As we stood near the edge of Eagle River with the cool water rushing around our waders, we watched our bobber get caught in the current and be swept downstream. We had been fly fishing for the past hour and a half. So far, we’d caught three twigs and a rock. But we didn’t care. The air temperature was in the low 70s, the water temp was in the low 60s, and the only sounds we could hear were those of the river.
There’s a saying in Beaver Creek, Colorado: come for the winter, stay for the summer. We were there in the summer, and we were getting dangerously close to staying.
THE MAKING OF A VILLAGE: Denver was awarded the right to host the 1976 Winter Olympics, but voters turned down the honor of paying for the games. Denver had to relinquish its status as host city. This move almost killed further development of the Vail Resorts, but the project persevered, and in December 1980, Beaver Creek officially opened.
The village has come a long way in the last 32 years. It’s home to the Osprey, a resort which won an award for being the definition of ‘ski in/ski out’; more than 60 restaurants, shops, and galleries; an ice skating rink; and cookie time every day at 3 p.m. (The village bakes 400,000 cookies every year.)
There’s constant improvement on the skiing aspect of Beaver Creek, with a new women’s ski race course being built for the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships. Standing at the edge of the drop of the world’s second-most difficult run, one can just imagine skiers racing down the hill at 90 miles per hour only to have the earth disappear from below them. The blues, blacks, and diamonds that challenge skiers during the winter turn into luscious grass and flower-laden slopes perfect for hiking or horseback riding in the summer.
BEYOND THE SLOPES: While many think of the pristine mountains with fresh powder when imagining a trip to Beaver Creek, a summer vacation offers just as many options with the same get-away-from-it-all feeling.
Start your trip off with an off-roading Jeep adventure atop the chairlift that’s literally outside the door of the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa. Get to know Derek, one of the tour guides, who, you guessed it, came for the winter and found himself staying for years. Derek will point out the new lifts, the difficult slopes, and give you a history of the area. Ask him about the origins of the name Gore — as in the local Gore Creek, Gore Valley, and Gore Range. Derek’s also got a few tales of black bear sightings, and he’ll surprise you by telling you that though bears are common, they are not the most dangerous animal in Beaver Creek: that title goes to the deer.
At the finish of your tour, stop by Spruce Saddle to grab some lunch. Sit on the patio and watch kids who minutes ago were strangers become best friends as they play a game of t-ball. Talk to the people around you—you may just end up meeting a five-year U.S. Ski Team member. Be sure to keep your eyes on the clouds, though. If an afternoon storm comes in, the chairlifts may be shut down, stranding you on the mountain. If that happens, you have options: wait it out, catch a shuttle, or go for a hike.
There are thousands of hiking trails around the Beaver Creek Villages. Whether you want to leisurely stroll around the mountain or take a guided, rigorous climb up one of the 14,000-foot peaks, the options are endless. Be sure to stop by the Beaver Creek Hiking Center for maps, lunches, packs, boots, poles, and even Nature Valley granola bars. The experts can help you get on your way and ensure the you know what to do in case you come across one of those bears.
Another great way to get to see the beauty of the Colorado mountains is by horseback. Walk a short way to the Beaver Creek Stables, and get to know Yukon, a pack horse, or Badger, a mustang. Your ride can be as long or short as you’d like. Do the three-hour ride with a picnic lunch. Our ride took us to Beano’s Cabin, a five-star restaurant that’s accessible only by shuttle or horse in the summer or sleigh in the winter. Tie up the horses, pull out your sandwich, and watch the storm clouds gather above the mountain peaks.
One of the best aspects of Colorado during the summer is the water. Plan a kayak trip or a rafting trip on one of the five surrounding rivers. Or, if you prefer something a little more low-key, go fly fishing. Meet Gore Creek Fly Fisherman’s Mark Sassi. He came to Beaver Creek more than a dozen years ago, and yes, he came for the winter and never left. Sassi is an avid entomologist. Not only will he explain fly fishing to you, but he’ll show you the bugs that are hatching that afternoon, and thus the appropriate flies to use. His passion is obvious as he explains where the “sexy” waters are and the best cast to throw. Whether you’re dabbling in the sport for the first time or have a bit of background with it, be careful with Sassi: he’ll get you hooked.
NOT EXACTLY ROUGHING IT: While in Beaver Creek, you can spend your whole vacation breathing in the fresh air and being physical. Or you could use your time to unwind. Stay at the Park Hyatt, and you’ll have the best of both worlds. Take your kids fishing or on the Jeep tour, and the next day drop them off at the Beaver Creek Kids Summer Day Camp and spend the day in the Allegria Spa or in one of the hotel’s five hot tubs. Refuel by trying the oak-grilled peach and salmon ceviche at 8100 Mountainside Grill & Bar and let Chef Christian Apetz tell you about how he went to the farmers market to pick out the fresh, local ingredients for your lunch. Then pick up the kids and go to the fire pit and enjoy gourmet s’mores (think orange, mint, toffee, and even root beer float-flavored marshmallows). After a long day of enjoying everything nature has to offer, sit on one of the great lounge chairs around the outdoor skating rink. Let the kids skate while you curl up with an Irish coffee or perhaps an Affogato (a double espresso shot over a scoop of gelato) from Rimini, a small cafe. And don’t forget your four-legged family member: in Beaver Creek Village, dogs are allowed.
But be careful while in Beaver Creek. With the abundance of activities and family-friendly atmosphere, you may just find yourself staying for the winter.
HOW TO GET THERE: American Airlines has daily direct flights into the Eagle-Vail Airport. Take the 30-minute Colorado Mountain Express shuttle up to Beaver Creek Village.
Trip provided by Beaver Creek PR and Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa.