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Vail skiers' guide? - Page 2

post #31 of 47
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by givethepigeye View Post

Just use the "George Costanza" method - whatever you think would be fun - do the opposite. Seriously, all the other guests are thinking the,same thing.


You know this is actually pretty good advice lol. And it always worked for George.


Originally Posted by marznc View Post

Looks like there are several options for a free mountain host tour at Vail.  I've always learned quite a bit from mountain hosts at big mountains.  Definitely a good way to get tips the best way to avoid crowds and move between areas.


Complimentary Mountain Ski/Snowboard Tours 

During the winter season, Community Guest Service volunteers provide complimentary tours of Vail Mountain for any guest whose ability level is intermediate or above. 

General Mountain Tours leave from the Game Creek Desk adjacent to the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola and from the top of Gondola One at the Mid Vail Ski School desk each morning promptly at 10:30 a.m. It is highly recommended to get to either location by 10:15 as each participant will be required to sign a liability release form before the tour. Each tour is considered a “Familiarization Tour” of the mountain and should last about 2 hours. 

The Blue Sky Basin tour begins at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from Henry’s Hut across from Patrol Headquarters (PHQ) at the top of Chair 4. Please arrive at Henry’s Hut by 10:45 to sign a release form. This tour is recommended for High level intermediate or above skiers or riders. 

50+ Ski With Us tours are designed for skiers age 50 or older. These tours meet at 9:15 a.m. on Monday mornings at Gondoly's Pizza seating area at the top of the Eagle Bahn Goldola. Tours depart at 9:30 sharp and liability release forms must be signed before leaving. This is an all day tour that can go anywhere on Vail Mountain with a stop for lunch, usually at Two Elk. Four guides provide four skiing tours from advanced intermediate to expert levels of skiing. Join the 50+ tour for part of the day or for the full day and experience the epic skiing on Vail Mountain.


Outstanding--thanks for the idea and the time spent digging up the info. Please have a virtual beverage on me!

post #32 of 47

If you qualify for 50+, that sounds like the way to go.  When I did a tour at Big Sky, the rest of the group were the advanced skiers from a senior ski club from the northeast.  Average age for the 8 in the group was probably 60.  My ski buddy and I were over 50 but on the young end of the spectrum.  We were moving pretty fast on the groomers between info stops once the host was convinced everyone could keep up.  Got all sorts of good tips on where to find good bumps runs we couldn't see.


Hope you report back if you do a tour.  Have fun!

post #33 of 47
Originally Posted by maui19 View Post

Is what I'm asking so bizarre? I mean, Vail is huge, and I'm only going to be there for 5 days. I'd prefer not spending 1/2 that time in lift lines and on skied-out trails if possible.


People like to hate on Vail. It's okay. People like to hate on my favorite mountain, Breck, too. I have skied Vail with people who know the tricks, and it was a much more rewarding experience than it had been on my own. Unfortunately, I have no memory of what those tricks were. My "trick" at Breck is to take a lesson, which is not a terrible idea at any resort, especially crowded ones. Unfortunately, it does eat into the morning, which is especially annoying when it has snowed overnight. It's also approaching $200, which is a lot to pay, especially if the people you're grouped with have a different agenda than you do. I spend money like a sieve drains water, but the price of a private at Breck (and I'm sure at Vail too) is painful to contemplate.


Facts are facts: Vail is an incredibly popular resort destination. Obvious lifts will be mobbed. There is a general flow that most people follow that will be packed, and then people who ski Vail a lot have developed routes that go against the flow, but I don't know what those are. Also, Vail has lots of cat tracks, meaning that the wrong choice can become extremely annoying - whatever you do, make sure your skis are well waxed.


People do sing the praises of Blue Sky Basin, so maybe that's a good starting point?  I note that some Bears who are quite familiar with Vail are not chiming in. I can't help but think there is a bit of a conspiracy of silence in play. "The first rule of skiing Vail is, you don't talk about (the best way to) ski Vail."

post #34 of 47

Here are a couple of the links I've found, having never been there before and being an intermediate skier :


And I almost forgot I had this. Shortly after booking my Vail trip this year, I hunted all over for guides to Vail (which is how I found EpicSki in the first place, coincidentally). Someone on here had posted this several years ago, though I didn't copy down who wrote it. It's a suggestion for what to do with 1 day at Vail. Whoever it was - thanks!


Start at Golden Peak--


Take Lift 6--(Riva Bahn) stay on at the mid-station---then take Lift 11 (Northwoods)--go right at the top.


Warmup on Swingsville (o) or Christmas/Cappuccino/Expresso/Whistle Pig.


Take Lift 4 (Mountain Top Express)--ski back under the lift and take the 1st left--then the first right on to Powerline Glade (which isn't) on to Ramshorn to the bottom of Chair 3.


