Keystone Resort: Keystone, Colorado

Keystone Ski Resort Facts

Summit elevation: 11,980 feet
Vertical drop: 3,128 feet
Base elevation: 9,280 feet

Expert: ++
Advanced: +++
Intermediate: ++++
Beginner: +++++
First-timer: +++

Dining: +++++
Apres-ski/nightlife: +++
Other activities: +++


Address: Box 38, Keystone, CO 80435
Area code: 970
Ski area phone:
(970) 496-4000 or (800) 468-5004
Snow report: (970) 496-4111 or (800) 468-5004 Fax: (970) 496-4343 Toll-free reservations: (800) 468-5004
Toll-free foreign numbers:
UK (fax): 0800-89-6868
Germany (fax): 0130-82-0958
Netherlands (fax): 060-22-3972
Mexico (fax): 95-800-936-5633
Brazil (fax): 000811-712-0553
Fax: 496-4343


Mountain Statistics

Number and types of lifts: 20—2 gondolas, 1 high-speed six-pack, 5 high-speed quads, 1 quad, 1 triple, 3 doubles, 1 surface lift, 6 moving carpets
Skiable acreage:
2,870 acres (plus 1,417 inbounds hike-to and snowcat-served acres)
Snowmaking: 37 percent
Uphill capacity: 33,564 skiers per hour
Parks & pipes: 2 parks, 1 pipe
Bed base: 6,000
Nearest lodging:
Slopeside, ski-in/ski-out
Resort child care:
Yes, 2 months and older
Adult ticket, per day: $78 (06/07)

Keystone is a big, purpose-built resort that is praised for its family-friendly atmosphere. It also has extensive night skiing for those who can't get enough during the daylight hours.

If you’re looking for that quaint 19th-century Victorian mining-town charm for which Colorado’s known, you won’t find it at Keystone. But if you’re looking for a smoothly humming resort with buses shuttling to every corner, a child-friendly atmosphere and one of the Rockies’ largest snowmaking systems, you’ll be pleased as pie.

The resort makes every effort to ensure memorable family vacations with good customer service and easy planning for parents and kids. Everyone here is friendly, friendly, friendly. Keystone is known as a superb intermediate playground, but it has decent terrain at either end of the ability scale. There aren’t many surprises here and it’s hard to get in over your head. Another attraction is Keystone’s extensive night skiing, which means you don’t have to get up early to get in a lot of vertical. A neat ecological fact: Keystone uses wind power to light the trails and run the lifts at night.

For skiers and riders who feel uncomfortable in ungroomed snow, Keystone makes concerted efforts to keep its slopes baby-butt smooth. Staggering the opening of groomed runs is one way they manage this. Another is their new state-of-the-art high-tech snowmaking machine by York which produces man-made snow that comes closer to the natural thing than any other system in the country. This should alleviate a common gripe that all the snowmaking and grooming sometimes makes trails a bit slick. Keystone often doesn’t get the natural snow its neighboring resorts do, so snowmaking on its lowest peak is a real plus. And with more than 1 million skier visits each year, good grooming minimizes the effects of all that skier traffic. But lest you think Keystone is all groomers (see mountain layout), in 2007 it added Independence Bowl to its hike-to and snowcat-accessed terrain, making Keystone the largest guided snowcat skiing and riding in Colorado.

Because Keystone is owned by Vail Resorts, plenty of money is funneled into the amenities. The resort’s largest base area is River Run, a pedestrian village that includes boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and condominiums at the base of the River Run Gondola. Though Keystone was never known for its nightlife, it has jazzed that up quite a bit. But it still won’t knock your socks off—this is mainly a family resort.

Keystone is part of Summit County. This county has four well-known ski areas—Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin and Copper Mountain—and more dining and lodging than most ski resorts on North America.

Keystone has three peaks, one behind another. In front is Dercum Mountain, named to honor Max and Edna Dercum, who pioneered the resort's founding. Dercum is laced with beginner and intermediate terrain, plus some expert glades on its backside. In the middle is North Peak, and finally, The Outback. Other than one snaking green-circle trail, these latter peaks have just blue and black terrain. This makes it easy to stay on trails where you belong, instead of ending up on a trail that scares you out of your wits.

Expert, Advanced:

You won’t find any double-diamonds here. For the most challenge, head to The Outback—a mix of open bowls, trails and glades. The quartet of Timberwolf, Bushwacker, Badger and The Grizz allow tree fans to pick how tight they want their forest. They also get massive bumps. Reach the two short black-diamond bowls here with a 10-minute hike from the top of the Outback Express. (This in-bounds terrain tops out at 12,408 feet, more than what’s listed in the stat box, where we list lift-served terrain.)

North Peak is generally tamer than The Outback and is a great spot for working on technique and steeps. Star Fire, though rated blue, is a superb steep, groomed run, and a good warm-up for this area. Then head to black-diamond bump runs such as Ambush, Powder Cap or Bullet. Break your own tracks through the trees directly beneath the Santiago Express or duck into Bullet Glades for an adrenaline rush. Another stash of trees, called The Windows, requires a short hike from the bottom of the Outpost Gondola (off Dercum's back side).

