Skiing Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort

Photo courtesy of Durango Mountain Resort

Photo courtesy of Durango Mountain Resort

By Bob Goligoski, Correspondent

Durango may not have the glitz and glamor of Vail, Aspen and other major Colorado resorts but this down-home, under-the-radar playground for skiers and snowboarders is one of those special places that we rave about long after we have left the slopes.

First off, lets get the name of the place straight: Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort. The resort, some 25 miles from the lively, historic railroad town of Durango, is now in its 49th being sold this month to a new, expansion-minded owner.

In late January, I joined a group of fellow ski writers (members of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association) on an exploratory trip to the sun-drenched Four Corners area of southwestern Colorado – the home of Purgatory.

The Purgatory numbers are impressive: 10 lifts, 88 runs, 2,029 feet of vertical drop, 21 feet of annual snowfall, 1,360 skiable acres, five terrain parks and 20 kilometers of groomed nordic trails.

Photo courtesy of Durango Mountain Resort

Photo courtesy of Durango Mountain Resort

There are a fair number of bunny runs and black-diamond thrillers, but this is mainly an intermediate cruising mountain. Purgatory had the best snow that I have skied on this season (and six more inches fell the day after we left) and the grooming was first class.

When God invented this mountain, he added a distinctive feature. There are natural rollers or risers, some call them whoop-de-dos, on many runs, somewhat like a bunch of steps that keep going down. These are quite entertaining and add a challenging element to the day.

Purgatory gets good snow because of its high elevation. Its base elevation of 8,750 feet stretches to 10,800 at the top. Surrounded by a number of 14,000- foot peaks in the San Juan Mountains, Purgatory can take your breath away – both because of the scenery and the altitude.

If the altitude bothers you to sleep that high in one of the 300 plus beds at the base, head downhill to Durango where its 17,000 residents sleep soundly at 6,500 feet. If you need a little boost on the mountain, there is an oxygen bar at the base.

The world is starting to take notice of Purgatory. Over the last two years, TripAdvisor has rated Purgatory the top value ski spot in North America. Various magazines have piled on the praise including National Geographic which declared that Durango was a “Top 10 Emerging Ski Town.”

In an era of $100 plus lift tickets, the $79 adult ticket here is a bargain. On Thursdays, the fare drops to $49.

The U.S. Forest Service is expected this month to approve the sale of Purgatory to James Coleman, a 47-year-old Durango resident who owns two smaller size ski resorts in New Mexico and is in the process of acquiring Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff, Arizona.

Looking over his new snow-clad slopes at Purgatory, Coleman said, “My plan is to add new terrain every year for the foreseeable future.”

There is a scattering of bars, cafes, shops and condos at the base. But big changes are potentially coming. Coleman has approval to add 2000 housing units (probably houses and condos) in and around the base area.

Numerous winter activities in and around Purgatory include dog sledding, ice climbing, tubing, snowshoe tours, horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowbiking, snowmobiling and snowcat tours into the back country for skiers and riders.

Our three day trip did not quite allow enough time to wander around Durango. But we did discover a handful of breweries, wine tastings, two chocolate factories, three new marijuana outlets, amazing regional art at the Sorrel Sky gallery and several mind-blowing southwestern dishes at various restaurants such as El Moro, Chimayo Stone Fire Kitchen and the Palace.

Durango has a rich, restaurant vibe. The town has attracted some high-
image chefs. Michael and Birgitte Lutfy at Chimayo formerly were executive chefs for Minchael Andretti’s Indycar racing team and owner-chef Paul Gelose at the Palace formerly cooked for Oprah.

The town was founded in 1881 by the Denver & Rio Grande Railway. It boasts one of the country’s premier transportation museums (heavy on railway history) and visitors can still take sight-seeing trips offered on the Durango & Silverton narrow gauge railroad.

Plan to spend some extra time in Durango. There seems to be an eating, drinking or music festival almost every weekend.

The town is relatively easy to get to as three major airlines, including United, fly about 12 flights a day into the nearby airport.

British Columbia’s ski resorts offer inspired food

Think BC’s slopes are dominated by powder, chutes, bowls and glades? Sure, but they’re paired nicely with power-foods, rice bowls and sablefish with miso glaze. Indeed, menus at these delectable resorts go far beyond the standard fare, opting instead to creatively — and deliciously — fuel adventurers onto their next snowy stash.

