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New Terrain

The grand adventure of designing for new ski runs is superbly enjoyable and an equally massive and complex undertaking. Over decades of study and working with the wide range of stakeholders and very careful environmental considerations, we continue to keep dialing it all in. 

        Vail is moving forward with giddy excitement, along with careful and selective cutting to bring:

         VILLAGE-TO-VILLAGE SKIING THE WAY OUR FONDERS FIRST ENVISIONED

Our hope is that by 2033, you may be able to say hello to the historic mining town of Red Cliff, the historic railway town of Minturn, Eagle Vail, and Beaver Creek, YES, when your ski adventure starts in Vail. This is our "hope" but we really look forward to working with each of the towns/areas and all else involved. Is this too big, hairy, and audacious of a goal? Perhaps, but at the same time we think nothing is too bold or impossible. We are being guided in our care for both the healthy of the ecosystem and the possibilities.

To everybody's win, in a large percentage of our new area Vail will use selective cutting. If you've skied "Cloud 9" in Blue Sky Basin you will have an idea of the kind of trails the many of our new ones will resemble. Our last large development was in 2000 with the opening of Blue Sky Basin. Now, twenty-five years latter, we will begin our expansion in our previously approved areas along the edges of both Pete's Bowl and Earl's Bowl.

Will we ever have our ridge run leading to Swingsville (with three lifts offering skiers that trail option) ski as open and safe as Deer Valley's popular ridge run (viewable here)? No, but on our mind is the shift in our guests interests to skiing areas that feel a little more intimate and are free of the masses of skiers. Would an 8-person Chair 4 (Mountain Top Express) add more people to the already crowded (and sometimes dangerous) ridge and runs near Swingsville? Yes, and for that and other reasons we might just keep a 6-person lift there.

Yes, we're very mindful that American top three ski resorts (Sun Valley, Deer Valley, and Snowmass) in Ski Magazine's 2023 list are all praised on lack of crowds with statements like: "ah, glorious, we hardly felt any crowds. Skiers rejoice!"

 

In our interest in improving the "ways' that skiers can enjoy Vail Mountain, we are going to look into bringing back recreational ski racing opportunities for our guests. With Vail being home to the two greatest ski racers of all time, Mikaela Shiffrin (Olympic Gold Medalist and alpine skier with the most World Cup wins of any alpine skier in history) and Lindsey Vonn (Olympic Gold Medalist and the third most World Cup wins of any alpine skier in history) it only seemed right.

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In these ski area renderings from the Vail 2024 Master Plan Update, you can see approved runs is in this expansion are shown. The majority you can see as a mix of Blue Squares and Black Diamonds on the map accessible from Pete's Express in Blue Sky Basin. Yes, like we're shared previously we are excited to open some absolutely amazing gladded terrain. We will use a selective cutting approach like we did on Cloud 9 in Blue Sky Basin. "This terrain expansion would create a positive impact on the guest experience by spreading guests out on underutilized terrain within Vail’s permit area through a mix of intermediate runs and natural gladed areas. The trail alignments are shown on the map. Vail will consult with the Forest Service to determine additional review needed prior to construction of these trails." (taken from the Vail 2024 Master Development Plan) "As part of the 1996 Vail Category III Ski Area Development Environmental Impact Statement Record of Decision (1996 ROD), 597 acres of ski terrain were approved to be constructed in Blue Sky Basin. Of that, 460 acres have been constructed to date, leaving approximately 135 acres to be constructed. Given that 27 years have lapsed since the original approval of this project, Vail realizes that the NEPA science needs to be revisited regarding changes in wildlife habitat in the area."

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OK - super super super rough sketch of a few other lifts, etc.:

  1. Updating the "Eagle Bahn Gondola" (Lift #19) from Lionshead. It will be an autonomous (unmanned, so to speak - yes, skis and snowboards all go inside the cabin, don't worry too much - it works) 10-seater with wide individually heated seats! It will be the finest in the world.

