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  • Resort Review: Vail, CO

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    January 13th, 2009AndreaSnowboarding, Vail

    I love getting out and riding new terrain every now and again, so when Danielle asked me a couple of months ago if I wanted to take a trip to Vail, CO, I couldn’t say no! And after spending 5 days at this amazing resort, I can see why it boasts “like nothing on earth.”

    But let’s start with tradition: Every year for the past several years now, a group of 10 to 15 of us have taken a trip to Whistler/Blackcomb, BC. Whistler is, of course, an awesome resort – one of the top in the world – but now that we’ve all graduated college and parted ways (ie, took off our party hats and traded them in for professional shoes – well, kinda :) ) we decided to try something new. Meanwhile, our buddy, Kevin, wasn’t quite ready to fully step into his professional shoes (who knows if he ever will be, come to think of it) and decided to move to Vail for the winter to teach ski lessons. So, free place to stay, good company, and a top US ski resort; how could we go anywhere but Vail this winter?

    On to the trip: Dani, her husband, Lance, and I all arrived to the Denver airport Wednesday evening (Kevin was super awesome and offered to drive the two hours to come pick us up) – we did have to wait around for a bit, since massive amounts of snow dumped earlier that morning and the pass was slow moving, but a few beers later we didn’t mind one bit.

    We arrived at Kev’s house later that night, after a nice (but dark, and very crammed) ride. He lives in Eagle-Vail, which is about a 5 to 10-minute drive from the Vail resort, and a $3 bus ride. I’m pretty sure he forgot to tell his roommates we were coming, but they were chill and super fun to hang out with (two were from South Africa!) Anyway, after goofing around in the snow for a bit (it was well past midnight by the time we arrived) we went to bed in preparation for a looong day of riding.

    We spent the whole of Thursday and Saturday boarding at Vail; we really lucked out because there were perfect blue-bird skies with several inches of fresh powder from the day before. We spent most of Thursday riding the park (we tried to free ride from 2pm on, but with the mountain closing at 3:30pm, all we managed to find were damn cat tracks) and we spent all of Saturday exploring the hill. We would have loved to ride all 3 days, but with lift tickets pushing 100 bucks a pop, we opted for a day of kickers in Kevin’s backyard on Friday.

    We definitely picked the perfect time to go on this trip. With kids going back to school that very week, the holiday rush was officially over; however, the mid-winter rush hadn’t fully begun. I was surprised though that even on Saturday, the lift lines weren’t crazy long. During busy weekends at Mt. Hood Meadows, you might wait in a lift line for up to 45 minutes, but I think the longest line we saw in Vail only took about 15 to get through! The mountain is HUGE – 193 named runs in all, 5,289 acres of skiable terrain, and 30+ chair lifts – so there’s a lot of ground to cover. One of the great things people kept telling me is that at 1pm in the afternoon it is still possible to find fresh tracks!

    Now, the powder at Vail was out of this world. If you’re used to riding West Coast powder, like me, you’re in for a treat when you head to the Rockies. When it snows heavily in the Cascades, the powder is usually a bit heavier, and thus tougher to ride through, but the snow in Colorado is light and fluffy, and it literally feels like you’re riding on a cloud. Due to the warmer-than-usual weather we had in Vail, though, the powder wasn’t as light as normal; it was kind of a bummer that we didn’t get to experience “true” Vail powder, but no bother to me!

    If we could go back and do things over, we would have spent more time riding the back side of the mountain (we didn’t discover this until basically the very last run of the day Saturday). If you get the chance to go to Vail, I would highly recommend heading over to the Blue Sky Basin part of the hill and taking Skyline express to the top; the run under the lift is unreal in untouched powder, and it was definitely our favorite run of the weekend.

    Now, I really love riding the park and would be totally happy spending an entire day in it (as we did Thursday). The parks in Vail were pretty cool (there are currently two main terrain parks, and one for kids), but nothing really to brag about. They had some awesome jibs (pics to come soon!), and a good mix for riders at all skill levels, but the jumps were pretty beginner, which we realized after clearing every hit our first “test” run through. Now, I’m totally all for beginner jumps to practice new tricks on, but they did get a bit boring after a while; I would have loved to see a progression to give riders something to work up to.

    Along the same lines, Vail is definitely a resort geared toward skiers (I’m assuming the beginner parks have a lot to do with it). We would have loved to ski at Breckenridge, which is more of a snowboarder’s resort, for a day (and actually had planned to do so) but with only three full days in Vail we didn’t get around to it. However, if you like freeriding, Vail is the place to be (being Colorado’s largest resort) especially if you’re planning a trip with both snowboarders and skiiers. And surprisingly, there wasn’t an overabundance of moguls, as we had expected – there was a pretty decent mix of everything.

