Vail Turns 50

 

Kids Adventure Zone
Last season, Vail added two new Kids Adventure Zones.

 

This season Vail, Colorado, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vail Mountain to skiing, and the destination is rolling out a series of events and upgrades to mark the occasion. 

Travel Agent was on the scene during a special pre-screening of Vail, the Rise of America’s Iconic Ski Resort, Roger Brown’s film detailing the past 50 years of Vail’s history. Before the screening, Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and COO of Vail Mountain, interviewed Brown and Rod Slifer, an original member of Vail Associates, assistant ski school director and Vail’s first real estate agent, about how far the destination has come since its days as a ranch beside a two-lane highway. “There were no tracks, no trails,” Brown said of the days when he first visited the mountain with other founding members of the resort. “We started to cut the trails but it was mostly just coming down through the trees.”

Nevertheless, the founders believed the destination had potential due to its terrain, which was unique among American ski areas at the time. “The difference with that mountain from the rest of the ski areas in the U.S. at the time was the bowls,” Slifer said. “It was the [mountain’s] backside.”

The film had its official premiere on December 14, at the Vail Marriott Resort & Spa, kicking off a season-long celebration of 50 years of Vail history

New Resort Enhancements

Vail began its anniversary season by unveiling the new One (#1) gondola in Vail Village. The gondola, which represents a 40 percent increase in uphill capacity and cuts ride times by a minute and a half, has cabins that can carry up to 10 passengers and have heated, cushioned seats and Wi-Fi access. The gondola dedication ceremony followed the third annual First Tracks with the U.S. Ski Team on November 15, in which top ski racers, including Olympic Gold medalists, appeared at a live event at Arrabelle Square in Lionshead. 

The new gondola also allows the mountain’s new restaurant, The 10th, which opened last season, to remain open for après and dinner service in addition to its popular lunch service. 

This season also marks the debut of another restaurant, Mountain Standard. It is a casual, tavern-like dining experience in Vail Village along East Gore Creek. The menu will feature food primarily cooked over an open fire, including rotisserie chickens and applewood-grilled steaks. In the summer, sliding glass patio doors will allow for outdoor dining along Gore Creek.

 

10th restaurant
The 10th restaurant now has après and dinner service.

 

Vail is enhancing the third generation of its EpicMix app with EpicMix Racing. EpicMix is Vail’s social media app, which allows guests to track their vertical feet and share their information and photos taken on the slopes on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Snapfish and Shutterfly. This season EpicMix Racing will add a competitive edge to the experience, as guests at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly and Northstar can compare their best times against their friends or a pace-setting time set by legendary alpine ski champion Lindsey Vonn

For families, Vail added two new Kids Adventure Zones to the eastern side of the mountain, accessible from the Golden Peak area. One of the zones, Bearclaw Glade, is on the Boomer trail off the Sourdough Express Lift (#14) and provides an environment for kids to practice their powder turns when it snows. The Pony Express provides a more intermediate-level experience with some skiing through the trees. 

Season-Long Events

The premiere of Vail, the Rise of America’s Iconic Ski Resort was part of the weeklong Vail 50th Anniversary Snow Daze celebration (December 10-16). Live entertainment included Wilco, the Shings and Michael Franti & Spearhead, culminating in the official 50th Birthday Celebration on the 15th at Mountain Plaza in Vail Village. 

December also saw the Vail Family Holidaze from December 16-25 and on December 31. Family-friendly events included the annual tree-lighting ceremony, ice-skating performances, kids’ and holiday concerts, and the New Year’s Eve Torchlight Ski Down and Fireworks. 

On New Year’s Eve, Vail NYE 2013 saw a live concert at the Dobson Ice Arena by Thievery Corporation and special guest DJ Logic. 

The celebrations will continue throughout the season, starting with the second annual Winter Mountain Games presented by Eddie Bauer. Professional and amateur athletes will compete in mixed/ice climbing, mountain cyclocross, Big Air, dual slalom biking, Nordic and telemark skiing, ski mountaineering, snowshoe racing and ascension for $60,000 in prize money. 

The competition will continue with the Burton U.S. Open from February 25 through March 2. The longest-running snowboarding competition in the world, the event is coming to Vail Mountain for the first time this year. 

Skiing Heritage Week, from April 7-14, is a celebration of the history of skiing presented by the International Skiing History Association and the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame. The celebration will include skiing, snowboarding, parties and film showings, culminating in the Hall of Fame’s Annual Induction Ceremony on Saturday, April 14. The event will also have a special tribute to the “Pioneers of Professional Ski Racing.”

Spring Back to Vail from April 8-14 will close out the winter season with concerts, parties and more. While the current lineup had not yet been announced at press time, past acts have included bands like Thievery Corporation and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Closing day will have the annual World Pond Skimming Championships, where athletes will launch themselves off an on-snow jump onto an icy pond. 

Getting There 

Vail is 30 minutes from Vail/Eagle County Airport (EGE), which has nonstop service from 10 cities across the U.S. Information on airport transfers is available at www.vail.com/plan-your-trip/airline-reservations/airline-reservations.aspx.

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