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The Complete Guide to Keystone Resort for Beginners and Families

Summit County is a skiers (and snowboarders) paradise. There are 5 different ski resorts in a 15-mile radius and while Breckenridge and Vail may be more well-known, Keystone has a unique charm to it that doesn’t compare to the other resorts. Keystone is one of the best resorts for beginners and families for many reasons. Read on to find out why…

This winter season, we spent a few months in Summit County, Colorado so we could learn to ski and snowboard.

We were total newbies at skiing and snowboarding so we wanted to make sure we picked a resort that would be perfect for us to learn at.

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I found that there was a HUGE difference when it came to learning skiing vs snowboarding at these two resorts.

I hope this review helps other beginners, families, and anyone headed out to Keystone or Breckenridge for winter skiing and riding find the perfect resort for their trip.

Keystone Resort

River Run Village

Have you seen how cute the village of Keystone is?

One of my favorite parts of Keystone is how cute the village of River Run is. It reminds me of being in Europe. There are many food options from cafes and bars to full menu restaurants and fast food options like pizza and crepes. Most are not cheap so be prepared to spend some money.

River Run village reminds me of being back in Europe

There are two large fire pits in River Run Village where you can relax and mingle. The courtyard area also has fun games set up as well as a playground.

Money Saving + Healthy Living Tip: The nearest grocery store, City Market, is 8 miles away in Dillon. Or if you are looking for healthier options, there is a Whole Foods in Frisco.

Grab Our Free Ski Trip Pack List + Unbiased Snow Outfit Guide:

Mountain House

Mountain House is the other main base area at Keystone. There is a lodge for food and a medical center. There isn’t as great of an ambiance to hang out here, but it is good if you want to avoid crowds.

The lines to get on the lifts, Argentine and Peru Express are typically shorter than the lines at River Run.

There is also a learning area at the base of Mountain House, which is good if you aren’t skiing but your kids are just learning.

Gondola to Dercum Mountain

River Run is where you access the Gondola and Summit Express, which takes you to the top of Dercum Mountain where many of the runs start from.

The beginner learning area is also located on Dercum as well as Summit House restaurant. Dercum Mountain also gives you access to the backside of Keystone, North Peak, and The Outpost, where there are many blue and black runs.

I love when we get the gondola to ourselves and can be crazy!

This Gondola requires purchasing a lift ticket, which makes it hard if part of your family isn’t skiing because they can’t ride. The line can get long, but they offer an express line for families with kids under 12 which is highly appreciated.

Keystone or Breckenridge: Which resort is better for families and beginners?
When you’re tired and hungry, head into Summit House where they serve food and alcohol.

I prefer riding the Gondola to the top of the mountain. Not only are the views outstanding, but you get to stay a little warmer than if you take the express chairlift.

One of the coolest parts of Keystone is that there is a learning area at the top of the mountain, which means you have epic views while learning to ski or ride.

The only downside is that the learning area is small and can get crowded which can be difficult when you’re trying to learn.

Keystone or Breckenridge: Which resort is better for families and beginners?
Endeavor is a great place to learn to ski on a non-busy day. The views are incredible and my younger kids loved riding the magic carpet ride.

Getting To and Around Keystone

There are free Keystone buses that can get you from East Keystone to River Run to Mountain House. The free Summit Stage bus can take you east to A-Basin and west to Dillon, Silverthorne, Frisco, and Breckenridge. The bus system is amazing and makes it convenient to stay or park anywhere in Summit County.

Related: How to use the Free Bus System in Summit County

Keystone is right off the I-70 so if you are coming in from Denver, it is quick to get here. However, I wouldn’t let that be the only factor in deciding where to go because driving through Summit County is a treat for the senses.

Parking at Keystone

I like that parking is so easy at Keystone. There is a huge (did I mention FREE) parking lot right in front of River Run so you don’t even need to use the busses.

With little kids and all their ski equipment, even the close parking lot can be a long walk to the gondola and express lift. There are wagons you can use for free to haul all their stuff.

I think it’s much easier to park at the free Powerline Lot (a mile away from the resort) because then the bus drops you right at the gondola.

