Why We Keep Going Back to Summit County, Colorado


We started traveling to Summit County when we lived in Dallas in the early 1990s. In fact, our daughter, who is now thirty one, had her first birthday there. We’ve skied at other places over the years including Big Sky and Whitefish, Montana, Grand Targhee, Idaho, Steamboat Springs, Colorado and Terry has skied the Tahoe area and California and various European Ski Resorts. However, Summit County Colorado keeps pulling at our heart strings. We’ve skied Breckenridge, C opper Mountain, Keystone and Vail. Keystone is our favorite and continues to be the place that pulls us back. We found accommodations we love there within walking distance of the Mountain House lifts and we absolutely love the ski school for kids. We enrolled our daughter for the first time when she was three. She ended up continuing with ski school each trip until she got too old to attend. Our son also started at about the same age but he wasn’t as excited about lessons. He learned enough to ski with us and then learned to snowboard at Copper Mountain one year when he was about ten.

Over the last two trips we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to bring our granddaughter to Keystone to learn on the same bunny slopes as our kids did. It’s a great feeling to pass along to her the joy of skiing. Hopefully, it will be a lifelong skill that she can share with her own family one day.

Since we have a substantial number of images from previous years, we thought it would be nice to bring our pages up to date and give a view of Summit County and what there is to do there on and off the slopes. I have to admit that it's a lot more expensive to travel and ski there than it used to be. The costs of lift tickets and ski school have really skyrocketed in recent years which probably makes it unattainable for a lot of people which is truly a shame. We used to be able to get lift tickets for $30 a day by getting discount tickets at a grocery store (King Sooper) in Denver but those days are long gone. This last trip for 5 of us, even with discount military veteran tickets (via 'Epic Pass'), was more than Terry and I have spent on any of our three week trips to Europe… so that gives you an idea of the cost ( see our cost savings tips by clicking here )

Regardless of the cost, skiing together as a family has given us some of our most cherished memories.

Our Keystone Videos

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Summit County Ski Areas

As you can see in this Google Map of Summit County, there are a number of ski resorts;

On the east side of the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 is the Loveland Ski Area.

Summit County Ski Areas Quick Sketch

Each area has its own ambiance, ie;
Keystone Resort: Keystone offers three mountains and two base mountain areas, 128 trails with the longest run being three and a half miles. Mountain house is the original base mountain area while the River Run area was built in 1994 and tends to attract more people due to the shopping and restaurants there. Click here for their Wikipedia Page, or click here for their website.
Arapahoe Basin: A small base area but with some of the highest and most challenging terrain with 1,400 Acres of skiing and 9 lifts, 147 trails, with the longest run of one and a half miles. Click here for their Wikipedia Page, or click here for their website.
Breckenridge: A historic town with a boat load of charm. It began as a place that provided services to the mining community in the area. Today it's main street is lined with shops and restaurants. You can find t-shirts, clothing, jewelry and gemstones, furniture, toys and art work and then stop at one of the many restaurants for a bite to eat. There are plenty of bars and nightclubs for the apres ski crowd. Even if you don’t stay at Breckenridge it always creates a nice day trip when our legs are too tired for skiing. There are 2,908 acres of skiable terrain across five peaks, 187 trails, with the longest run of three and a half miles, and an elevation of 12,998 feet. If you want to be in a full service location with lots to do within walking distance of where you stay Breckenridge is a great choice. Click here for their Wikipedia Page, or click here for their website.
Copper Mountain: A skier and snowboarder mountain with naturally divided terrain. The beginner trails are naturally segregated from the expert trails. It caters to both families and extreme riders. The base mountain area has been growing over the past several years offering more places to stay and eat. They have a rocky mountain coaster, tubing hill and Woodward Barn which is an action sport playground facility where you can practice your moves. They have 140 marked trails with the longest run of just under two miles. Click here for their Wikipedia Page, or click here for their website.
Frisco: A laid back mountain town next to Dillon reservoir with a quaint main street and adventure park with snowshoeing and sledding in the winter months. Frisco can provide a central location for your winter vacation with easy driving access to all of Summit County. Click here for their Wikipedia Article.

