In just about every issue we publish, we recommend a spot for travel professionals to send their powder enthusiasts to. Deciding which major ski destination in the country to profile for Travel Agent’s special 80th anniversary issue was hard. In fact, it was as difficult a task as it would be to pick the best year of the eight decades. Just when you think you’ve nailed down your final answer, something inside tells you to reconsider.
So we decided to pick the largest ski mountain resort in the country (and second largest in North America) to highlight for you and your clients: Vail. Open in Colorado since 1962, the destination is the epitome of skiing and riding in the U.S.
Unlike Aspen, Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge, the town of Vail did not exist until the ski mountain gained prominence. Hence, the mountain created the destination and not vice versa. With a base elevation of 8,120 feet above sea level, a summit at 11,570 feet above sea level and a vertical rise of 3,450 feet, the mountain’s physical enormity matches its reputation. A total of 193 trails cover 5,289 skiable acres of terrain, and include 10 ski bowls (seven of which are official), four terrain parks (including one Super Pipe), all served by 31 lifts (17 of which are high-speed).
Getting to Vail, via plane, is quickest through Vail/Eagle County Regional Airport, but the resort is easily accessible via I-70 en route from Denver International Airport.
This summer, the mountain’s owner, Vail Resorts, instituted some new developments that are sure to make the 2010-11 winter season one to remember. And to enjoy those new initiatives there are a couple of additions on the accommodations front at Vail.
A Lodging Renaissance
Sitting on the banks of Gore Creek, right next to a proposed new gondola, and just west of the shopping and dining in Lionshead Village, The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Vail is co-located with The Ritz-Carlton Club. It features 71 luxurious residences that range in size from two-bedroom homes to a six-bedroom penthouse.
All rooms feature luxurious bathrooms, upscale kitchens and sweeping views of the mountains. The Residences will offer an array of luxury services and amenities, including concierge services, a fitness center, outdoor pool and hot tubs, ski valet, great room, library and more.
Slated to open December 11, Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail will be the first Four Seasons property to open in Colorado, and only the third mountain property in the collection. The resort will feature 121 rooms, as well as limited real estate opportunities, and 16 whole-ownership private residences.
The hotel is a short stroll from Vail, and guests will receive full access to services and onsite amenities that include a dedicated ski concierge at the base of the Vista Bahn Express Lift, a full-service restaurant and a signature Four Seasons spa.
During the summer of 2010, Vail Resorts invested a lot of money and time in several of its properties, which include Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone.
For Vail Mountain, the biggest change was that of the legendary High Noon Lift, simply known as Chair 5. Originally dating to 1979, the lift was removed following the 2009-10 season to make way for a long-awaited high-speed quad chairlift. The High Noon Express Lift (No. 5) will cut ride time nearly in half from 11 to six minutes and will nearly double the capacity from 1,400 people per hour to 2,400. The new lift will also significantly enhance the guest experience by improving skier circulation on the mountain, particularly in the Sun Up and Sun Down Bowl areas.
Vail’s tubing hill at Adventure Ridge was also upgraded in the summer, with additional tubing hill lanes and a new enclosed elevated conveyor lift. Adventure Ridge currently offers a variety of winter activities for adults and children, including tubing, ski biking, kids snowmobiling, nature snowshoe tours and more. The upgrades will provide guests with an easier tubing experience and faster lift times, allowing more laps.
Whether your clients are hitting the slopes in Vail for the first time or not, you may want to introduce them to a digital-age experience through EpicMix, a first-of-its-kind online and mobile application that allows guests to utilize technology to digitally capture their vacation and share it with others. The application can be accessed online at a computer or via a free mobile application that can be downloaded for smart phones.
EpicMix automatically captures the activity of guests by leveraging the resorts’ radio frequency (RF) scanners that are installed at each of its lifts. An RF-enabled chip embedded in passes and lift tickets tracks guests’ lift rides, calculates vertical feet skied and days on the mountain, and recognizes special achievements and accomplishments by granting guests commemorative, collectible digital pins. Guests can then share statistics and accomplishments through updates on Twitter and Facebook.
EpicMix alerts guests when any of their Facebook friends are skiing and where they are on the mountain, in addition to allowing them to send messages to their private groups of Facebook friends on the mountain. The mobile application will also provide trail and grooming information, snow and weather reports, as well as resort news and traffic updates. Parents will also be able to use EpicMix to track the lift rides of their kids in real time.