Vail celebrates its fiftieth season this year and has plenty of birthday surprises for visitors to its world-renowned slopes. But Vail offers more than skiing to visitors. Snowshoeing and other outdoor adventures, as well as great restaurants, and spa services round out the experience.
By Lisa Crockett; photos by Lisa Crockett; Jack Affleck, Vail Resorts; and courtesy Vail Cascade Resort
Fifty years ago, Vail Mountain welcomed the first skiers to its legendary slopes. There were just a dozen ski patrollers on staff, and a five-dollar lift ticket gave skiers access to one gondola, two chairlifts and eight trails. Fifty years later, Vail is celebrating a half century in style and giving gifts to skiers and outdoor enthusiasts that will be enjoyed for years to come.
"Vail Mountain and the Town of Vail have worked side by side in organizing what we hope will be a memorable lineup of events, activities and celebrations for our guests and the entire community in honor of the fiftieth anniversary season," said Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain. "I invite everyone to join us in honoring the past, present and future generations of Vail throughout the 2012-2013 season."
In November 2012, Vail kicked off this banner season by opening a new, state-of-the-art gondola called "One," that is replacing the Vista Bahn Express Lift. The new Leitner-Poma of America gondola will be the first and fastest of its kind in North America. The seven-and-a-half minute gondola ride from the base of Vail Village to Mid-Vail features heated, cushioned seats and Wi-Fi access up the hill.
Lots of other special occasions and offerings in Vail are part of the celebration, too. EpicMix Racing allows skiers to ski a designated race course and see how their time stacks up against American ski racer Lindsey Vonn. This season, Vail will host its first Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championship. In April, the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame will host its induction ceremony there. Activities for kids include biking on the snow, tubing and trampolines. The Nature Discovery Center offers free daily snowshoe tours atop Vail Mountain to learn about native plants and animals, and a new restaurant, "The 10th" is now open for après, lunch and dinner.
Resorts and hotels in Vail are in on the festivities, too. Vail Cascade resort, Vail's only AAA Four Diamond ski-in/ski-out mountain resort, provides a beautiful setting on the banks of Gore Creek. With the resort's Happy Birthday Vail promotion, guests who book a four-night stay at the hotel between now and April 14 can add a fifth night for only fifty cents, non-inclusive of resort fee, parking and taxes.
And while skiing is the centerpiece of a stay in Vail, Vail Cascade Resort offers a host of other amenities to keep travelers happy on and off the slopes. A 7,000 square-foot fitness center - the largest in Vail - includes a basketball court, racquetball and squash courts, workout equipment, and three indoor tennis courts. Outdoor tennis courts, two heated swimming pools, and three hot tubs provide ample places to soak and refresh after a day of skiing. Or, if you need time to re-charge, the on-site Aria Spa offers a long list of treatments like massage, facials and nail care. Kids can get in on the act, too, with the resort's KidVenture program, to keep kids entertained while mom and dad relax.
"Vail Cascade is a family-friendly resort," said Katie Johnson, director of marketing communications for Vail Cascade Resort. "There are a wide variety of activities that families can do together in addition to skiing, like swimming and sports or even roasting marshmallows outside while learning about the night sky from a visiting astronomer."
Of course, no birthday celebration would be complete without great dining, and Vail Cascade has something special there, too.
"We offer an extensive list of craft beer," said Johnson. "At our restaurant, the Atwater on Gore Creek, we have local Colorado cuisine paired with interesting artisan beer, chosen by our craft beer specialist Laura Lodge."
The menu features an eclectic lineup of 25 Colorado, American, and International craft beers, spanning classic brews, hard-to-find vintages and exclusive releases. Five craft beers on draft cover a spectrum of basic brew styles, while bottled beers are continually rotated to provide approachable options for newcomers and fresh thrills for connoisseurs. The resort offers packages to learn about the beers, too, which include time with Lodge to learn how the beers are created and discuss the art of pairing them with food.
Vail has changed a lot in 50 years, but some things will always be the same – majestic beauty and the soothing relaxation of spending time in the fresh, mountain air. It's just a two hour drive from Castle Pines. And unlike most birthday celebrations, this one isn't limited to just one day. There's still plenty of time to join in on the fun.
For more information on Vail, visit www.vail.com. For more information about Vail Cascade Resort, visit www.vailcascade.com.
From now through April 13, visitors can take advantage of the "Double Black Diamond" package at Vail Cascade. Stay two, three, or four nights and receive twenty percent off room rates - Promo Code VCDBCPC. Some restrictions apply, visit the website or call 800-282-4183 for details.