If it’s a crowded weekend, you might want to head straight to the North Shuttle Lot where there is more parking, and take the free shuttle in. I like that it drops first at Mountain House which has a less crowded bunny hill and fast access to Schoolmarm when you are ready to tackle a green route (see more info on runs below).

If you don’t mind paying for parking, the Hunki Dori lot will put you just steps from the Gondola. Mountain House also has paid parking just steps from the Peru and Argentine lifts.

Related Blog: Best Exercises For Skiers

Lodging at Keystone

Keystone offers more than 700 condominium-style accommodations and the free busses make it easy to stay anywhere and get quick access to the slopes and village.

If you are trying to save money by staying down in Dillon, you can still take the free bus but it takes a full half hour to forty-five minutes for the Summit County bus to get to Keystone. Worth it though if it saves you a few hundred dollars.

Note: Keystone has a separate free bus system within the resort to get you around quickly between lots and lodges.

One benefit of booking your stay through Keystone Lodge is that kids 12 and under get free lift passes when you stay for 2 nights or longer. You also get free ice skating and free access to the Nordic Center, and you can hop on the gondola every Friday before it opens up to the general public.

keystone resort lodging
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Staying at one of the Keystone Lodges may be nice if there are people in your group who don’t ski. There’s a spa and fitness facility at Keystone Lodge offering massage, facials, manis, and pedis, as well as a fitness center open 24/7 and yoga classes.

Keystone also offers scenic and dinner sleigh rides, snow tubing at Adventure Point, Mountaintop Family Adventure Tours in a snowcat, ice skating, and more even if your entire party doesn’t want to ski or ride, you will still enjoy your time here at Keystone.

For The Kids

Keystone offers an entire program called Kidtopia geared for kids and much of it is free with your lift pass. There’s a play area in River Run, a snow fort at the top of the Dercum mountain, and free cookies for kids of all ages every day. Plus, there are other daily activities like movies, snowshoeing, parades, and a lot more.

Click here for complete Kidtopia programs.

Green Runs For Beginners

Keystone has three main learning areas, Endeavor and Scout, which are at the top of Dercum Mountain, and Discovery, which is by the base at Mountain House. The first part of Endeavor has a magic carpet ride making it a super easy place to first learn.

On a weekday and early in the season, Endeavor was a good place to learn, but not good when it’s crowded.

Once my kids mastered the basics here, we moved over to Scout and the full run of Endeavor, which are nice progressions before you are ready to tackle Schoolmarm. These are fun and easy runs, but very short runs. Once you start getting the hang of skiing/riding and can get down the hill moderately fast, you will feel like you are standing in the lift line a lot.

Keystone or Breckenridge: Which resort is better for families and beginners?
Tati skiing down Scout. It was her favorite run at Keystone!

Keystone is famous for its green run, Schoolmarm. It’s almost 4 miles long and has some nice drops broken up with some flatter sections making it a good run to get started on but, and this is huge, it feels like a highway.

Being one of the very few green runs at Keystone, there are so many skiers and snowboarders flying down despite it being a family/slow zone.  As a newbie, this was a bit unnerving and it felt very dangerous to take my 8-year-old down this when she was first learning.

Keystone is not the best spot for beginner skiers who are looking to get off the bunny slopes and ride greens.

On top of that, besides Schoolmarm, there aren’t many other beginner routes once you are off the bunny slopes. 

Keystone is a great place to learn to snowboard if you are a teenager or adult.

Keystone or Breckenridge: Which resort is better for families and beginners?
Gabi and Isabelle love snowboarding at Keystone

Blue Runs For Intermediates

Now if you are not a beginner skier or if you are learning to snowboard as a teen or adult, Keystone is great. My two teenage daughters loved learning to snowboard at Keystone because Schoolmarm does have some steeper sections, which helps when you are learning to snowboard.

Complete Guide to Keystone Resort
When you hit the blues at Keystone, the crowds dissipate and it’s just you and the snow

If you’re confident riding blue runs, then you will love the wide variety of rolling blue terrain Keystone offers. If you are capable of riding this slightly more difficult terrain, you’ll find that Keystone can often be uncrowded.

Once you are at the top of the gondola, you can take the Outpost Lift and access North Peak which has a lot of blue and black runs that are rarely crowded.

