Vail Ski Resort
|Vail Ski Resort|
|Location||White River National Forest
Eagle County, Colorado
|Nearest city||Vail, Colorado|
|Vertical||3,450 ft (1,050 m)|
|Top elevation||11,570 ft (3,530 m)|
|Base elevation||8,120 ft (2,470 m)|
|Skiable area||5,289 acres (2,140 ha)|
|Longest run||Riva Ridge 4 mi (6.4 km)|
|Lift system||33 total (2 Gondolas (12 person and 10 person), 18 High-speed quad chairs, 1 quad chairs, 2 triple chairs, 1 double chairs, 9 Surface)|
|Terrain parks||2,1 Super-Pipe|
|Snowfall||370 in (940 cm)|
Vail Ski Resort is located in Eagle County, Colorado, next to the town of Vail. Vail Mountain, at 5,289 acres (2,140 ha), is the second largest single mountain ski resort in the United States, featuring seven bowls and intermediate gladed terrain in Blue Sky Basin. It opened in 1962 and is currently owned and operated by Vail Resorts, which also operates three other ski resorts in the state (Breckenridge, Keystone, and Beaver Creek) as well as Heavenly Ski Resort, Northstar at Tahoe, and Kirkwood Mountain Resort at Lake Tahoe. In addition, there is Canyons Resort at Park City, Utah.
Vail Mountain has three sections: The Front-Side, Blue Sky Basin, and the Back Bowls. The mountain is the third largest resort in North America after Whistler Blackcomb and Big Sky Resort at over 5,200 acres (2,100 ha). Most of the mountain is wide open terrain with trails of all types, from cruising runs from most Front Side and Blue Sky Basin lifts, to the wide open Back Bowls, glades, chutes, and moguls in the Northwoods area, cornices in Blue Sky Basin, and much more. Vail Village is modeled on Bavarian village styles, with pedestrian streets.
Unlike other Colorado ski towns such as Aspen, Breckenridge, or Steamboat Springs, which existed as mining towns prior to the establishment of their ski resorts, the town of Vail was built when the resort opened.
During World War II, Seibert joined the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division which trained at Camp Hale, 14 miles south of Vail between Red Cliff and Leadville. During the training Seibert and Eaton became familiar with the surrounding terrain, areas of which would become resorts in later decades. They discovered a peak that believed to be well-located and with good snow, calling it No-name Mountain, which later became Vail.
Construction of the resort began in 1962 in the uninhabited valley. It opened six months later on 15 December. There were three lifts: one gondola that ran from Vail Village to Mid-Vail on the line where Gondola One operates. Several double chairlifts were also built: Golden Peak, which ran from Golden Peak base area up to the Riva Bahn Express midstation; Giant Steps, which ran from Vail Village to the bottom of the Avanti Express; the Avanti double chairlift; and two double chairlifts out of Mid-Vail, the Mountaintop and Hunky Dory lifts. A double chairlift, High Noon, serviced the Sun Down and Sun Up Bowls on the back side of the ridge. Vail quickly grew to become a popular ski resort, a village formed at the base, near the gondola, which was taken down in the 1970s and replaced with a Lift Engineering double chairlift.
Also at that time, the construction of Interstate 70 had begun, replacing highway Route 6. During the 1970s, the Eisenhower Tunnel was completed and President Gerald Ford and family vacationed at their Vail home, bringing it international exposure. Vail grew into a super-resort, with skiers and vacationers paying European trip prices for a Colorado vacation. Later, Vail's village expanded. In 1970, Denver was awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics with Vail selected to host the skiing competitions. However, Colorado voters denied funding by a 3:2 margin in November 1972 and, three months later, the games were awarded instead to Innsbruck in Austria.
By the 1970 the mountain had been greatly expanded, with a second gondola added in the Lionshead area, which also included a residences and shops at the base of the slopes. On 26 March 1976, disaster struck the gondola when carrying cable snagged on a support tower and two cabins derailed, killing four people and injuring eight. The gondola was closed for the remainder of the season. Soon after the original gondola in the village was replaced with a double chairlift.
In 1989, Vail hosted the Alpine Skiing World Championships with great success. The championships were held in Vail/Beaver Creek again a decade later (Vail 99), to even bigger fanfare.
