Basically, for $25 per hour per person, you go to the top of the mountain, grab an intertube, get pulled up a hill, slide down same hill at pretty good speed, repeat 20 or so times. It was actually a lot of fun and a much better workout than you would think.
Vail offers some of the best skiing in the Rocky Mountains. It has the largest contiguous skiable terrain in the US and gets plenty of snow. The town is at 2500 metres above sea level and the highest skiable altitude is around 3500 metres (vertical drop of 1000 metres), but the surrounding peaks rise well above 4000 metres. The front side of the mountain facing vail is extensive and quite challenging, but could get crowded on peak weekends. The back bowls, on the other hand, are vast and are rarely crowded. There, skiing between the trees, or where there are no trees, tends to be the norm...
This is in the midst of the Rockie Mountain chain, and to the west of the most high range. It is situated about 40 miles west of the Eisenhower Tunnel that is in the middle of the highest point-Loveland Pass. It is 80 miles west of Denver. There would still be 10+ miles of driving through the mountains before getting to a flatter plain heading west.
The Rockies are a majestic eroding mountain range that still holds the award for the best known and mighty crests. Loveland Pass is 11,990 feet high, and the Eisenhower Tunnel goes under it to avoid climbing the winding old highway that still exists. Colors of the mountain range are grey, green , black, and covered by many pines. It takes around 40 miles to get through it all end to end and get on more level ground
There is mid VAi (Vail Village along with Lionshead complex), West and East VAil. It has got so big that buses cart people around to mitigate the traffic issues. End to End it stretches about 2 miles now, and all off US 70. The mid section is the hub of shopping and staying in hotels. The outlying is the condos that owners have for use, or rental when not there. The whole theme of the shops are patterned after an Alpine concept. It is well done and the quality of the structures and the goods are top notch. The hope by Vail Resorts is to get the high wealth people come here and spend and stay. It works in good times. The shops are mostly all expensive merchandise; but why else did you come here? I counted around 150 shops and restaurants and some places to stay in the Village area.
Ski activity is the vogue here and the Vail village got its start that way. Now to make it a year round resort and condo sale area, they have bike and hiking trial in the mountains to boot. Some are the same, or side by side of the ski lanes. Numerous paths are carved out of the treeline, and the mountain looks a bit denuded. The draw is to ski,. bike, hike and the underlying goal is to sell condos and goods.
Vail Resorts has been developing the area since 1950's even though the wave did not get a big start until 1980's, then by mid decade all the resorts literally "died". I was a part of the Breckenridge bankruptcy that took the ownership away form St. Louis founder Don. And then Copper Mountain was another problem that was mothballed for some years until money and popularity came back to Colorado. They now have a long row of shops and retail to attract all types and kinds, even though the catering is to the high end sector. This is real life. Vail now has sky cranes erected and building two new multi story places? Will it work?
The purpose to offer the amenities at Vail for the owners is to sell and build condos. It continues to expand over the last 40 years and now has sprawled out into a real community with normal issues as to town living. Traffic and people are centralized into the main center, and this has caused the requirement to use the bus system to get around. Coming to town, you can shop and eat, and enjoy the tourists.
This is right in the middle of Vail Village, on the top section by the visitor center. It is short and brief, and the ultimate goal is to shop for a souvenir, or take home keepsake. They do have some old skis and show the layout of the mountain in the old days. The museum shows the history of skiing being a key attribute for the population of Colorado and this area for commerce and mail service initially. Later it evolved into a ski resort area form a train coming through here.
Snowmobiling Tours as well as Self-Guided Snowmobile Rentals are available in the Vail Backcountry. Ride with a guide at Fremont Pass or explore the Continental Divide on your own atop Vail Pass on a rental machine. Various levels of tours are available for all abilities.
Lionshead is the western part of Vail and is considered a separate community from Vail Village, about 5 minutes away by bus. Lionshead is in the process of reinventing itself as a nordic/alpine town with many of the once boring buildings in the centre of the village getting a facelift. The buildings have been beautifully renovated to resemble Scandinavian and Austrian architecture, complete with frescoes clocks and turrets. Lionshead is a better base for skiing due to having the fast gondola at its base.
