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It’s the Spaces, Stupid



I think that I shall never see
A line that can’t be improved by a tree…

Make that a lot of trees.

There are a lot of trees at Keystone.  Had Joyce Kilmer been a skier, he’d have wept at Keystone’s trees.  There are tight trees, well-spaced trees, thick trees, skinny trees, steep trees and, well, beginner trees.  Trees, trees, trees.

There are also a lot of open spaces at Keystone.  Enough to satisfy anyone with a penchant for strapping skis or snowboards onto their feet.  Boasting 3,148 skiable acres and 3,128 vertical spread over three peaks and five bowls, there’s terrain to suit every ability, distractions to suit every attention span and, defying everything you think you know about on-mountain dining, arguably one of Colorado’s best restaurants perched atop North Peak.

But the Ski la Vie tour is all about skiing, not dining, not tubing, not snowbiking.  And Keystone skiing — a word broad enough to include boarding, in case there was any question — is as spirited an affair as your skills, lungs and legs can manage.  The self-defined split at Keystone is 19% easiest, 32% more difficult and a whopping 49% most difficult.  The vagueness of that description is, perhaps, indicative of the litigious nature of the state’s tort bar.  Regardless, there’s plenty of everything for everyone here.

Beginner skiers can begin to question their selection of mountains when they look at Keystone’s trail map.  There is very little green to be seen.  But there’s a lot of yellow tinged runs with black and yellow dotted lines and all are gentle, highly-groomed runs — slow school zones — meandering from the top of Dercum Mountain back down to the two base areas, River Run Village and Mountain House.  Don’t worry; be happy.

If you need to feed your need for speed though, give Dercum a pass and head down the backside on a run named Mozart to gain access to North Peak and, after that, The Outback.  Choose carefully, my intermediate friends, the blue runs are bona fide blue runs and offer plenty of challenge.

Suppose bowl skiing is what you’re after; it’s there to be had.  But be prepared to hike… or pay big bucks or, surprisingly, little bucks, to board a cat to gain access.  Independence Bowl, Bergman Bowl, Erickson Bowl, North and South Bowls are all in-bounds.   They’re also all a hike of anywhere from one to two-and-a half miles… at better than 12,000 feet, huff, huff.

As you might expect of any terrain that comes at such a dear price — money or effort — tracks are as fresh as the latest snowfall and as steep as most mortals care to pursue.  Be very conscious of the wind though.  Keystone isn’t as wind-scoured as its across-the-valley neighbour, Breckenridge, but the wind is enough of a factor that you’ll be skiing styrofoam if you choose the wrong line.

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