Skiing Vail, Colorado (1997)
Late in April, I take advantage of a fabulous opportunity to engage in a dream I have had for many years; namely, to ski at Vail Mountain. I have some good friends in Florida who occasionally allow friends to stay at their Vail condominium. In addition, a late snow means that Vail extends their ski season another weekend. I therefore gear up for Vail with two Boulder friends to spend a full weekend at the condominium and ski at Vail with $5 per day lift tickets (tickets are ordinarily $54 per day). Both days give us pleasant, sunny, spring-time weather.
Vail is everything everyone says about it. It is truly a skiers paradise. There are 26 lifts servicing 4,644 skiable acres, which makes Vail North America's largest single ski mountain. There are 121 trails rated 32 percent beginner, 36 percent intermediate, and 32 percent advanced. Back bowls are 36 percent intermediate and 32 percent advanced. There are so many trails that even a full weekend does not allow you to do more than a fraction of them. The trails I did at Vail included Ramshorn, Hunky Dory, Swingsville, and Overeasy. Some of the advanced slopes I saw on the lifts (as a beginner, I only did the beginner and intermediate slopes) look rather deadly and terrifying. Several trails have fun moguls and several others are groomed.
As a beginner, I have still not mastered the art of skiing at a slower and "under control" speed. As a result, I have numerous screaming descents. I tend to crash often. Clearly, it is rather entertaining (or horrifying) for skiiers on the lift to watch me crash at such high speeds. While at Vail on the first day, I sprain my thumb and crush my left toe in such crashes, which prevented me from skiing on the second day (it is torturously painful to make turns when your thumb and toe are injured, I discover—which just increased the number of crashes I have).
On the second day, I bring my camera and use the lifts to shoot several photos of the extremely spectacular, snow-capped mountain ranges and valleys that ring Vail, as you can see in the photos I've included here.
Vail Village is a real treat for urban planners such as myself, who can really appreciate quality urban design. The village is very compact, walkable, and filled with shops and residences. The buildings are two to five stories in height, and are pulled up to the street, creating what new urbanists would call very intimate and pleasant "outdoor rooms"—perfect for strolling and enjoying the ambience. It reminds one of a quaint European village. On Saturday night, we enjoy a nice dinner at one of the many excellent Vail restaurants.
At the end of the first day, I am at the top of the mountain when the lifts stop running. I choose to ski down one trail to "Mid-Vail", then find a snow-covered road leading back to the Village. It is 30 minutes of effortless, pleasant, quiet downhill skiing on this road—very delightful and relaxing. Will I return again? Absolutely. Perhaps for some summer mountain biking (using the lifts), but certainly for more skiing. Vail is a must-do for skiers.
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