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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: Vail
Country: USA
Domain: none (but your lift ticket is valid in Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone)
Author: WTFH
Date: 20-27th March 2005 (not all the time was spent at Vail)
Our holiday: This was a birthday present to myself, and only booked in mid February
Website : http://vail.snow.com
Basics : United and BA fly direct to Denver, but due to my late booking, the best option for me was to fly via Minneapolis on NorthWest. From Denver Airport it is a 2 hour drive by car, or about 2.5 hours by Colorado Mountain Express (Transfer coach) It is possible to fly to Eagle airport which is about 30 minutes away.
Lift system : Most of the lifts are high speed quads, there’s one gondola, and a couple of button lifts.
The terrain : Vail is big by US sizes. There are three main bases in Vail – Golden Peak, Vail Village, and Lionshead. From these you can easily access the front side of the mountain, consisting of a variety of piste and bump terrain, and plenty of trees. Behind the front side are the 7 bowls. Only one of these, Game Creek, has marked runs. Beyond these bowls is Blue Sky Basin, which has two intermediate runs, and the rest are advanced/expert, and are mainly through trees.
The snow : Before I arrived there had been a steady fall of light snow for over a week. During my stay, around 60cms fell, and there were fresh tracks to be had every day.
Off-piste : As mentioned above, most of the bowls are “off-piste”. Because of the different faces on the bowls, it was possible to get good snow all day, even if the sun was shining. A couple of times I was in “Sun Down” bowl which was crusty, while “Sun Up” was in perfect shape. There is a cat track around the bowls so that intermediates can make there way to Blue Sky Basin.
The resort : Most days I finished up in Garfinkels or the Lion’s Den at Lionshead, but after skiing with Martin Bell, he got me to buy him a drink or two in the George, an English pub (The bargirl seemed to like the Irish accent, as we managed to get a round of Jagers on the house). I wouldn’t recommend going to Vail to spot Gaudi or Foster’s influence on the architecture, but neither is it La Daille.
Food : There are several eateries on the mountains. Most provide standard US ski fare. But when you get to the top of Blue Sky Basin, there is a hut with barbecues outside for anyone to use. These are great if you happen to have a couple of ranch owners with you who brought organic T-bone steaks…
Off the mountain, if you have a car, I’d recommend going to Chilli Willie’s in Minturn, which, as well as excellent Mexican food, does some very potent Kiwi margaritas. My main haunt in the evenings was the Sand Bar, which had live music every night, a great atmosphere, and a pretty good pint of Guinness.
Accommodation : I stayed in the Holiday Inn, West Vail. This was conveniently located across the car park from the Sand Bar. The hotel had hot-tub, sauna, outdoor pool, and three restaurants, along with a transfer bus to the various bases, which ran every half hour at peak times, and hourly the rest of the day.
Costs: Lift tickets are $77 per day, but become cheaper the more days you stay. Flights were booked late and cost around £550. Accommodation should have been around $200 per night.
Conclusion: A great resort. Big enough to have a lot of fun

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