Back from Vail - and missing it already!
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Scott - DCSki Editor
December 21, 2008
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,134 posts
Got back from Vail the other day, and conditions were un-freaking-believable. Powder skiing with fresh snow every day. The sun only came out once during the week, showing the Back Bowls in all their glory. (All other times, it was snowing.) I took the following shot in China Bowl:



I visited Vail with J.R. Patten, a fellow DCSki Columnist. J.R. will be writing a formal Firsthand Report. In the meantime, you can check out more photos from Vail on my blog at:

http://www.mscottsmith.org/

We spent most of the time skiing in the powder in the trees at China Bowl. I could do that every day of winter and not get bored!
janej
December 22, 2008
Member since 09/20/2004 🔗
42 posts
Hi Scott,

Nice picture. We are going to Vail in January. This is a our family's first trip there. Any tips to share? I booked airline ticket and lodging. I am still looking for lift ticket, ski rentals and lesson.

Thanks,

Jane
The Colonel - DCSki Supporter
December 22, 2008
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
3,104 posts
Scott,
Did you make it to the groomed glades over in Blue Sky Area?
The Colonel smile
JimK - DCSki Columnist
December 22, 2008
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,701 posts
Originally Posted By: Scott
un-freaking-believable!


Don't think I've ever seen you use that superlative before. Must have been something. smile
Scott - DCSki Editor
December 22, 2008
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,134 posts
Originally Posted By: The Colonel
Scott,
Did you make it to the groomed glades over in Blue Sky Area?
The Colonel smile


I did. I think they were near Big Rock Park, if I recall correctly. Lots of fun. Didn't spend too much time over at Blue Sky Basin, though -- by the time I made it all the way over there, I started getting cold!

It was cold cold cold. On the plus side, that kept the snow light and dry and powdery.
Scott - DCSki Editor
December 22, 2008
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,134 posts
Originally Posted By: janej
Hi Scott,

Nice picture. We are going to Vail in January. This is a our family's first trip there. Any tips to share? I booked airline ticket and lodging. I am still looking for lift ticket, ski rentals and lesson.

Thanks,

Jane


A few tips, in no particular order:

I made ski rental reservations in advance through rentskis.com. There are a number of rental locations near the slopes. I rented from Vail Sports, which is located at Arrabelle, right at the Lionshead base area. No complaints. They can hold the skis each night for you so you don't have to worry about lugging them back to the condo.

Check to see if there's any "stay free / ski free" type packages where you're lodging. You might be able to buy discounted lift tickets through the property.

If you like apple streudel, head to Pepi's (it's in Vail Village). They have some great apple streudel.

If you're staying at a condo, you can save on food by stocking up at the nearby Safeway or City Market. They're located in West Vail, off of I-70.

You'll find good mountaintop food at Two Elk Lodge. It's pricey, but not bad, and has a great view. Head there for a very early or very late lunch to avoid the crowds.

The gondola (from Lionshead base area) is free to ride in the evening. They have night tubing and other activities at the top of the mountain, but even if you don't plan to do those, it can be fun to ride the gondola up at night and see the views.

Your lift ticket will be valid at Keystone, Breckenridge, and Beaver Creek. For variety you can spend a day at one of those areas. (Keystone has night skiing on some of its slopes.) I didn't do that this trip, but was tempted to spend a day at Beaver, which is about 15-20 minutes west of Vail. (They have bus service between the areas.)

Be sure to check out the neat fountain/jumping water/fire feature in Vail Village. (Head through the pedestrian bridge and keep walking towards the mountain.)

There are gas grills on top of Blue Sky Basin. If you're industrious (and want to make everyone around you jealous), you can bring some food up and grill it. On a clear day you'll have one of the best views in Colorado.

Head to Game Creek in the morning, and when it starts getting crowded there (around 10:30-11 a.m.), you can head over to the Back Bowls. Game Creek has an impeccably groomed trail called Lost Boy that is a delight; it has great views and goes on and on. Simba (a blue on the far right of the front side of Vail) is a fun place to end a day; it's a great groomed cruiser.

