I skied Vail (don’t tell anyone)
Friends don’t let friends ski Vail.I’m not sure why not. It wasn’t that bad.I hit our arch competitor’s slopes last weekend with a critical eye. I left with tired legs.Some of my Front Range friends dragged me out to that I-70 resort on Sunday, ignoring my protests. I felt like I was cheating on a lover, sneaking onto the Vista Bahn Express like it was a cheap motel room instead of a pricey lift ride. The price for a walk-up lift ticket at Vail, by the way, is $77 ($3 more than at Aspen/Snowmass), plus I plunked down $15 in the parking garage at the end of the day. That was worth a demerit in my mental notebook. On the other hand, the garage was easy to find, it was not an overly taxing walk to the lift, the faux-village street was vehicle free and there was no line to speak of at the lift.After two lift rides, we were at the top mountain’s center peak. From there, the available terrain was overwhelming. It’s no wonder they have billboard-sized trail maps at the tops of the lifts – you could get lost without ever leaving the inbounds terrain. There’s the front of the mountain, and then a whole other ski area behind it – the so-called Back Bowls.Around here, we’re always bragging about having four mountains. Vail has the equivalent of four mountains rolled into one. Make that five mountains.I tallied up our terrain and came up with 4,993 acres on Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk combined. Vail has 5,289 acres. We spent most of our day in China Bowl – really long runs and a fair amount of sitting on one’s skis for the ride-out at the bottom. I found the snow conditions far less consistent than around here. This was before this week’s storms and there was plenty of ground poking up in various spots. One run on the front side inexplicably went from nice to ice to nice again – several times.On the other hand, I found sweet snow in the Shangri-La Glade (don’t ask me what I was doing in the trees) and wept for joy at the sight of four cats grooming fresh swaths of corduroy up the bowl at midday. How often do you see that on our mountains?And Vail is full of single-diamond blacks, which my cohorts were only too happy to lure me down. Long steep bump runs, but at least the moguls weren’t the size of Volkswagens at that point in the season. Around here, it seems like much of the black stuff is double-diamond. They might as well paint a skull and crossbones on the trail signs, as far as I’m concerned.Which is not to say I wasn’t wide-eyed with terror in Vail. Naturally, I tried to save face by sticking with the group, even though they were all clearly better skiers than I. The fact that I live in Aspen only made it worse. Nobody expects mediocrity on the slopes from an Aspenite. Oh well.I’m proud to say I skied the most difficult terrain I’ve ever attempted, even if I did it poorly. I surprised myself, and quite possibly, my companions, as well.For all I know, I thwarted a secret plot to kill me. Janet Urquhart refused to buy a Vail cap or T-shirt, though her friends urged her to do so. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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