The Sun Down Bowl at Vail.
Arriving at the Vail Village Mountain Plaza, after paying to park, one begins to wonder why they made the trip. The frontside of Vail is not at all impressive. Sure the mountain side village has a slight European feel and the trails look challenging and fun, but you just had to pay to park!
Be patient and after getting your tickets take the ‘Vista Basin Express’ to the ‘Avanti Express Lift’ and finally grab the ‘Mountaintop Express Lift’ to the peak which houses the ski patrol headquarters. Once you get off the lift and make your way to the back side bowls you will forget about the cost of parking, the cost of the lift ticket and just laugh in joy at the sight of open bowls and limitless options. The experienced skier/rider should make their way down the ‘Silk Road’ to the ‘Mongolia’ t-bar. A twenty minute hike to the left of t-bar, before you can continue on the ‘Silk Road’, offers a couple extra turns in the white stuff and a spectacular view of the Rockies at the top, plus a great excuse to sit down and crack open a cold one while you enjoy the sunny skies of Colorado. An off-piste option is available which provides access to the Vail Village East, but is only recommended for experienced skiers/riders, always let someone know your plans if you do go off piste just as a precaution as well. After finishing your reward for a “hard” hike make your way through the powder back to the ‘Silk Road’ and pick up the ‘Outer Mongolia Bowl’. Make sure you get some speed at the bottom though, because it is a relatively flat ride down the bottom of the ‘Silk Road’ back to the ‘Orient Express Lift’.
For those looking to try “hucking” off some drops check out the ‘Headwall Ridge’ which is off the trail ‘Sleepytime’ by the ‘Patrol Headquarters’. After follow the ‘Sun Up Catwalk’ to the ‘High Noon Lift’. Taking a right off the lift will return you to the headwall while hooking a left will offer access to tree skiing and the ‘Sun Down Bowl’, which is great to ski towards the end of the day since the front side is easily accessed.
Intermediate and beginner skiers/riders should not be intimidated by the back bowls and make sure to get over the peak and check them out. All the bowls provide a groomed ‘Blue Square’ trail to provide an easy way out for the less experienced skier, plus you might get a chance at seeing your more experienced friends pull a yard-sale coming down the face of a bowl.
The apres ski scene at Vail is an enjoyable experience, even if the prices are a little high. The people of Colorado are undeniably friendly and very receptive to Bostonians, the ladies especially appreciate the accent. The village at Vail has plenty of places to stop in for a snack and drink after skiing, many with outdoor porches, live bands, and great views of the mountains.
By the end of a day at Vail the price paid for parking will be the furthest thing from your mind as you replay the runs you made in the bowls on the backside or trees on the frontside. To be honest your only regret may be not spending the night and getting one more shot at those bowls.