Whistler Blackcomb may earn rave reviews from the ski and snowboard crowd, but it’s their tasty offerings both on and off the slopes that ensure time spent in the snow satisfies every appetite.

Adventurers can stop at the top of Creekside Gondola to sample the goods at the resort’s first vegetarian restaurant, Raven’s Nest, where plant-based menus prove they can stoke the fire with equal fervour.

If curry is more pleasing to the palate, Vancouver chef Vikram Vij’s signature Indian dishes (think chicken with chickpea, beef with spinach, and vegetable bean and kale) at Whistler Mountain’s Roundhouse Lodge or Blackcomb Mountain’s Wizard Grill are worth planting the poles.

Off the mountain, hungry hordes can tuck skis and boards away for strolls along the pedestrian-only village in search of pie — Peaked Pies, that is. At this popular spot, Aussie staples will satisfy even the heartiest of cravings with steak, chicken and veggie pies, topped with mashed potatoes, mushy peas and gravy.

Options abound: La Cantina Urban Taco Bar dishes out time-honoured favourites and Mexican fusion in equal measures, while Stonesedge Kitchen serves up comfort food with a decidedly local twist. Should a more intimate indulgence be on the menu, locavores can raise a glass to Alta Bistro’s cutting-edge take on French cuisine — with some of BC’s best reds and whites, of course. whistlerblackcomb.comwhistler.com

Whitewater Ski Resort, near Nelson in the province’s Kootenay Rockies, wrote the book (literally) on mind-blowing cuisine, thanks to the success of Shelley Adams’s wildly popular Whitewater Cooks series.

With menus plucked from the on-mountain restaurants, home cooks can whip up the wild game bratwurst or the spiced falafel goodness of the Glory Wrap in the comfort of their own kitchens, or, better yet, sample dishes first hand on the mountain.

The best part? Snow isn’t Whitewater’s only legendary offering: here, skiers and boarders can maximize their powder play, courtesy of the resort’s own Fresh Tracks Café Express, set at the base of the Glory Ridge Chair.

This crowd-pleasing food truck — the first of its kind to make an appearance at a BC resort — satisfies with the Evening Ridge Quinoa Bowl, zested with almond lime dressing, and the two-hands-required Ymir-style Turkey Bun, served with spice-infused turkey breast, roasted garlic aioli, handcut seasoned ripple chips and banana peppers. skiwhitewater.com

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, another famed Kootenay Rockies destination, is known for its heart-thumping mix of terrain and fluffy champagne snow — toast-worthy traits best celebrated at the resort’s Eagle’s Eye Restaurant.

Set 2,346 metres (7,700 feet) in the sky, Eagle’s Eye reigns as Canada’s most elevated restaurant, boasting sophisticated menus that celebrate scallops with pear and parsnips, and wild boar tenderloin nestled on beluga lentils.

Afternoons will prove a delicious adventure, too, with the resort’s new Sky Lunch Package, a gondola sightseeing ride up and up paired with a lunch entrée and dessert. Smoked salmon bruschetta, anyone? kickinghorseresort.com

Black diamonds are a girl’s best friend at Breckenridge

Black diamonds can be a girl’s best friend in Breck – black diamond runs that is – especially during the ski area’s inaugural Women’s Ski Week, Feb. 14-22, 2015.

Women’s Ski Week at Breckenridge Ski Resort will highlight the resort’s offerings just for women to help moms, sisters, daughters and girlfriends get the most out of the mountain and town the way only women know how: by providing a welcoming, supportive and fun place to improve skiing or snowboarding skills, meet new friends and take the stress out of planning a family vacation.

Women’s Ski Week at Breckenridge will offer women of all ages unique ski and snowboard lessons, gear demos, fashion tips, and more!

Women’s Ski Week Schedule:
Feb 14 – 16           Ski Girls Rock – Created by the most successful woman skier of all time, Lindsey Vonn, Ski Girls Rock features lessons for girls ages 7 to 14 from our top women instructors. The lessons are headed up by devoted women instructors who have had an opportunity to meet with Lindsey recently to understand her vision for Ski Girls Rock and hope to convey this same sense to each of their students.

