Written February 17, 2021
Experienced February 8-17, 2021
One pass. Four resorts. Unlimited shrieks of joy. Boundless connection, freedom, and fun.
When I found out my favorite mountain in Washington (Stevens Pass!!) would be on the Epic Pass, I knew I had to purchase it. I’d be skiing most Sundays at Stevens with Outdoors for All to volunteer as an Adaptive Skiing instructor (in training for sit skiing). Plus, living in Everett, I was less than 1.5 hours from the mountain and would undoubtedly get many days in.
To add to the value of purchasing this Epic seasons pass, I was planning to attend the annual physical therapy conference (Combined Sections Meeting) in… *drum roll*… DENVER! When traveling for professional education and networking, why not ALSO throw in a skiing trip?! I made plans to sandwich the conference by skiing with my favorite people in new terrain.
Undoubtedly, getting an epic pass was an EPIC decision. Here is my reminiscing on skiing the Colorado POWWWW… plus some tips if you’re thinking about getting an Epic pass / traveling with skis. Ya know, when we can do this kind of stuff again.
It’d be best to note that this trip was exactly ONE year ago… and I actually JUST took my first flight in over a year. More on that later, but let’s focus on the wintery good stuff right now, shall we?
The entire week I spent in Colorado was FULL of connection and adventure. I started the week with my bestie, Talia, who shares the same affinity for embracing the moment. In the last two years, Talia and I have planned an annual ski trip – starting with Stevens Pass in 2019, and followed by Colorado in 2020! We skied at Keystone, Vail, and Beaver Creek together.
The itinerary allowed for synchronicity with travel plans of many of my other friends! At Vail, Talia and I bumped into Luke, Gina, Tiffany, and Scott – my adventure buddies from Washington. It just so happened there was a dental conference in Denver they were attending, so we were able to overlap! We even met for a night of scheming at Dillon Dam Brewery.
I headed back to Denver where I met my brother, Kenneth, for our physical therapy conference! There, I connected with many physical therapists from my alma mater and across the country. I LOVE CSM and am sad this year’s was canceled in person (it was going to be in ORLANDO!). At the end of our conference, Kenneth and I were joined by Lauren (my dancing partner from Washington) to ski at Breckenridge! Once Kenneth left, Lauren and I were planning to ski another day, but… as you MAY imagine… I was pretty pooped. So, I had a spa day at Vail. Don’t mind if I do #treatyourself hehe.
Yeah, this trip was epic. Having grown up on the east coast and skiing on ice, I was “wowed” when I skied in Washington for the first time. I’ve never skied outside of these two destinations, so Colorado was a huuuuuge surprise. The powder was so light and fluffy! I understood why people called some of the powder in Washington “Pacific Northwest Concrete” snow, haha! We just floated along the ski terrain in Colorado. Add to it that Colorado got the biggest storm of the season while we were there. Dang it, timing is always so in sync… I feel so blessed!
Be sure to scroll ALLLLLLLL THE WAY down to see the VIDEO Tallymark Productions made from our portion of the trip! I may or may not have watched it >10x in the last week.
Date Skied: Sunday, February 9, 2020
Distance from Denver: 1 hour, 22 minutes (via I-70 W)
Stats for the Day: 8 runs / 9,318 vertical feet / 13.35 miles
Talia and I woke up to a DUMPING of snow in the mountains! Ullr, the God of Snow, blessed us with unbelievable conditions for our first day on the slopes! We drove from our Air BnB in Dillon to Keystone, which was a mere 11 (yes, ELEVEN) minutes away from the mountain. We got parking that required a brief bus trip to the mountain. Honestly, we got a little late start because of our travels yesterday (we both arrived in Denver on February 8th).
The runs at Keystone were a total blast. It is a smaller mountain than the others skied, but was incredibly approachable and had wide, long runs – which was perfect to get our ski legs moving! On the lift, Talia and I chatted with a local ski instructor who pointed us in the direction of TREE SKIING and unmarked glades. We dipped into the trees between Wild Irishman and Paymaster, where Talia experienced her first glades skiing! She KILLED it and the powder was knee-deep at times!
The Keystone Vibe
Overall, Keystone has a super relaxed vibe with a local feel. Talia and I stuck to one of the three peaks so we can stay on intermediate terrain (Dercum Mountain). The Outback and North Peak both appear to have awesome Black Diamond trails. Something to go back to, for sure!
Also! At the top of Dercum Mountain is a kid area called “Kidtopia,” which is actually the world’s LARGEST SNOW FORT. Pretty fun, if you ask me!
