Admit it, you’ve always wanted to visit Vail, if not to ski, then to rub shoulders with the rich and famous. There’s plenty of history, too; the town was built as the base village along with Vail Ski Resort, initially with housing for locals and lodging for visitors. During the 1976 Winter Games in Denver, Vail, along with nearby Beaver Creek, hosted downhill events. Notoriety does come with a price however – Vail seems a more expensive resort to visit (parking is twice as expensive at Vail as it is at Breckenridge, for example). It’s also pretty compact – from the parking garage to the base of the lifts is only a few blocks.
Just the facts, ma’am. Vail is the third largest ski mountain in North America; only Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia and Big Sky in Montana are larger. The base elevation is 8,120 ft. (2,476 m), with a vertical rise of 3,450 ft. (1,052 m). Total skiable terrain covers 5,289 acres (2,141 ha), which includes the Front Side, Back Bowls, and Blue Sky Basin. Vail is definitely geared towards the experienced skier, with trails skewed towards experts: 53% Expert/Advanced, 29% Intermediate, and only 18% Beginner. A pretty tough day for us skiing-wise, as Munchkin and the Little Worker both are hesitant, beginner skiers. Need more than just slopes? Vail features 3 Three Terrain Parks: Golden Peak (small, medium and large features), Bwana (small and medium features) and Pride (small and medium features). All parks have progressions suitable for each level of rider/skier. There is a 22’ Superpipe and also a 13’ Mini Halfpipe to get practice and build up your nerve to jump on the big one.
We met up with friends at the base of the Gondola, which is one of the main arteries up the mountain. Eldest sons from respective families are of similar ability, as are our daughters, so those pairings went off and did their thing with some oversight from the other dad. I skied with Munchkin initially while Laima tried to coax the Little Worker uphill. Conditions were not ideal, with spotty snow coverage in places and some icy conditions to start. Skiing was much better in the Back Bowls and in the Blue Sky Basin, according to later reports from the kids, but the front side had some issues.
After unexpectedly meeting up at the Mid-Vail terrace, Laima and I guided the boys down a Green run (Gitalong Road) that criss-crosses the face of the mountain, slowly wending its way to the bottom. At that point the Little Worker was finished, so he and I headed over to the Colorado Ski Museum, while Laima and Munchkin went back up to explore some more. The museum has some great displays, a bit static in my opinion, but we both loved seeing the progression of the technology. The town is mostly a mix of eateries, ski shops, and souvenir stores, with an old-time feel courtesy of the brick streets and Teutonic architecture – like a European resort was transported to Colorado.
Vail has a completely different feel than other resorts we’ve visited. As a first timer, I’m not sure exactly what I came away with. The town has a planned feel, yet has been around for many years, so does not feel fake or contrived. The mountain is definitely shaped for more experienced skiers, so for us, this might be a resort to save until everyone in the family is a more proficient skier. It was nice to visit a new place and ski unknown terrain, as well as meet up with friends far from home, as well as see the differences between the Vail Resorts we’ve visited.
Vail Resorts provided me with a complimentary media lift pass – all opinions are my own.