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Christmas Week at Keystone Trip Report - Long

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St. Louis, MO
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Christmas Week at Keystone Trip Report – Long

We really enjoyed our trip to Keystone over Christmas week. It’s a beautiful place and a lovely resort, and we’d love to come again sometime. I’m breaking this trip report up into several installments all on this thread.

St. Louis, MO
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1. Re: Christmas Week at Keystone Trip Report – Long

Trip out and Denver

We packed up the minivan and left St. Louis about 3:00 p.m. on Wed. Dec. 23rd. DS who is a sophomore in HS (age 16) had his last finals that morning. We drove approximately seven hours to Salina, KS and stayed in a Days Inn there. It was kind of fun chatting with some of the people at breakfast. Most folks were from Denver and were heading to St. Louis to visit family for the holiday.

We took off at 10 a.m. and got into Denver around dinner time. Some slick roads and icy patches on Highway 70 made driving slower, but not too bad. We let DS get his first experience driving on snow and ice. DH and I did the Denver Metro area driving, though.

We spent the next two nights at the Denver SE Embassy Suites, our home away from home in Denver – where we always stay.

For our Denver day, first after a great breakfast we visited the Molly Brown House. Later in the afternoon we picked up my parents at the Denver airport who were joining us for the week. Later in the evening my mom, son, and I went to the Denver Aquarium. Staff mentioned to us that we were really smart to come in the evening when crowds were light and mentioned that during the day that crowd had been really heavy.

Neither of these attractions would be must sees in my book, but both were fun. DS has a big interest in the Titanic and a general interest in this time period, so the Molly Brown House was right up his alley. We are also big sea life enthusiasts, so typically visit aquariums, marine parks, etc. wherever we go. The Denver one had really nice exhibits – no it wasn’t the Monterey Bay Aquarium (one of the best in our book), but had extensive really well done exhibits and is worth a visit if you’re in the area and into this type of thing.

Checking in and first day skiing at Keystone

Saturday we checked into the house we had for the week in the Keystone Ranch area. After unpacking our stuff, we headed to the City Market grocery store in Dillon to stock up for the week. My brother, his girlfriend, and kids (ages 17 and 21) arrived shortly after we got back from grocery shopping. We had a simple Christmas Eve dinner at the house, opened presents, played family games, etc. – did Christmas on Christmas Eve., so we could hit the slopes Christmas Day.

Everyone except my parents skied Keystone Christmas Day – Beautiful weather, light crowds on the slopes, spring ski conditions with sun and high of 39. It was perfect for DH, DS, and me. We were going to put DS in an afternoon ski lesson as he had only skied two days previously (Both at a little local place last year), but he was doing so well with just tips from DH, and we were having so much fun skiing together on Keystone green runs like Schoolmarm, that we didn’t make him take a lesson. I was blown away with how well he was doing and how much he was enjoying the skiing (This in itself had me and DH chalking up the trip as a huge success),

My brother and his family were disappointed that no black runs were open due to too little snow, but were still happy with the beautiful day.

My parents did drop off and pick up for us at the Mountain Base which was 9/10th of a mile from the house which gave them access to a car during the day and was great for us too.

St. Louis, MO
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2. Re: Christmas Week at Keystone Trip Report – Long

Days 2 and 3/Tubing, Ski Tip, Visiting Breckenridge, and Der Fondue Chessel

Dec. 26th – My brother had had transmission trouble driving out of Idaho Falls, ID starting in Grand Junction, CO (no fourth gear on his large SUV), so he and his girlfriend checked out options for getting that fixed. DH and I took DS, my niece, and my nephew tubing at Keystone. It was a blast. They limit the number of people who can tube which means lines are really short for the hour you reserved. I felt really safe too. They have five tubing lanes with high banks in between and at the end of the run and a person in each lane that makes sure you are set up properly, hold your tubes, etc. to keep you from going down before you are ready to go, and will spin you or set you up to go straight for the most part based on your preference. Each person has their own tube and you can go single, two at a time, three at a time, or four at a time. We did all of these. There is also a person at the bottom to make sure you are out safely and that lanes are clear before the next tubes come down. You go up one of those magic carpets that you sometimes see on learn to ski hills with your tube when you are done with a run. My nephew who absolutely loves the tubing at Grand Targhee (ski area in the Tetons on the other side of Jackson Hole) and told me that the tubing here was even better.

