Blue sky skiing is a big drawcard for skiing in the USA, so heading to Vail, Colorado at Christmas was set to be a sunny experience after enduring a bleak monsoonal season in Japan on our last overseas alpine adventure.
What we did not account for was the freezing cold temperatures when we arrived in Vail, which plunged to minus 25 degrees thanks to an unseasonably cold Winter. Despite the blue skies, the conditions were bone chilling for someone like me, who feels the cold terribly. Not even my six layers of thermals and ski gear was going to save me from this one. Thankfully though, I discovered heaters for my ski boots ¬ ingenious battery charged warmers which brought some relief and let me focus on enjoying the slopes.
The skiing itself was fabulous. Whilst the very high altitudes (3500m plus) meant shortness of breath came quicker on the upper slopes, we were spoilt for choice with wide open bowls, long runs, immaculate groomed conditions, plenty of space, few and fast moving queues, good facilities, quick chairs, and various other box ticks that experienced skiers love.
Perhaps it has something to do with the religious heart of central America, but we were touched by the generosity of Vail folks who give their time to taking visitors on complimentary tours of the vast mountain.
We spent half a day with an experienced skier and local business man, who volunteers regularly to show visitors around, in the spirit of giving something back to his community.
After a long flight to the US from Australia, direct from Brisbane, we took a second flight from Los Angeles to Denver, Colorado in central north America, where we were collected by a massive four by four that comfortably fit our skis, suitcases and us. From there, it was a two-hour drive up to Vail. We stayed at the new Sebastian, a boutique hotel of wood and stone, with a variety of fabulous bars and restaurants nearby. The leisurely walk to the first chair was made more comfortable by the heated sidewalks which take away the risk of slipping on ice, and ease the stroll considerably. The Sebastian has a base camp at the bottom of Lift One where we left our skis and boots and switched to après gear at the end of each day on the slopes. Vail village ski resort celebrated its 50-year anniversary in 2012, and upgraded the first chairlift at the same time. The seats inside the new gondola were heated, and free wi-fi made it a convenient place to check emails and facebook and we even skyped our family in Australia one day.
Colorado has apparently recently legalised the smoking of marijuana, which was interesting, especially when we entered a gondola in which the previous passengers had created a ‘Dutch oven’. I was hoping the after effects would not affect my skiing style too much. It took some getting used to the smoke smell which drifted through the halls at our hotel some nights too.
Words and Images by Danielle Hughes Brown