Feb 14 – 22           Women’s Ultimate 4 / Ladies First - With a maximum of four women per class, the Ladies First lesson gets you more individualized attention with experienced female instructors.

Feb 18                   Women & WineSometimes, a full day lesson can just be a little too much. That’s why we’re introducing Women & Wine – a half day lesson for women only (starting at 1:15 p.m. every Wednesday) followed by a complimentary glass of wine for après. Ski, sip, and play for just $69 as you learn from the best women instructors at Breck. Special for the Feb. 18 session, Gallo wines will join to show off the best wines in their line and explain the proper pairings. This class is held every Wednesday through March 4.

Feb 20                   Women’s First Tracks - Join Breck February 20 for first tracks on the mountain! Anyone who books a women’s program or lesson this year at Breck will get free access to this event!

Feb 20 – 22            Women Ski/Snowboard Camp – At Breck’s three-day Women’s Camp, you’ll get exactly what you’re looking for — whether that’s just a bit more confidence in the bumps, or just a better understanding of the equipment on your feet. Our supportive and fun female instructors will break the group down by ability and guide you and your friends around our incredible mountain at your pace.  And speaking of feet, Smartwool will be giving out free socks to the ladies during the clinic.

Feb 21                   Bombshells - Specifically for the moms of our Bombers and BAM kids, we’re offering discount lessons for women of any level looking to get the most of their time on the mountain. Held from 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. each Saturday, this lesson is the perfect length to let you drop your kid off, grab a coffee and catch your lesson right on time.

Feb 21                   Get the Girls Out – Join women’s outdoors organization SheJumps for a fun women-only ski day. Meet the ladies at the Starbucks at the base of Peak 8 at 10:00 a.m. to ski in an all-woman, all-fun ski or snowboard day.

Feb 21 -22             Breck Sports Women’s Gear Demo Days – Try out new gear before you buy! Demo a pair of skis or a snowboard on the slopes at Breck at a special price for Women’s Ski Week ($30!). Gear experts will be at the base of Peak 8 offering great demo selections tailored to your ski/ride style and ability. Demo days are brought to you by Breck Sports.

Learn more about Women’s Ski Week and the five new Breckenridge Ski and Ride School programs tailored to women only at WomensSkiWeek.com.

FIS Alpine World Ski Championships list concerts

2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Organizing Committee added four more headlining names to its free concert lineup for the Championships, including CeeLo Green, KC and the Sunshine Band, Craig Wayne Boyd and Andreas Gabalier.

Scheduled from February 2-15, the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek are expected to showcase athletes from more than 70 nations, with an estimated 750 million-plus worldwide television viewers and an onsite media and broadcast entourage of approximately 1,800 members.

The concerts, scheduled in conjunction with the nightly Medals Presentation at Vail’s Championships Plaza, located at Solaris, will be free to the public with the live show kicking off each evening at 6:30 pm. It is recommended that guests arrive early to ensure a prime viewing spot.

“Each of these four artists are an amazing addition on their own, and we are over the moon with excitement for our nine total free concerts now confirmed during the World Championships,” said Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation and 2015 World Championships Organizing Committee.

“In addition to watching the world’s best alpine ski racers for two weeks here in Vail and Beaver Creek, our guests from near and far will be able to enjoy some of the greatest musical acts on the stage today, all for free. We are proud to deliver this experience and hope that it adds to the growing excitement as we approach February 2,” Folz said.

Five-time Grammy Award Winning singer-songwriter-producer, television personality, actor, entrepreneur, and pop culture and fashion icon CeeLo Green will take the stage on Valentine’s Day (February 14). Known best for his worldwide hit “Forget You,” which received five Grammy nominations and won the category for “Best Urban/Alternative Performance,” he’ll also perform top hits like “Crazy,” “Bright Lights Bigger City” and more.

KC and the Sunshine band have been entertaining audiences around the world for forty years and are slated for a free performance on the evening of Tuesday, February 10. Topping the charts with seven No. 1 singles and three triple platinum albums, including hits like “Get Down Tonight,” “That’s The Way (I Like It),” “Boogie Shoes,” and “Rock Your Baby,” KC and The Sunshine Band defined disco music and forever influenced music with its timeless sound and mission of getting people out of their seats and onto the dance floor to celebrate.