  2. The old Minnies Lift (old Chair 9) will be added back as a Gondola (so the kids can ride in one cabin. This is a low on the importance list (as it would primarily be for the kids learning to not have to ski all the way down to Chair 2 and this is not causing too many major issues). We will regrade the "Cub's Way" catwalk to make it safer for the kids (and all the beginners who are ready to make the step from Chair 15 to the mountain. Currently, it is a sizable skill jump and quite frightening for some.

  3. Updating the "Born Free Express" (Chair 8) from Lionshead also. This will be a 4-seat chair with individually heated  seat. As a way to lighten the passenger traffic and lure, so to speak, to Chair 8 this will be a bubble chair - with the option of covering during snow, cold, wind.

  4. We will replace our Riva Bahn Express (Chair 6) with a gondola that goes up to Two Elk (and includes two-stops along the route. It will also be an autonomous (unmanned, so to speak - again, skis and snowboards all go inside the cabin, don't worry too much - it works beautifully, reduces our mandatory/critical need for lift ops and ticket scanners and it looks beautiful too).

  5. If and when support from Vail Resorts and USFS, we will look seriously into a fixed-grip three or four seat lift from Eagle-Vail (near the golf course clubhouse (to add to our village-to-village skiing opportunities. Vail Resorts, the Forest Service and the Division of Wildlife deemed the area elk habitat. And for at least 30 years, the Division of Wildlife — now Colorado Parks and Wildlife — has been saying it wouldn’t support a chair going through the sensitive wildlife habitat. The lift would be 11,250 feet long, making it the longest in North America — a bit longer than the 11,012-foot Slide Brook Express at Sugarbush, Vermont.

In the season of 2023-24, Aspen opened its new Hero's terrain with 19 chutes (double black) to keep itself relevant to its finest and big mountain skiers. Could Vail ever follow the thoughts and dreams of Vail founder Pete Siebert who actually envisioned a World Cup downhill course in the East Vail Chutes, and explore managing it for avalanche mitigation. Yes. The idea behind looking into this is to save lives and, of course, bring additional excitement to Vail as a ski mountain. A Vail Daily article from November 27, 2023 titled, "Colorado officials warn of ‘worrisome’ trend of people getting caught in avalanches" talks of some dangers. We will forever listen to shifts in interests/trends.. In the circumstance of Vail, inexperienced back-country skiers are hiking to the East Vail Chutes more that ever in recent years. And it was our founder Pete Siebert's grandson Tony Siebert who died in one of the avalanches there in 2014.

Are we afraid to dream big and think of things that seem unrealistic and unlikely? No, we're not. Absolutely not. No idea is too big for us to imagine anymore. We will approach this question with genuinely open minds (no matter what side you're on). Participation in this investigative team will come primarily from ski patrol, of course, but also locals in addition to the Vail Mountain (Vail Resorts) team. Like Aspen did with their new Hero terrain and how Aspen Highlands did with Highland's Bowl (pictured here), we would simply take a small part in keeping terrain accessible from Vail's lifts more safe (and dare we say, make Vail more interesting and exciting for expert skiers). There would be no lift access from the bottom. Those would essentially have to bus back to Vail from there.

East Vail Chutes photo here. Is this kind of terrain too extreme for Vail to manage (of course there will not be any lift access to it) for avalanche mitigation? Perhaps it is, but we may open our minds in new ways to explore the remote possibility still. 

 

Photo taken from: https://www.vailmag.com/best-of-vail/2015/02/powder-keg

In 2026 we are going to revisit the expansion of our base area to what we has previously been called "Ever Vail." This is to the west of Lionshead in the area of Vail's current employee parking and snowcat parking. The name of "Ever Vail" may or may not stay. But the area is poised for significant redevelopment. And could be an important new development bringing additional employee housing to help manage the new hotels, restaurants, and shops in that area... but also housing other workers in Vail. 

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