Vail Off The Beaten Path

  • Mountains in the background of the town
    Mountains in the background of the town
    by BruceDunning
  • Snow at rest stop
    Snow at rest stop
    by eric_ives
  • Vail village the opening day of ski season
    Vail village the opening day of ski...
    by goingsolo

Most Recent Off The Beaten Path in Vail

  • Beware of Timberline Tours in Vail, Colorado

    by hbweaver Updated Apr 4, 2011

    If you're looking for a backcountry tour through the Rocky Mountains in Vail, Colorado, do not book it with Timberline Tours. Oh, they are happy to make your reservation, but if a larger group comes along, they won't think twice about cancelling on you at the last minute. I recommend Lakota Guides for a tour instead--very professional, great Hummers and Jeeps and they keep their promises!

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    Glenwood Springs

    by BruceDunning Written Oct 8, 2009

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    Brochure of the town

    This is maybe a fine town to visit out to the west of Vail about 80 miles when o tourists are there. I came through here to take a look around and could not even get to the first main intersection (Labor DAy) without 30 minute delay. It was a madhouse and risky driving with vehicles going in every direction and not being friendly to the other tourists. I can only imagine the springs are nice, but could not even get close to find out. Taking pictures was too dangerous due to the traffic and congestion.

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    Gold Panning-Tourism

    by BruceDunning Written Oct 8, 2009

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    Map of the gold mine tours
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    There is a gold mine in Idaho Springs called Arco. It has a tunnel mine going back 4 1/2 miles, and also a museum, and gift shop and mill that processes the ore. It is a nice visits and not too far to the east. Another mine called is just south of Idaho Springs and a working mine used today. Entrey is $10 for adults.

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    Georgetown

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 8, 2009

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    Corner section of the town
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    This is a small community close to Vail and it is worth a visit for seeing the preserved old town strip of buildings. Georgetown has/had the fame of having the Royal Gorge RR come form here to go down to the south. Now I am not sure if it runs or not. The shops and the retail are nice to visit. The weather here is brutal in summer, or especially winter. Being in a valley that is surrounded by high mountains, it gets gusts of winds beyond imagination. The local tour operator told me it gets easily to 70-80 MPH winds through here and it starts in early fall. Summers also gets a breeze, but not as fierce.

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    Idaho Springs

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 8, 2009

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    Map of the town center with shops
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    The population of the town is 1,900, and it seems like all may be in retail trades. The strip is about one mile long, with one end being for stays and cabins/camping and the other has the retail shops. It is surrounded by the mountains from all ends but the south where US 70 cuts off any growth that way. So they keep building to the west. It is a nice place to visit and shop and some things to do is to go to the gold mine, or the mineral springs.

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    A Town Made out of Lead

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 8, 2009

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    Brochure of the town features
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    Leadville is only 35 miles south of Vail and worth a trip back to see what is looked like in the old times. Currently, though some of the attraction is to bring in tourists, and that changes the complexity of things. I was first here in 1985 and it was more reserved and interesting than what it has evolved into today. The pictures from back then are not any longer found, so the brochure is closest I could present this still suggesting a trip is worth the effort.
    The town started when gold was found in 1860 and it got overrun by 8,000 seekers of fortune. It had a peek population of 30,000 at one time. There are 70 blocks of historic buildings on the register. It now is down to about 2,500 residents and the mines are under EPA control for the lead that is exudes

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    Skiing- Blue Sky Basin, Earl's Bowl

    by John195123 Updated Mar 31, 2008

    More soon!

    Earl's Bowl has great tree skiing up near the top on a blue run called In The Wuides, or in the black of Champagne Glade. Those are two of my favorite runs in Vail. (If you cut to the left immediately (to the left of Skyline Express/Lift 37, or if you go to the left off Earl's Express/Lift 38) there are trees with good snow and a decent amount of distance between them.) The runs seem longer than they are, and I tend to tire toward the bottom, but that's because I hit the top pretty hard. Montane Glade, a black a bit further down under Skyline Express, is also a blue, much the same as In The Wuides, without many of the moguls and trees. Catch Earl's Express/Lift 38 up or follow the catwalk down to Kelly's Glade where you cross the bridge to Skyline or Tea Cup Express/Lift 36.

    Skyline Express Lift/Lift 37- High Speed Quad, 1357 vertical, 4.43 minutes, closes at 3:00 pm.
    Earl's Express Lift/Lift 38- High Speed Quad, 1581.99 vertical, 6 minutes, closes at 2:45 pm.
    Tea Cup Express Lift/Lift 36- High Speed Quad, 1666 vertical, 6.1 minutes, closes at 3:30 pm.

