We almost didn't book this trip.
Squeezing in a two-day ski vacation at the tail end of an already packed winter break had seemed an overwhelming proposition. After all, there were mountains of laundry to do, piles of Christmas gifts to put away and three backpacks to prepare for a brand-new school semester.
Two weeks later, as we took our first steps into Beaver Creek Village and watched our 6-year-old son erupt into an uncontrollable belly laugh after throwing his first-ever snowball, I knew we had made the right choice. Beaver Creek, it turned out, was exactly the escape we needed. Here's how we spent our recent 48-hour getaway in Beaver Creek.
We've had mixed results with Frontier Airlines in the past, but we had no issues during this trip, which cost our family of five less than $500 total for all of our roundtrip flights to and from Denver. Once our early-morning flight arrived, it was a two-hour drive from Denver to Beaver Creek, putting us in town around lunchtime. (Eagle County Regional Airport also offers more direct service to Beaver Creek.) We've been to other Colorado ski resorts in the past, but we picked Beaver Creek this time because friends had repeatedly told us how fun and family-friendly it was.
After checking into our sprawling and immaculate three-bedroom condo — complete with bunk beds — at St. James Place, our son and our daughters, ages 10 and 7, were already in heaven, succumbing to the call of the snow by throwing themselves Nestea-plunge-style into the drifts to create snow angels. After they dusted themselves off, we took a spin around the ice rink as snowflakes floated down like glitter from the gray sky above.
We didn't have to travel far for dinner — the doors of the Italian-themed Toscanini open to the skating rink. Inside, however, we found a cozy yet upscale atmosphere that would suck us in for the next two hours as we noshed on everything from creamy butternut squash soup to tender, melt-in-your-mouth pan-seared scallops with wild mushroom risotto and truffle butter sauce. As my husband and I finished the delicious pinot noir recommended by our sommelier from the restaurant's packed Italian wine list, the kids devoured their made-to-order ice cream sundaes.
Before heading back to our room, we stopped to watch the fireworks bursting across the mountain as part of Beaver Creek's Thursday Night Lights celebration, a weekly evening ski-down set to music that takes place around 6:45 p.m.
Because we are amateur skiers — our daughters have skied a handful of times and it was our son's first attempt — we decided to book a private family ski lesson instead of sending the kids to ski school. My expectations were incredibly low — if we made it an hour and no one got hurt or lost control and transformed into a cartoon-style snowball on their way down the slopes, I would consider it a success.
After picking up our rented equipment at Beaver Creek Sports, located next to St. James Place, we headed for the base of the mountain to meet our instructor, Ian. Little did we know, with Ian's help, our kids would officially fall in love with skiing. They learned to stop. They learned to turn. And before we knew it, they were zigging and zagging their way down the mountain. When we stopped for lunch at SaddleRidge, which serves Colorado regional cuisine and houses one of the largest private collections of Western artifacts in the United States — they begged to ski the afternoon away, too.
Some lifts were starting to close at 3 p.m. when we finally got them off the mountain, but their groans of disapproval quickly subsided because 3 p.m. also marks the start of Cookie Time at Beaver Creek, when employees don chef hats and hand out freshly baked chocolate chip cookies to skiers wrapping up their days at the base.
Perhaps one of the most iconic things to do in Beaver Creek is to have dinner at Beano's Cabin, a gourmet restaurant accessible only by a 20-minute open-air sleigh ride pulled by a snowcat.
Yes, it was cold, but the thick provided parkas helped counter the chill, as did the fun facts — did you know that aspens are the world's largest living organism? — offered by the sleigh host on our way up to the cabin.
When we arrived at Beano's, more surprises were in store, including that all diners exchange their snow-dusted boots for cozy slippers at the door.
As a singer crooned songs like "Desperado" and "Tequila Sunrise" in the main dining room, we received course after course (for a total of five) of the cabin's signature "traditional Colorado fare," which included offerings such as foie gras, wood-fired broccolini and roasted venison.
After trekking back down the mountain via sleigh, we stopped to pick up souvenirs at Beaver Creek Market, where items ranged from Colorado keychains to kitschy mugs to adorable journals by Austin artist Eli Halpin.
We hadn't intended to ski Saturday morning, but after Friday's success, we decided to extend our rentals and put in a couple of hours.
It couldn't have been a more perfect morning. The slopes were pristine and nearly empty, the resort finally devoid of its holiday crowds, and the kids managed to remember Ian's teachings, taking care as they made their way down the uncrowded slopes.
As they reached the bottom and begged to take the lift up again, I knew this would be a vacation they would always remember. And I knew I would always remember it, too.
I was, as I always am, so glad that in the end, we decided to take the trip.