Our journey to Keystone Resort — a skiing, snowboarding, hiking and golf village in Keystone, Colo. — did not begin auspiciously.
After a long flight and a traffic-congested climb into the Rocky Mountains from Denver International Airport, we were tired and cranky by the time our van rolled into the snow-covered entrance to our hotel, Keystone Lodge. We had chosen the RockResorts International LLC-owned property from among Keystone Resort’s 1,500 rooms, which range from condominium rentals to small hotels to the AAA Four-Diamond Keystone Lodge.
It did not disappoint. Our spirits lifted as we emerged from the entranceway into the warm and cozy lodge lobby, where families lingered around the couches. From there, we wound our way through the long hallways to our room, which we found spacious and comfortable. A large, snow-filled private balcony was perfect for practicing our snowball making. But with images of ski lifts and hot chocolate dancing in our heads, we did not linger.
Transportation proved easy enough through the resort’s bus system, which links guests to all hotels and restaurants and the two main activity areas: River Run, a large village of shops and restaurants, and Mountain House, a smaller group of equipment rental shops and fast food.
At the equipment rental store, employees were friendly and knowledgeable as they fit us for skis and boots, and we soon headed up in the lift. With three different peaks and a large selection of ski runs — ranging from the easiest green to moderate blue, to steep, obstacle-filled black — getting down the mountain was a pleasure for all levels.
The next morning, we took a private lesson. Our instructor was not only helpful and encouraging, but also immediately honed in on our turning problem (it was all in the knee). Our confidence built up, we hopped on a lift at mid-mountain and headed to the top for a long run down. At the bottom, we met up for a late lunch at River Run’s Kickapoo Tavern, where we munched on surprisingly tasty burgers, salads and sandwiches and enjoyed an interesting selection of beers from local microbreweries. Full and exhausted, we headed back to the lodge, planning a quick nap, but instead found ourselves drawn to the frozen lake behind the resort. There, we proved ourselves true Floridians on ice skates.
Eager to experience all the winter sports Keystone had to offer, we abandoned our skis for two days of alternative exercise. First, we hopped aboard snowmobiles for a three-hour experiment in fear. Twisting and turning down the snow-covered trail was exciting, and the scenery was gorgeous, but our southern blood was beginning to freeze. We broke for hot chocolate in a clearing the size of two football fields and watched our enthralled traveling companions race in a mock Indy 500.
Safely back in the hotel a few hours later, we relaxed with a glass of wine and a game of Clue on plush couches in the Lodge’s Tenderfoot Lounge, and vowed never to ride a snowmobile again.
Later that night we headed downstairs to Keystone Lodge’s Bighorn Steakhouse, where we were seated promptly, and to our delight, directly in front of a giant picture window. We took the opportunity to marvel at both the backlit mountains and the ice skaters. Our food was traditional steak-house fare, but the salad was crisp and tasty, the filet tender and sizzling and the prime rib succulent.
The next morning we found ourselves back at River Run, where we enjoyed a 20-minute gondola ride up the mountain to our next adventure: tubing — riding an inner tube down an icy mountain slope. The gondola trip up was smooth and scenic, giving us a bird’s eye view of the skiers gliding down the runs, as well as the even more exciting snowboard park at mid-mountain.
After a quick tutorial at the top we emerged from a makeshift locker room to what looked like a frozen water park. Three lanes of vertical drops lay before us, carved into the snowy mountain, and a pile of rubber inner tubes lay waiting to one side. With music blaring over giant speakers, we grabbed a tube, sat down and let the staff fling us down the mountain as we yelped with delight. At the bottom we high-fived the waiting attendant and hooked our tube into the “lift” to be pulled back up the hill. For the next hour we spun ourselves silly, flying down the runs single and in groups of two, three, four and — in a moment of inspiration — six. Like children at an amusement park, we begged for just one more run, but alas, our hands numb from clutching the tube handles and our cheeks burning from laughter, we grudgingly dragged ourselves back to the gondola for the long ride home. – By Andrea Carneiro