That evening just DH, my brother, his girlfriend, and I had dinner at Ski Tip (a favorite and must do for DH on any trip to Keystone). And Ski Tip did not disappoint. (Not cheap – with drinks and tip about $100 per person), but what great food, what a great atmosphere, and what a warm cozy place.

Dec 27th – We headed to Breckenridge for the day for the Country Boy Mine tour. I thought this might be lame, but our tour guide was excellent and the tour was interesting (lasts for 45 minutes and then you can pan for gold for as long as you want after, see some short videos, etc., visit the small gift shop). After that we had lunch in the main tourist area in Breckenridge and went to a few of the gift shops there. Breckenridge is such a cute ski own and the old building and mining history give the place a great deal of charm.

That evening we went to Der Fondue Chessel (our Christmas present to our extended family group). This is the fondue place at the Outpost that you take two gondolas to reach. The non skiers especially loved riding the two gondolas up, and this place is always a lot of fun. The gondola rides etc. make this more of a full evening experience vs. just dinner. Fondue where you are constantly cooking your food and dipping things is a great dinner choice for people like my dad and my son who just wouldn’t have the patience to sit through and enjoy and two hour dinner, but loved this with all the activity.

St. Louis, MO
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3. Re: Christmas Week at Keystone Trip Report – Long

Days 4 and 5/More Skiing, a day off, and Alpenglow Stube

Wednesday, Dec. 28th was a day to head back to the Keystone slopes again. It was another great family ski day for me, DH, and DS. Crowds were quite a bit heavier than Christmas day on the green runs, but lighter than Saturdays and Sundays at Midwest ski areas that we’ve visited in New York State, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, and Missouri over the years. Given our previous ski experiences at these, we didn’t think crowds were bad at all. Of the three days we skied, this was the heaviest crowd day.

For my brother and his family who are used to the wide open slopes of Grand Targhee where many years they get season passes and were on the blue and minimal black runs that were open all day, crowds seemed really heavy. With so much terrain closed they said that the blue runs especially had way too many skiers of different levels including some out of control beginning skiers and skiers who traversed the whole mountain from side to side and were difficult to pass. The few black runs open were really rocky, and they could totally understand why most of these were closed.

My 17 year old nephew took a break and went back for night skiing between 6 and 8 p.m. and loved that – said he could see really well and that on many of his runs he had practically the whole mountain to himself (was practically the only person on the slopes).

Thursday was windy with just an inch or so of new snow. The plan was to drive to Golden to do the Coors Brewery tour taking 70. The first sign we saw said one hour to Denver. The next accident said that there was an accident right outside of the Eisenhower Tunnel. At that point with no exits until after going through the tunnel and no way to turn around, we just sat on 70 for about 50 minutes till the accident could be cleared, just skipped the Golden trip, and headed back to the house. Later we checked out the Keystone Village area shops and the 40s/50s did the double gondolas again and had dinner at Alpenglow Stube (another favorite of DH). DH and my brother opted for the 7 course chef special where the chef chooses your selections. My brother’s girlfriend and I opted for the four course dinner. I wouldn’t pay that much for food, but DH just loved it (reason I put this and other signature dining in the vacation budget). It was about $500 for four with tip and drinks.

If someone asked me to recommend this or Ski Tip for one high end dinner, I think I’d recommend Ski Tip. Ski Tip food is well presented, but a little more normal that I think would appeal to a wider range of people, and although both atmospheres are great Ski Tip is just so cozy, my preference. Note: We’ve never tried the Ranch, so can’t comment on that.

St. Louis, MO
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4. Re: Christmas Week at Keystone Trip Report – Long

Last Day, heading home, and additional comments

For my brother and his family, it was time to pack and pick up the SUV (transmission was fixed by 3 p.m. Friday afternoon) – perfect for them as they wanted to get back – everyone had New Year’s Eve plans back in Idaho. For us it was another great ski day with spring ski conditions. We did Keystone again, and this time did mostly blue runs. I’m pleased to report that DS handled these very comfortably and with plenty of control – he loved them too. That evening we started packing to be ready for Saturday checkout at 10 a.m.