Harry Wayne Casey, named “Founder of the Dance Revolution,” and his band will get the crowd dancing with their greatest hits as well as new music from their soon-to-be-released album, Feeling You! The 60s, which is slated for national release on Tuesday, March 10, 2015.

To compliment this legendary band, the 2015 World Championships will also feature a fresh new artist just coming onto the scene – recent winner of “The Voice,” Craig Wayne Boyd on Sunday, February 8. The Texas-born country singer and multi-instrumentalist will most certainly bring a flare to the Championships, with his easy musical versatility, sure to appeal to everyone’s tastes.

Rounding out this list of heavy hitters will be international sensation Andreas Gabalier, who will take to the free concert stage on Wednesday, February 4. Not only was Gabalier the artist behind the 2013 World Championships’ Official Song in Schladming, Austria, he is also a celebrated folk singer throughout Europe and recipient of both the ECHO music award in folk music category and the Amadeus Austrian Music Award in 2012.

Five headliners were previously confirmed for the 2015 World Championships lineup, including Michael Franti & Spearhead on February 3, Mix Master Mike on February 5, American Authors on February 6, O.A.R. on February 7 and Phillip Phillips on February 12. The 2015 Organizing Committee intends to book concerts every night during the two weeks of the Championships.

Lack of snow closes small Sierra ski resorts

By Bob Goligoski, Correspondent

Melting snow and warm 50-degree temperatures in the Northern Sierra have forced three smaller ski resorts, and one large cross country ski area, to shut down this week. The four resorts plan to re-open as soon as the next decent-sized snow storm hits.

The alpine resorts – Dodge Ridge, Badger Pass in Yosemite Park and Donner Ski Ranch near Truckee – are all lower elevation resorts with limited or no snow making systems. Tahoe Donner cross country ski area, also on Donner Pass, turned off the lights on December 20.

Skiers returning this week from larger Lake Tahoe area alpine resorts with snow-making systems reported good snow cover at places such as Northstar and Sierra Tahoe with about two-thirds of the runs open.

Sean Waterman, a Dodge Ridge spokesman, said, “We probably could have limped along with some of our learning terrain open. But it’s not quite the experience that we want people to have.”

A spokeswoman for the Tahoe Donnar cross country area said, “We regret to inform you that after doing our best to keep trails open for skiing and snowshoeing, we are closing due to limited snow. When more snowpack allows, the facility will reopen and all programs, clinics and events will resume as scheduled.”

The nordic area is among the largest in the Sierra with 50 plus trails spread over more than 100 kilometers of terrain. The downhill ski area at Tahoe Donner has better snow and remains open.

Forecasters say that the high-pressure system that is blocking storms from reaching the Sierra appears to be weakening and more snow is a possibility for late January and early February.

Lake Tahoe resorts score big during the holidays

By Bob Goligoski

Blessed by early December snow storms and sunny bluebird days during the Christmas-New Year’s Day span, Lake Tahoe area resorts saw the biggest holiday crowds in four years.

“The ski resort business in the Sierra over the holiday period was up substantially over last year, and the resorts had more people coming since the holiday season in 2010-2011,” said Bob Roberts, CEO of the California Ski Industry Association.

Cold nighttime temperatures during most of December allowed the resorts to generate plenty of additional snow with snow-making systems that resorts have been expanding in recent years.

A report from Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows corporate headquarters was typical of comments from Sierra resorts. “With all of the early season snow – 110 inches total at 8,000-feet in December – we saw great crowds over the holidays and New Year’s, including locals driving to the resorts and visitors staying in the Village at Squaw Valley,” said Melissa Brouse Matheney, a spokeswoman for Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows. “We were even able to run the aerial tram until 7 p.m. Dec. 27-30 so guests could get some turns in under the lights.”

In years gone by, many Sierra ski resorts collected a third of their annual revenue during the Christmas holiday season. But now, explained Roberts, a resort may generate half of its annual ticket sales with the early season sale of annual lift passes.

Many skiers and riders have discovered that if they only get out on the slopes five or six days a season, that pretty well pays for the price of an annual pass, he added.

All of the 27 ski resorts in the association had enough snow to open for the holiday season.

