by Paul Maraschiello


I had not skied Keystone in three years. It was an overcast day but the snow looked good. When I got there, I headed up the gondola and skied down the back side of the mountain. Keystone is laid out like a European ski area. There are three mountains, Keystone, North Peak and the Outback, one behind the other, three mountains deep. You can ski down the back of one mountain, ride up the chair on the next mountain and ski down the back side and ride up the next mountain. In Europe you can do this all the way to another country. From the top of the last mountain at Keystone, you have a good view of Breckenridge and the entire mountain range in that part of the country.

I rode up the chair into the morning mist. The visibility was poor on my first run, so I kept out of the bumps. They had groomed one side of the trail, so you could ski in the flats. The snow was soft, so I could hold a good edge. I flew down the mountain and hopped back on the chair for another run. After doing the same trail again, I began to systematically explore this exciting ski area.

I skied the back mountains all morning as the fog began to lift. By midmorning there was enough visibility so I could ski the bumps. And ski the bumps I did. I had a great time playing in the moguls on the expert slopes of Keystone.

By noon, I had worked up an appetite, so I went into the restaurant on the top of the mountain. I had never been in that facility before and was impressed by the food-court where you could get anything from salad and pizza to fancy deserts. The staff was friendly and from all over the world, and the decor was beautiful with its log architecture. I sat across from an attractive artist named Vicki who lives in Boulder and had a delightful time chatting with her during lunch while I put away a delicious chicken caesar salad.

After I finished lunch, I went back to exploring all the Keystone has to offer. I started to ski back to the front side of the mountain, checking out all the trails that ran toward the front.

There wasn't any fresh snow but the snow was soft enough to hold and edge. I had taken the precaution of sharpening my skis in the parking lot with the little ski sharpener I had, so my edges were sharp and they held when the surface got a little scratchy.

By the end of the day, I had skied all the interesting trails at Keystone. I was tired and I felt really good. I had been skiing well and I had really enjoyed my visit to this beautiful, interesting mountain.

I would give Keystone high marks as a world-class ski area. There are plenty of trails of all levels. There are novice trails (12%), plenty of intermediate trails (34%) with expert trails covering 54% of the mountain that will challenge the most advances skier. This is a big ski area, covering 1,861 acres. They have an elevation of 9,300 ft. at the base and 12,200 ft. at the summit with a 2,900 ft. vertical. There are 23 lifts that includes 2 high-speed gondolas, on e high-speed six-person chair and 5 high-speed quads.

They get a lot of snow at Keystone and average 230 in. every year. Keystone is a destination resort with 1,600 lodging units, 35 restaurants and 35 shops. It is in the heart of Summit County and can be easily reached by car or the inexpensive bus service that they have in Colorado. If you stay at one of the condos, you have free access to ice skating, yoga classes, snowshoeing, and more.

First time skiers and riders will not feel intimidated at Keystone, even though the mountains are really big. They have more than 400 ski instructors to teach you the finer points of skiing and snowboarding. For the well-heeled they have a fun-filled weekend that includes a welcome party, three days of lessons, breakfast, rentals, lift tickets and apres ski parties for only $647. A family of four can enjoy a weekend at Keystone that includes lodging, lift tickets, and lessons for just a little over $1,000. They guarantee that your skiing or snowboarding will improve. If you don't "graduate" from ski/riding school you can return for FREE until you master the lesson.

Put Keystone on your "must list" when you go to Summit County in Colorado. It s a destination resort but there is bus service from the towns in the area and it is reasonably close to Breckenridge and Frisco.