Saturday slippery roads and high winds meant that what should have been a ½ hour drive to Georgetown took over two hours. This was the first time I ever have really used the traction control on the minivan. Luckily, we still go my parents to the Denver airport and hour and a half before there 3:00 p.m. flight.

Flights to Chicago New Year’s Eve day were sky high, so they opted to fly to Las Vegas instead where the flights to Las Vegas from Denver, their hotel for three nights, and flights from Las Vegas to Chicago were less than what the New Year’s Eve, day flight home from Denver would have been. I thought doing that was a clever idea.

Some comments on altitude: I’m 51 and am sad to say that I didn’t adjust to the altitude as well as I have in the past when I was younger. Also I really had no problem with a recent national part trip that brought us to around 8000 feet, but hanging out between 9,200 and 11,500 (top of peaks) meant getting winded after doing short flights of stairs and headaches for the first four days despite driving out, spending two nights in Denver, drinking lots of water, and staying away from alcohol. Fortunately, with the headaches I just took Advil and these went away in 20 minutes. DH, my mom, and my dad did ok too, but all of us got winded easily all week, and this went away immediately as soon as we were back in Denver. My brother’s family who live at 4,200 feet rather than sea level didn’t have any issues at all with the altitude.

It’s ironic too that we had problems on 70 starting just before the Eisenhower tunnel on both our trips East. 20 years ago DH and I lived in Denver for about three years (three ski seasons) and used to go to the Summit County area every other weekend from Dec. thru March and never had traffic problems like we experience on this trip.

Despite minor issue with altitude and traffic, DS has caught the ski but, DH is absolutely delighted about that, and we are thinking of coming back to Keystone for DS’s spring break in 2013.

Thank you Keystone destination experts and other posters for your great tips and ideas.

Hope you’re not too bored with such a long report. I tend to like long trip reports as they often give me ideas for my own trips, so tend to post long reports thinking they might help someone else with vacation planning. Happy travels!

Colorado
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for Colorado
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5. Re: Christmas Week at Keystone Trip Report – Long

Thanks for the report! Glad everyone had fun.

A couple of comments. Sorry that the altitude bothered you. My sister comes out several times a year, some times she is fine other times it really bothers her. If you can take a couple of aspirin a day a couple of days before you come out and then one a day while you are here. Real aspirin not a substitute.

Also if you find yourself feeling really poor stop in at the firehouse for a whiff of oxygen. Or you can get the Keystone Medics to come over for the same. Something I just found out this year.

I love that you went to the Ski Tip, the Stube and the Fondue. All are favorites of mine. I have been to the Ranch but prefer the Ski Tip. The Ranch though in summer for lunch is a great spot...

Agree about Ski Tip over the Stube but would recommend the Stube for lunch and Ski Tip for dinner. I love the Stube for lunch. Especially if you have non-skiers in the group because as you said they enjoy the Gondola ride over. The scenery is amazing!

For others, Yes dinner at the Fondue is a long affair, if you have children on your group it is best to try for the early seating.

Did you dance??

Fruita, Colorado
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for Fruita, Grand Junction
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6. Re: Christmas Week at Keystone Trip Report – Long

You gave a great trip report. Traffic has become a major problem for some time - this year the state patrol will be doing traffic pacing where they will lead traffic at a steady pace through some of the most congested portions of I-70 returning to Denver.

summitdaily.com/ARTICLE/…RSS

St. Louis, MO
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7. Re: Christmas Week at Keystone Trip Report – Long

Thanks Alli and SusieLou.

Alli -- I'll try that asprin suggestion for our next trip. The signature dining in Keystone is so good. They didn't have the dance floor at Der Chessel Fondue like they did in past visits, so we didn't dance -- still had the music and they guys went around to each table, and the place/whole experience was a hit with the extended family.

SusieLou, I had no idea that traffic had become such an issue -- very interesting that they are doing a study.

Anyway, you both live in such a beautiful place both summer and winter (actually anytime, but summer and winter are our favorites for the great hiking and skiing). We'll be back soon for sure.

8. Re: Christmas Week at Keystone Trip Report – Long

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