Take Chair 3 (Wildwood express)--at the top make a U-turn and ski along the top of Kangaroo Cornice, go to the top of the lift ahead of you and ski Avanti/Pickeroon/Berries/Lodgepole or Columbine to the bottom of lift 2.


Take Lift 2 (Avanti Express) and ski along Eagles Nest Ridge....toward the Eagles Nest Lodge (stop and look at the view where Sharpshooters Photography snaps pics to your left as you approach the lodge.



If Avanti/Pickeroon etc etc was comfortable terrain hang a left and go to the Game Creek Lift and take a run on something there ----then continue picking up from the top of the Game Creek Lift.
Go past the Lodge and ski Born Free/Pride/Bwana or Simba. to the bottom of Lift 26. (by the way 26 NEVER has a crowd---note there is no lift maze) Hop on Lift 26 (Pride Express) and at the top go straight ahead into Game Creek.


Take Lift 7 (Game Creek)--at the top go left toward the top of Lift 3 and on to Kangaroo Cornice and try that. (too steep or bumpy---go to Meadows or Mid Vail Express trail and on to the bottom of Lift 4---the lift to the left---confusing double maze.


Take Lift 4 (WOW the same lift twice) and go left at the top a short ways down Northwoods trail and bear right into the back bowls.
***Check the Grooming Report***
Usually The Slot and Yonder and/or Yonder Gully are groomed. Easy-Moderate Expert terrain if groomed. If this terrain looks to be too much continue on the catwalk (Sleepytime) to Lift 17 (Sun Up) or if you want to just see more of the place down to Lift 36 (TeaCup) (TeaCup is one very impressive ride--a rare time I put the safety bar down).


Both lifts end at the same spot. Take Life 23 (West Wall) (surface lift to nowhere) and check out Two Elk Lodge. (I think this lift has been removed so skate down to Two Elk.


Follow signs to Poppyfields West which is always groomed and take it to the bottom of Chair 21 (Orient Express)


Take Chair 21 (Orient Express) and study terrain...If Chopstix/East&West Poppyfields are comfortable stay there and play Shangra La Glade is fun too and faces North so the snow stays soft.


If you want some steeper stuff ski past the bottom or the 21 chair and go on to the Tea Cup Lift and ski Genghis or Jade. (Cliffs on Dragons Teeth and boulders on Sweet and Sour)--or if you exited left at the Tea Cup lift you can go play under Chair 17 (Sun Up)---a better way to go if it's cold--17 is a much shorter ride.

Day 2
Lift 6---Lift 11---right into the Back Bowls and ski there and explore for awhile.


Then head over and ski at Blue Sky Basin on Lifts 17 (Skyline) and 39 (Petes). NOTE---while the semi-treed areas back there look good (and are) there are branches and stumps in there early season. Carefull---if you see a lump, and it isn't moving---avoid it !



post #35 of 47
Get up and out of the Village early.
Head straight to the back bowls.
When chair 5 starts getting a line, flip back over to the front and camp out on Highline.
Avoid mid Vail like the plague.
post #36 of 47
The best possible advice to give is to download an app called epic mix. It is a bail resorts app with tons of features that I won't get into, but this year there is a new feature called epic mix guide. You enter in your preferences (level of skier, how long you are skiing for, and where you are starting) and it spits out the best possible route for you to take. It is very cool and helpful and you should really check it out.
post #37 of 47

The best way to ski Vail is to not have a plan......everyday is different there depending on day-of-the-week, new snow, weather, winds, snow condition, back bowl conditions, and crowds.

I know it something that people who aren't familar with the mountain and who don't ski there often can't really do since they don't know the place, but you have to take into account all of the above factors going into the day to make a plan.


The reality is the best way to ski Vail is to predict the herd-like mentality and..DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE!


Powder days, particularly weekend powder days at Vail are an absolute free-for-all.  It will be aggressive, people will be nuts, people will annoy you, you may get frustrated, but it can be very fun.


It's hard to tell you exactly that, but most locals have specific Vail plans for powder days, windy days, sunny days, crowded days, and no how to make audible calls on what lift to go, what line/run to take, to maximize the experience.

post #38 of 47
It's hard to tell you exactly that, but most locals have specific Vail plans for powder days, windy days, sunny days, crowded days, and no how to make audible calls on what lift to go, what line/run to take, to maximize the experience.

I'll be taking notes Jan. 12-16.


At most tourist heavy destinations

Get up and out of the Village early.

is sound advice.  I was at Vail on Monday of Easter Week once and skied wide-open groomers with no lift lines in tourist-friendly areas like mid-Vail, Avanti and Game Creek until 10:30AM or so.  By 11AM mid-Vail was a zoo.  I had not intended to be there then, but wind shut the Back Bowls most of that day.

post #39 of 47
Thread Starter 

Really good stuff guys--very helpful.

post #40 of 47

I haven't had a Vail pass for 5 years or so, but here's what I used to due before I quit because it got too crowded:


It's all about the back bowls:

- work through the bowls West to East: Game Creek -> Sun Down -> Sun Up -> China -> Siberia -> Mongolia.

