Skiing in Vail

Skiing in Vail

There’s something for everyone on these vast slopes, accessible by three main lifts. The fast Vista Bahn chair runs up to the mid-mountain focal point of Mid-Vail from the village and from Lionshead the gondola runs to Eagle’s Nest. To the east of the village, Golden Peak base’s Riva Bahn fast chair heads to the Two Elk area. Vail Mountain’s front face looks north, dividing into three bowls at altitude – Northeast Bowl, south-westerly Game Creek and Mid-Vail. The Back Bowls are also accessed from mid-mountain via the same lifts, as is the Blue Sky Basin area. Mid-Vail, however, is an unavoidable bottleneck causing seriously long and very chilly queues at peak times. Similar problems can occur with the Northwoods chair and the gondola.

Beginners and less-than proficient intermediates will love the Bwana and Pride terrain parks and the Bwana run passing under the gondola track. A gradually-increasing selection of boxes and small jumps become more challenging, giving a sense of achievement as well as enjoyment. Advanced skiers will adore the terrain at Golden Peak, halfway up the Riva Bahn lift. The more than 40 features here include a log rail park, mini and quarter pipes and a huge triple jump-line as well as a 137m super-pipe. The vast Back Bowls are for serious experts, served by a short drag lift and four chairs. Dominated by open slopes, there are a few lightly wooded sections and 87 per cent of the runs here are classified as black – some would say over-classified as they’re not too steep.

Blue Sky Basin is huge fun, with great snow and fast adventure runs through the trees, all ending at the same spot. The front face is the place for the genuinely steep double black diamond trails, which are renowned for having great snow. The fast Highline lift tops out at three black runs and the very steep Prima Cornice, accessed via the Northwood Express, is right on the face of the mountain. Confident intermediates could find the Back Bowls enjoyable, but the numerous quieter blue runs above Lionshead are excellent for a comfortable cruise.

Total beginners don’t have a large area to play with, but do have excellent graded ski school facilities to get them started in double-fast time. Nursery slopes are found at base and altitude levels, with easy longer runs right there when the time’s right. The downside is the crowds.

Cross-country skiers have seven and half kilometres at the base of Golden Peak for an energetic wander, with 10kms of snowshoe trails as an afterthought. Snowboarding here is great, with long, well-groomed pistes, but the flat areas atop Wildwood and Northwoods lifts need to be avoided.