Just a few tips off the top of my head...

Vail is incredible. You'll have a great time there and will have trouble going anywhere else in the future. It has something for everyone and conditions are almost always perfect. Main downside is that it can be pricey, but there seem to be lots of good deals this year. Vail is not immune from the current economic slowdown, and the base village seemed kind of dead at night. (Pepi's, normally a thriving apres ski joint, was nearly empty. That may be because it's still early season, but I think visits are off.)
oldensign - DCSki Columnist
December 23, 2008
Member since 02/27/2007 🔗
437 posts
Did you see Colin Cowherd of ESPN Fame. He was there same time frame and was raving about it on this show.
janej
December 23, 2008
Member since 09/20/2004 🔗
42 posts
Scott,

Thanks so much for the tips. I will print your reply out and take it with me. I am not used to a big mountain yet. It sounds so complicated. My family of 4 are advanced beginners. My husband and older son usually go to Blue trails while my younger one and I stay with Green unless we are in a class. I heard the Green trails there are as hard as the blue ones on East coast. Is there true? Will we find enough easy ones to enjoy?

We will have four days there. Should I plan for 4 days of skiing or one off day? It sounds like there are lots of other things to do.

Many thanks for your help,

Jane


Originally Posted By: Scott


A few tips, in no particular order:

I made ski rental reservations in advance through rentskis.com. There are a number of rental locations near the slopes. I rented from Vail Sports, which is located at Arrabelle, right at the Lionshead base area. No complaints. They can hold the skis each night for you so you don't have to worry about lugging them back to the condo.

Check to see if there's any "stay free / ski free" type packages where you're lodging. You might be able to buy discounted lift tickets through the property.

If you like apple streudel, head to Pepi's (it's in Vail Village). They have some great apple streudel.

If you're staying at a condo, you can save on food by stocking up at the nearby Safeway or City Market. They're located in West Vail, off of I-70.

You'll find good mountaintop food at Two Elk Lodge. It's pricey, but not bad, and has a great view. Head there for a very early or very late lunch to avoid the crowds.

The gondola (from Lionshead base area) is free to ride in the evening. They have night tubing and other activities at the top of the mountain, but even if you don't plan to do those, it can be fun to ride the gondola up at night and see the views.

Your lift ticket will be valid at Keystone, Breckenridge, and Beaver Creek. For variety you can spend a day at one of those areas. (Keystone has night skiing on some of its slopes.) I didn't do that this trip, but was tempted to spend a day at Beaver, which is about 15-20 minutes west of Vail. (They have bus service between the areas.)

Be sure to check out the neat fountain/jumping water/fire feature in Vail Village. (Head through the pedestrian bridge and keep walking towards the mountain.)

There are gas grills on top of Blue Sky Basin. If you're industrious (and want to make everyone around you jealous), you can bring some food up and grill it. On a clear day you'll have one of the best views in Colorado.

Head to Game Creek in the morning, and when it starts getting crowded there (around 10:30-11 a.m.), you can head over to the Back Bowls. Game Creek has an impeccably groomed trail called Lost Boy that is a delight; it has great views and goes on and on. Simba (a blue on the far right of the front side of Vail) is a fun place to end a day; it's a great groomed cruiser.

Just a few tips off the top of my head...

Vail is incredible. You'll have a great time there and will have trouble going anywhere else in the future. It has something for everyone and conditions are almost always perfect. Main downside is that it can be pricey, but there seem to be lots of good deals this year. Vail is not immune from the current economic slowdown, and the base village seemed kind of dead at night. (Pepi's, normally a thriving apres ski joint, was nearly empty. That may be because it's still early season, but I think visits are off.)
scootertig
December 23, 2008
Member since 02/19/2006 🔗
365 posts
Originally Posted By: janej
Scott,
I heard the Green trails there are as hard as the blue ones on East coast. Is there true? Will we find enough easy ones to enjoy?