In 1985, Vail entered the high speed lift world when Doppelmayr constructed four high speed quads on the Front Side, making Vail the second mountain in the country to use them, after Breckenridge, and first with multiple quads. These lifts were the Game Creek Express (#7), Mountaintop Express (#4), Northwoods Express (#11), and Vista Bahn Express (#16). The Vista Bahn Express replaced the double chairlifts out of Vail Village, and brought skiers from Vail Village up to Mid-Vail. The Mountaintop Express replaced a Lift Engineering triple chairlift running from Mid-Vail to Patrol Headquarters, the Northwoods Express replaced a Riblet double chairlift, as did the Game Creek Express.
In 1988, Vail celebrated its 25th anniversary. As part of this expansion, Doppelmayr constructed two more high speed quads. On the front side, the Born Free Express (#8) replaced a double chairlift out of Lionshead. In the Back Bowls, the Orient Express lift (#21) opened the China, Teacup, and Siberia Bowls. A year later, another high speed quad, the Avanti Express (#2), replaced another Front Side double.
In 1993, Vail changed primary lift manufacturers, from Doppelmayr to Garaventa-CTEC, who installed three high speed quads. The first was the Pride Express (#26) in 1993, which serviced the upper part of runs on the west Front Side, and combined with the Born Free Express to provide a supplementary route to Eagle's Nest. In 1995, the Wildwood Express (#3) was built out of Mid-Vail to replace a Lift Engineering quad, the Hunky Dory lift. The lift has very closely spaced towers because the original Hunky Dory lift's tower foundations were reused in the construction. In 1996, the Riva Bahn Express (#6) was built out of Golden Peak, improving access from Golden Peak to the rest of the mountain. That same year, the Eagle Bahn Gondola (#19) replaced the original Lionshead Gondola.
In October 1998, the Earth Liberation Front set fire to the resort's Two Elk restaurant, Camp One, ski patrol headquarters, and four chairlifts, causing US$12 million in damage, to protest the planned expansion of ski terrain into lynx habitat. All the buildings destroyed by arson were rebuilt. Most of the lifts suffered only minor damage. However, the drive station for the High Noon lift was destroyed, and later rebuilt.
Vail changed primary manufacturers again, to Poma. Poma added three high-speed quads to open the Blue Sky Basin expansion, an intermediate-expert back-country area with moguls, tree skiing, cliffs, glades, and ridges, directly across a creek from the Orient Express lift. The first three lifts to open were the Teacup Express (#36), the Skyline Express (#37), and the Earl's Express (#38). The Teacup Express also made it possible to lap the Teacup Bowl trails, which beforehand had required riding the Orient Express lift and then using a pair of rope tows. The lifts opened in February 2000. The following winter, another high speed quad, the Pete's Express (#39), was opened and added an additional four trails to the area.
Vail has been the number one ski resort in the United States 14 times in a 17 year period.
In 2004, the original Lionshead skier bridge was replaced. At the end of the 2005-06 ski season, Giant Steps, the last double chairlift in operation since the early 1960s, was replaced. In 2006, Vail began offsetting all of its power usage by purchasing wind power credits. They were the second largest corporation in the United States to do so.
In summer 2007, after seven years without a new chairlift, Vail undertook one of the biggest lift improvements at a Colorado ski area when Leitner-Poma opened two new high speed quads on the east Front Side. The lower of the two lifts, the Highline Express lift (#10), replaced a Riblet double chairlift that had been in operation since 1973. This lift services several long mogul runs on the east part of the Front Side, and generally receives less crowds than the rest of the mountain. Above it, the Sourdough Express lift (#14) replaced a triple chairlift. It services a small pod of beginner trails, but is also used to access the China Bowl and Blue Sky Basin. The new lift follows a slightly different alignment so as to eliminate a traverse from the original lift to Two Elk Lodge. The original West Wall rope tow that ran from the top of the Teacup Express to Two Elk Lodge was removed in favor of the Sourdough Express.
A new plaza was opened at the bottom of the Vista Bahn Express in Vail Village in 2008. On 27 February 2010, one of the original black diamond trails, International, was renamed Lindsey's to honor Vail's Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn. The trail is next to "Giant Steps" and one of two flanking the original lift number one from the base of the mountain.
In 2010, Leitner-Poma constructed another high speed quad in the Back Bowls. The High Noon Express lift (#5) replaced a Doppelmayr triple chairlift that had been in use since 1979. The new quad improved capacity to the Sundown and Sun Up Bowls, and was intended to reduce lengthy lines that the lift often received, especially on powder days. The construction of the High Noon Express lift meant that all of Vail's terrain, with the exception of the Mongolia Bowl, could be accessed by high speed quads. The High Noon Express was also meant to alleviate lines at the Northwoods Express lift, especially in the afternoon when skiers and riders in Blue Sky Basin and the China Bowl are returning to the Front Side.
