Keystone Resort

Keystone Resort is a ski resort located in Keystone, Colorado, United States. Since 1997 the resort has been owned and operated by Vail Resorts. It consists of three mountains – Dercum Mountain, North Peak, the Outback – and five Bowls (Independence, Erickson, Bergman, North and South Bowls) offering skiing at all levels. The three mountains are connected by a series of ski lifts and gondolas. Keystone offers night skiing on Dercum Mountain during the Thanksgiving holiday and mid-December through March.[1]

Keystone Resort
Keystone Resort Logo.svg
River Run Village Fireworks, Keystone, CO.jpg
Keystone Resort is located in Colorado
Keystone Resort
Keystone Resort
Location in Colorado
Keystone Resort is located in the United States
Keystone Resort
Keystone Resort
Keystone Resort (the United States)
LocationWhite River National Forest
Summit County, Colorado, United States
Nearest major cityKeystone, Colorado
Coordinates39°36′18″N 105°57′15″W / 39.60500°N 105.95417°W / 39.60500; -105.95417Coordinates: 39°36′18″N 105°57′15″W / 39.60500°N 105.95417°W / 39.60500; -105.95417
Vertical  3,128 ft (953 m)
Top elevation12,408 feet (3,782 m)
Base elevation9,280 feet (2,830 m)
Skiable area3148 acres (12.7km²)
Runs135 total
(19% beginner
32% intermediate
49% advanced)
Longest runSchoolmarm - 3.5 miles (5.6 km)
Lift system20 total (2 gondolas, 11 chair lifts (two high speed six packs, four high speed quads, one fixed grip quad, one triple chairlift, three double chairlifts), seven surface lifts)
Snowfall230 in/year (5.8 m/year)
Snowmaking662+ acres
Night skiing15 trails

Keystone is known also for its five-acre resurfaced skating lake, sleigh rides and several Zagat-rated four- and five-star restaurants. There are over 3,000 condos in Keystone, all within a short walk or free shuttle ride to one of the two base areas called River Run and Mountain House.

In summer, Keystone provides lift access for mountain hiking, events and hundreds of miles of single-track mountain biking.


In the 1940s, Max Dercum left his job as a forestry professor and ski racing coach at Penn State University to work for the Forest Service as a forester and fire spotter in Colorado. He and his wife Edna first lived in Georgetown before settling on a ranch, just outside the village of Keystone. They quickly developed a reputation for having fun. From sledding down Loveland Pass at night, with the following car’s headlights the only illumination, to Max’s turn as a rodeo clown at the summer rodeo, to the clarinet and piano music they would entertain with, fun was the Dercums’ business.[2]

But more than anything, they loved skiing. They skied at the Climax Mine, Loveland and Berthoud Passes, Loveland Ski Area and Steamboat. After a race at Loveland Pass, Max filed mining claims for land around an alpine cirque that he hoped to develop into a ski area. Along with Larry Jump (10th Mountain Division) and Sandy Schauffler they developed Arapahoe Basin into a ski area which opened in December 1946. Max served as the "Head Coach" of the ski school and Edna quickly followed as the first female instructor at the school.

Founding the ResortEdit

From the porch at the Dercums’ Ski Tip Ranch (named after the broken ski tips, which were repurposed into door handles) Max and Edna overlooked Keystone Mountain. With his knowledge of forestry and skiing, Max determined that it would be a perfect place for a ski area. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Max hiked every inch of the mountain, drawing up plans for the area. He even created a papier-mâché model of the mountain ranges and painted his dream ski area on it. After discussing this dream at a New Year’s party (1968-1969), Bill Bergman, a corporate lawyer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also fell in love with the idea of Keystone. At 3 am New Year’s Day, Bill and Max made a handshake deal to found Keystone International, with a goal to create a year round mountain resort.

The summers of 1969 and 1970 was nothing but action and activity. Bill and Max wanted to respect the mountain environment and history of the area in the development of a year-round resort. They hired lumbermen to hand cut the ski trails, which Max laid out to follow the natural contours of the mountain. Rather than build additional roads on the mountain, they utilized the old timber and mining roads and installed the lift towers with helicopters. To preserve the views in the village, the Keystone Lodge’s lobby was placed even with the highway, but it is on the 5th floor, with the rest of the hotel facing the mountain, descending to the Snake River. A wetland easement was also included in the development so no building would be directly on the Snake River.[3]

Keystone opened on November 21, 1970 and a lift ticket cost $5 opening season.

