Thanksgiving holiday tradition starts with the cookie contest in Beaver Creek |

Thanksgiving holiday tradition starts with the cookie contest in Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek's chocolate chip cookie mascot greets fans on Wednesday, Nov. 21. The cookie contest is the first of several Thanksgiving holiday festivities to take place in Beaver Creek each year.
John LaConte |

BEAVER CREEK — For many families who make a tradition of visiting Eagle County on Thanksgiving, the feast started Wednesday, Nov. 21, with the 15th annual World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Competition.

Many families also enjoy Opening Day at Beaver Creek as part of the tradition, but this year the ski resort was already well open by Thanksgiving, a result of ample snowfall and cold temperatures.

Some families, such as the Sugdens, of Iowa, are experiencing their first Thanksgiving in the area.

“A co-worker of mine has a family tradition to come here for Thanksgiving, but she wasn’t able to make it this year, so we’re stepping in,” Rob Sugden said on Wednesday while visiting Beaver Creek with his daughter, 8-year-old Ella Sugden.

Other families have become experts on the Eagle County Thanksgiving experience. Visiting from Evergreen on Wednesday, Chris Gross and his kids Johnny, 11, and Mari, 7, took advantage of one of the best deals in the valley, the Beaver Creek ice rink. The cost is $5 for unlimited use from noon to 9 p.m. if you bring your own skates, and the Gross family brought their own skates.

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“It’s perfect having the ice rink right here,” Chris Gross said.

Olson Batchelor, 8, of Denver, knows Beaver Creek well. He brought his grandmother Elaine, who came in from Maryland, to the World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Competition on Wednesday. The event started at 2 p.m. with five different booths offering about 1,000 cookies each; Olson and his grandmother arrived at Suzie Cunningham’s “Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookie” booth at about 1:15 p.m., where they were first in line.

“We have two family members at each booth, and then we all bring in the cookies and collect together again and try the samples,” Olson said. “But first I’ll take a good solid bite.”

Before getting in line, “We read the book and decided this sounds like our favorite,” Elaine said.

Cunningham said she wasn’t surprised to see her booth picked based on her cookie’s name, as having the word “pudding” in the name is indeed enticing.

“Obviously the secret ingredient is the pudding, it makes it nice and soft an chewy,” Cunningham said.

An Edwards local, Cunningham participated in the cookie contest for the first time in 2018, and was able to make it to the final round of five, which had been narrowed down from 15 entrants.

“I was so excited to find out I was a finalist,” she said. “The biggest challenge was making them under 2 inches.”


Cookie competition winner Kyle Smothers said his big challenge also turned out to be the size of the cookies.

“I tried a few different recipes; the recipe was easier to nail down than the size of the cookies,” he said.

A native of Florida, Smothers just moved to the valley in August to work as a pastry chef at Grouse Mountain Grill. He said one the restaurant’s former owners, Nancy Dowell, convinced him to enter the cookie contest.

Smothers’ “The Brawny Baker’s Milk Chocolate Chip Cookie” was crunchy and a little salty, a different take on the sweet and chewy varieties which often make it to finals. Smothers said he used more granulated sugar than brown sugar and added sea salt to balance out the sweet milk chocolate.

“I was honored just to be in the top five” he said. “To win is absolutely amazing.”

He won $1,000 for the effort.


When the Bachelor Gulch lift is open before Thanksgiving in Beaver Creek, you know the season is off to a good start.

Beaver Creek started the season on Nov. 17 with top-to-bottom skiing and both the Cinch and Red Buffalo lifts running, and was able to open Bachelor Gulch on Wednesday, as well, bringing the total terrain to more than 330 acres.

Forecasters are calling for 6 to 12 inches in Vail and Beaver Creek from Friday night through Sunday morning, and say another snowy pattern could arrive as November comes to a close.

Beaver Creek continues its Thanksgiving tradition on Friday, Nov. 23, with a Thanksgiving wine excursion at 11:30 a.m. The guided snowshoe tour and wine pairing adventure begins with a ride up the Strawberry Park Express chairlift to McCoy Park, where all ability levels can enjoy a guided snowshoe tour while taking in the views. Following the tour, The Osprey Fireside Grill welcomes guests to enjoy an assortment of charcuterie and select wines.

Also Friday, the annual tree lighting ceremony will give guests their first taste of the Christmas holiday season. Santa will be available for visits from children at the Powder 8 Kitchen & Tap in Park Hyatt Hotel in Beaver Creek from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Then from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., Santa will be available once again for pictures with kids at the Fountain Stage in Beaver Creek plaza. The tree lighting ceremony will also take place in the plaza from 5 p.m to 7 p.m.

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