In 2011, Vail opened a new ski-in/out fine dining restaurant at mid-Vail. The Tenth, built between the Wildwood Express and the Mid-Vail facility, is named for the famed US Army division that trained nearby and several Vail founders once belonged.[Vail.com 1]
For Vail's 50th anniversary in 2012, a new 10 person gondola was built by Leitner-Poma to replace the Vista Bahn Express. Gondola One provides a fast, warm and sheltered ride between Vail Village and the Mid-Vail area.[vaildaily.com 1] Its construction saw the return of a gondola to the line that had contained Vail's original gondola until 1976.
For the 2013-2014 season, Vail continued upgrades in the Mid-Vail region, with Doppelmayr constructing a high speed six pack to replace the Mountaintop Express lift. This was done to increase uphill capacity on the lift, which is one of the busier chairlifts on the Front Side as it not only services its own trail pod but it also is used by skier traffic transitioning from the west and central Front Side to the east Front Side, the Back Bowls, and Blue Sky Basin. The Mountaintop Express lift is Vail's first high speed six pack, and only the second Doppelmayr high speed six pack in Colorado (the other is at Durango Mountain Resort). It increases uphill capacity on the lift line by 33% to 3,600 people per hour, matching the capacity of Gondola One. The Mountaintop Express follows a slightly different alignment from the old lift, with the bottom terminal being moved 90 feet east of its original location to decrease cross-traffic in the area. The new lift also runs with a clockwise rotation, whereas the old lift had an anticlockwise orientation. It also has a 90 degree load, instead of the in-line loading of the old lift. What makes the Mountaintop Express unique is that it is the first detachable chairlift in North America to have a conveyer carpet at the loading area, a system that is widely utilized at European ski resorts.
Less noticeably, the Gopher Hill double chairlift at Golden Peak base area was replaced with a triple chairlift made from parts recycled from Beaver Creek's Rose Bowl lift, which had been upgraded to a high speed quad in 2011.
White River National Forest
Vail Resorts operates on National Forest System lands under special use permit to the White River National Forest. Master Development Plans, Winter and Summer Operations Plans, Construction Plans, and every phase of the permit holder's skiing operation is approved by the federal government annually prior to construction and operation. In exchange for the use of National Forest system lands the resort pays an annual fee to the U.S. Treasury amounting to about one dollar per skier visit. Twenty-five percent of the fees collected are returned to Eagle County, Colorado, for roads and schools, in lieu of taxes. The federal government supports the objective of providing healthy recreation opportunities in quality natural outdoor environments. Millions of national and international users during all seasons of the year appreciate the opportunities provided by Vail Resorts and White River National Forest through the public and private partnership on federal lands.
Reference: Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36: Parks, Forests, and Public Property, Part 251—Land Uses, § 251.51 Definitions. Ski area —a site and attendant facilities expressly developed to accommodate alpine or Nordic skiing and from which the preponderance of revenue is generated by the sale of lift tickets and fees for ski rentals, for skiing instruction and trail passes for the use of permittee-maintained ski trails. A ski area may also include ancillary facilities directly related to the operation and support of skiing activities.
Forest Service Feasibility Studies
In 1972 the White River National Forest analyzed the terrain surrounding Vail, Colorado, to determine ski area feasibility of the greater regional area and identify additional opportunities for public parking and access to National Forest lands between Vail Pass and Lake Creek above Edwards, Colorado. The investigation was stimulated by the planned construction of Interstate 70 in Colorado over Vail Pass, or alternative Red Buffalo Corridor, and the awarding of the '76 Winter Olympic Games to Denver, Colorado. by the International Olympic Committee with the showcase downhill event planned for the yet to be developed Beaver Creek ski area. New parking areas on Shrine Pass, Battle Mountain, Meadow Mountain, Minturn, Stone Creek, Avon, and Lake Creek were identified as development sites, base areas, and potential new skier entrance portals. Integration of Vail Ski Resort, including Blue Sky Basin, with skiing terrain on Battle Mountain, Grouse Mountain, Meadow Mountain, Stone Creek, Beaver Creek, and Lake Creek were analyzed and considered physically feasible as an integrated mega-resort with multiple portals. Twenty-eight ski lifts were planned for Grouse Mountain above Minturn, which was rated comparable to Snowmass in overall size and capacity with significant amount of terrain in the intermediate category with good snowfall. Findings were presented to William Lucas, Rocky Mountain Regional Forester, by Thomas Evans, Forest Supervisor, and Erik J. Martin, professional landscape architect, lead member of the Blue Ribbon study committee for ski area planning feasibility, and program manager for ski area administration. Grouse Mountain above Minturn was highly rated for developed alpine skiing and conceived by White River National Forest skiing experts as a potential future phase of a large mega-skiing complex on National Forest System lands linking the existing Vail ski area and Battle Mountain east of Minturn with Grouse Mountain, Beaver Creek, Meadow Mountain ski area, Bachelor Gulch, and Arrowhead on the west side. Development of Grouse Mountain did not occur due to the high cost of development, rejection of the '76 Winter Olympic Games, vocal public opposition at the local and statewide levels, and a desire by Vail Resorts to fully develop Beaver Creek and Vail Mountain prior to expansion. The opportunity to provide developed alpine skiing on Grouse Mountain was eliminated from future consideration with the establishment of the Holy Cross Wilderness in 1980.
