While on a week long stay in Summit County I had the opportunity to ski Vail with Snowkat (aka Al), who, while not a "local," has skied Vail for over 30 years. This infrequent Vail skier was happy to have an experienced guide. Along for the trip was Clement, a native of France who has been living in NYC the past two years. This was his first trip to Colorado, having mostly skied in France. We met the day before on the gondola at Breck heading to Peak 7. He was very bummed to learn that none of the upper mountain at Breck was open yet.
I invited Clement to come along at Vail the following day with the promise of better snow (per Snowcat's Wednesday experience). Here's my best recollection of events, however I will caveat it by saying I began the day by mistaking a Sacagawea $1 coin for a day locker token. so I may have missed a detail or two.
Vail had announced that Blue Sky Basin would be opening for the season that day so we had hopes of some fresh snow, but that was hard to fathom as it hadn't snowed for 4 days. We started on the Eagle Bahn Gondola, and while cruising over to the Avanti Express via Columbine, I realized two things - 1) the condition of the snow and coverage were far better than Breck's, and 2) if I didn't make a single turn all day I was not going to keep up with Snowcat (which explains why there are no pictures of him on the slopes!).
From the top of Mountaintop Express, and a survey of the back bowls, we opted to try China Bowl. From the lift ride up, the section between Poppyfields East and Shangri-La showed promise, but we soon discovered it to be mostly windblown crust, and we headed to the Skyline Express Lift.
On the ride up Skyline we immediately saw untracked powder below. We headed down straight under the lift and then skiers right to find soft, undisturbed snow in the vicinity of Heavy Metal. We couldn't have been happier (Clement especially), and it was boot high in many areas. Although the lower section of Heavy Metal had the tops of many saplings showing, overall coverage was quite good. We did several laps up Pete's and found good snow both directly under the chair and on later runs skiers left on Resolution. Still couldn't believe we went from firm groomers the day before to this!
Once the area had been completely tracked out we headed over to Two Elks Lodge to fuel up and savor our good fortune. We spent the remainder of afternoon on the front side, getting the full east to west tour via the Northwoods Express, Riva Ridge, Gondola one and a few laps on Born Free.
Above Eagles Nest before a late-day cruiser. Snokat (orange), Clement (Green).
To close it out we toasted our excellent day, good fortune and fabulous mountain guide, Snowkat, with a cold beer at Bart & Yeti's in Lionshead. A perfect way to both end the day and start the season!! Looking forward to a return trip in January!!