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Dreams do come true: Vail's Christmas keeps getting gradually whiter


Dreams do come true: Vail's Christmas keeps getting gradually whiter

By David O. Williams

December 23, 2009 —  Vail and Beaver creek only reported 3 inches of new snow Wednesday … but we’ll take it. It’s not the size of the gift, it’s the thought that counts, or something like that.

In stark contrast to the past two Decembers, when snow kept relentlessly piling up to our chimneys with care, it’s been a dry start to the 2009-10 ski season so far in the Vail Valley.

But a little mid-week blast of snow softened things up significantly Wednesday, providing me and my boys (out of school for the next two interminable weeks) a much better ski experience than recent days.

And the snow kept falling during the day, lightly filling in tracks and promising even better turns on Christmas Eve. In fact, we caught one of the last chairlifts rides Wednesday (only my sixth day on skis so far this season, mostly because I’m a foul-weather skier) and snow was still lightly falling.

Forecasters were calling for another 2-4 inches overnight Wednesday into Thursday and another inch or two overnight Christmas Eve. Again, we’ll take whatever we can get.

To be clear, things could be much worse. The entire front side of the mountain is open and in very good shape, thanks to a couple 6-or-7-inch storms in the last two weeks and temperatures more than cold enough for plenty of good snowmaking. And Game Creek Bowl is open for a backside light experience. But we need that good foot-and-half dump to get the Back Bowls open for the New Year.

Still, if you’re from most of the rest of the country – say Back East or the Midwest -- what we experienced on Vail Mountain Wednesday would be one of the best powder days of the year. So yes, we are spoiled here in Vail.

Anyway, slow but steady seems to be the theme this season, so maybe we’ll have a better March than we’ve seen in recent years, when the snow has disappointingly tapered off during what’s supposed to be the deepest month of the year. Only time will tell.

In the meantime, things are getting steadily better up here (and more terrain is rumored to be coming online for the holiday week), but the lower snowfall totals mean pass restrictions will be in effect Sunday, Dec. 27, through Saturday, Jan. 2.

The restricted passes (meaning you have to pay a day rate to ski) are: Colorado Pass, Merchant Pass, School Employee Pass, Senior Mid Week Pass, Young Adult Pass, and Guest Fee and Community Relations. Epic Passes are good to go.



Comment on article  4 Comments on "Dreams do come true: Vail's Christmas keeps getting gradually whiter "


RadioactiveMan — December 24, 2009

"Still, if you’re from most of the rest of the country– say Back East or the Midwest -- what we experienced on Vail Mountain Wednesday would be one of the best powder days of the year." A good point. Vail needs to stick to marketing to the East & Midwest. The hill is a punchline in the West. For instance, several mountains in WA, OR & CA have open, south-facing bowls with flat, 25-degree pitches that locals jokingly call "Vail", no matter what the trail map says. If you're under 50 and coming from the West Coast mtns, you're going to wonder what the hype is. Where is any legit terrain? Where is the snow? 300"/year? Man. And ticket price? Wow. But if you've lived in the East or Chicago, Vail is amazing. If I'm CEO Katz, I'm focusing 90% of efforts there.


David O. — December 24, 2009

Thanks for the comment, RadioactiveMan, you make a good point about Vail being a mostly gentle giant that makes skiers from the terrain-challenged parts of the world feel like ski gods. However, you're way off base on price. At $579, the unrestricted "Epic," six-mountain season ski pass (including steep and challenging A-Basin and one of your West Coast mountains, Heavenly) is the best deal in the ski world. And I've skied extensively in WA, OR and CA and the terrain may be steeper but the snow is coastal, heavy and sets up fast. Also, Vail's Back Bowls are unique in the world. Nowhere I've skied has such huge, mostly 30-degree expanses with steady treeless vertical. Plus, we got over 400 inches the past two seasons -- of light, dry Rocky Mountain, continental powder.


RadioactiveMan — December 24, 2009

For locals, it's nearly free, I agree. J-Hole charges $2000 for a season pass. Unbelievable deal, couldn't believe it when I got here. For travelers though, it's expensive ($97/day?). My buddy flew in last winter, we caught an 11" day at Vail & an 8" day at Breck and he felt robbed.
As for snowpack - this may be a "agree to disagree"-type thing, but I prefer a maritime snowpack. Sticks to steeps better. More stable, better bonding. With light stuff, it can be a 10" new day in the Back Bowls, and you'll still occasionally be hitting ice moguls underneath. Coastal pack only needs 4-6" and you won't hit bottom.
Thanks for the debate, keep up the good work!


David O — December 26, 2009

Not that I'm a shill for Vail Resorts, but the $579 Epic Pass can be purchased online by anyone and makes a lot of sense if you're planning a couple of trips to Colorado. You can do the math, but if you get 10 days at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breck, Keystone or Arapahoe Basin (any time of the year; no restrictions), then you're only paying $57 a day. I know Bay Area skiers probably prefer Squaw, but if they get an Epic Pass at Heavenly, they can throw in a Colorado trip. The San Juan Mountains in Colorado have probably the state's steepest terrain, but the snowpack is sketchy compared to the Cascades. Still, I like my pow lighter and dryer. Matter of taste, I guess. Have a good one out there (wherever you are), and thanks for reading.



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