The 2002 Revision of the 1984 Land and Resource Management Plan Forest plans, White River National Forest, Chapter 3-Management Area Direction, 8.25 Ski areas - Existing and Potential, pages 3–80 through 3-8, and 8.31 Aerial Transportation Corridors, page 3-84, establishes long-term planning direction for Vail Ski Resort. Lift access from remote areas and new portals, including Minturn, were analyzed in the plan. The theme of an 8.31 aerial transportation corridor designation is to serve the principal purpose of transporting people to, from, and within communities, and ski areas. The theme of an 8.25 land allocation is to allow ski areas on federal lands to be developed and operated by the private sector to provide opportunities for intensively managed outdoor recreation activities during all seasons of the year. The 8.25 management area prescription includes existing developed ski areas and undeveloped expansion areas with potential for future development. Ski areas provide winter sports activities and other intensively managed outdoor recreation opportunities for large numbers of national and international visitors in highly developed settings. In some areas, use in the summer may be as intensive as in the winter. The White River National Forest forest plan addresses vegetation management, intensity of use, seasons of use, and motorized access. The 8.25 management area includes existing resorts that have already been permitted and developed, as well as additional suitable terrain into which development is planned for the future. The 1984 Forest Plan and 2002 revision were authored by Erik J. Martin, Program Manager for Ski Area Administration, to identify future expansion opportunities and alternative special-use permit boundaries for Vail ski area. The 1984 Land and Resource Management Plan [Forest plan] was revised in 2002, and analyzed in a Final Environmental Impact Statement. A summary of the Final Environmental Impact Statement to accompany the Land and Resource Management Plan - 2002 Revision is available to the public at local Forest Service Offices, public library, or National Forest web site.
- Base: 8,120 ft (2,470 m)
- Summit: 11,570 ft (3,530 m)
- Vertical Rise: 3,450 ft (1,050 m)
- Skiable area: 5,289 acres (21.40 km2)
- Trails: 193 total (18% beginner, 29% intermediate, 53% advanced/expert)
- Longest run: Riva Ridge - 4 miles (6.4 km)
- Average annual snowfall: 370 inches (9.4 m)
- Terrain Parks: 3
- Bowls: 10 (7 official)
- Sun Down Bowl
- Sun Up Bowl
- China Bowl
- Siberia Bowl
- Tea Cup Bowl
- Inner Mongolia Bowl
- Outer Mongolia Bowl
- Pete's Bowl
- Earl's Bowl
- Game Creek Bowl
- 31 total 
- "Vail, Lodging and Dining". Retrieved 29 December 2012.
- Glendenning, Lauren. "Vail's new gondola lifts off". vaildaily.com. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
- Johnson, William (13 December 1976). "The Tragedy on Gondola II". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
- "Top 10 Resorts". Ski. June 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2010.[dead link]
- "History of Vail". Colorado Ski History. Saturday, 24 October 2009. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
- "Press Release". Vail Resorts Media Center. 1 August 2006. Retrieved 18 December 2010.[dead link]
- "Vail's High Noon Express lift starts turning December 10". SummitDaily.com. 5 December 2010. Archived from the original on 19 December 2011. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
- Upgrading Mountaintop Express
- "Electronic Code of Federal Regulations:". Ecfr.gpoaccess.gov. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
- "White River National Forest- Home". Fs.fed.us. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
- Denver, The. "The Denver Post's Colorado Ski Guide 2010". Denverpost.com. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
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