If you missed Part 1, find it here! This is Part 2 of our Colorado ski trip Tyler and I took with his sister Missy, and mom and dad Lori and Kent.
Day Three (March 14, 2018)
Having already decided Breck was amazing, it was time to check out another huge resort in Colorado. Day two of skiing was all about Vail. From our condo, it was about a 45-minute drive to Vail, Colorado.
First, before I get to the skiing, two tips: spend time to research parking! There are a few options. One is to stay in a hotel in the Vail Village, where parking may be included (but of course, double check before booking what each hotel’s policy is- sometimes there’s only valet parking available). Another is to research where the free parking is in town and take a shuttle to the resort. There’s a few places listed on the website, along with how many spaces are available. I’m not sure how fast these fill up, but I would imagine it’s earlier in the day. The third option, which we took, is to pay for parking in the garages at the village. This is $50 for the day!! It’s pay per hour parking, so if you’re just wandering the village or doing a couple runs it’s reasonable. But for most people, a day at Vail goes way too fast, so you’ll be there awhile. We tried to find free parking but since we didn’t know the town and were already frustrated, we just sucked it up for $50 parking. In addition, these garages are not right by the lifts; you still have to walk with your gear through a good part of the village before you hit the snow.
So- after the parking ordeal, I had a bit of a negative feel towards the mountain. We were all a bit crabby, saying things like “One point against Vail”, but I knew we just needed to hit the slopes to get our good vibes back. So we stowed our lunch and extra layers (because it was a HOT day, even I shed two layers which is unheard of for me) in lockers. Time for tip number two: right by Gondola One, there’s lockers. They’re cash only and $5 per open. OR you can go into the rental shop right next to them, and they have baskets you can stow your things in for $12 per day with unlimited times getting into them. Also, the rental shop does overnight storage in these baskets too, which can be really convenient if you’re spending more than one day at Vail’s numerous slopes.
Okay. So- car parked, lunch stowed. Let’s get to the real stuff- the slopes! Vail is enormous and feels like it, so there’s no way I could say everything we did.
Here’s a few highlight runs/areas at Vail for us.
First, there’s a run called Grandy Dancer in the Northwoods area. It was a beautiful, fast, groomed run that changes pitch often and you can really fly. We loved it- and learned after from an employee that it only gets groomed a couple times a season and is usually full of moguls. So our opinion may change next time, but then again who knows? We’re learning to love moguls.
The back bowls are amazing! Not that I’m surprised, since Vail is known for their bowl skiing. Bowl skiing is Tyler’s favorite and has been for awhile, but our trip to Colorado convinced me, too. In the morning, we were excited to try them out, and were thoroughly disappointed in how icy and stripped the snow was. But later in the afternoon, we had to hit the bowls again to get to Blue Sky Basin (more on that in a minute), and it was incredible! So when you head to Vail, give the bowls some sun time to soften the snow before you shred them. Spend the morning on the fresh cords, and you won’t be disappointed in the afternoon!
Third, Blue Sky Basin. We waited till a bit later to check this area out. Tyler’s parents decided to take it easy and head down before us, so Missy, Tyler and I headed to Blue Sky Basin. To get there, you take the Tea Cup Express, then ski over a bridge to get to the basin. We only had a bit of time back there, and I’m regretting not checking it out sooner! We took the Skyline Express Lift. Tyler and Missy wanted to try Iron Mask, a black diamond we could see from the chair, but the drop in made me a bit nervous. So we started with a blue run, Cloud 9. It branched off into Big Rock Park, a great run through trees, weaving around in wide and small spaces. The coverage was great (with one exception where we skied through brown slush haha), but with only time for one more run before the chairs closed, we headed back up. Iron Mask was probably doable, but it had been a long couple of days and it would have been pushing the limit. So we took a black diamond run called The Divide instead. From the lift, you couldn’t see the whole trail, and the long section of moguls was conveniently hidden by trees. By the time we saw them, it was too late to turn back. So we tackled the moguls, and by the end of the section we actually didn’t suck! Instead of slowly sliding sideways down, our turns were sharp and getting right around the moguls, we weren’t falling or hitting trees (or each other). That run was tiring, but it’s made us appreciate moguls, and definitely improved our skills (for all three of us!).
About to start on Divide
The top of the chairs on Blue Sky Basin was a barn!
Missy looking across the mountains from Blue Sky Basin
The (non-moguled) part of Divide, that we could see from the chair
Blue Sky Basin was the finale to our Vail day, and while it definitely wasn’t enough to experience the whole mountain, it was enough to love it and start planning our next trip! We wandered the village after skiing, and I was really impressed. Vail’s village is my favorite to date, because it’s massive, with a variety of shops, not crazy high prices, and the architecture really ties it all in. It’s like a German town with cottage-like buildings and street lamps.
Stats for Day Two: (Our biggest ski vertical of the season!)
Ski Distance: 33.7 miles
Ski Vertical: 27,608 feet
That night, we hit the hot tub for a while, talked with some other skiers about their favorite resorts, and went to bed. The last day of skiing was soon to be upon us- back at Breckenridge, where I couldn’t wait to get back to my favorite runs of the day before.
