Conquering Vail!

On top of Vail

My new family vacation schedule has us going from Epic Mix mountain to Epic Mix mountain. In the winter we went to Whistler and Blackcomb mountain in Canada but this spring we decided to tackle Vail. We booked Vail because we saw some deal on the lodging and we just jumped at it. We decided to stay at The Lodge at Vail which is in Vail Village. There are 3 base areas and the two that we frequented the most was Vail Village and Golden Peak (for snowboard school). There was another base area called Lionshead but we didn’t go there till the last day and man was it posh as hell. I don’t think I could have afforded to stay there for the week we did at Vail Village.

Anyway, on to the mountain! The mountain is pretty big with 2 gondolas and tons of chair lifts. I would say that the mountain is a little on the hard side but only because its so difficult to get to a warm up slope from Vail Village. I didn’t find a place to warm up in the morning until I was there for about 3 days. I still like to warm up on a green or two before starting harder slopes but the only one that would fit the bill from a base area is called Gopher Hill by Golden Peak. That was a nice bunny run but man it was hard to get to since you had to carry your skis all the way there. What I did find was the green slopes but they were all the way at the top of the mountain so you had to take 3 lifts to get there. Thats a little excessive but if you’re experienced its alright. If you’re a pure beginner it can be a little intimidating to try and get there.

I tried out most of the groomed side of the mountain. I even challenged myself and did some diamonds which I haven’t really done in about 20 years since the family only recently started skiing again 2 years ago. I did maybe 4 total black diamond trails which isn’t bad considering my meager skills in skiing these days. I blame my daughter for taking me on 2 of them since she wanted to try and do them with me on her snowboard. I didn’t go to the backside of the mountain, mainly because there were warning signs that indicated that you should ski with a buddy in the back bowls and I was mostly on my own so I tried to stick to the groomed trails. I did find one blue run that I really liked that went from the peak down to the mid mountain lodge area. I used my Epic Mix app and I think in a single day I went up the same life a dozen times just to go down that slope. I think one of the hardest parts was all the “walkway” trails. These were the green trails that sort of switch backed across blues and blacks and were relatively flat so that you could ski from the top of the mountain to the bottom without having to throw yourself down a difficult slope. A lot of these trails required a little bit of “walking” and when it started to get past mid day, those trails were a killer since the snow was turning into slush. I found that the best way to enjoy Vail this time was to go as early as possible and get on the trails before anyone else. The groomed slopes were nice, since the slush froze over during the evening, the grooming machines kind of broke it up a bit and smoothed it out so that you’re not skiing on ice pebbles all the way down.

What would make the mountain better would probably be an extension of the gondolas so that they went all the way to the top of the mountain rather than having to transfer to a chair life to get to the top. Probably a gondola on the back bowls would be helpful too but all that investment is expensive and Vail Resorts has been too busy buying up property to expand the offerings of the Epic Pass. I’m all for expansion of the Epic Pass since that gives me more options to ski elsewhere on the same pass. I’m sure they’ll do some investment soon, its not like the lifts couldn’t handle the crowds, I don’t think I even really waited in line to get up the mountain the entire time I was there. Most of the time I would just ski down into the line and just hop onto the next chair and rarely on a 6 person chairlift were there 6 people on it.

Vail Village was pretty nice as well, its not up to par when I compare it to the Olympic Village of Whistler but its definitely up there in terms of high end shops and places to eat. We avoided most of those places though, we were there to ski and snowboard, not shop and eat gourmet food. We didn’t hit the really posh area of Vail until we went to Lionshead Village. There were even more high end shops there as well as hotels. There was also a really awesome playground that my daughter enjoyed that looked like elevated teepees. We didn’t venture far from Vail Village, everything we needed was pretty much in the village and we did our shopping beforehand.

We are considering another visit to the area but this time to conquer Beaver Creek which is apparently pretty close to Vail. I guess thats why the ski instructor jackets all had Vail and Beaver Creek logos on them. I would definitely return to Vail again, just so that I can conquer some other parts of the mountain or maybe even ski the back bowls.

The back bowls
The Lodge at Vail
The playground at Lionshead
The creek through Vail Village

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