1976 Winter OlympicsEdit

Independence Mountain was an Olympic finalist and nearly selected for the signature alpine skiing downhill event for the ill-fated 1976 Winter Olympic Games initially awarded to Denver, USA. Lands owned by the Denver Water Board at the base of Independence Mountain were given serious consideration by the Forest Service as an alternative second base area for Keystone ski area to reduce vehicle and skier congestion at the existing portals, and as an alternative ski lift connection and new portal serving the backside of Arapahoe Basin ski area. Speculation about conflicts in the Snake River Valley with the lynx reintroduction program stifled further study and land allocation. Prior to formal expansion of Keystone ski area onto Independence Mountain this terrain was under permit by multiple guide and outfitters in the 1970s and 80s using snowcats and helicopters for alpine skiing.

North Peak expansionEdit

North Peak opened for skiing in 1984. Two trails, Diamond Back and Mozart allow access to North Peak from Keystone Mountain. North Peak initially featured 7 trails, serviced by two Lift Engineering triple chairlifts. Santiago serviced the North Peak pod, while Teller provided egress back to Keystone Mountain. As part of the expansion, a second base area was opened at River Run, with a Lift Engineering gondola running all the way to the Summit House. This easterly expansion of Keystone Mountain also saw the introduction of several trails in the Spring Dipper area, and a new triple chairlift, Erickson, to service them.

Teller Lift AccidentEdit

The Teller Lift was a Yan 1000 model triple chair installed as part of the North Peak expansion. The following year the upper bullwheel disconnected from the main gearbox shaft. Faulty welding was blamed.[4] Two people were killed and 47 injured. The lift was rebuilt by Yan as the Ruby lift, free of charge. Settlements between Yan and injured skiers topped over seven million dollars.

In 1986, the original River Run Gondola was removed and replaced with a new gondola constructed by Von Roll, reusing the original gondola terminals.


In 1990, Keystone entered the detachable industry as Doppelmayr constructed two high speed quads to replace aging lifts on Keystone Mountain. The Peru Express lift replaced a Heron Poma double, providing nonstop access from the Mountain House base area to the Packsaddle Bowl and west side of the mountain. It was supplemented by the Montezuma Express lift, which replaced a Yan triple chairlift and provided access to all trails on the upper and central part of Keystone Mountain.

In 1991, Keystone opened an expansion into the Outback, located beyond North Peak. Doppelmayr constructed three new lifts to service the expansion. A two-way gondola, known as the Outpost Gondola, was built from the summit of Keystone Mountain over to a new restaurant below the summit of North Peak. Within the expansion, a new high speed quad known as the Outback Express was built to service the Outback trails, and a fixed grip quad known as Wayback was built to service two access trails leading to the Outback as well as provide egress from the area.

In 1996, Vail Resorts announced plans to acquire Keystone and Breckenridge's parent company Ralston Resorts Inc. from Ralston Purina. The merger was approved by the U.S. Department of Justice on January 3, 1997.[5]

In 1997, the Erickson triple chairlift on Keystone Mountain was removed and replaced with a new Doppelmayr high speed quad. The Summit Express took over the Erickson lift's service area, running parallel to the River Run Gondola for its entire length. That same year, a new triple chairlift known as Ranger was built to open up a learning area just below the Summit House.

In 1998, the Santiago Express was built to replace the Santiago triple chairlift on North Peak.


In 2000, the original Ruby lift was removed and replaced with a high speed six pack. The Ruby Express was constructed by Poma, marking a departure from Keystone's use of Doppelmayr to build new chairlifts, and provided faster egress out of North Peak and the Outback.

In 2008, the River Run Gondola, nearing 22 years of continuous service, was retired and replaced with a new gondola. Doppelmayr constructed the replacement River Run Gondola, which had its base area terminal moved from adjacent to the Summit Express to a new location across the river, shortening the walking distance for guests. The new gondola also features a midstation a quarter of the way up the line, allowing guests to avoid the lower hill of the River Run access trail, as well as service a new learning area.