While it's probably true that, in general, western beginner terrain is steeper (and much longer!) than most East Coast beginner terrain, I don't think it's fair to say that there is a direct comparison. For one thing, a lot of what makes for challenge in eastern skiing can be the conditions, rather than just the steepness. Given the relatively poorer conditions (generally) at mid-Atlantic resorts, and even some of the New England ones, a green here can include a pretty wide range of surfaces. Most of the green terrain at Vail is wide and fairly mildly pitched, meaning that you have lots of space to make turns. Vail is groomed like crazy, and some trails may be groomed in the morning and at mid-day (it's a sight to see a flock of 8-10 groomers making their way up a trail in broad daylight). There may be an intimidation factor due to the sheer size of the place, but the beginner stuff is probably easier than what you'll find most places here.

As far as tips go, I'd say to try to avoid the Northwoods lift as much as possible - it's one of the few places we ALWAYS ran into crowds.

From Two Elks and the top of the Mountaintop Express, the Whistle Pig/Cappucino/Expresso combo with Swingsville is a lot of fun, and has some easy blue cruisers to get the confidence up (with an easy bailout to Swingsville for the more timid skiers in the bunch).

If you're headed to Blue Sky Basin, we found it easiest to try to get there as soon as it opens, and then work our way back to the front side. I'll certainly defer to anyone with better tips, but we'd basically hit the Vista Bahn up to Mid-Vail, the Mountaintop Express to the top, and then work the Timberline Catwalk down to the Sourdough Express lift. We'd then run a few laps on Boomer, Tin Pants, and Sourdough, then when they opened the back bowls, do a few in China Bowl until they opened Blue Sky. Once in Blue Sky, we'd hang out until it got crowded, and then we'd work our way back to Game Creek, and ski there until they close it (it seemed it was always empty in the afternoon). I'll second the vote for Lost Boy, in particular, as a great green cruiser - maybe my favorite that I've skied yet.

I'm sure everyone's got their own "secrets" for hitting Vail, but that's what worked well for us. But avoid Northwoods Express. Terrible lines, since it's the only way to get from left to right (on the trail map) without going all the way down to the village.

You'll have a great time, no matter what. For all of the bashing Vail gets from the "hardcore" crowd, it's a really fun place to ski, and really does have something for everyone, if you know where to look.


aaron
skier219
December 23, 2008
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
Originally Posted By: janej
I heard the Green trails there are as hard as the blue ones on East coast. Is there true? Will we find enough easy ones to enjoy?



It's worth noting that the green / blue / black / double black rating system is scaled to the trails at a given resort. Go to any resort, and they will sort *their* trails according to the system, to always range from green to double black. Thus, there is no correlation with the trail ratings at other resorts, so expect them to be different. If they match up (which they often do in a regional comparison) it's just coincidence.

A couple of the greens at Alta, UT had a brief section that was at least as steep as I have seen on black or blue trails in the mid-Atlantic. Overall, I would still call them green trails though, and I would not expect a solid beginner to have any problems. My wife didn't have any problems with them (I didn't tell her the pitch would have been blue/black in the mid-A, all she knew was that she was having a good time on a green trail).

The snow is generally so much better out west, I think that automatically makes the trails easier than comparable pitches with average mid-A conditions. So that is in the favor of any easterners traveling west.
janej
December 23, 2008
Member since 09/20/2004 🔗
42 posts
Thanks a lot for the information. I am feeling better now. I will probably still start with a day of lesson. I love to go to ski school. It is so pricey there though.

Scott,

I tried to made ski rental reservations through rentskis.com. Vail Sports at Arrabelle does not have any skis available for my dates. My resort has a shuttle bus that drops off at the Lionshead base area. Which other locations should I choose?

Thanks,

Jane
janej
December 24, 2008
Member since 09/20/2004 🔗
42 posts
Scott,

Please ignore my previous question regarding rental shop location. I found availability at Vail Sports at Arrabelle today. I got the junior rent free deal.

Thanks a lot for referring me to the site.

Jane
Originally Posted By: janej

Scott,

I tried to made ski rental reservations through rentskis.com. Vail Sports at Arrabelle does not have any skis available for my dates. My resort has a shuttle bus that drops off at the Lionshead base area. Which other locations should I choose?

Thanks,

Jane
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