- hit the steepest lines, often requiring a traverse down a ridge.  Keep going for better snow.

- If you find something you like repeat, as you might not be back.  

- lunch at Two Elk, and if the snow is good spend the rest of the day in China, Siberia and Mongolia.   

- if the snow sucks in the bowls, go to Plan B.


Plan B:

- dork around in Blue Sky until you get bored.

- head to Highline until somebody whines about too many bumps.

- then go goof around off Northwoods.


This will give you an idea where the steeper lines are in the back bowls:


post #41 of 47
Originally Posted by afski722 View Post

The reality is the best way to ski Vail is to predict the herd-like mentality and..DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE!

^this (George Costanza) or just get up before anyone else.
post #42 of 47

Vail, on an uncrowded day is awesome.  On a busy, congested, high-intensity day it can be very frustrating to the unfamiliar skier.


There are ways to avoid the crowds, but its very hard to explain in a forum and the tactical strategies are hard to explain because they are so dependent on the specific conditions and variables of the day.


The best way to enjoy Vail is to get out there early!  Get up there for first chair.  If you get there after 9:30, prepare to be frustrated on busy days.


Vail has a natural lemming/heard mentality that always seems to go Vista Bahn/Gondola 1 -> Chair 4 -> Chair 5.  Oh, Chair 5 is busy, lets try Chair 11...ohh Chair 11 is busy lets go to Blue Sky!

Ski through lunch, don't stop.  Take a late lunch after 1pm if you must.  If you ski a line and you like it, do it again, like said you may not get a chance to come back or the line may be unbearable.


The obvious lines will all be skied out by 11am on a powder day.  Hidden stashes will be good for days though.

post #43 of 47
Thread Starter 

The consensus here is similar to mountains everywhere: get there early, get deep into the mountain as quickly as you can. Stay there until the crowds catch up to you, then intelligently work your way back. 


Lot's of very good tips here. Thumbs Up

post #44 of 47

Great thread.  Thought I'd bump it.

post #45 of 47

Bring a backpack - get bagels, gatorade, and  other snacks in the bag.  Eating at Vail is expensive and it will give you much more flexibility.  Water too - you will need it especially if coming from sea level. 

post #46 of 47

Yeah, I ski with a Camelback. 


Heh, speaking of altitude and Camelbacks, here's a cautionary tale.  Was skiing Telluride a couple years back.  Out first thing in the morning -- you have to take several lifts before you're all the way back to the rear of the box canyon where the chutes are -- more than an hour's worth of work on lifts and skis before you're back there.   So, we're finally back there and on the last lift to take us up to the most remote back part of the mountain section.  Cut to  my eyes going WIDE like Alfalfa spotting a naked lady.  Water is gushing down my back and into the seat of my pants.  My Camelback burst.  That was a long, stiff trip back to the condo to change, let me tell you.  But that was the first and last time a Camelback ever burst on me -- I still wear them (and lean back on them on the lift, etc.).

post #47 of 47

I burst a Camelbak once too.  Fortunately it was at Mt. Bachelor in spring, and outside my waterproof jacket.


As I expected I had minimal crowd issues at Vail last January.  The Friday (day before MLK) was a mild exception.   The ticket line at Lionshead was 10 minutes even though we were early. We took one run too many on Chair 4 and thus hit the lift line buildup of another 10 minutes.  That was the only significant lift line all week.   10:30AM is the witching hour at mid-Vail.  Those are great cruiser runs, but if you want to ski them, do it early and get out of there before 10:30.   On that Friday, busiest day of the trip, I still skied 31K vertical.

There are ways to avoid the crowds, but its very hard to explain in a forum and the tactical strategies are hard to explain because they are so dependent on the specific conditions and variables of the day.

Common sense and general ski experience will help you.  Vail's skier density relative to acreage is average for destination resorts, and since it's so huge that means a lot of outlying areas are usually fairly quiet.  I did have local guidance from Paul Kulas on 1 1/2 days of that week but I was also on my own on a powder Monday and skied 14K by 11AM in dreadfully crowded conditions like this:

The best way to enjoy Vail is to get out there early!  Get up there for first chair.

Sound and basic advice for any scenario at any ski area when you suspect it might be busy.  TR's from that week at Vail:

Monday morning:

Tuesday with Paul Kulas:

Wednesday, guided morning run to East Vail:

Friday, afternoon was with Paul:


I was also with Paul Sunday skiing Highlands Bowl at Aspen. He would be an excellent guide there for the upcoming Gathering.

Edited by Tony Crocker - 10/3/15 at 12:39pm
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