Feb 27, 2007
First off, I only rode vail for 1 day so my feel for the runs and the mountain is limited.
Vail is BIG. I couldn't possibly have imagined how big it was going to be. Made up of 1 ridgeline and face, 4 mammoth bowls and a basin out the back (and probably limitless back country opportunities), I am told that Vail is the second largest ski resort in Nth America behind Whistler/Blackcomb (depending on who you talk to, some folk over here dont like to acknowledge their northern neighbours). One could ski/board here for their whole life and not experience every run.
Rumour has it, in the 1850's, as the European invaders crossed America, the Native Indian Americans lit 'spite' fires to prevent the Europeans from using their timber. One of these fires was where Vail sits now, creating vast tree-free expanses in the bowls and 150+ years later, the basis for one of the worlds premier ski resorts.
Thats not to say that Vail is tree free, there is a huge variety of runs, including glades, affording all levels from beginners to experts plenty of options to fill their days.
As mentioned above, there are runs for all levels of skier/boarder. From big, wideopen green groomers; wide and narrow groomed blues offering intermediates a chance to work on their speed; open and tight glades; cliff-drops; plus lots of free terrain. Vail can dish up just about anything you could want in a mountain.
Being a major skiing destination, you do get casual skiiers/boarders who only attempt the green runs, so these can get quite congested. However this really only occurs on the front face of the mountain, if you are prepared to head into the back bowls and Blue Sky Basin then there are areas where its just you and your buddies.
The only minor issue with the runs is that unless you are willing to ski/board black runs, then you are faced with navigating a number of cat tracks and horizontal t-bars to get you from run to run
With an average of 20,000 people daily, Vail could be forgiven for having lengthy lift lines. However, with 33 lifts servicing the mountain, I didnt experience a lift line longer than 5 minutes, and that was at the very first lift of the day, when everyone is trying to get on the mountain. Granted I went on a weekday which helped matters so expect longer queues on weekends and public holidays.
Vail has 4 terrain parks all up. One terrain park is for those just starting out, another is for the intermediate and two are for the pros. There is everything from half-pipes, pro-style jumps, hits, rails, log rails and boxes. With only a day on the mountain, I didnt venture into any of these, however they looked impressive and you could hit any number of combos on your way down.
Vail is well serviced by its namesake town below. Its a ski in ski out village but unless you have discounts galore, dont expect your stay to come cheap. However, you pay for what you get and the heated streets are nestled cosily within hotels, resorts, private homes, restaurants, bars and brand name clothing stores. A stay at Vail is certainly an experience of the luxurious kind. I was fortunate enough to stay at Vail Lodge, definitely a place I would not have been able to stay in had it not been for a large discount provided by a close friend who works on nearby Keystone. With Valet Parking, outdoor spas and heated pool, gymnasium, silver service restaurant, and piano bar (highly recommended), it certainly lives up to its hefty price tag, although prepare to spend a bit extra because of its prime location in the village.
On mountain services are also of a high service. Over 10 different dining halls provide a warm respite for the hungry guests, be prepared to fight off the crowds which seem to be never ending inside and again, food prices are high. They do offer free water though, which is a godsend for those looking to minimise costs.
As with everything else on the mountain, day tickets are expensive. For a standard adult the cost is approximately $81 (thank god for discounts), this can vary depending on the time of season, with the high season between christmas and end of January being the most expensive. Children and Seniors pay less. A more affordable solution if staying for an extended period is to buy a season pass which I believe, if you purchase in September will only cost around $350, equivalent to 4 days riding. The disadvantage is that you have to be there in person to pick it up.
In summary, Vail is expensive. However its also a place not to be missed, if not for the awesome skiing/boarding on offer, then just to experience its sheer size. Its a place of oppulence but you only live once right!!
Part of the USA and Keystone travel blog
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