Terrain at Keystone
Trail Map: CLICK HERE
Vertical: 3,128 ft / 953m
Base elevation: 9,280 ft / 2,829m
Summit elevation: 12,408 ft / 3,782m
Number of Lifts: 20
Average Annual Snowfall over past 34 years: 235 in / 597 cm
Number of Trails: 128
Longest Run: 3.5 Miles/Schoolmarm
Skiable Area: 3,148 acres / 1249 ha
Snowmaking: 662 acres / 268 ha
Lift-Serviced Terrain Degree of Difficulty:
More Difficult: 39%
Most Difficult: 49%
Vail Mountain Resort
Date Skied: Monday, February 10, 2020
Distance from Denver: 1 hour, 40 minutes (via I-70 W)
Stats for the Day: 8 runs / 13,064 vertical feet / 15.73 miles
Woke to MORE fresh snow in Dillon! Talia and I were SUPER stoked and danced in the parking lot at Vail for a while, amping up for the day. The drive in reminded me of what would be at a European resort. It was mind blowing. The Stoke was high as can be.
It was snowing most of the day AND there was freshly opened terrain while we were here at BLUE SKY BASIN! We had NO lift lines. Powder in the trees was DEEEEEEEP… honestly, this is the best, best, best, BEST skiing I’ve ever experienced.
One of the highlights was my fall of the week haha. I had a lovely scorpion fall on a trail called “Christmas,” which was a little more crowded at the end of the day. Fortunately, my fall was witnessed by my friend, who verified it was interesting to look at. Not sure if it looked like THIS though… haha.
Also, shout out to: (1) Talia for being a go-getter and seriously KILLIN it in the trees, moguls, and difficult terrain! (2) My Washington Friends for spotting me when skiing down to the lift! All of a sudden, someone skied next to me and said “Hey, Kconn!” I look to my left and it’s my buddy LUKE! We met up through the day – all skiing/riding at our own paces, but intersecting at various points. What a BLAST!!!
The Vail Vibe
Vail has the most varied terrain – back bowls, glades, moguls, wide open runs. My favorite? 100% the back bowls and Blue Sky Basin. Those trees were DELICIOUS. I’m pretty sure you could spend a while week here and still not get all the terrain covered. Ugh… take me BACK!
The village is also worth exploring, albeit a little pricey (which ski village isn’t though? Let’s be honest.) Talia ended up spending some time at Cos Bar trialing different lipsticks & foundations because nothing says “I’m a badass chick” like shredding all day, then feeling glamorous at night. Yeah, we know we’re awesome.
Terrain at Vail
Trail Maps: FRONT SIDE / BACK BOWLS / BLUE SKY BASIN
Total Skiable Terrain: 5,317 Acres (2,141 H)
– Front Side=1,655 Acres; Back Bowls=3,017 Acres; Blue Sky Basin=645 Acres
Beginner Terrain: 18%
Intermediate Terrain: 29%
Advanced/Expert Terrain: 53%
Longest Run: Riva Ridge – 4 miles (6.4 KM)
Average Annual Snowfall: 354 inches (899 CM)
– Base Elevation: 8,120 Feet (2,454 M)
– Mid-Elevation: 10,250 Feet (3,125 M)
– Peak Elevation: 11,570 Feet (3,527 M)
– Vertical Rise: 3,450 Feet (1,052 M)
Beaver Creek Resort
Date Skied: Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Distance from Denver: 1 hour, 54 minutes (via I-70 W)
Stats for the Day: 12 runs / 18,238 vertical feet / 19.76 miles
Oh my WORD, Talia and I were CRUISIN’ today! It was a “find me a cloud” kind of day with blue skies – a total bluebird day! We had sun bursts in every photo we took. There was a lot of whooping and yelling excited phrases while skiing today. It kind of made us giggle. Happy happy skiing.
The runs we had at Beaver Creek were faster, as we had more groomed/packed powder conditions than our previous two skiing days. We loved Bachelor Gulch lift and Rose Bowl!
The Beaver Creek Vibe
The mountain has a regal appearance with an incredibly friendly vibe. We parked in a very fancy garage where someone greeted us with the biggest smile ever, then met many more smiles all day from every worker. It kind of felt like we were in a hotel, but that we lived there and everyone knew us. We rode escalators on our skis, stood on moving floors, and ate lunch outside soaking up the sun and views.
To add to the homey feel, Beaver Creek serves COMPLIMENTARY, fresh-baked cookies at the base of Centennial Express Lift & throughout the village… DAILY! Talia and I didn’t get to enjoy them because we were skiing, but my family has told me they’re great! (P.S. Because of COVID and all, it sounds like the cookies aren’t being served right now… but maybe again in the future!).
Terrain at Beaver Creek
Trail Maps: CLICK HERE
Base Elevation: 8,100 ft (2,469 m)
Summit Elevation: 11,440 ft (3,488 m)
Vertical Rise: 3,340 ft (1,018 m)
Number of Trails: 150
Number of Lifts: 23
Average Annual Snowfall: 325 in (826 cm)
Skiable Acreage: 1,832 acres (741 hectares)
Longest Run: Centennial at 2.75 miles (4.43 km)
Breckenridge Ski Resort
Date Skied: Saturday, February 15, 2020
Distance from Denver: 1 hour, 31 minutes (Via I-70 W)
Lifts/Runs: 9 runs / 11,447 vertical feet / 13.7 miles
This was my last day of skiing in Colorado and we had beautiful conditions once again! Because of the holiday weekend (President’s Day), we experienced longer lift lines, but this didn’t dampen our fun!