Things We Love About Summit County
  • World class skiing and snowboarding.
  • Family Friendly resorts where the entire family is welcome everywhere.
  • Excellent ski schools for any age group.
  • Lots of things to do.
  • Great restaurants, breweries and coffee shops
  • Easy Access from Denver via I-70.
  • Recreation Centers that provide access to gym facilities, indoor pools, hot tubs, saunas, racquetball, etc.
  • Lots of shopping is available across the county from outlet stores in Dillon and Silverthorne to the funky main street in Breckenridge and the more eclectic shops in Frisco… if you are into wandering shops you won’t be disappointed.
Keystone Resort Overview

Keystone consists of three mountains; Dercum, North Peak, and the Outback. It has two base areas; Mountain House and River Run. The more popular base area is River Run which contains lodging, restaurants and stores and a gondola that will take you directly to the top of Dercum mountain. The original base area is called Mountain House which is smaller and less busy. The snake river winds its way through both base areas at Keystone and makes for a beautiful view and walk if you stay along the river and walk to the base like we did. The view from the top of Dercum mountain is awesome on a sunny day. You can see Lake Dillon and Breckenridge in the distance as well as the North Peak and Outback mountains.


IMAGE CREDIT: The Silverthorne Recreation Center image is the property of Guy K. via Yelp. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.
Mountain House Base Area

There are two lifts here; The Argentine lift, a two person chair for the bunny slope, and the Peru Express a high speed 6 person lift to whisk you up to the terrain park area and slopes on Dercum mountain that will allow you to either ski back to the bottom or catch the Montezuma Express to the top of Dercum Mountain where you can head to one of the other mountains or ski down to either base area. We like the Mountain House area because it tends to be less crowded than the newer River Run base area and it has everything we need. The parking lot is right there and it’s an easy walk to the lifts as long as you get there early enough to park. We were there the week before Christmas and always found easy parking.

The Mountain house area has lockers that you can rent to store your stuff (shoes, lunch), a restaurant downstairs and cafeteria style eatery upstairs. They have a small coffee and snack place downstairs as well along with bathrooms, etc. COVID has impacted the eateries so check out the main website before you go for additional COVID information.

River Run Area

River run was built in 1994 and is, by far, the more popular base area. There are numerous shops and restaurants and lodging there and the gondola takes you directly to the top of Dercum Mountain. There are fire pit areas and an ice skating rink too! There is the Crepe Stand, Pizza on the Run, and the New Moon Cafe serving breakfast all day along, Kickapoo Tavern and some other restaurants and pub options for lunch or Apres Ski.

My Birthday Dinner debacle

Our original plan was to have dinner at the Der Fondue Chessel at the top of North Peak. We had dinner there in the past and although it wasn’t the best fondue we’ve ever had, the experience was fun and the lodge on North Peak is very cool. It was my birthday and a special occasion so we made reservations prior to our trip. To get there you have to ride up on the gondola to the top of Dercum and then get on another gondola to get to North Peak. They provide blankets to keep you warm. The gondola attendants checked that we had reservations at the restaurant as we got in and away we went. But when we got to the restaurant, there was a sign on the door saying they were not going to open that night. We inquired at the restaurant next door as to why that might be and we were told that due to very few people having reservations, they decided to close. The manager of the restaurant next door offered to seat us in his restaurant, but we were not excited by their menu (too fancy for a 4 year old) and we decided to head back down the mountain to River Run. We weren’t very happy about this turn of events and by the time we got down the hill, everyone was starving and we decided to have pizza at "Pizza on the Run". The pizza hit the spot and in hindsight it was probably a better time and a lot cheaper! You can see our night unfold in the images below.

 Gondola Ride is first Step

Everyone is wrapped up in resort-provided blankets, and we are off on a ride to the top of North Peak.

 Gondola Ride to Der Fondue Chessel

Head-em out, we are ready for dinner. Those blankets made a big difference and allowed us to stay warm.

 Back to River Run Area

OK, so lets have Pizza instead.

 Pizza on the Run Restaurant

Everyone is digging in!

Keystone Transportation
How to get around Keystone Resort

There are two main options which include the Keystone Resort Shuttle system and the Summit Stage public free county wide transportation system. The Keystone Resort Shuttle runs to and from the main areas in Keystone Resort every 20 minutes. This allows you to leave your car at your condo, and take the bus to either the River Run or Mountain House areas.

There is also a shuttle service from the resort to the Denver International Airport, 'Epic Mountain Express'.