The Back Bowls of Vail are my favourite area to ski. This area offers more challenging skiing (mostly black diamonds) and is even larger than the front side. It is made up of four "bowls": Sun Up, Sun Down, China and Siberia. It also has much less tree coverage, so one could ski practically anywhere. The scenery is quite amazing. Favourite runs include Over Yonder, Shangri-La and Chopstix. From the bottom of China Bowl, one can access Blue Sky Basin, which is another challenging area.
The front side of Vail, i.e. the skiable area facing the town, is quite extensive and offers excellent skiing. This area tends to be the most crowded due to its proximity and easy access to the town itself, and also due to having more blue (medium) slopes. An entire day could be spent skiing the front side and that would not be near enough to cover all of the trails. Favourite runs here include Cappuccino, Avanti and Simba.
The centre of the town of Vail, known as Vail Village is a most charming place designed to resemble Alpine villages. It has the greatest concentration of restaurants, bars, and boutiques. Many restaurants are superb and the bars fun. Shopping, particularly for ski clothes and art, is also fantastic, though expensive.
Beaver Creek is an excellent skiing resort located about 20 minutes west of Vail. While smaller, Beaver Creek offers an alternative to Vail if one if staying in Vail for an extended period. Shuttle buses are available between the two resorts. Beaver Creek also has some great hotels (including a Ritz Carlton) and restaurants, so one could stay at Beaver Creek instead of Vail. I skied once in Beaver Creek (Feb 2007).
for starters vail is about 7 miles wide so there is no shortage of runs and bowls to hit. everytime you go over a ridge there is anouther bowl to explore, its amazing! they have everything from groomed runs to back bowls, glade skiing, a nice park, and it never seems to end. this is one resort you can explore for days and not get bored. the front side where you can see the town is nice but for me gets to crowded and some of the runs get boring for me, so i spend most of my time in the back bowls where you can go down a bowl, go into the trees for a while and come back out into the chute and just go wherever you want.
lots of cornices to jump off, cliffs, rockbands, and rock outcropings to keep you entertained by jumping off them. dont worry ifyour not that great of a skiier because you can avoid these if you would like (i search for them)
some of my favorite bowls were the china bowl, sun up bowl, and petes bowl. siberia bowl was really sweet too but the thing i didnt like about it was it took kinda long to get to and once you went down you had to hit a huge cat walk all the way back to the lift... but this bowl was the lest ridden so if it hasnt snowed in a few days id recomend making the journy over to teh siberia bowl for some fresh snow. some of my favorite runs were lover's leap, dragon's teeth, and the headwall.
Here are some comments on several of the green runs for beginners, based on my experience. I found that doing each run several times in a row was a good approach to build up confidence with the terrain.
Eagle's Nest Ridge: Probably the the easiest green run, moderate slopes only. Finishes at the gondola, which you can ride down if you aren't up to taking blue runs. Also runs into the easy practice zone at the top of Minnie's lift.
Pika: Pretty easy run, good to start on or to warm up for the day. Minnie's lift to the top is bloody slow.
The Meadows: A mid-level green run I found myself doing many times due to it's central location. Very broad first half, with a variety of gradients - look for the flatter bits when you first start. Make sure you take your foot of the brake and shoot straight downhill as soon as you pass the big tree at the bottom of the first "meadow", otherwise you will find yourself slogging up a big hill.
Lost Boy: Slightly harder green run. Most of it is easy, but it has one very steep slope (for a green run) right at the start, then another pretty steep one at the end. Some of the best views on the mountain and good slop training, I did this run several times.
Ramshorn: Nice run, easy start and slowly gets harder, but with no really steep slopes *except* a well marked blue run section in the middle. You can go around this on a short catwalk trail ... make sure to snowplough heavily down this fairly steep, narrow track or you can easily slam into the side (or off the edge). Ends in the bottom part of the Meadows.
Swingsville: Easily the hardest green run, I suspect it is only green because much of it is in a patrolled "slow zone". The slopes are as steep as the steepest on Lost Boy and probably three times longer. Save this one for after you've developed some confidence going down slopes.