Vail Ski Getaways

ski getaways

It seems almost ironic that a resort as huge as Vail is referred to by such a short name. With 193 named runs, 5289 acres, and a vertical of 3450 feet, Vail is vast and varied. Another irony: So much attention is paid to Vail's legendary Back Bowls that one might forget the incredible array of trails, steeps, bumps, and glades on the Front Side. While this terrain makes up only 30% of Vail's total, it's still bigger than many other western resorts.

Thirty-four lifts, including a gondola and 14 high-speed chairs, do an efficient job of moving Vail's guests around this expansive winter playground. All key points and pods of terrain are served by a high-speed lift; nine fixed-grip quads handle most everything else. The ten surface lifts are either dedicated to the various learning centers or easier terrain or are used to connect the tops of the back bowls.

Fully 40% of the front side is rated advanced or expert, but that still leaves a wealth of choices for beginners and intermediates. There are blue and green trails off almost every lift here. Some lifts offer a good mixture for all ability levels, a perfect setup for families or groups of different abilities. The Mountaintop Express and the Game Creek Express in Game Creek Bowl are two of the best examples.

Miles of groomed cruisers are matched by some very steep terrain, including Prima, Roger's Run, Highline, and Blue Ox, double diamonds all. The front side also hosts some fine glades, accessible from the Vista Bahn Express.

Freestyle terrain may also be found on the front side, highlighted by the Golden Peak Super Park, home to the Superpipe and all manner of hits, jibs, rails, tabletops, and more. A yurt at the entrance provides a focal point.

Sun Down, Sun Up, China, and Siberia Bowls were joined in 2000 by Blue Sky Basin. Together they add up to 3662 acres heavily weighted towards the advanced and expert end of difficulty. The exception is Blue Sky Basin, two miles into what was once backcountry, which is about half intermediate and groomed in part.

There are names given to various routes in the bowls but for the most part they are suggestions, as there are many different lines down each route. The vastness of the terrain makes skiing alone a strikingly bad idea; make sure you have at least one companion. A series of high-speed lifts and connecting surface lifts makes traveling from one bowl to another relatively simple.