Keystone — Mountain layout
Keystone has three peaks, one behind another. In front is Dercum Mountain, named to honor Max and Edna Dercum, who pioneered the resorts founding. Dercum is laced with beginner and intermediate terrain, plus some expert glades on its backside. In the middle is North Peak, and finally, The Outback. Other than one snaking green-circle trail, these latter peaks have just blue and black terrain. This makes it easy to stay on trails where you belong, instead of ending up on a trail that scares you out of your wits.
Heres a larger, more detailed trail map.
You won’t find any double-diamonds here. For the most challenge, head to The Outback—a mix of open bowls, trails and glades. The quartet of Timberwolf, Bushwacker, Badger and The Grizz allow tree fans to pick how tight they want their forest. They also get massive bumps. Reach the two short black-diamond bowls here with a 10-minute hike from the top of the Outback Express. (This in-bounds terrain tops out at 12,408 feet, more than what’s listed in the stat box, where we list lift-served terrain.)
North Peak is generally tamer than The Outback and is a great spot for working on technique and steeps. Star Fire, though rated blue, is a superb steep, groomed run, and a good warm-up for this area. Then head to black-diamond bump runs such as Ambush, Powder Cap or Bullet. Break your own tracks through the trees directly beneath the Santiago Express or duck into Bullet Glades for an adrenaline rush. Another stash of trees, called The Windows, requires a short hike from the bottom of the Outpost Gondola (off Dercums back side).
Don’t like to hike but still want to get into the backcountry? Keystone Adventure Tours operates two cats (weather dependent) for a little taste of a backcountry experience while staying in-bounds. Snowcats leave from both the top of the Outpost Gondola and The Outback, giving you two choices: Make reservations and ski with two guides in Bergman, Erickson and Independence Bowls all day, or take a snowcat to the Outback bowls for unguided descents. Either way, this is about the most affordable cat skiing you can get (see Lift Tickets for prices). Keep in mind that snow conditions can change in a heartbeat and powder ski tours don always yield powder. What makes it worthwhile is the lack of crowds, potentially finding some untracked snow and getting above treeline (theres no other way to do that at Keystone without hiking).
You have the run of the three mountains, with appropriate terrain on each. Dercum has runs such as Paymaster, Wild Irishman, Frenchman and Flying Dutchman that play with God-given terrain. The twists and natural steeps on these cruisers represent trails at their best—they obviously did not have their character bulldozed out of them. Snowmaking covers the majority of Dercum’s trails and the grooming ranks among the best in the country.
The Mountain House base area has three chairlifts that take skiers up the mountain. The other base area, River Run, is the lower station of the River Run Gondola. The gondola serves the night-skiing area. The resort says it’s the largest single-mountain night ski operation in the United States.
Intermediates also can head to North Peak down Mozart, a wide blue run. Its width is essential, because it’s the main pathway to the two rear peaks and can get crowded. North Peak, Prospector and Last Alamo are the easiest of the blues, with Star Fire a good test for The Outback. If you think Star Fire is fun, not scary, head down Anticipation or Spillway to The Outback and play on the intermediate runs under the Outback Express chair. The advanced-intermediate glades to skiers left—Wolverine, Wildfire and Pika—are not as tough as the glades of the Black Forest but also not a spot for timid intermediates.
Stay on Dercum Mountain, where nearly a third of all beginner terrain lies. The best runs for beginners are the legendary and long Schoolmarm plus Silverspoon and Spring Dipper. True beginners should beware of that first plunge off the top onto Spring Dipper-for a short pitch, it’s blue, a bit steep and only for greenies graduating into their blue phase.
Confident beginners who want the experience of spectacular views and lunch at the on-mountain restaurant at Outpost Lodge can ski down afterwards via Prospector on North Peak. Prospector is blue, but about two-thirds of it are in a slow zone so it’s not too intimidating. Prospector merges with the slow zone on Mozart, but this trail is often crowded, so be alert. If you don’t want to try the blues here, take the Outpost Gondola back over to easier terrain.
Keystone has a learning center at the top of Dercum Mountain, with two learning runs and a triple chairlift. Instructors who teach first-timers highly recommend the Discovery Learning Area, home to a self-contained kids’ ski school. It’s a large, wide-open space protected from the wind and elements and is serviced by a chair and two moving carpets (a magic carpet recently replaced the T-bar). It’s less crowded than the rest of the mountain and is completely closed off to all other skiers, so it’s pretty darned safe.