The days are getting shorter, temperatures are dropping and holidays are approaching. That only means one thing — it’s time to start thinking about skiing. While natural snowfall has been sporadic so far, Vail Resorts has been busy firing up the snowmaking guns and there are a handful of ski runs in Vail.
Hopefully, we’ll soon see a shift in the weather and start getting some much-needed precipitation, allowing more terrain to open so we can get some solid skiing in before Christmas.
In the meantime, we can dream about future powder days and which groomers to attack once the season is in force.
What is it about skiing? Does it allow you to feel connected to nature? Is it our inner desire to challenge ourselves or be content with cruisers?
Whether it’s just getting outside for some fresh air, recording some exercise for the day, or trying to hit your goal of a certain number of ski days for the season, this activity, whether it’s skiing or snowboarding, captures why people love living in Colorado. Ever follow the sun to see where and how it softens the snow as the day progresses? Do you know the runs to ski in the morning vs. those best in the afternoon? If you do, you’re definitely a ski connoisseur!
Vail has a whopping 195 trails from which to choose and that doesn’t include those secret areas that you may have overheard some locals discussing privately. Personally, my favorite run is whichever one I’m skiing at the moment!
Have you ever skied Christmas on Christmas? Do you have kids who just can’t seem to get enough of Chaos Canyon or Spruce Face? I have seen couples head down Lover’s Leap, and have questioned if they are still lovers afterward!
How many people do you know who have named their dog after their favorite ski run?
Like moguls? PPL (Prima, Pronto, and Log Chute) will be perfect for you! How about skiing through some wide-open spaces? Check out Vail’s seven bowls. From family-favorite Game Creek Bowl to steep-and-deep Sun Down Bowl to the hinterlands of Outer Mongolia Bowl, you’ll find the perfect run for novice up to expert skier.
Although the Back Bowls will definitely give you a rush, it’s sometimes easy to forget the front side trails that are often overlooked on a powder day. A great example is Born Free. Always a favorite and not just because of the name, this is a great choice to ski when you only have time for two runs first thing in the morning. You can easily do it twice and not have to worry about people messing up your beautifully carved S turns. This run is also exceptional, top to bottom after it’s been groomed. Never take Born Free for granted!
On a powder day, you have to pick the low-hanging fruit on your way to some of the lesser-known areas to make sure that you get fresh stuff all day long. The best way to do this is to stay ahead of the eight ball and wake up early! It’s a must to be in line once the lifts open. Sometimes, the Back Bowls will have a delayed opening if there has been a particularly heavy snowfall. Use that time to explore the front side and get your legs ready for the big stuff later. Consider tooling down Snag Park.
“On a powder day, you have to pick the low-hanging fruit on your way to some of the lesser-known areas to make sure that you get fresh stuff all day long. The best way to do this is to stay ahead of the eight ball and wake up early! It’s a must to be in line once the lifts open.” — Matt Wilson
Of course, not every day is going to be a powder day and one of the best aspects of Vail is that their grooming report is different every day. Always keep an eye out for the occasional surprise! The variety of groomers and the way Vail has a knack for mixing it up have always perked my interest over the years. Always check to see if Ouzo has been groomed; there’s nothing like whizzing down that slope first thing in the morning as you make your way down to Game Creek Bowl.
“Always check to see if Ouzo has been groomed; there’s nothing like whizzing down that slope first thing in the morning as you make your way down to Game Creek Bowl.” — Matt Wilson
If I had to pick just one favorite run at Vail, it must meet some very specific criteria: It has to be perfectly north-facing (or away from the sun), long, fast and steep, and requires two lift rides to ski the entire run. Furthermore, it must be freshly groomed, and fast on Fridays and Mondays. Lastly, this run, measuring 2,200 vertical feet, makes you earn your turns, especially if you decide to hike up the mountain!
This idyllic run is no other than Riva Ridge. Named after the location in northern Italy where a decisive battle between the 10th Mountain Division Allied Forces and German troops took place, Riva Ridge pays homage to members of the 10th Mountain Division and some of its soldiers who later returned to be founders of Vail. Your ski experience isn’t complete without at least one run down on this truly epic trail.
Here’s to a great ski season ahead — let me hear about your favorite runs at Vail in the comments below!
TLDR; The best ski runs in Vail by Category are:
- Best overall run at Vail: Riva Ridge
- Best Groomed Run: Ouza
- Powder Day Favorites: Born Free
- Family-favorite Run: Game Creek Bowl
- Best Run for the Kiddos: Chaos Canyon or Spruce Face
- Steep-and-deep Favorite: Sun Down Bowl and Outer Mongolia Bowl
- Best for Moguls: Prima, Pronto, and Log Chute