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    Skiing- Blue Sky Basin, Pete's Bowl

    by John195123 Updated Mar 31, 2008

    Pete's Bowl is the main attraction for Blue Sky Basin goers. From the cornices under Skyline Express/Lift 37 where you jump into Lover's Leap, Iron Mask and Little Ollie (all blacks) to the cliffs of Steep and Deep and Skree Field (also blacks), all runs drop into Big Rock Park, a wide blue that is divided as it meanders through clumps of trees, also accessible via Cloud 9 (blue). Big Rock Park is a lot of fun. Be careful (and stay right) as the trail can take you down a narrow and often icy/rocky gully toward the end. You can take Pete's Express/Lift 39 up for more on the other side of the bowl, or continue along the catwalk, following signs to Skyline Express/Lift 37 to get back up to the top again. If you want to return to the back bowls and the front side, follow signs to Chair 21 (Orient Express Lift/China Bowl) along China Spur and Silk Road (both blue catwalks).

    Belle's Camp, with an elevation of 11,480 feet (or 3499 meters) doesn't offer much more than a warming hut, ski patrol and excellent views of the mountains beyond. It's one of my favorite places on the mountain- feeling at least slightly remote.
    I believe you can get back to Skyline Express/Lift 37 from Orient Express/Lift 21. You can also get to the back bowls and the front side via Tea Cup Express/Lift 36, which sits right at the base of Skyline.

    Under Skyline Express are The Divide and Encore, two blacks that are typically covered in moguls, but have good snow among the widely-spaced trees.

    Skyline Express Lift/Lift 37- High Speed Quad, 1924 vertical, 7.69 minutes, closes at 3:00 pm.
    Pete's Express Lift/Lift 39- High Speed Quad, 1581.99 vertical, 6 minutes, closes at 2:45 pm.
    Orient Express Lift/Lift 21- High Speed QUad, 1565 vertical, 7.7 minutes, closes at 3:30 pm.
    Tea Cup Express Lift/Lift 36- High Speed Quad, 1666 vertical, 6.1 minutes, closes at 3:30 pm.

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    Skiing Your Level

    by John195123 Updated Mar 31, 2008

    Tips for skiers and boarders...

    Ski within your ability level.

    Here's the problem: many skiers hit the slopes with inflated senses of ability. Maybe they want to try something new, maybe they need more of a challenge. A beginner, however, shouldn't look for challenges on double diamonds. There's a reason for many levels of slopes. Move up to the harder stuff as you go.

    Why?

    Simple: cost. The more people who ski beyond their abilities, the more people who get hurt. If you get hurt, the cost is passed on to the other skiers- in the form of ticket prices, much of which goes to paying for legal stuff, and in the form of rules and regulations.

    Skiing and snowboarding are not without their dangers. But if you've ever been hit by out of control skiers (as I have- I checked the guy, knocking him over, and for some reason didn't beat the crap out of him... as he laughed about it...) you'll appreciate keeping beginners in their area, and off the steep, fast slopes where they can easily get out of control and pose a risk not only to themselves but to others as well. The Slow Zones keep the good skiers going slow as well, even though they're in control. It's not a bad idea, but probably wouldn't be necessary if beginners weren't in the area as well. For now, you can ski as you like in the back bowls. How long that will last depends on whether people are responsible for their skiing. If you have to slide on your backside down the double black, single black or even blue, you don't belong there. If all you make are the "wedge" turns, you don't belong on the bigger stuff, and you shouldn't be there, for your good and for the good of others.

    Of course, as skiers or boarders we need to move on to harder things before we can get better. I've been skiing for 22 years or so, and have worked up gradually to this point. Sure, we hit harder stuff when we weren't as good, but we were still conscious of skiing within our means.

    Anyway, the point isn't that people shouldn't try the harder stuff. It's just that people shouldn't get in above their heads as that causes costs to go up for everyone. When some beginner shoots off a cliff to show off and gets killed, that can close down that cliff to even the most advanced, extreme skiers/boarders. And when beginners shred the powder instead of cutting a line, that makes the skiing worse for others as well. Just be considerate of other skiers, don't sue the resort if you get hurt, and keep your eyes uphill.

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    Skiing- Back Bowls, China Bowl

    by John195123 Updated Mar 31, 2008

    If you want to ski the back bowls but don't want the black diamonds, China Bowl is a good place to go. While you can drop off Dragon's Teeth (black, cliffs) or take Jade Glade or Genghis Khan or Emperor's Choice (blacks) down Tea Cup Bowl, Poppyfields East and West, and Chopsticks (blue, blue and blue) are great runs for steep practice, or you can hit the wide trees on Shangri-La (black).

