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Vail's Back Bowls are legendary
Vail's Back Bowls are legendary
Photo by Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts
By Tom Boyd

December 10, 2008 — The Town of Vail is nearing the close of its three-year, multi-billion-dollar renewal, and the entire Village is shimmering like a brand-new Christmas gift. The streets, lodges, and shops nearly dripping with opulence, yet Vail is also entering its most egalitarian, affordable year perhaps in its history.

The $579 Epic Pass season pass will bring new vitality to the town, say supporters, as it helps open up Vail’s pearly gates (and tremendous terrain) to almost all comers. Consistently ranked as one of the top one or two ski mountains in North America, Vail is huge, varied, well-groomed, well-tended, and formerly very expensive.

Those who opted for more affordable resorts in the past may want to take a few days (or weeks) to get acquainted with Vail’s 93 different runs, more than 5,000 acres, and every kind of terrain (except, arguably, good sustained steeps).

With all this ahead, the key to a good day in Vail is navigation and planning. Weekend crowds can fill the main lift lines but leave others empty, and snow conditions can be completely different on the southern exposures than on the northern exposures. Good snow can always be found in patches, in the trees, or on the groomers, which are listed at the three main base areas (Golden Peak, Vail Village, and Lionshead).

Fun Fact: Vail is removing dead and dying beetle-kill from portions of the mountain as a fire and safety precaution – but a positive by-product will be a cleaner, healthier-looking forest on Vail’s frontside

Average annual snowfall: 346

Price: Prices vary (see website)

Skiable Acres: 5,289

Lifts: 34

Terrain park: Yes

Season: Nov. 21 – April 19

Lifts: 31 (1 gondola, 16 high-speed quad, 1 quad, 3 triple, 1 double, 3 surface, 6 carpet)

Terrain breakdown: 18 percent beginner, 29 percent intermediate, 53 percent advanced/expert

Location: 100 miles west of Denver on I-70

Information:,, (970) 476-5601



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