Lets face it, everyone has been stuck in a line at Vail. Especially at peak hours of the day and especially on the weekends. So how do you work the system like a local and avoid the traffic? That is a great question and lends itself to a number of answers (depending on who you ask). There are a few theories about which ski runs to take and which lifts to ride when trying to avoid the crowds at Vail. This article will touch on just a few.
- Avoid Holidays
- Avoid weekends
- Avoid powder day holiday weekends!
If the above is not an option then make sure that you are in the lift line well before they open and try to be the first to where you are going. Below are a few strategies about the crowd movement on Vail that may at least give you some direction. The last one is my favorite for doing a great tour of the mountain, especially when we have friends in town.
Just remember…. If your not first, your last!
Back to Front:
This is one theory that explains some congestion on the mountain. The hardcore skiers that arrive before the bell and hit the slopes running may tell you that you have to go to the back bowls or Blue Sky Basin first thing and then work your way back to the front side. This has worked for me in the past and before Blue Sky was a thing, China Bowl was my destination right out of the gate.
After you destroy any un-tracked powder, you can work your way back to the other bowls or Northwoods and then the front side. This strategy counts on the fact that the majority of skiers want their warm up runs first and will gradually migrate to the far off distant lands throughout the day.
This has worked for me and I know still a good many that live by this routine. With skiing’s growing popularity and the fact that many more people are willing to go after the freshies, you must remember that this routine may not work so well if you are a late riser. Nowadays that crowd can be fierce and the clock is ticking faster then ever. Within just a half an hour the powder can be tracked and the crowds can build at the lift lines.
Backside only/ Frontside only:
This is the theory that everyone else is on the move so the stationary get the spoils. Travel in Vail always seems inevitable. It seems that you are always trying to go somewhere else and never really riding anything. This is an easy rut to get stuck in, especially when you are riding with someone on a quest.
The answer can be simply Stay Put! The front side will eventually clear out with the natural migration. This place is huge and many people are not satisfied with doing the same runs. If you just hold tight and explore the immediate surroundings then you will find nooks that are left untouched for days after a storm.
The same is true for the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin. It takes a lot of skiing to get out there. People can get worn out easily and after they get there they are ready to go back. It may be busy for a run or two but the crowd will thin quickly as the people head to lunch or call it quits for the day.
This is one we came up with a few years ago while guiding some out of town friends on a powder day. Mind you they were great skiers so riding with them on a powder day was not a sin!
The way it works is that you go forward off the lift. That is it! Start in Lionshead at the gondola and make your way to chair 2 (Avanti) when you get to the top go forward. This sets you on the path. You wind up in Game Creek Bowl. When you get to the top go forward into Sun Down Bowl. At the top of 5 go straight into Northwoods, then straight into Sun Up Bowl, then straight into China bowl. After that you can decide on passing the China lift and head to Blue Sky for a run or two before taking Tea Cup Express back to the top where you can go forward back to Northwoods, then Sun Up, then Chair 3 and your Loop is complete!
This may not avoid all of the crowds, depending on the time of day, but it is an entertaining way to explore most of Vail and get some serious vertical while traversing the entire mountain.
Let us know if these are the best ways to Ski Vail or if you have another theory that works. Secrets can only be kept for so long!