The notion of bowl skiing conjures up images of vast open areas with panoramic vistas in a remote corner of a ski area that feels distinctly separate from the rest of the resort. Because it feels secluded, it imparts a sense of serenity. The terrain is mostly kept in its natural state with only minimal trail cutting, enhancing the illusion of wilderness.
Bowl skiing can be intimidating for beginners and intermediates, though. It tends to be steep, and slopes can be mostly ungroomed, if not completely so. Without trees for reference points, bowls can be a little scary in flat light. And while they can be magical places for advanced skiers and riders on powder days, most beginners and many intermediates aren’t comfortable in ungroomed powder.
Beaver Creek’s new 250-acre terrain expansion into McCoy Park, which opened this week, is a great place for beginners and intermediates to get a feel for what bowl skiing is like. McCoy Park is a natural bowl, but the slopes are low in slope angle with 14 green beginner runs and three blues for intermediates. There are glades where intermediates can get a feel for tree skiing on mellow slopes.
In pretty much every other way, McCoy Park checks all the boxes on the list of what makes bowl skiing so special. There are gorgeous views on wide-open slopes, and it truly feels set apart from the busyness of Beaver Creek’s main mountain. Once you drop into McCoy Park, there’s only one way out, and that’s by taking a lift back to the front side of the mountain.
Jeff Luker, a Beaver Creek property owner, skied McCoy Park during Monday’s grand opening and said it made him feel like he was in the backcountry.
“It’s incredible,” Luker said. “From when you arrive at the entry point, you ski down (into the bowl) and you don’t realize until later that you’ve just skied into the Enchanted Forest. It is a totally different experience. You experience the groomed trails, but also the open meadows and the glades. You would never know that you were in the same resort. The vistas are entirely different. It’s like a resort within a resort.”
Before this winter, Beaver Creek utilized part of McCoy Park for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Those trails essentially encircled the bowl, overlooking the slopes below that are now open for downhill skiing. Two lifts were built last summer: the McCoy Park Express, which runs from the bottom of the bowl to the top, and the Reunion Lift, which takes skiers out of the bowl and back to the main mountain.
As a result, Beaver Creek skiers are being treated to two gorgeous views they likely have never seen before. One, at the top of the bowl, takes in some dramatic peaks of the Sawatch Range and a steep drop-off just past Beaver Creek’s boundary ropes. Located there is a new grab-and-go lunch spot with a back deck, Eaton Haus. It’s named for Earl Eaton, who discovered slopes that one day would become Vail.
Eaton Haus isn’t one of those massive dining monstrosities that sit atop so many ski mountains. It’s tasteful and small — not much bigger than a two-car garage — with a limited menu. It’s perfect for the environment that surrounds it.
The other view that will wow McCoy Park skiers takes in the jagged peaks of the Gore Range to the north. It’s simply stunning.
There are still 20 kilometers of cross country and snowshoeing trails on the ridges above the bowl, so a family of downhill skiers, snowboarders, cross country skiers and snowshoers can enjoy McCoy Park in their own way and meet up for lunch. McCoy Park has something for everyone — except for skiers and riders who crave steep expert runs. And there’s plenty of that elsewhere at Beaver Creek.
Corrie Crane skied it Monday and went back Wednesday and Thursday, even though she typically prefers steeper slopes.
“That’s how much I enjoyed it,” said Crane, who lives in Avon. “It’s just a beautiful, peaceful location with gorgeous views of the Gore, which everybody in the valley is psyched about. I used to snowshoe back there and I loved it for that serenity and peacefulness.”
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