Ski Like a Local in Vail

Where to find the best snow on the mountain.
By David Keith
The Famous China Bowl at Vail

With seven legendary back bowls, there’s a lot to cover at Vail, so pay attention here. If it’s a pow day, take the Cascade Chair (#20) to Chair 26 and drop into Game Creek bowl, then head to Sundown Bowl for first tracks. If you’re not used to powder skiing, head to Chair 14 for an easier introduction. Ski off the back to reach China Bowl, one of the world’s best for powder and intermediate skiers wanting an intro to bowl skiing.

For glades, head to Blue Sky Basin. Get off the main trail, Skyline Express, and look for Steep and Deep (aptly named), Lover’s Leap, Iron Mask, or Skree Field. Expert skiers hit Siberia Bowl: Rasputin’s Revenge is great on big powder mornings with lots of cliffs on which to play. Sun Up Bowl has Apres Vous at the west end with a choice of a steep chute or glades.

On the front side are the expert runs of West Game Creek Bowl. Mud Slide will have a mix of powder pillows by mid-winter and trees to negotiate. Pump House, Narrows, and Front Side Chutes are worthy runs and, if Lindsey is groomed, get carving. If it’s not, it’s one of the best bump runs on the mountain. One of the steepest is Prima Cornice, and early in the season, Highline offers steep powder; after that, it’s steep bumps and no crowds (because it’s so hard).

Vail’s hidden jewel is Beaver Creek. Get there early on weekends to enjoy a hot chocolate at the top of the lift. Larkspur Bowl is almost always groomed, but stay skier’s left heading toward Yarrow for ungroomed powder early in the day. Warning: It gets heavier as the sun warms the snow. Try Spider in Rose Bowl on a powder day to see how the bumps magically vanish on this black diamond run. Be prepared to ski well as those on the Rose Bowl Chair right above are watching.

Royal Elk Glades is expert-only gladed terrain at the west end of Grouse Mountain. Screech Owl, another super-steep black diamond run, is best navigated early, before the weekenders flatten out the powder. If it’s cliffs and carnage you seek, head to Stone Creek Chutes, a legit drop into inbounds fun. At the end of the day, enjoy some fresh-baked cookies at the village as the ski valets remove boots and stow gear.

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