We didn’t ski a single turn last winter because we spent January through May in the Bahamas. This year we were due for some skiing, but that would mean giving up a couple months on the Miss Adventure. It’s to my continued annoyance that I can’t be in two places at one time, so we had to choose. Hence, Vail.
Vail is possibly the most famous ski area in America, maybe second to Aspen. The area is adjacent to, and four times as big as, Beaver Creek, where we spent five winters in a row up until our 2015/2016 winter in the Bahamas. This year Heather found (and rented for us) the second-smallest condo in Vail, located across from Solaris Plaza and a six minute walk from Gondola One.
We flew out the day after the MLK long weekend, with the plan to stay until the first weekend of spring break. Since we didn’t want to be inconvenienced by actually working at the resort, with only 43 potential days of skiing in our schedule, we chose not to re-apply for our on-hill jobs that we had at the Beav (Vail and Beaver Creek are all one big happy company, so getting work at Vail would have been easy).
The weather in Colorado did not look promising at the beginning of the season. Vail had to delay its opening, and was plagued by warm temperatures and no snow all through November. Fortunately, in December, Al Gore relented and allowed some cold and snow to hit the Rockies. The Colorado resorts received almost an entire winter’s worth of snow in the seven weeks starting early December. And, because timing is everything, we arrived for that last week of heavy snow, during the best conditions of the season.
We tried to ease our ski muscles into shape, we really did, but the skiing was so terrific that we worked ourselves to exhaustion the first five days. Our fifth day was easily our second best powder skiing day ever, topped only by an incredible session in the French Alps in 2013. The powder in the back bowls was deep and plentiful. For some reason the resort was not crowded at all – possibly because the locals had already enjoyed 6+ weeks of continuous powder skiing. It was close to noon when we took the series of photos below in Siberia Bowl and Inner Mongolia Bowl.
After the storm track returned to normal (one snowfall every 7-10 days), we got down to some serious socializing, and met up with our friends Greg and Susan, Audre and Dimitri, Elizabeth and Michael, Ellen and Emil, Harry and Debbie, Jeff and Christine, plus Praz, Megan, Jen, Guy, Sean, Kevin, “Tahoe” Joe, “Other” Kent, and Mike. We had several visits to the spa at the Four Seasons, courtesy of our friends who own a condo there, and we took evening walks through Vail Village and visited our favorite restaurants (the Minturn Saloon, Crazy Mountain Brewery, Tiamo, Moe’s BBQ, Vendetta’s, Blue Moose Pizza). Plus there were parties and gatherings and we basically didn’t have a free minute for a month and a half.
We did wander over to Beaver Creek once or twice a week for either social skiing or the Monday Town Series races. As in previous years, we were very un-American and had no car, but the public transportation in Eagle County is fantastic and the lack of car never really bothered us. The Race Series was very good to us, and we won some great stuff, including race gloves (that I traded with a friend who had won a backpack), a boot bag, thermal base-layers, two restaurant gift certificates, a hard-sided ski carrier, and a GoPro (actually we each won a GoPro but we sold one at a nice discount to a friend).
Our goal at the start of our visit was to ski every single day, at least 10 runs and/or 15,000 vertical feet (as measured by Vail’s Epic Mix iPhone app). Part-way into the season we upped our goal to 12 runs and/or 18k vert per day (it’s good to have goals). Along the way I decided to see how long it would take to ride every single lift in Vail once and (only once), all 24 of them. One day when Heather was at a PSIA clinic I caught first chair in Lions Head and then worked my way around the resort. It turns out it takes 30,218 vertical feet and four hours 45 minutes to complete the circuit.
The weather gods continued to smile, because our last day we woke to 8 inches of fresh powder. This was on top of another 10 inches over the previous couple days, so the slopes skied a lot deeper than 8 inches. By quittin’ time I had amassed 829,622 vertical feet and 548 lift rides over 43 straight days. Heather had two days when she wasn’t feeling well and didn’t ski, so she ended up with about 45k feet fewer. But because we’re chronic over-achievers, at least when it comes to vacationing, we averaged over 19k feet and 12.7 lift rides per day. I feel that what we lack in personal ambition, we more than make up for with vacation acumen.
We finished our winter out west with a camping trip to Moab, Utah, with our friends Greg and Susan, plus Jen and her dog Miller. Greg and Susan are serious over-achievers when it comes to outdoor stuff. They have an entire cargo van filled with mountain bikes, tents, sleeping bags, cooking gear, coolers, and food. We camped on the mesa above the town for two nights. The first night was perfect, if a little cold; calm wind, clear skies, and temperatures around freezing. The second night was a lot warmer, but also a lot windier, and wasn’t quite as pleasant; a fine film of Utah dust had covered everything by morning. But, we had spent the previous evening at the fantastic Moab Brewery, so no one was too put out.
Back at Susan and Greg’s house near Beaver Creek, we had one final day to do laundry, pack, and visit the Gore Range Brewery (there’s a pattern developing here, I just can’t put my finger on it). Then it was an easy flight home, and with a six-day turn-around we will hopefully be on our way to the Bahamas to take our trawler, Miss Adventure, on her spring cruise through the Exumas and other Bahamian Out Islands.