Kenneth (my brother!) and I haven’t skied together in a while, considering I live across the country, so this was a REAL treat! We had a few snafus with equipment, but thankfully the repair shop at Breck was accessible and awesome at fixing the brakes on Kenneth’s skis. The conditions were harder pack, with pockets of pow.
By the end of the skiing day, there was a progression in the weather and we experienced some intense wind! Our group opted for a lunch break as things picked up (literally… we saw some chairs moving about outside!). Fortunately, the sun kept us warm and we were able to keep skiing for a little despite the wind. Unfortunately, this was when I discovered the “Wanderlust” trail and it was RIGHT in the wind… so we skied a nearby run in the trees.
The Breck Vibe
Breckenridge, aka “Breck” by locals, has a ton of varied terrain, with spectacular groomers and glades. There seemed to be more lift navigation, considering there’s FIVE peaks of skiable terrain! There is a ton of energy at the mountain, which was palpable from the lift lines to gleefully skiing down groomers. Of note, Peak 8’s Imperial Chairlift on Peak 8 is the highest lift in North America. Pretty neat!
Terrain at Breckenridge
Trail Maps: CLICK HERE
Base Elevation: 9,600 ft
Summit Elevation: 12,998 ft
Vertical Drop: 3,398 ft
Number of Trails: 187
Number of Lifts: 34
Skiable Acreage: 2,908
Longest Trail: 4 O’clock; 3.5 miles
If skiing at a variety of resorts, the towns of Avon, Frisco, Dillon, or Silverthorne are all within 30-60 minutes of each ski resort! Of course, if you’re looking for a “ski in/ski out” style of lodging, these would not be ideal. If you’re an Epic Pass holder, you can get 20% on lodging through Epic Pass, so it’s worth checking out what perks could apply!
Talia and I stayed in Dillon at an AirBnB with a full kitchen so we could prep meals. During the physical therapy conference, Kenneth and I stayed at Hotel Born with a discount through the APTA. Lastly, Kenneth, Lauren, and I stayed with a friend of Lauren’s to keep it economical.
Food and Dining
I always try to find the local snacks and goodies wherever I am. Talia and I purchased a bunch of food to make together, as dining at ski resorts can be quite pricey. Our biggest challenge was finding a microwaves in some locations. Amongst my favorite finds was Rock Canyon Coffee’s Winter Cabin coffee blend, especially when I saw it benefits Protect Our Winters (POW). Places I shopped for local foods include:
- Whole Foods (Frisco, CO): look out for the “LOCAL” tag throughout the store to find the goodies.
- Natural Grocers (Frisco, CO): awesome organic and whole food selections! They also have water refill stations.
Favorite spots for après-ski meals and healthy snacks:
- Superfood Bar (Denver, CO): smoothies and health foods galore! 10/10 recommend the falafel wrap & avocalada smoothie.
- Pure Kitchen (Frisco, CO): amazing juices, vegan/vegetarian friendly.
- Dillon Dam Brewery (Dillon, CO): great beer selection and classic après options.
Traveling with Gear
Navigating airports with skis/winter gear can be challenging and awkward, but it was entirely worth it! I planned ahead by contacting the airlines to find out the cost associated with carrying skis onboard. Most airlines count the ski bag + matching boot bag as one piece of luggage. I opted to travel with Alaska Airlines because of the price breakdown for baggage, PLUS they had direct flights from Everett, WA to Denver, CO!
I was magically able to pack two sets of skis into my ski bag, but there are tons of ski bag options out there. Some have wheels, which might make lugging around airports easier. Some are much larger than mine and allow for clothing & accessories to be packed, BUT beware that airlines will no longer count the ski + boot bag as ONE if you put clothes in one of the bags! I highly recommend you call the airlines to find out what is possible.
Talia rented boots and a helmet from Christy Sports, which is located in Colorado near the ski resorts (AND other states!).
If you’re planning to rent gear from the mountains, I’d recommend reserving online beforehand to avoid many lines. Renting off-mountain has its perks, though requires coordinating pick up and drop off times. If you’re an Epic Pass holder, check out the 20% off discount options here!
About the Epic Pass
The Epic Pass has treated me very well! For both the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 ski seasons, I purchased the Epic LOCAL Pass. This pass has restrictions on certain resorts over holidays, but hasn’t negatively affect my plans and fits my budget well. (For example, Lauren – who had the regular Epic Pass – was able to ski at Vail on President’s Weekend while I went to the Sonnenalp Spa instead.)
There are a variety of pass options, including passes specific to regions. To find out what pass is best for you, use this link and check out the options below:
What I love about the Epic Pass is how it affords me the ability to check out many resorts! In 2020, I traveled to Whistler Blackcomb, plus all the above Colorado resorts. I also got many days at Stevens Pass in Washington. Thus far, 2021 has welcomed exploration of local east coast mountains and I am again enjoying the benefits of the Epic Local Pass. To find out which mountains are on the Epic Pass, visit here!
Disclaimer: Nope, I am not sponsored by Epic. Nothing to disclaim here, haha.