18. Beaver Creek, Colorado

Beaver Creek is one of the most glamorous yet soulful resorts anywhere.

The resort isn’t cheap—maybe that’s another reason why it’s so clean and uncrowded. The grooming is immaculate and the service is superb; it’s more like a private country club. Be prepared to pay—the restaurants, shops, and even parking at the base can be extremely expensive—but there is a complimentary shuttle system that services free parking lots outside of the front gate.

For whatever reason, Beaver Creek has become one of the most snowboard-friendly places you can imagine. The snowboard school is excellent, the artificial terrain is fun, the natural terrain is challenging but not too extreme, the employees love the place, and everyone is super friendly.

Like most of the more exclusive resorts, grooming is a priority, but the trees and gullies are equally alluring. The parks and pipes are part of the family atmosphere that permeates the slopes. Beaver Creek puts increasing effort into the man-made terrain each season.

This year’s list of improvements includes increased attention to snowmaking and grooming with the addition of tower guns and four new snowcats, which means a 30 percent increase in daily groomed terrain. Beaver Creek is committed to grooming at least one-third of the resorts’ runs each day, allowing guests to experience optimal conditions on the slopes.

Last year, Beaver Creek added several new terrain parks. Back this year with a vengeance are Mystic Isles, an entry-level park at the top of Birds of Prey Express Lift; an intermediate terrain park on the upper part of Sheephorn; an improved intermediate-to-advanced terrain park on Moonshine with two lanes of twenty- to 50-foot features such as tabletops and gaps, a boardercross lane, and two halfpipes (intermediate and expert) complete with piped-in music and a warming hut with vending machines.

Unique to Beaver Creek and Vail are the natural terrain parks—Stickline off of Chair Six is the main one—essentially gladed tree runs loaded with berms, log slides, and jumps all made from felled trees.

More advanced riders will want to hang around the Grouse Mountain lift for trees, bumps, and access to Royal Elk Glade—a gated out-of-bounds area.

Alpine riders will feel right at home at The Beav. The Centenial Express runs straight up the front of the mountain and offers a variety of intermediate slopes. Try Gold Dust for high-speed rollers, or Harrier for crowdless high-speed carving.

Beginners should head to the top of the mountain because the resort actually flattens out up there. Drink Of Water has some of the best green runs anywhere—it’s easy, perfectly groomed, and about five times the length of a typical bunny slope so you don’t have to stop just as you’re getting your rhythm.

Beaver Creek grew a lot bigger when it combined with Arrowhead resort via Bachelor Gulch. The westward expansion increased the resort’s size by about 600 acres of mostly mellow groomed runs and tight trees.

The village of Beaver Creek is all about being a quaint family setting. An ice rink along with a plethora of shops and boutiques are pleasant diversions. Many fine restaurants are the extent of the resort’s nightlife. Go to the Rendezvous or Coyote Cafe for aprés-ride socializing, or catch a bus to Vail (25 minutes) for more excitement.