Skyway to Heavenly invades Los Angeles

Heavenly Mountain Resort will host a rocking après ski party in Los Angeles on Thursday. A group of four lucky friends from the City of Angels will head directly to the airport from the party to embark on their own all-expenses paid ski and party trip of a lifetime to Heavenly.

Heavenly will ignite the après ski-themed party with casino games, drink specials, giveaways, shot skis, and the gorgeous Heavenly Angels.

“Skyway to Heavenly has become a staple in the L.A. area, with its high-energy vibe and small taste of what a ski trip to Heavenly and South Lake Tahoe is all about,” said John Wagnon, Heavenly’s senior director of marketing. “Attendees should come prepared to ‘Go All In’ in an effort to win the ultimate ski trip.”

Heavenly will bring Tahoe to LA on Jan. 15, as the party starts at Busby’s West at 8:30 p.m. with three unique qualifiers to win at the party*: most liked Instagram photo tagged with #HeavenlyOrBust; highest casino winnings; top two most creative photos in the Heavenly photo booth.

The winners of each method will proceed to the final round – a sudden death flip cup race. Chug. Flip. Win. Get on a plane and go.

The weekend trip for four, valued at more than $10,000, includes a roundtrip flight on a private jet to South Lake Tahoe airport, a three-night stay at MontBleu Resort Casino and Spa, three days of skiing or riding at Heavenly with equipment and lift tickets included, a mountain tour, $450 spending money and a $75 mountain money voucher per person, VIP admission and table reservation at MontBleu nightclubs, on-call concierge, and a reserved table at Unbuckle at Tamarack après ski party. Everything will be over-the-top and out-of-control.

It could be the unforgettable trip you won’t remember.

From the DJ cat to Unbuckle après parties featuring the lovely Heavenly Angels, Heavenly’s events exude high energy.

On April 4, 2015, High Roller Hold ‘Em will take place on World Cup run featuring Olympic athletes like Sage Kotsenburg, Billy Morgan and Chas Guldemond. Infusing an X Games-worthy big air competition with a little South Lake Tahoe casino gambling twist, High Roller Hold ’Em features a monster big-air jump, a $50,000 jackpot, and, the highest stake, a 2016 X Games Big Air event exemption for the overall winner.

*All qualifiers and winners must be 21-or-over.

Squaw Valley opens 3 glades by removing trees

By Bob Goligoski, Correspondent

Squaw Valley has removed more than 5,000 dead or diseased trees from its lower mountain enabling it to open three new glade area for skiers and snowboarders.

About 100 acres of new terrain was added to the slopes with the addition of the three new tree skiing areas – Red Dog Glades, Paris Glades and Heidi’s Glades.

The tree removal project, which employed the use of helicopters to remove the trees, also added a new connector trail off the Champs Elysees run to give skiers and riders easy access into the new glades.

All the new terrain, rated upper-intermediate to expert, is in the Red Dog region of the resort. Access into the area previously had been very limited because of the dense population of standing or fallen trees.

“The current drought and the King Fire bring into sharp focus the issue of forest health and how it affects our community right here in Squaw,” said Peter Bansen, Squaw Valley fire chief.

“Thinning provided valuable benefits by effectively utilizing the available water for the most viable trees and the removal of dead or diseased trees dramatically reduced the risk of fire,” Bransen said.

He added, “While this work was expensive for a private landowner, our community will benefit from Squaw’s investment in fuels reduction and forest health and I commend the company for doing the right thing.”

Most of the trees were processed for timber use and other tree material was chipped for further use at the resort. By using helicopters for the work, there was no need to skid or drag the fallen trees along the ground in sensitive areas, thus minimizing adverse environmental impact.

“Our goal was to return the forested areas in the Red Dog region back to a more natural and healthy state by removing potentially dangerous overgrowth and deadfall. Although the project was costly, it was worth the investment to improve the environment while also improving skiing and riding at the resort,” said Mike Livak, executive vice president of Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows.

Afton Alps welcomes first Riders’ Cup

Ice Cross Athletes from Around the World to Compete on Jan. 18 for World Championship Points and chance to Advance to Red Bull Crashed Ice

WHO: Up to 128 male and 24 female ice cross downhill athletes from around the world will be competing in the Riders Cup on Jan. 17-18 at Afton Alps to earn Ice Cross Downhill World Championship points and to qualify to compete in the Red Bull Crashed Ice series, including the Jan. 24 competition in downtown St. Paul. These athletes boast a variety of different sporting backgrounds – everything from downhill skiing to mountain biking to hockey and more.