Don’t like to hike but still want to get into the backcountry? Keystone Adventure Tours operates two cats (weather dependent) for a little taste of a backcountry experience while staying in-bounds. Snowcats leave from both the top of the Outpost Gondola and The Outback, giving you two choices: Make reservations and ski with two guides in Bergman, Erickson and Independence Bowls all day, or take a snowcat to the Outback bowls for unguided descents. Either way, this is about the most affordable cat skiing you can get (see Lift Tickets for prices). Keep in mind that snow conditions can change in a heartbeat and powder ski tours don't always yield powder. What makes it worthwhile is the lack of crowds, potentially finding some untracked snow and getting above treeline (there's no other way to do that at Keystone without hiking).


You have the run of the three mountains, with appropriate terrain on each. Dercum has runs such as Paymaster, Wild Irishman, Frenchman and Flying Dutchman that play with God-given terrain. The twists and natural steeps on these cruisers represent trails at their best—they obviously did not have their character bulldozed out of them. Snowmaking covers the majority of Dercum’s trails and the grooming ranks among the best in the country.

The Mountain House base area has three chairlifts that take skiers up the mountain. The other base area, River Run, is the lower station of the River Run Gondola. The gondola serves the night-skiing area. The resort says it’s the largest single-mountain night ski operation in the United States.

Intermediates also can head to North Peak down Mozart, a wide blue run. Its width is essential, because it’s the main pathway to the two rear peaks and can get crowded. North Peak, Prospector and Last Alamo are the easiest of the blues, with Star Fire a good test for The Outback. If you think Star Fire is fun, not scary, head down Anticipation or Spillway to The Outback and play on the intermediate runs under the Outback Express chair. The advanced-intermediate glades to skier's left—Wolverine, Wildfire and Pika—are not as tough as the glades of the Black Forest but also not a spot for timid intermediates.

Beginner, First-timer:

Stay on Dercum Mountain, where nearly a third of all beginner terrain lies. The best runs for beginners are the legendary and long Schoolmarm plus Silverspoon and Spring Dipper. True beginners should beware of that first plunge off the top onto Spring Dipper-for a short pitch, it’s blue, a bit steep and only for greenies graduating into their blue phase.

Confident beginners who want the experience of spectacular views and lunch at the on-mountain restaurant at Outpost Lodge can ski down afterwards via Prospector on North Peak. Prospector is blue, but about two-thirds of it are in a slow zone so it’s not too intimidating. Prospector merges with the slow zone on Mozart, but this trail is often crowded, so be alert. If you don’t want to try the blues here, take the Outpost Gondola back over to easier terrain.

Keystone has a learning center at the top of Dercum Mountain, with two learning runs and a triple chairlift. Instructors who teach first-timers highly recommend the Discovery Learning Area, home to a self-contained kids’ ski school. It’s a large, wide-open space protected from the wind and elements and is serviced by a chair and two moving carpets (a magic carpet recently replaced the T-bar). It’s less crowded than the rest of the mountain and is completely closed off to all other skiers, so it’s pretty darned safe.


Getting to Keystone

Keystone is 90 miles away via I-70Denver International Airport.

Getting to Keystone by shuttle:

Getting to Keystone by car:

Getting around Kaystone:


The mountains surrounding Summit County tend to concentrate the snow on the areas just outside (Vail, Winter Park, and Steamboat) at the expense of those inside (Copper, Breckenridge, and Keystone). March is the highest snowfall month at all areas. Arapahoe Basin, Berthoud Pass, and Loveland are located on the Continental Divide and are subject to a unique weather pattern in which moisture from the Great Plains generates extra snow in the spring, making both March and April the highest snowfall months here.

There are two tables below: The first contains all the statistics while the second contains summary information plus comments and analysis.
Color-coded areas link to my detailed Resort Guide published in Inside Tracks.
Explanation of Column Headings
Home Page and Other Regions


High Mths
Low Mths
> 90 in.
< 30 in.
Base Depth
Arapahoe Basin, Colo. 10,820 322 7% 22% 79
Berthoud Pass, Colo. 11,315 321 5% 10% 81
Loveland, Colo. 11,200 357 14% 10% N/A
Beaver Creek, Colo. 11,200 327 7% 13% 87
Steamboat, Colo. 9,200 367 15% 8% N/A
Breckenridge, Colo. 11,100 286 6% 18% 75
Copper Mtn, Colo. 11,000 278 4% 21% 65
Keystone, Colo. 11,641 225 0% 36% 59
Mary Jane at Winter Park, Colo. 10,800 355 13% 8% 84
Vail, Colo. 11,250 356 18% 10% 91
Winter Park Base, Colo. 9,265 217 3% 38% 54


