By Heather Burke, Boston.com Correspondent
Vail is the ultimate skier’s mountain, every time I ski here I’m reminded. This season, Vail has tons of snow, the Back Bowls are open ahead of schedule, and the forecast is for several more feet of snow before Christmas. What do I love about Vail? Let’s start with the perfect ski mountain, with ideal fall line terrain. The Front Side of Vail has dozens of signature trails – long and cascading, Simba, Born Free, and Gandy Dance are favorites. The 4-mile Riva Ridge named for the 10th Mountain Division founders here is long, steep and superbly scenic.
Then Vail’s incomparable back side offers seven wide-open bowls encompassing 3,000 of Vail’s 5,289 total acreage, natural snow terrain, untouched and often untracked. We skied light powder amid perfectly spaced aspen trees, lapping rides on swift high speed lifts (hardly time to catch my breath) in Vail’s Back Bowls, my early Christmas gift.
What else do you need for a perfect ski mountain? A Zermatt-style village, of course, and Vail’s pedestrian Bridge Street is an alpine postcard with snow-covered chalet roofs, chic ski boutiques and après ski bars that rock with live music as skiers pour off the mountain ready to celebrate in ski boots. Vail has expanded since my first trip two decades ago, but hasn’t lost its charm or personality. Vail is sophisticated, but still a real skier’s town, with classic spots like the Red Lion and Pepi’s. The Place to stay at Vail, the original that opened with Vail Resort in 1962, is The Lodge at Vail – an Austrian style hotel perfectly situated at the top of Vail Village steps to Gondola One and Vail’s best eateries and shops, like Gorsuch and Golden Bear.
Vail is a must visit for every skier, and this season they’ve got the snow, often enhanced by beautiful western blue sky lighting up the impressive Gore Range. While Vail is no longer technically the biggest ski resort, it sure skis like it. Vail will always be among the best ski mountains anywhere.
By Heather Burke
Photo by Greg Burke