There are a variety of places for you to park your car (click here to view some very useful parking info & current rates). But then once you are parked, you can easily ride the Keystone Buses to where ever you need to go. You could park at either the River Run or Mountain House parking lots and utilize the bus system to move between the two areas.

 Bus Info

There are several routes to take you between River Run & Mountain House, see the route map.

 Bus Stop

The Keystone Resort Bus System will get you where you want to go.

 Bus Service

The buses are clearly marked as to what route they are serving.

 Bus Interior

The Keystone Resort Bus System is always clean & prompt.

Summit County Ski Schools

Three generations of our family have learned to either ski or snowboard (or both) at various Summit County Ski Schools. Celeste and I learned to snowboard at the Keystone school, both Chelsea and Jeremy learned to ski at the Keystone School and then Jeremy learned how to snowboard at the Copper Mountain School. Refresher courses have been taken by family members at the Breckenridge School and regardless of where we were, we have nothing but good things to say about all of these schools.

Cinnamon Ridge Condo
 Our Temporary Home

This is an excellent place to rent, we've rented here several times over the years and have never been disappointed.

 Condo View

This view was from the condo rear window, you can see Mountain House in the distance.

 Condo Hot Tub

The condo contained it's own private hot tub!

 Condo Kitchen View

Large well equipped kitchen, nice dining area next to the living area & fireplace.

One of our favorite condo units is called "Cinnamon Ridge Condos". They are within walking distance to the Mountain House base area and have their own indoor hot tub. Some of them also have a sauna. We love the amount of sunlight that comes into the units in the afternoon and the views of the mountain. Having our own hot tub not only allows us to soothe our aching bones after skiing but it provides much needed moisture in the dry Colorado air. Being from Florida the dryness can really get to us.

Our immediate family of four adults plus our six year old granddaughter, and 4 adult friends of our son, were very comfortable in this unit. Plenty of space to spread out, hot tub to soak away the tired muscles from skiing all day and a nice area at the entrance where all of our ski equipment & clothing could be placed.

Stroll around Breckenridge
We love Breckenridge. With 5 peaks, 187 trails and 2,908 acres there is truly something for everyone! The skiing is varied and there is easy access to lodging and apres ski nightlife. Even when we don’t stay there we always make time to visit and walk the streets of this historic mining town. There are so many restaurants and shops you can easily spend half a day wandering around and you get a beautiful view of the ski mountain from the main street. There are too many lifts to mention and even a gondola that can whisk you from the downtime parking lot up to peak 7. One year we had ski-in accommodations which was a treat.

There is a terrain park for those that are daring enough to try and a mountain coaster called the Gold Runner Coaster that is family friendly and runs year round. In late January to early February Breckenridge hosts an International Ice Sculpture contest which is amazing to see. Viewing it at night is spectacular but also very cold; hot chocolate and hand warmers are required. We highly recommend trying to catch the show if you can be there during that time. There is no tubing directly at Breckenridge. You’ll have to ride to Frisco or one of the other mountain resorts for that or ask around to find some local sledding areas that are free.

NOTE: We have enjoyed the fare at Clint's Bakery in Breckenridge numerous times and they have always had top notch food, regardless of whether it was lunch, dinner or snacks. If you are looking for good food, give them a try.
IMAGE CREDIT: The Breckenridge Recreation Center image is the property of Mariko F. via Yelp. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

Snow Tubing in Summit County

There are a number of places where you can find snow tubing, ie; Adventure Ridge in Vail, CO, Mountain Top Tubing at Keystone Resort, CO, Breckenridge Snow Tubing, Copper Mountain Tubing, Frisco Nordic Center. Of this group, we have visited the Copper Mountain Tubing Center and even though we have wanted to visit others, we just have not had the time to do so.

There are a number of other places to go snow tubing, click here to view a Google Search list of tubing locations.

The images below (in the first row) are from a trip we made to Copper Mountain in 2010, yes they are no doubt "dated" by now, but we had a lot of fun on that trip and our youngest learned how to snowboard on that trip as well. The images in the second row are from our 2019 trip to Keystone.