WHAT: Ice cross downhill is the fastest sport on skates, with athletes racing down an ice track featuring hairpin turns, drops and gaps at speeds of more than 40 mph. The Riders Cup evolved from these athletes building their own tracks with local ski resorts and sponsorship partners, and for the first time ever this year, will give its competitors the chance to earn points towards their world championship ranking. The Riders Cup will make ice cross downhill more accessible to interested athletes and allow competitors from more than 15 different nations to participate in races this year.

There will be four Riders Cup events, added by popular demand, across the world this year: Jan. 18 at Afton Alps in Hastings, Minn.; Jan. 31 in Kleinarl, Austria; Feb. 14 in Jyväskylä, Finland; and March 7 in Sherbrooke, Québec (Canada). Adding the four Riders Cup events to the four existing Red Bull Crashed Ice competition brings the total number of ice cross competitions in 2015 to eight.

The athletes participating in the Riders Cup events will be able to earn up to 25 percent of the points awarded at the four major Red Bull Crashed Ice competitions. This means that participation in all four of the Riders Cup events will be equivalent to participating in one Red Bull Crashed Ice race.

The Afton Alps event will take place over two days with a Riders Cup training camp and time trials occurring on Saturday, Jan. 17 and the official Riders Cup race taking place on Sunday, Jan. 18. The Riders Cup will feature 32 heats of the top 128 men and up to four heats of the top women (up to 16). Athlete registration can be found at AftonAlps.com and is available on a first-come, first-served basis until Jan. 11.

The Afton Alps Riders Cup track will be an estimated 400 meters in length with over 60 meters of vertical drop, which is comparable to the Red Bull Crashed Ice championship course in St. Paul. It will be sculpted out of snow from the ski hill, covered with natural ice and littered with a variety of obstacles. The Afton Alps course will take more than eight days to build from the ground up, with approximately 10 international Crashed Ice athletes (from more than five countries) and 30 local athletes working on-site.

WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 17 – Riders Cup Training Camp and Qualifier

  • Practice and qualifying runs beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Sunday, Jan. 18 – Riders Cup

  • 11 a.m. – Venue opens
  • 11 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. – Riders Cup Elimination Round
  • 2:30 – 4:30 p.m. – Riders Cup Finals
  • 4:30 – 5 p.m. – Riders Cup Award Ceremony

WHERE: Afton Alps ski area, 6600 Peller Ave. S. in Hastings, Minnesota. The finish line and public viewing area will be near the base of lift #11 in the Meadows area.

INFO: For the full Riders Cup event schedule, visit AftonAlps.com or call (651) 436-5245.

ABOUT: The Riders Cup is just one example of how Afton Alps provides a variety of entertainment besides skiing and snowboarding. Afton Alps provides year-round entertainment including New Year’s Eve fireworks, a beer and wine festival in the fall, golfing and more.

Afton Alps is a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc., the leading mountain resort operator in the U.S. For over 50 years, Afton Alps has delighted the Twin Cities’ families as one of the Midwest’s premier winter destinations. Nestled in the scenic St. Croix River Valley just outside Minneapolis and St. Paul, this sprawling resort poured $10 million last season into re-imagining the guest experience with renovated base area facilities, a powerful state-of-the-art snowmaking system and a new cutting edge terrain park. With nearly 300 skiable acres, 50 trails, 18 lifts and four terrain parks, there is enough terrain to challenge experts to beginners, day or night. Accessible, affordable and fun, this big-time resort with a small-town feel has converted thousands of first-timers into lifelong skiers and riders, and with the opportunity to take that passion to Vail Resorts’ iconic western mountains; Afton Alps is truly the place where Epic begins. For more information, visit AftonAlps.com.

Follow Afton Alps on Twitter at @AftonAlpsMN, Instagram at @AftonAlps and on Facebook at Facebook.com/AftonAlpsMN.

