SKIABLE ACRES, 6,914 (combined)
ANNUAL SNOWFALL, 346 inches (Vail)
LIFT TICKET, $73 (combined)
TALK ABOUT HIGH CONTRAST: These resorts may be virtually side by side, but they don't see eye to eye. Vail is the gold standard for manicured pistes and big bowls, regularly making it one of the country's most popular destinations, while Beaver Creek is more of a sedate escape with a profusion of secret stashes.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Via the combo of dry snow and friendly terrain, intermediates feel advanced—and experts feel untouchable (if they didn't already). Roughly half of the resorts' vast terrain is taken up by the famous Back Bowls, at Vail, and Beaver Creek's long, challenging Talons, many of which cut through the trees.
NUMBER-ONE RUN: On Vail's Ledges, the steep bits run 300 feet, then level out and let you regain your wind, then drop another 300, and so on—descending for more than a mile, all the way home. At Beaver Creek, Harrier rolls off the west shoulder of Spruce Saddle, becoming a wide, hilly cruiseway perfectly pitched for GS turns.
HOT LODGE: The Austrian-style Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer has been au courant for 40 years. The 38 rooms are arrayed with knee-deep down comforters and traditional woodwork, game dishes are served up in the cozy Antlers dining room, and high indulgence awaits at the steam room, sauna, and two indoor hot tubs. (Doubles, $195-$245; 800-610-7374, www.pepis.com)
SOUL PATCH: Don't miss the Colorado Ski Museum: Dig the roots of modern snow sports and revisit such luminaries as World War II heroes/powder hounds the Tenth Mountain Division, among others.