Beaver Creek on a Budget

Something seemed more than a little familiar to me about sitting around a fire ring at the base of Beaver Creek. I was certain that if I closed my eyes and clicked the heels of my ski boots three times I’d be teleported to Snowmass’ Base Village. I may have been thrown sideways by the surreal vision of skiers heading back to the lift with both poles in one hand and a stack of chocolate chip cookies in the other; or it may have just been the après-effects of the pitcher of margaritas we shared.

Doing a place like Avon/Beaver Creek at the height of ski season on a budget requires some creativity – you have to think like a local, and thankfully we had plenty of experience with that sort of thinking after two years in a tiny apartment in the Aspen core.

 The mountain at Beaver Creek is world-class. There’s a reason many of the runs are soaked with drool of FIS officials. The only problem with it is that Vail-Beaver Creek, like Aspen, knows how good their product is, and they charge accordingly. The lift-ticket sticker shock was almost enough to send us Carbondalians scurrying for Sunlight.

 

Fortunately, we were able to recoup some of our vacation cash by eating at 8100 Mountainside Bar and Grill at the base of the mountain where our pitcher of margs was only 19 bucks, and the burgers and other bar-style food were as affordable as they were delicious. There’s also the popular base-area tradition of chefs, dressed not un-like the Pillsbury dough boy, walking around with trays full of the best chocolate chip cookies this side of mom’s.

Our accommodations at the Christie Lodge in Avon were comfortably better than bohemian. I’ve stayed there from time to time for 30-odd years and witnessed a few remodels that never seemed to improve the place. The lodge features an indoor and outdoor pool, three Jacuzzis and a workout room in case your legs aren’t taxed enough from skiing. The rooms are smallish, but they do have kitchenettes which, combined with an actual full-size City Market two blocks away, helped defray our cost of eating out.

 

We did find some great places to get cheap grub, though. Having done our penance as penny-pinching Aspen locals, we tend to gravitate toward locals’ restaurants, and found two good ones right across the street from the lodge. Pazzo’s Pizzeria is a family-style pizza place with great pizza and a few video game machines to pass the time. The emphasis at Pazzo’s is on “family” though, so we expanded our search parameters to a place where we could tip back a few adult beverages with our meal. We found it right around the corner at Bob’s Place, which has nightly drink and food specials, and live music and karaoke on certain nights.

On our final night we skipped under the I-70 overpass to Northside Coffee Kitchen, which sounds like a greasy spoon but is actually a really nice restaurant. It features a three-course meal for $36.95 with several choices of appetizer, entrée and dessert. They also have a large variety of wines that you can get by the glass, half bottle or bottle. We chose a couple of glasses of pinot noir, and toasted the frugality of another great budget getaway.