In 2014, the Outback Express was given a capacity upgrade to 2,400 pph, using chairs transferred over from the Peru Express and Montezuma Express lifts.

For the 2017 season, Keystone built their second high speed six pack, bringing in Leitner-Poma to replace the Montezuma Express lift. Parts from the old lift were relocated to Beaver Creek Resort and used to construct their Red Buffalo Express.

Resort statisticsEdit


  • Base: 9,280 feet (2,830 m)
  • Summit: 12,408 feet (3,782 m)
  • Vertical Rise: 3,128 feet (953 m)


  • Skiable Area: 3,148 acres (12.74 km2)
  • Trails: 135 total (19% beginner, 32% intermediate, 49% advanced/expert)
    • Bowls: Independence, Bergman, Erickson, North, and South
  • Longest Run: Schoolmarm - 3.5 miles (5.6 km)
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 230 inches (580 cm)
  • Terrain Parks:
    • The A51 Terrain Park, a section of the resort with various features including for trick performance.
    • 51 rails and funboxes.

Slope AspectsEdit

  • North: 47%[6]
  • East: 13%
  • West: 30%
  • South: 10%


  • 21 total
    • 2 gondolas, River Run and Outpost
    • 2 high-speed six person chair lifts, Montezuma Express, Ruby Express
    • 4 high-speed quad chair lifts, Summit Express, Peru Express, Santiago Express, Outback Express
    • 1 quad chair lift, Wayback
    • 1 triple chair lift, Ranger
    • 3 double chair lifts, A-51, Argentine, and Discovery
    • 8 surface lifts, 2 Midway Carpets, Kokomo Carpet, 2 Double Barrel Carpets, Triangle Carpet, Ski School Carpet, Tubing Hill Carpet

Terrain parkEdit

Keystone Resort features the "A51 Terrain Park" on Dercum Mountain, which has been noted as one of the more progressive terrain parks in the region.[7]

Summer activitiesEdit

During the summer, visitors to Keystone resort often participate in hiking, horseback riding, fly-fishing, whitewater rafting, paddle boat and stand up paddle board rentals and mountain biking.

Keystone Resort is also home to two 18-hole championship golf courses, The Ranch and River Run. The Ranch course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and is situated next to a historic ranching homestead.

USDA Forest ServiceEdit

Keystone ski area operates on National Forest System lands under special use permit to the Forest Service. The 30-year special use permit assigns to the permit holder only a portion of the bundle of rights normally associated with real estate ownership. For the privilege of using federal lands the ski area pays an annual fee of about one dollar per skier visitor to the U.S. Treasury. Twenty-five percent of those fees are returned to Summit County, Colorado, for roads and schools. The Forest Service approves all master development plan revisions, environmental impact statements, summer and winter operations plans, and construction plans prior to opening. The 1984 Land and Resource Management Plan and 2002 Revision, authored by Erik Martin, Program Manager for Ski Area Administration (1972–2003), WRNF, established the final expanded boundary perimeter for Keystone Resort, including eventual expansion of developed skiing onto Independence Mountain. The 2002 Forest Plan Revision suggested an aerial transportation corridor and south portal be constructed in the Swan Valley to provide direct access between Keystone ski area and the Town of Breckenridge to improve traffic safety, reduce vehicle congestion, decrease dust and hydrocarbon emissions, and increase skier convenience.


  1. ^ Terrain and Lift Status Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  2. ^ Strand., Dercum, Edna (1981). It's easy, Edna, it's downhill all the way. Carbondale, Colo.: Sirpos Press. ISBN 0960646000. OCLC 8721688.
  3. ^ Bergman, Bill. By Chance - The Founding of Keystone Resort.
  4. ^ UPI (December 18, 1985). "Faulty Weld Is Blamed For Ski Lift Accident". The New York Times. Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Best Ski Resorts: Keystone Resort Terrain, Snow Quality and Mountain Ranks". ZRankings. ZRankings, LLC. Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  7. ^ Annie Fast (December 3, 2009). "TransWorld's Top Ten Parks". Snowboarding Transworld. Retrieved June 16, 2018.

External linksEdit