    Tea Cup Express Lift/Lift 36- High Speed Quad, 1666 vertical, 6 minutes, closes at 3:30 pm.
    Orient Express Lift/Lift 21- High Speed Quad, 1565 vertical, 7.7 minutes, closes at 3:30 pm.
    Skyline Express Lift/Lift 37- High Speed Quad, 1924 vertical, 8 minutes, closes at 2:45 pm.

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    Skiing- Back Bowls, Sun Up Bowl

    by John195123 Updated Mar 31, 2008

    High Noon Lift/Lift 5 also serves Sun Up Bowl. From the front you get to Sun Up Bowl via Mountaintop Express/Lift 4 and Northwoods Express/Lift 11. This is where I really have problems with Vail's snow. It's not as bad on Sun Down, but here it really seems to get choppy, crusty and painful to ski on. Oh well. The Slot is a nice black run, as are Yonder and Yonder Gully. The bowls are so wide and open there's no shortage of places to ride, but Yonder or Yonder Gully... wide, groomed and steep- you can really cut an edge here.

    Be aware that High Noon Lift/Lift 5 is a triple chair that services a lot of terrain. There are almost always long lines. Vail and the locals want to keep it this way to try to keep tourists out of the area- they won't go if there are long lines. The reason is simple- good terrain that they don't want destroyed by shredders or beginners out of their element. It's understandable. Many people ski beyond their ability levels and the effects are felt by everyone- more regulations, more rules... I'll talk about this on another tip, Skiing Your Level.

    High Noon Lift/Lift 5- Triple Chair, 1857 vertical, 11 minutes, closes at 3:30 pm.
    Sun Up Lift/Lift 17- Triple Chair, 1100 vertical, 8 minutes, closes at 3:30 pm.

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    Skiing- Back Bowls, Sun Down Bowl

    by John195123 Updated Mar 31, 2008

    Now we're getting to the good stuff.

    From the top of Game Creek Express Lift/Lift 7 or Wildwood Express Lift/Lift 3, spill off the edge into Sun Down Bowl via any of the blacks. If you head out along Ptarmigan Ridge toward Seldom or Never or O.S., you get into areas that could have really nice powder (after a good snow) and if you get there early enough, you can still make the first tracks. Not too many people seem to ski this area. It's really nice for backcountry terrain, wide open, yet you can find nice solitude away from the crowds. All runs exit onto Sun Down Catwalk, and you get out via High Noon Lift/Lift 5. Windows is a nice run.

    Sometimes the snow can get a bit hard, crusty and choppy. Vail brags about its snow quality, but I don't always see it here. The same goes for all the back bowls- they get sun exposure and melt just enough to make the skiing painful- mixing powder, crud and iced-over chunks. Add to that the lack of visibility on cloudy/snowy days and you really got something bad going!

    But, if you don't mind the jarring chop, (which isn't always the case back here) you'll like the area. Especially around O.S. and Never, the snow's almost always good.

    High Noon Lift/Lift 5- Triple Chair, 1857 vertical, 11 minutes, closes at 3:30 pm.

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    Skiing- Frontside, Lionshead

    by John195123 Updated Mar 31, 2008

    Lionshead is primarily a beginner/intermediate area, with little to excite the advanced skiers. However, it is also the home of the Eagle Bahn Express Gondola/Lift 19, a scenic ride up in a relatively warm gondola. Paralleling the gondola is Born Free Express/Lift 8, which doesn't go all the way up and serves mostly the Born Free (blue-green) and other greens, as well as Bwana, one of a few black runs in Lionshead.

    The Gondola services Adventure Ridge (call 970.476.9090 for information). They have tubing, skating ski-biking, snowmobiling and other stuff, open 2:30pm to 10:00pm, but they say they are "closed on select Sundays and Mondays".

    Eagle Bahn Express Gondola Lift/Lift 19- 6-8 people(?), 2204 vertical, 8 minutes, closes at 4:00 pm. (Free after 2:00pm to foot passengers- See "Game Creek Club" restaurant tip.)

    Born Free Express Lift/Lift 8- High Speed Quad, 1593 vertical, 6 minutes, closes at 4:00 pm.