Copper Mountain Resort

We have visited Copper Mountain a few times over the years. One of the things that attracted us to Copper Mountain was the natural segregation of trails by ability. Nothing is more annoying than being a beginner and having an advanced skier wiz by you at top speeds. Lifts are far enough apart that crowds don’t tend to congregate at any one lift. There’s lodging available and a good bus system. The Woodward Barn is one of Coppers coolest features if you have budding athletes that want to learn advanced tricks. There are trampolines and ramps with heavily padded landing areas. Over the years the base area has grown to add several restaurants and shopping. Copper is known as one of the locals favorite spots.

Cost Saving Suggestions

Since skiing has become more expensive over the years, we've outlined some ideas on ways to save money;

Ski Lift Tickets:
  • Buy your tickets in advance and look for the season or multi-day passes associated with the mountain(s) where you want to ski. Keystone and Breckenridge are associated with Epic Pass and Copper and Arapahoe Basin are part of the IKON pass. Those passes are only available for a certain amount of time and then will no longer be sold for that season. The earlier you purchase them the cheaper they are.
  • Look for active military and military veteran tickets if that applies to you. We were able to purchase discount tickets called the ski liberty pass (from Epic Pass) which is available to veterans and veteran dependents for keystone resort only at a significant discount.
  • Look for student discount tickets if you have full time students in your family.
  • Look for senior discount tickets.
  • Look for local passes which may be restricted to a single mountain but offered at a discount.
  • Consider a season pass and find ways to ski more one season and perhaps skip the next season or two.
  • This one is kind of a joke - but if you really love skiing maybe move to where skiing is…. then you can make the most out of your season passes. Plus now that so many people are working remotely - it may be possible when it wasn’t before.

Equipment Rentals:
  • Equipment Rental Companies can be found in multiple locations throughout Keystone Resort, Dillon, Silverthorne, Breckenridge, etc. They are all more expensive than what you will usually find in Denver. For our most recent trip, we utilized Sports Rent in Westminster, CO. We rented a complete set of equipment for two adults and paid considerably less than it would have cost at Keystone or elsewhere. Plus, the equipment was very new and in excellent condition. Yes, we had to bring the equipment back, but Westminster is only a few miles north of I-70 so it wasn't a problem.
  • There are frequently good prices available on Amazon for ski equipment & accessories. Just as an example, below is a pair of goggles that our daughter purchased from Amazon prior to our recent trip.


Lodging:
  • Look for vacation rentals that are available by owner and book early. VRBO.COM is a good site, but do your own Google search.
  • Consider doubling up and getting lodging with another family and splitting the costs.
  • Stay a little further away from the resort to find cheaper accommodations.
  • If you are part of a hotel rewards program see if you can book lodging using points.

Food:
  • Rent accommodations that provide a full service kitchen so that you can cook (and create snacks) at home. City Market in Dillon is the largest nearby grocery store, and in Frisco there is a Whole Foods as well as a Safeway.
  • Bring snacks and lunch to the mountain and avoid eating on the mountain because it can be pricey. Especially, when you have a growing teenager traveling with you!

Car Rentals/Transportation:
  • Consider using an alternative to a rental car company such as Turo which is a service that allows you to book directly with a car owner. We had good luck with this approach in 2021.
  • Book early and look for rental car discount codes. As an example, if you wait too long, you will not be able to find a 4WD SUV anywhere in Colorado by late November if not earlier.
  • Consider not getting a car and using a shuttle service to get to the mountain. We’ve never done this because we like to tour around on our own but we know people who have used it successfully.

Miscellaneous Suggestions

EpicMix: New this season, EpicMix Time displays forecasts of lift line wait times allowing you to spend more time skiing and riding. See what lifts will have the shortest wait times every hour of the day so you can plan your skiing and riding experience. Click here to go to the Epic Pass Website.

The App is available for iPhone and Android devices, and can provide you with information on your favorite resorts, interactive trail maps, various statistics from your skiing including; total vertical feet, highest elevation, time on mountain, lifts ridden and distance covered.

The Pandemic has gotten in the way of some of the EpicMix features, you will have to go to their website to read what is available.



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Note: All images on this page are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

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To view our entire set of images from our 2021 Colorado Trip, click here

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Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are Affiliate Links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, that we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. So we would appreciate any click throughs, if you are inclined.

Note: All images on this page are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

Note: If you are interested in our European Travel Tips & Warnings, Click here. Or to take a look at our methods for Trip Planning click here.




 
 
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