Tip: Alcohol doesn’t start pouring until 11 am so it’s worth it to get on the mountain early before some riders become a little intoxicated.

Related Blog: 25 Things to do in Summit County in Winter Besides Ski


  • The quaintness of River Run is awesome and even if you don’t make it here to ski or ride, I encourage you to find an excuse to attend a summer or winter festival.
  • There are a lot of great options if you are an intermediate skier or rider.
  • Great families with kids who already know how to ski or ride.
  • Great for learning to snowboard, especially for teens and adults.
  • Epic views from the bunny slopes on the top of Dercum Mountain.


  • Cost. It can be really expensive to stay here and to get the most out of Keystone, you should be ready to partake in all the fun.
  • This could be a pro, but Keystone feels like a destination in itself. You aren’t close to many other options. I’m not a ClubMed type traveler so that is why this would be a con, but if all-inclusive feel is your type of travel, then you’ll love it.
  • Few green runs and not the best runs for beginner skiers.
  • Can’t get access to the views without a lift pass.
Keystone or Breckenridge: Which resort is better for families and beginners?
Tati and Jiraiya loved their time at Keystone Resort


I think Keystone is great if you can afford to immerse yourself in all they offer. If you can afford it AND are going to make time to do the kids’ activities, a family vacation here can be a great bonding experience (#notsponsored btw).

It’s great for TOTAL beginners or intermediates and above. Not good for Green-run riders.

Click here to compare this with our review of Breckenridge Resort.

Don’t Forget To Grab our Free Ski Resources:

Ski Keystone with the Epic Pass

This winter season, we thought we were going to live in Summit County, Colorado and so we wanted ski passes for the season. There were three options:

  • The Keystone Plus pass from Epic (which gives you access to Keystone, and Breckenridge starting in April, and 5 days at Crested Butte)
  • Add on Breckenridge Access to make it the Summit Value Pass
  • Upgrade to the full Epic Pass and get access to dozens of ski resorts outside of Summit County as well.

Related Blog: Best Ski Passes Compared: Epic vs Ikon vs Indy

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Complete Guide to Keystone Resort

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Tuesday 17th of January 2023

And yes - the costs! At the Summit House a simple bacon cheeseburger or veggie burger is $24 and a side of fries $9... Next door in Loveland, it's basically 1/2 that price and much better for beginner skiers (although not the same scenic panorama).


Tuesday 17th of January 2023

That is crazy! We are using the Indy Pass and it's very cheap for the tickets. I don't eat at the lodges but I did notice that at Pomerelle the other day, a basic cheeseburger was only about $6. And you can park just steps away from the lifts and restaurant for free. That pass is great for beginners too. Brundage and Tamaracks have views equal to Keystone too. Just mentioning for anyone who reads this later. I know how hard it is to decide where to ski and how much money is "worth it". One day we will get to Loveland and check it out. Thanks again for the updates.


Tuesday 17th of January 2023

We just visited today and wanted to mention that the Hunki Dori lot is closed permanently. A posh hotel will take its place..

The Powerline Lot actually works very well. Shuttles are running all the time and we had zero wait time. Indeed, the shuttle stop is closer to the gondola than the other lots mentioned. Also, there is a restroom right there at the Powerline Lot.


Tuesday 17th of January 2023

Another posh hotel!! Because we need more of those. Thanks for the updated info on the Powerline Lot and shuttle stops.


Wednesday 16th of March 2022

I’ve been to Winterplace in West Virginia. Schoolmarm at Keystone feels like a solid blue compared to east-coast ski resorts - and one that never seems to end. I’ve skied blue runs in WV and found Schoolmarm at the very edge of my abilities - took me 90 minutes to do what would normally take someone more experienced closer to 20 minutes or less.

Christie Hayden

Wednesday 9th of March 2022

FYI, some of the items offered for kids are not currently available. This is extremely disappointing because we’re here now with a 4 and 6 year old expecting a snow fort and lots of kids stuff and Keystone doesn’t address the fact these things are all shut down. Unfortunately a disappointing trip.


Thursday 10th of March 2022

I’m sorry about that. It must be very frustrating. Thanks for letting me know and I’ll update the blog. It’s really too bad because we are up at Whitefish MT & everything is open.

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