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    Skiing- Frontside, Northwoods/Highline

    by John195123 Updated Mar 31, 2008

    Northwoods is such a magical area that is vastly ignored. Something about the way the trees are- it's more of a winter wonderland than other areas in Vail. Starting from the lift, Northwoods Express/Lift 11, you'll note that at the end, the lift rises above a cliff- so don't hurry out of the safety bar. Under the lift, therefore, is some nice, steep, expert terrain, South Rim and North Rim. Steep moguls, good snow and all the people on the lift to watch you fall, make this a great run. North and South Rim both open onto the bottom of the black run, Firststep, and empty onto Northstar, another black you can run, as with all of this, via the Timberline Catwalk. Further down Timberline Catwalk are the blues, Northwoods and Snag Park. Again, this is a great area and isn't usually too full of people. The snow is good and if there's powder, this is the frontside area to be skiing.

    You can access Northwoods via Trans Montane Catwalk (green) from Mid-Vail, via Prima Cornice (black) and Pronto (black), or via Flap Jack (green) and Roger's Run (double black) from Highline Lift/Lift 10. Highline services some nice runs itself. Primarily black runs, Highline is the farthest lift east in Vail. Roger's Run and Highline (double blacks) as well as Blue Ox (black) are not usually very popular, probably due to the slow chair, but are, nonetheless, really nice runs. If you take Roger's Run, you can access Log Chute and Klickity Klack, two blacks that are short but nice. Take Brisk Walk Catwalk (green) to Riva Catwalk or Mill Creek Road to get back down.

    From the top of Highline Lift, you can also access Flap Jack and possibly Tin Pants, two greens that will take you to easier ways down or to Sourdough Lift/Lift 14. Sourdough serves a green area/beginner zone, also including Boomer and Soughdough. Flap Jack empties into the Northwoods area, and approaching the lift is a slow zone.

    It's possible that the lift has been changed to a High Speed Quad since I was last there.

    Northwoods Express Lift/Lift 11- High Speed Quad, 1544 vertical, 6 minutes, closes at 4:00 pm.
    Highline Lift/Lift 10- Double Chair (HSQ?), 1762 vertical, 14 minutes, closes at 4:00 pm.
    Sourdough Lift/Lift 14- Triple Chair, 517 vertical, 5 minutes, closes at 4:00 pm.

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    Skiing, Frontside, Vista Bahn

    by John195123 Updated Mar 31, 2008

    Vista Bahn/Chair 16 is the most common way onto the mountain. It runs from Vail Village to Mid-Vail, where you'll find a restaurant and Chairs 3, Wildwood Express, and 4, Mountaintop Express. Vista Bahn, while it's primarily an access lift, also serves some excellent terrain, and some of the most difficult terrain on the front side. If you want some double diamonds, take the green Gitalong Road to any of the following- Been There, Done That, The Narrows, Mudslide and Frontside Chutes. These will all spit you out onto the lower section (blue) of Riva Ridge, where you'll take Mill Creek Road back to the base.

    Tourist Trap has changed since the days of old. It's still a steep, often icy black (especially on the left side as you skid downhill) in the midst of a fairly steep, blue Riva Ridge. Access Tourist Trap Via Gitalong Road, (heading toward Mountaintop Express/Lift 4 from the top of Vista Bahn then cut down onto Gitalong Road toward Trans Montane, another green catwalk.
    If you want to take the whole Riva Ridge, a long run that switches from black to blue to black to blue, has moguls and ice and power and a nice pitch- it's one of those thigh-burning, end-of-the-ski-day-hope-I-don't-crash runs that, if you don't stop, makes you feel like you've done something- from the top of Mountaintop Express/Lift 4, take Swingsville (green) and follow it until you hit Rive Ridge. Swingsville will cut off to the left before you get to Riva, but keep going along the ridge. Prima is a nice double black that starts off just across some trees from Riva, and Riva Glade... it's a black I haven't ever taken, but it's there for you.

    If you don't want to do Riva, but are in the mood for intermediates, any of the other blue runs, Whistle Pig, Expresso, Cappuccino or Christmas are good runs, as is Swingsville, a green, all of which run down to Mid-Vail.
    If you want to head over to Northwoods, take Pronto (black) or the Trans Montane Catwalk(green).

    If you find yourself in above your head, take the green Trans Montane Catwalk out.

    You can also get to Avanti from Vista Bahn, via Gitalong Road.

    Vista Bahn Express Lift/Lift 16- High Speed Quad, 1997 vertical, 9 minutes, closes at 4:00 pm.
    Wildwood Express Lift/Lift 3- High Speed Quad, 833 vertical, 5 minutes, closes at 4:00 pm.
    Mountaintop Express Lift/Lift 4- High Speed Quad, 1101 vertical, 4 minutes, closes at 4:00 pm.

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