2008-2009 Our First Ski Season Vail, Colorado and Our Seventh Season Skiing Somewhere in the World

Before the economic meltdown in 2008, we rented a townhouse in Vail for the season: from November 21, 2008 to April 21, 2009. Had we waited until September or October to sign the lease, we never would have come as each day more of our capital disappeared and the rent was amongst the highest we've ever paid at a ski resort.

Nevertheless we are thrilled that we did come to Vail for the season! This season is our Ninth Entire Ski Season Skiing Somewhere in the World (to read about our 2009-2010 season which also is our Tenth Entire Ski Season, also in the Vail Valley, click here). And, it is our first in the USA. We skied

  • two seasons in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy click here for our blog entry
  • two seasons in Les Trois Vallées, France
  • two seasons in L'Espace Killy, France
  • one season in Los Tres Valles outside of Santiago, Chile
  • one season in Bariloche, Argentina skiing Cerro Catedral
The most number of days we've ever skied in a season was 106 in 1998-99 in Les Trois Vallées. We planned to top that in Vail but got off to a slow start. When it started snowing over Thanksgiving weekend, we didn't ski because we thought that we wouldn't be able to see. In the past, we didn't ski when it was snowing because we were skiing above the treeline and there were no reference points. In Vail and Beaver Creek (Latitude: 39̊ 38' N and Longitude: 106̊ 20' W) there are plenty of trees to "anchor" visibility. Unless it was a total white-out on the mountain, it was possible to see and ski in the snow. There were lots of snow days we missed until we got the message.

We bought the Epic Pass online, while we were still in South America, for $579 each, and we were ecstatic. It allowed us unlimited skiing at 5 ski resorts: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Arapahoe and Heavenly. There was an article in the November 14, 2008 USA Today by Jayne Clark entitled "Services bundle up, prices slip at ski areas" that said, among other things: "But some, such as Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz, have publicly acknowledge a tough season ahead. Vail Resorts in March came out with a $579 season pass good at its four Colorado resorts and at Heavenly in California. A similar pass went for about $1800 last year." By the end of the season, we had gotten our daily lift ticket price down to about $10 a day each!

Our first day of skiing was on December 1st. We hopped on the free TOV (Town of Vail) bus outside our townhouse and hopped off at Lionshead to take the gondola up the hill. The walk from the bus stop in Lionshead was about 5 minutes--not bad at all. The heated sidewalks make the walk easy and the escalators make getting to the slopes a "beyond first world experience". On our first day of skiing, we had a wonderful 4 hours. Fortunately we had been going to the Matrix Gym in Denver 3 times a week and were in good shape. The entire mountain wasn't open yet so we concentrated on the front side and we were impressed by the quality of the powder--light as a feather! The snow continued to be light even days after it fell and the ungroomed continued to be a delight. There was no necessity to sit back on your skis to keep your tips up as we had to do in the heavier snow of Italy, France, Chile and Argentina.

The lifts are very well organized, with lines on both sides of most lifts and skiers alternating courteously. That's not like unorganized lift lines where the skiers push, shove and step on your skis as was done in Europe. We were surprised, however, that ticket checkers were still needed to check the electronically readable passes on the bottom of the mountain. In 1996 at the 12 ski areas that were a part of Dolomiti Superski in Italy, we passed through a turnstile with an electronic reader. It was fairly orderly and there were typically no huge bottlenecks. With the hand-held readers at Vail, often there were annoying back-ups to get into the line at the lifts in the mornings.

One of the first things to strike us was how old the skiers looked at Vail. We think that there are way more over 60 skiers at Vail than we have ever seen in any ski area before.

Throughout the season, the Vail snow lived up to its reputation. It was light until it started to get hot in March. Even in April we had some awesome powder days. We like to ski tour around the mountain and our daily ritual became an excursion starting from the top of the gondola at Eagle's Nest to Game Creek Bowl and up chair 7, down Sun Down Bowl to chair 5. We'd take chair 5 and then ski down into Sun Up Bowl and up chair 17 over to China Bowl. We might ski China Bowl for a while before going over to chair 37and into Blue Sky Basin.
Audre is posing with Tom Edwards, one of our favorite Vail 50+ Ski With Us volunteer guides

We'd take chair 21 back to China Bowl for lunch because the architecture, design, sculpture outside, the art inside (and chairs with backs) at Two Elk attracted us day after day. In Europe, the restaurants on the mountain are individually owned and the owners hate (and prohibit) picque-niques. We love to bring our own lunch of cut up vegetables, fruit and a tiny sandwich. No one cared or bothered us at any of the mountain eateries. We appreciated the readily available (and free) cold water. We also learned that we could get free hot water (and started bringing our own teabags so we could have a hot drink on cold days).

We enjoyed walking into the main door at Two Elk where the Vail employs ladies to greet us with tissues. The restrooms on the mountain are free, huge and there is rarely any wait. There are plenty of tissues for runny noses. And there is hot water in the faucets. All of these things are a rarity in our Worldwide Skiing Experience and very much appreciated.
Skiing Vail's Siberia Bowl may be the closest we get to Outer Mongolia in our lives. In the far distance is Copper Mountain where we skied in 1990.
Each of our seasons' of skiing had wonderful experiences and unique memories. We've started referring to this season as the Pampered Skier Experience Offered by Vail and Beaver Creek. The quality of the snow in Vail makes skiing effortless and Vail Resorts makes the rest of the experience a luxurious pleasure. The marketing tagline of Vail: "Like nothing on earth" and the marketing tagline of Beaver Creek "Not exactly roughing it" are the absolute truth in our Worldwide Skiing Experience. We love the free chocolate chip cookies given out at 3 p.m. at the bottom of Centennial lift at Beaver Creek by a chef in a chef's hat. And one morning at the top of the Eagle Bahn gondola in Vail, free muffins were being given out.

We were trying to enjoy Vail enough to get our money’s worth because our townhouse is exorbitantly expensive! In February Audre skied with groups because Dimitri has a torn meniscus (diagnosed at a free clinic put on by the Howard Head Sports Medicine Clinic) and wasn’t skiing. Thankfully, Dimitri has been back to skiing since March and generally hasn’t been bothered by his knee. Vail has a 50+ Ski With Us group for free that meets every Monday and skis all day together; we love it. During the low season in January, there were free one hour ski tips lessons which we took advantage of. There are free Mountain Tours everyday and clubs that ski together. Most of this type of thing is quite unusual in our worldwide skiing experience. At the end of our ski days, we ski down to Vail Village, walk for 6 minutes on the heated and clean sidewalks, past the playing water fountain, past the beautiful sculptures to the Transportation Center. There we take the free TOV bus home.The ski touring may have been more remote and exciting in France, the quaintness of the towns where we skied as a part of the Dolomiti Superski were second to none, and the views we had skiing in the Andes were some of the best in the world. But Vail skiing is vast and we almost always have a perfect skiing day. Is that as good as it gets?

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