 'Dad, we know Beaver Creek will be perfect. Why mess?' So here we are.

reviews of All Grown Up
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • No HTML tags allowed

More information about formatting options

Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.
All submitted comments are subject to the license terms set forth in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use