Day Four (March 15, 2018)
Breck day two! (Then saying goodbye and heading back to Denver for our 11:45 pm flight back to Reno). So we packed and checked out of our AirBnb, then parked at the gondola. Parking is $12 per car, but you get a $5 discount if there are four or more people in the car (yay for us!). $7 parking was a nice change from the $50 the day before.
We did a lot of the same things as our first Breck day, so I’ll give the highlights of our last ski day in Colorado. The Windows, Whale’s Tail, and Beyond Bowl were the best parts of the day for us.
The Windows is a double black diamond that’s well known from Breck. It enters into a dense forest, then has 6 “window” entrances where you drop in. We took Window 4 and followed a stream down, gliding over bumps and around moguls and tree roots. Missy and I crashed into each other because each of us turned without knowing the other did- but nobody hit a tree, and we were unscratched from the collision. This run was exhilarating! Going over moguls and around trees was fun, and made even more worth it by the dense forest and running water surrounding us. Next time we go, Tyler and I plan to hit each of the 6 windows to see the unique parts of each run.
Whale’s Tail- I know I already talked about this, but it’s my favorite run, and this time we got Tyler’s dad Kent to come up with us! I got to see a bit of the skilled skier he is. He’s had years of skiing, lived and worked in Mammoth, and has plenty of stories of epic times on his skis. But seeing him tear down Whale’s Tail was really cool- and he got to see each of us too, and see how far we’ve come. After getting down, he said “this is the kind of skiing I really love”. Also, this time we each got a video coming down- watch our Instagram for these great clips!
The sun and shadows made for a great backdrop at the top.
I look like a “real” skier in action here, haha
Beyond Bowl was our final run of the day. It was also a whole new experience for us in our time skiing. At the top of Peak 6, Kensho Chair takes you to some great runs- or you can hike up farther for some more challenging terrain (expert and extreme runs). Tyler, Missy, and I hiked up there with skis on our shoulders and boots loosened. There’s “steps” formed by previous hikers, but not all well formed, and the altitude is definitely something you are aware of hiking up. It’s about 300 vertical feet up, getting you to around 12,500 feet elevation. We huffed and puffed our way up, and honestly I didn’t know if I would make it. But at the top, after throwing our skis down and gulping down some water, the view was incredible. 360 degrees of mountains, and we picked the perfect time because we were able to see the approaching storm on mountains in the distance. It was moving in fast, so we decided to make this the last big run of the day.
We had originally planned to do Serenity Bowl, but at the top the Beyond Bowl was calling our names. It looked like a real bowl, while Serenity appeared more like a chute. Beyond Bowl was possibly the best run of the day- in part because we had earned it by hiking up, in part because the snow was powder and we just glided right over it, and in part because of the amazing storm views we had on our way down.
Possibly the coolest photo I’ve ever taken of Tyler.
Beyond Bowl drop in
We could see the storm rapidly approaching from over the mountains.
Our plan was to meet Tyler’s parents in the village after taking the 4 O’clock run. But, in an unexpected turn of events, when we got to Peak 7 base the chair we needed, Independence had closed for a lightning warning. So had the gondola. Suddenly the only way off the mountain was by bus- and that was everyone’s only option. Thankfully, Breck was well prepared, and several busses were dispatched. They loaded us like sardines to get everyone down, and it was not a long wait at all. I was very impressed with how well Breck responded to chairs closing and inclement weather, but also proud that in the crowd of skiers and boarders, no one complained or felt entitled to a working chair. We all got it- mother nature always gets her way, and it’s our job to respect her power.
Stats for Day Three:
Ski Distance: 16.5 miles
Ski Vertical: 14,987
With that, our three days of skiing in the Colorado Rockies came to an end. None of us wanted to leave- we all agreed that we could easily spend a week or more there, really getting to enjoy the different mountains and villages. But for now, “jobs and responsibilities” and other boring adult things stopped that from happening. So, loaded into the car with all our gear, we headed towards Denver. On the way, our dinner stop was a well-recommended pizza place that Tyler had been to once before, Beau Jo’s. A Colorado local friend had also told me it’s the “best pizza in the state”. Mountain pies with braided crust awaited us, and it was incredible pizza! (So good we couldn’t wait to get a picture of it before taking our first bites).The whole atmosphere really played into the theme of being in an old western mining town, and I would definitely recommend them for anyone looking for good, greasy, flavorful pizza.
Beau Jo’s was our last fun stop, and before we knew it we were back at the airport. Tyler’s family’s flight wasn’t till the morning, so they dropped us off and headed to their hotel for the night. When we got to the airport just after 10, everything was closed. Like, I wanted a snack and almost every restaurant in the entire airport closed at 10! (But that’s a whole other rant; I was hangry and tired and probably acting like a drunk person and Tyler was quite entertained.)
I am so excited to return to Colorado again in the future! So many resorts we missed, especially Aspen, that are definitely on our bucket list. Breckenridge is my current favorite resort, with Vail closely following. Tyler is holding out judgment until we get to really experience Mammoth Mountain in April, but Colorado definitely impressed both of us.
For anyone reading who’s skied or snowboarded in Colorado, what’s your favorite resort? Which one do we absolutely have to get to? I would love to hear everyone’s opinions!