With 5,289 skiable acres – by far the most of any Colorado resort – Vail truly has something for everyone. Intermediate skiers can easily lose themselves on the endless groomers of the front face. Vail’s seven back bowls, tamer then their black diamond rating suggests, offer highly accessible bowl skiing without the exposure and altitude gain that such skiing typically requires. And if that’s not enough, Blue Sky Basin is a massive playground of bumps, glades, and cliffs, with stunning views of the Sawatch Range. Skiing purists may bemoan the sprawling resort village and luxurious amenities of Vail, but when the powder piles up, the skiing is tough to beat.

For three magical days in January of 2016, Vail received more snow than any other resort in North America – and I happened to be there to enjoy it. With powder up to our waists, my friends and I skied the countless lines of the back bowls, seemingly floating down the mountain as we ducked in an out of the trees. The culmination of the experience had to be when I accidentally launched myself off of a cliff. Skiing in near-whiteout conditions, I failed to see the orange poles signifying a cliff band ahead. Suddenly, I found myself free falling as the ground dropped out beneath me. As I landed safely in a pillow of powder, I felt a sense of relief and exhilaration that I had never felt before. I swear that I almost stuck the landing, though my friends say otherwise.

Pro Tips

  • With slow lifts, the back bowls can become crowded quickly. On a busy day, head to Earl’s Express lift on Blue Sky Basin, where there’s seldom a line to enjoy the 1,500’ vertical of un-groomed goodness.
  • Ski Skree Field and Steep and Deep to find the most challenging terrain and best powder stashes in Vail.
  • Vail is expensive enough as it is; utilize the free parking at Donovan Park, near Lionshead village.
  • The traverse all the way to the Mongolia Bowl is quite the endeavor, but the open glades and rolling terrain make the trip worth it.
  • Recommended season(s): February-March.

    —Sam Toulmin


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