A couple years ago, I was a pretty crappy snowboarder. That’s not to say I’m good or anything now, but I can actually get down a green semi-quickly without falling, and that’s quite an accomplishment for me. But rewind back to when I was still using stop-and-go as my main way to get down a trail. It was also during this time that I managed to get lost on Vail Mountain.
I went to Vail Mountain on New Year’s Eve in 2010 for a few days. First, I want to say that I really don’t like Vail. It’s alright. Unless there was a really terrific deal on airfare, though, I wouldn’t go back. I found it a bit boring. There is absolutely nothing in this city except for Vail Mountain, which is for skiing and snowboarding. I guess if that’s all you came for, then it works, but I like other activities, like snow tubing (which they had, but theirs is lame). Also, I just didn’t find it nearly as pretty as Park City.
Perhaps this didn’t help my opinion of Vail, but when I went, there happened to be a massive cold front come through on the first day, accompanied by a blizzard. The first day I went out, I heard weather reports that the part of the mountain I was going to (which had the trail I wanted to try out) was experiencing temperatures of negative 5 degrees, and – wait for it – negative 22 degrees with wind chill. For some reason, I was an idiot and decided I’d be fine. It was so windy and cold up there that my brain instantly went numb. I couldn’t stop shaking and I could barely stand on my board. I went down the first tiny hill and fell face down. Because of all the snow that was falling and the part of the hill I landed on, I plummeted a good two or three feet into the snow. Fresh powder is supposed to be ideal for boarding, sure. It makes the ride smoother and if you fall, it’s like landing on a pillow. But when you suck at boarding and you’re constantly falling and the snow has been falling all night long and into the day, it’s not a good thing.
“Yeah, I can’t do this,” I told Joe. “This is not fun. We’re going to freeze to death out here.”
He nodded and agreed. In fact, the mountain was pretty empty that day.
The next day, it was much warmer, and of course by that I still mean way below freezing, but it was better, sunny, and there wasn’t any wind. Yet, I still had to buy one of those things to cover your FACE (seriously??) because of how cold it was. We decided to attempt the same trail again.
Now, here’s the other thing I didn’t like about Vail Mountain – it was huge! I guess this is supposed to be a good thing, but I felt like aside from the magic carpet areas that are meant for little kids, all of the trails were extremely long – even the easy greens. We picked what we thought was the easiest and shortest, but boy were we wrong.
We were on this trail all damn day and I felt like we barely made any progress. It was about to get dark soon and we had absolutely no idea where we were. It’s so easy to get lost on this mountain, especially if you have no idea what you’re doing, but somehow we managed to make a wrong turn and we ended up on a blue trail. We weren’t really sure how to handle getting down a blue, so we knew at this point it was time to take our snowboards off and just find our way back down already. We tried sitting on and sliding down on the snowboard, but after we built up some speed, that got a little scary. Even walking down the trail was frightening – it was so steep that I imagined myself falling all the way down in a summersault while snow accumulated all around me and turned me into a giant snowball, like some kind of cartoon.
There were also no employees on this mountain, either, until we finally found a ski lift. We were still really far from the ground, and the person working the lift was able to call the ski patrol to come “rescue” us. They came to us on a sleigh and rode us all the way down the mountain on that. It was pretty sad.
It’s even more sad that that rescue sleigh ride down the mountain was the highlight of my trip.
Overall, a good ski destination for sure, but I definitely prefer Park City.
Essential Travel Information
Flights: If you’re flying commercially to Vail, you’ll fly into the Vail/Eagle Airport. Travel booking engines like Priceline are really good for comparing all airfare that’s available with one quick search.
Hotel: We stayed at the Holiday Inn Vail. Cheap, close to Vail Mountain, and did the job just fine.
Gear: Don’t forget about all the stuff you’ll need for your trip. You’ll need to stay warm, so think hat, helmet, the right gloves, under armor, a snowsuit, and so on. And, then of course, there’s the bigger pieces of equipment: the skis/snowboard, boots, etc. If you don’t think you’ll be skiing or snowboarding very often, or if this may even be a one-time thing, you can rent just about everything you need. But if you think you might make it a new hobby and it could become a winter tradition, it’s worth investing to buy all this stuff, because renting is expensive over the long-term. At the very least, make sure you bring your own warm clothing (great options on Amazon!). If you’re in the market for a new snowboard, I highly recommend Burton snowboards.