TEXAS TIES: You’re always likely to find a heavy dose of Dallas when you go to Vail, as it’s a favorite ski spot for shredders from North Texas. On our last visit, we were there no more than 10 minutes before we spotted two ticket stubs on the ground for a recent Jaap van Zweden-led Dallas Symphony Orchestra performance. But even if you’re very familiar with Vail’s 5,289 acres of skiable terrain, this season has a lot to offer.
EPIC WIN: One of the world’s best downhill ski racers, Lindsey Vonn, lives, trains, and skis here. When she’s not training, you can see her (but doubtful you can catch her) free-skiing the wilderness-like terrain of Vail’s back bowls. If you go during the Olympics, she’ll be busy competing in five downhill events, so you’ll have to cheer her on at the watching parties throughout Vail Village.
SHOW US YOUR GUNS: They call them “snow-making upgrades,” which means a line of new, huge snow guns on Golden Peak offers skiing options in any conditions (translation: powder hounds can hit the slopes no matter what Mother Nature offers up, snow-wise).
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Bob Cox, guest service manager, says you’ll see 1,200-plus ski and snowboard instructors combing the mountains. He says the most frequently asked question he gets is “How do I get to Blue Sky Basin?” (This is only because people are afraid to admit they are lost, he says with a smile. Otherwise “Where am I?” would be the No. 1 question.) Facing the seven back bowls, Blue Sky offers the most-popular backcountry experience for intermediate and expert skiers. That’s because there are only two to four skiers per acre on its 645 acres of fresh powder most days.
FIND THE GNAR-POW: Another bonus this year for intermediate and expert skiers and riders is the guided VIP tour. Groups of no more than five get to explore the mountains in classes that are geared less toward instruction and more toward learning insider tips on where the locals like to ski and secret spots that offer more challenging runs. One-on-one tips and instruction are, of course, part of the trip, but the tour is far less rigid than the typical ski instruction class. (Cost is comparable to a ski-school group lesson.) Classes run almost six hours, and they are offered at several Colorado resorts, including Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Heavenly.
LUNCHTIME: One of the attractions of Vail is how family friendly it is. With beginner’s slopes located next to tougher runs, the whole family can ski near each other and meet for lunch back at on-site restaurants at the five mountains of Vail Resorts. It’s impossible to go wrong with the burgers there: Angus quarter-pound patties on fresh buns from Harvest Moon Bakery in Denver. Or, if you’ve got a huge brood and want to keep costs down, Vail Resorts offers a kid-friendly “lunch for less” $9.95 deal (entrée, side, soda).
IMBIBE MOUNTAINSIDE: Finish your day with the outstanding mountainside views on the patio at the French brasserie Centre V. During happy hour, draft beers are only $3, while wine, sangria, and well cocktails are just $5. Happy hour runs from 2:30 to 6 pm, offering perfect sunsets and dreams of catching Lindsey Vonn in the back bowls. Break a leg.
Don’t tell Vail that the economy is slumping. Cranes and scaffolding are everywhere as new luxury hotels and developments have recently opened or are set to open soon. We stayed at The Arrabelle at Vail Square (opposite) on our last visit and came away duly impressed. Gorgeous views and an attentive staff mix well with old-world architecture. (After a day on the slopes, you must try the spa.) In April, Solaris becomes the new center of Vail Village—three- and four-bedroom residences for those wanting to buy, and for visitors, it will offer an open-air ice skating rink, a 10-lane bowling alley, shopping, dining, and a movie theater. Two other luxury mixed-use developments—The Ritz-Carlton Residences Vail and the Four Seasons Resort Vail—are scheduled to open this summer.