On an early winter morning in Beaver Creek’s McCoy Park, the only sound to break through the crisp air is the crunching of snowshoes on unbroken trail. In every direction, snow crystals glisten beneath the Colorado sunshine, sparkling on the surface of the powder like diamonds.
Nate Goldberg knows these trails well. As the Nordic Sports Director of Beaver Creek, he shares that even after countless hours spent on all the routes, they never get old.
He steadily leads the way as we snowshoe up Middle Atlas Traverse — through aspen trees and animal tracks — and then onto Upper Atlas Traverse to the top of Sanctuary Loop, finishing our near-hour ascent from 9,840 feet in elevation to at now 10,300 feet above it all.
“I consider this to be one of Beaver Creek’s best kept secrets,” he said while we scanned the expanse of land all around us.
McCoy Park is unique, because although it’s connected to a bustling ski resort, it’s as peaceful and pristine as wilderness gets. The area is made up of 32 kilometers of groomed trails, accessed by the Strawberry Park Express Lift and the Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express. The park is open daily through April 7, from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. (It’s important to note that the final download for the lifts is at 4 p.m.).
So, why would you ride a lift up a mountain and then put your snowshoes on? It seems kind of like cheating, right? With the lift to McCoy Park, however, it’s like the boost you get when you drive to a faraway trailhead: you save time, and energy, getting to where the views really get good. That’s certainly the case with McCoy, as there are stunning mountain views from the moment you get off the lift and strap on your snowshoes.
“One of my favorite snowshoe routes in McCoy Park is taking Morningstar trail to the deeply forested areas of Upper Atlas Traverse, where photo options are abundant,” says Laurie Hardmeyer, Beaver Creek Nordic Sports Center guide. “On a fresh powder day, with the trees heavily laden with snow, letting out at Sanctuary and onto the Overlook trail, you realize you are standing upon one of the most beautiful places on earth.”
Get Your Gear and a Guide
If you need to get gear for your adventure, the Beaver Creek Nordic Sports Center is located at the bottom of the Strawberry Park Express Lift. This outfitter and guide service has what you need to get ready to explore the area by way of snowshoeing, nordic skiing or telemark skiing.
“I think the big thing is that people understand that there are active alternatives if you’re not an alpine skier or snowboarder — that’s the void that we fill,” Goldberg said.
The Nordic Sports Center gets return guests, year after year, shares Goldberg, and even daily throughout their vacation.
“People come in for the first day, and they’ll come back all week,” he says. “That’s the cool thing about the shop, is that because we’re a little smaller, we get to know people by name.”
The center keeps up with necessary upgrades for all their gear — which is a lot, between the fleets of snowshoes, snowshoe boots, classic cross-country skis, skate skis and telemark skis. Goldberg says about a third of the gear is replaced every year.
“We try to keep up with changing technologies in the variety of equipment,” he explains.
Group tours and lessons, as well as private sessions, are available for all the sports. On Tuesday afternoons from 4 to 5:30 p.m., the center offers a free Nature Valley Family Snowshoes Tour. The session lasts for about an hour, and then guests come back and can enjoy cookies and hot chocolate.
Melinda Marcus, of Dallas, Texas, has been coming on annual trips to Beaver Creek for nearly a decade. She says she appreciates McCoy Park for its innate beauty, and also because it makes it so easy for everyone to take advantage of a variety of snow sports during a winter vacation.
“I love McCoy,” she shares. “It’s one of my favorite places on earth. I love that it’s one of the few places that you can be within nature and still feel safe, and still feel all the incredible beauty around you.”
The Nordic Center sells select equipment and accessories, too. So, once you find your groove with gear, you may want to make an investment in a snowsport.
“I usually bring my own equipment, but when I first started, I rented,” Marcus says. “The Nordic Center was very helpful — they are such experts there. So when I was buying tele equipment they recommended what kind of gear to get.”
Beaver Creek Nordic Center Price Sheet (as of Dec 2018)
McCoy Park Track Access (Passes are available for McCoy Park only, which exclude the Beaver Creek ski slopes):
- Adults — $42
- Children (12 and under) — $29
Mix and match cross country lessons, snowshoe tours and Telemark lessons at a discounted price. Choose three half-day lessons from $287.
- Nature snowshoe tour: offered daily in mornings and afternoons – $116
- Fit Tour (intermediate): 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays (reservation required) – $116
- Winter Wine Excursion: 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays (reservation required)- $185
- Complimentary family snowshoe tour: 4 – 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays — FREE
- 2-hour, 3-hour or full-day private instruction available daily by reservation — $323-$681
Kim Fuller is a writer based in Vail, Colorado.