Vail. The Mother-ship is a magical place that stirs controversy for reasons that are so long and distinguished, the complaints wouldn’t fit into an entire discussion altogether. Expert skiers and riders claim it’s too flat. Snow snobs scoff at the paltry 350″ of average snowfall. There’s a potential 4 hr drive to, and from the Front Range. Lift lines can be overwhelming. Vail is an artificial town that rewards the rich, and overworks the poor. The $22 dollar Bison Burger that jumps of the menu at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor’s Gulch. Granted, the Ritz isn’t owned by Vail, but who cares. This is ski Disney World at it’s finest. But here’s what you don’t know, and why you should reconsider this monster.
No wonder why Squaw Valley and other Tahoe based resorts are having bad years. These rocky counterparts need several feet of snow before the mountain seems like a reasonable ski vacation. One thing is for sure; Vail’s ski terrain consists mostly of green fairways. Not green terrain from an ability standpoint. I mean the darn runs are lathered with grass! I don’t know if this was by mistake, or did our founding fathers have the foresight to understand the importance; did they log the runs so thoroughly to prepare for low snow years? I don’t know. What I do know is that after few good snowfalls, that mountain skis great! The take home message? Even after many dire autumn seasons when it looks hopeless, a few 10-15″ dumps puts us right where we need to be!
Vail is generally considered an intermediate skier or rider’s dream. Consequently, many hard charging experts claim the mountain lacks challenging terrain. However, even the best riders will have an opportunity for excitement because the terrain is varied and steep enough to encourage enjoyment, thrill, and development. One of the joys I have found skiing at Vail are the opportunities for different challenges I don’t seek at more robust mountains. For example, I often race my friends down Highline or Prima; these runs are no less than 2000 vertical feet of VW Beetle sized moguls that will haunt even the best and fastest bumpers just shy of professional mogul skiers. I am constantly refining my ski technique and seeking out the best methods to master the turn. At more challenging mountains, the average skier who is reasonably versed is just surviving on the steepest pitches. Vail is challenging enough if you look with a different perspective.
If I told you all of the secrets to this underrated gem, I would have to kill you. I have skied all over the country from the East Coast-to Jackson Hole-to all over the Sierra Nevadas. Beaver Creek never gets boring. Ever. Everything that is wrong with Vail is not even a consideration at Beaver Creek. Steep, long pitches all over chair 4,9, and 10. Crowds? Yeah, the all too many employees eager to take care of you so you don’t have to wait for service. Great snow. Double fall lines. Steeper, faster groomers than anywhere. Back-country access that doesn’t require taking the day off of work to access. By the way, I could show you steep enough pitches through access gates that would impress the best big-mountain skiers around. I have a fantasy theory; the powers that be purposely created a brand that’s too Beaver Creek to keep everyone away so we can all selfishly laugh our way to ski stardom. Not even likley the case, but a boy can dream!