Blue Sky Basin marks 15 years at Vail Mountain

Since its opening 15 years ago on Jan. 6, 2000, Blue Sky Basin has become a legendary area on Vail Mountain and a favorite amongst locals and guests from around the world.

This outer-most area of the resort offers a distinct backcountry feel, complete with glades, cliffs, steeps, and often plenty of powder and fresh tracks within 645 acres of developed ski and snowboard terrain!

In honor and celebration of Blue Sky Basin’s 15th anniversary at Vail Mountain, following is a list of the 15 things we love about this legendary area of Vail Mountain!

  1. A Powder Day!

It goes without saying that Blue Sky Basin powder days are the best days! An abundance of powder, fresh tracks and secret stashes await skiers and snowboarders here after recent snowfalls.

  1. The Backcountry-Like Feel

Skiers and snowboarders can enjoy all the ambience of the backcountry, including barn-like structures, gladed terrain, cliffs and steeps, all within the safety of the ski resort boundaries. The NSAA even awarded Vail with the Silver Eagle award in 2000 for excellence in visual impact.

  1. Its Size

With 645 acres of developed ski and snowboard terrain, Blue Sky Basin alone is bigger than many individual ski resorts around the United States! That’s a lot of terrain to explore in addition to the rest of Vail’s more than 5,000 acres of terrain.

  1. Gladed Terrain

Known for its amazing natural gladed terrain, Blue Sky Basin, offers fantastic tree skiing in places like Champagne Glade, Steep and Deep, and Resolution.

  1. Groomers, too!

Intermediate skiers and snowboarders don’t be shy, Vail Mountain’s snowcats still make the seven-plus mile journey out to Blue Sky Basin each day to groom trails like Big Rock Park, Grand Review and The Star.

  1. Grilling at Belle’s Camp

Pack up the burgers and brats, and head out to Blue Sky Basin’s Belle’s Camp for the ultimate on-mountain barbeque complete with expansive views of the Sawatch Mountains and Ten-Mile range.

  1. The Views

Blue Sky Basin’s terrain isn’t the only thing that takes your breath away in this outer-most area on Vail Mountain. Panoramic views of surrounding mountain peaks and of Vail’s legendary Back Bowls are just as impressive as the sheer variety of terrain.

  1. Lover’s Leap

Whether you take the plunge solo, or with a partner, Blue Sky Basin’s Lover’s Leap is sure to get your heart pounding as you slide up to the edge of the cornice and take a leap of faith onto the steep snow surface below.

  1. Choose Your Own Adventure through Big Rock Park

No two runs are ever the same when skiing and snowboarding down Big Rock Park. Stick to the main-groomed trail, weave in and out of tree islands, pop into the trees for fresh powder, and make this run all your own!

  1. Dawg Haus

Break for a brew and a brat at this trail-side hot dog stand in between laps on Pete’s Express Lift (#39). It’s the perfect quick lunch stop for hungry skiers and snowboarders who don’t want to break from their powder laps for too long.

  1. The Name and Historical Connection

The name of the area honors the Ute Indians, the original settlers of the Vail Valley, who were referred to as the “Blue Sky People.” The tribute, combined with Colorado’s brilliant blue skies inspired the name Blue Sky Basin. The area also pays tribute to Vail’s founders in the names of two of the three Blue Sky Basin chairlifts – Earl’s Express Lift (#38) and Pete’s Express Lift (#39).

  1. While the Snow’s Away, the Wildlife Can Play!

As part of the approval for Blue Sky Basin, the U.S. Forest Service implemented a Supervisor’s Closure on the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin to protect elk calving habitat from early-May to the end of June and no organized summer activities are allowed.

  1. The Fireplace at Belle’s Camp

Head inside Belle’s Camp to warm up by the fire on a snowy winter’s day.

  1. The Snow Stake Cam

Your best source for live, up-to-the-minute snowfall totals in Blue Sky Basin. Check out the online camera at Vail.com to see for yourself how much snow fell in the past 24 hours.

  1. Last, but certainly not least, that one particular line in that one particular place on an epic powder day – you know the one!

What do you love about Blue Sky Basin? Share your favorites with Vail throughout the month of January by tagging @VailMtn on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and using the hashtag #BlueSkyBasin.

For more information visit www.vail.com, stop by the Mountain Information Center, or call (970) SKI-VAIL (754-8245).