    Another caution before you go and plan your trip to Vail – it is expensive! Lift tickets are $97 (plus tax), however, if you’d like to save a spot of money it is *only* $87 for a half-day! Or $55 for an hour and a half (2 to 3:30pm). Hotels are at least $500 a night for an average, 2 person room, and can even run a few grand for a nice condo. Even parking is $25 per day. If you’re looking for a cheap place to go with a few friends for a weekend of boarding, Vail probably isn’t the place, but if you’d like to go on a nice family vaca or annual trip with your friends (and are willing to pay for the added luxury), the price is definitely worth it.

    There are also several ways, though, that you can make your Vail vacation a lot less expensive. For example, since we stayed with Kevin, we didn’t spend any money on hotels (Kevin graciously accepted a weekend of drinking on us in return for his gratitude) and since he is a resort employee he was able to get us $45 lift tickets (a steal of a deal!) After our first day of riding, we made a Wal-Mart trip for food, and made sure to stock up on lots’o'liquor so we didn’t have to spend too much at the bars. There are also plenty of happy hours that offer awesome deals on food and drinks (some of which Dani will highlight in Vail post part 2); there was even one we went to on Thursday night that offered free (yes, FREE) beer! If you don’t have the luxury of staying with a friend but still want to save a few bucks on hotel costs, I’d recommend looking at hotels or motels in Eagle-Vail (10 min; $3 bus ride from Vail) or another near-by city. Also, if you don’t want to snowboard every day (well, of course you’d want to, but if you don’t want to spend the money to) then do what we did Friday – find a hill and build a tight kicker! There’s also lots of things to do in town that require little or no money, so that in itself is definitely enough to keep you occupied for a day.

    All in all, Vail was a good time. Glad I went and I’d definitely go again! And if you are serious about planning a trip to Vail, stay tuned for Danielle’s post about things to do in Vail when you’re not on the hill, coming soon.

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15 Responses to “Resort Review: Vail, CO”

  1. I spent five days in Vail over Christmas, and we got ridiculous 2 feet of snow in that time. The pow was delicious, only one wicked-cold day (high of 5, ouch) and the rest was 20. We only had two bluesky days, lots of clouds, and one whiteout at the end of day two (vis = 10 feet all the way down…wow). The back bowls def rule, and we didn’t get over to Blue Sky Basin, but heard it was total amazing…..next time, then.

  2. Is that you shredding the halfpipe in the photo? And a $97 full-day lift ticket for 193 runs sounds like a good deal. About 50 cents a run!

    Any pics from gliding on the clouds?

  3. Hey guys thanks for checking out our review of Vail! We were pretty lucky with the conditions, lots of powder dumping evenings, followed by the bluebird days. Could not have been better. The picture is actually a rail from the Vail terrian park – over on the Golden Peak side of the resort. I suppose when you put it that way, 50 cents a run is not bad – if only it were possible to hit all 193 runs in one day ;)
    ~DH

  4. And, Nick, that’s Danielle on the wall! Showing her mad skills :) ~AN

  5. Sounds like an amazing time!

  6. [...] So first things first, you go to Vail to snowboard, and as you already know from Andrea’s Vail Resort Review, this mountain is legit.  So I am going to tell you about where to eat, drink and even shop. [...]

  7. [...] love sweet deals, and we love them even more when they involve season passes!!  Vail Resorts (read our review here) is offering their 2nd annual ‘Epic Season Pass‘ deal through Sunday, April 12.  The [...]

  8. [...] to forgo the usual Whistler/Blackcomb trip in favor of something a bit more local… Colorado (read our review here!)  We decided on Vail because our good buddy Kevin just got a job as a ski instructor there, and [...]

  9. [...] CO My review of Vail: Resort Review: Vail, CO | Westbound Boarder Overall, great mountain and I’d highly recommend! Expensive, [...]

  10. [...] was lucky enough to catch 2 Gatorade Free Flow stops this season – one at Vail and one at Mt. High.  The lovely folks at FUEL TV put together a recap vid so you can watch [...]

  11. party hats are so cute that i have a collection of them.`,

  12. [...] Vail: The best thing about Vail is that it literally has everything. How is that possible? This resort is MASSIVE (well over 5,000 ski-able acres!!!). They have a great ski/snowboard school, tons of groomers, over 30 lifts granting access to bowls, chutes, back-country, tree runs and more. They even have multiple terrain parks for each and every skill level with almost too many features to hit. It is all of this versatility that makes Vail our number one resort to visit, as there is something for everyone!  Insider Tip: One thing is also for sure, if you can handle the double blacks, head directly back to Blue Sky Basin. Be sure to give yourself time to get back there as it is quite the treck, but is is soooooo worth it. (Learn More) [...]

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