Weather Restrictions, Powder Potential & Other Considerations
 Best Time to Ski
Arapahoe Basin, Colo. 10,820 Top lifts occasionally close for wind or white-out.  Pallavicini area has trees to stay open. Average snowfall is 57 inches in April and 34 in May (over 80 in 1995). Compare to 26 and 7 at Mammoth or 38 and 8 at Mt. Bachelor, two other top spring areas. March/April are top snowfall months due to unique Continental Divide weather pattern. Excellent exposures for snow preservation.
Berthoud Pass, Colo. 11,315 Lift service intermittent but still popular area for backcountry skiers. Short hikes to access terrain. Highway aspect makes car/bus shuttles easy. Similar to Winter Park, with strong Continental Divide late season.
Loveland, Colo. 11,200 Day area situated near Loveland Pass, another popular car shuttle/hiking area. Top lifts occasionally close for wind or white-out. Little competition. Same Continental Divide weather pattern as A-Basin, but more variable exposure.
Beaver Creek, Colo. 11,200 Well protected. Less snow but much less competition than Vail. Similar to Vail, but less snowfall.
Steamboat, Colo. 9,200 High snowfall area with renowned tree-skiing right to top of mountain. Fewer skiers than Vail or Winter Park. People stopping to look at Billy Kidd can create hazards on crowded runs. Best in state in December/January for highest snowfall, but lowest elevation and worst exposure of Colorado destination resorts.
Breckenridge, Colo. 11,100 Higher snowfall than neighboring areas but predominant eastern exposure can result in spring conditions earlier than Copper Mountain and Keystone. January/February for highest snowfall but worst exposure in Summit County.
Copper Mtn, Colo. 11,000 Northern exposures can make conditions here better than Breckenridge despite less snow. Not as much competition here as Breckenridge and Keystone. February/March for maximum coverage.
Keystone, Colo. 11,641 Heavy investment in snowmaking and grooming to guarantee good conditions, but northern exposures also help preserve limited snowfall. February/March for maximum coverage. Most extensive early season snowmaking in Colorado.
Mary Jane at Winter Park, Colo. 10,800 High snowfall, but trees and bowls not as extensive as Vail and Steamboat. Nearly anytime. Most consistent snowfall area in Colorado over past 20 years.
Vail, Colo. 11,250 Back bowls occasionally close for visibility, but rarely for wind or avalanche like the West Coast areas above timberline. Over 2,000 acres of high snowfall bowls, but tons of competition for powder. Second in overall reliability in Colorado. Back bowls open by Christmas 75% of the time.  Spring conditions likely in back bowls by March, although also highest snow month.
Winter Park Base, Colo. 9,265 Base to upper mountain snowfall variation is typical for Colorado. Only Colorado area with snow data at both base/upper mountain. Other areas likely under 200 inches at base.

Summit County Facts

Dining: +++
Apres-ski/nightlife: ++++
Other activities: ++++

Reservations: (800) 530-3099 or 262-0817 (chamber)
Internet: (chamber) (Dillon) (Frisco) (Silverthorne)

Some winter vacationers aren't satisfied with skiing at just one place. When they return to the office, they want to drop resort names and compare black-diamond plunges and best family activities. For these skiers, we suggest Summit County.

Within Summit County, a little more than an hour's drive from downtown Denver, are five of Colorado's top ski areas—Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin and Loveland. Each resort—except A-Basin and Loveland—has its own lodging, shopping and restaurants.

If you plan to do most of your skiing at just one area, stay at that resort. But if you want to experience them all (and you're not looking for much night life), then set up your base camp in Dillon, Frisco or Silverthorne, three small towns off I-70 that surround Lake Dillon. You won't get the ambiance and romance of the ski resort villages, but you'll be in a good place for heading out each morning. As a bonus, there are lots of fun happy hours around the county that begin when the lifts close, as well as lots of non-skiing activities like dog sledding, sleigh rides and snowmobiling. And, yes, shopping at the outlet stores is considered an activity.

This tri-town area is in the center of the ski action. Breckenridge is about 9 miles in one direction, Copper Mountain is 5 miles in another, Keystone is 7 miles away in a third, and A-Basin just a little farther than Keystone. Having a car is nice, but not really necessary. The Summit Stage, the free bus system subsidized by sales tax revenue, runs between the towns and the ski areas all day and into the night—until 2 a.m. Be sure to pick up a schedule at any of the bus stations or information centers.

Summit County deserves its lofty name. It has a base elevation above 9,000 feet. (If you have problems with high altitudes, take note. If you like spring skiing, also take note: High elevations usually mean a longer ski season.) Each of these areas stays open until mid-April. Arapahoe Basin—with its base lodge above 10,000 feet—often stays open until July 4.

Vail Resorts owns Keystone and Breckenridge. It has an interchangeable lift ticket that includes Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge. Or buy a multiday ticket for just Keystone and Breckenridge for a little less. Your Keystone-Breckenridge ticket is also valid at Arapahoe Basin, and you can buy that ticket separately. A separate ticket is necessary to ski at Copper Mountain, owned by rival ski resort corporation Intrawest.

While surfing through our pages for the resorts in Summit County, click on the Summit County link in the tab pages for lodging, dining, nightlife and non-ski activities. It will take you to those pages for the tri-town area of Frisco, Dillon and Silverthorne. Pick up information and helpful brochures at the Summit Information Center in Silverthorne at 246 Rainbow Dr. in the Outlets at Silverthorne behind Wendy's.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."    — Robert A. Heinlein

Home | Trips | Calendar | Gear | Weekend Warrior | About | What's New | Email