Sun Up Bowl

Vail's Legendary Back Bowls

Vail has been getting dumped on this December— almost six feet of snow in the past two weeks. Plenty of opportunities for fresh tracks. Come play.

Sun Down Bowl

Sunset behind the Sun Down Bowl sign

The Sun Down Bowl, Sun Up Bowl and China Bowl are now open on the back side of Vail Mountain.

The early-season openings mean that three of Vail’s seven Legendary Back Bowls are now open.

Game Creek Bowl is open; Blue Sky Basin is also open as of 12/4/2014. Lots of terrain opening up very early; this 2014 ski season is looking good!

Photo taken on the ridge between Game Creek Bowl and Sun Down Bowl. Snow was a little icy today (first day of December, 12/1/2014) due to sunny conditions and a lack of new snow. More snow is expected in Vail on Wednesday (update: did not materialize), although as my father always says: you can’t predict the weather.

2014 Vail Opening Day Conditions Report

Vail Opening Day conditions

I don’t think I can adequately express what an incredible day it is when the ski mountain in your town opens.

I have been thinking about Vail mountain almost nonstop ever since I moved to the town of Vail in August. When off-season hit in October, the mountain loomed larger. When we got our first tiny little snows, I started dreaming about skiing. I drove 40 miles to Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin on two separate days last week just to try and scratch the itch. The skiing was OK. It was nothing like today.

 Today, November 21, 2014, was opening day for Vail Resort.

I woke up at 8 a.m. and jumped on my girlfriend while yelling “OPENING DAY!” Somehow I didn’t get kicked. We leisurely made breakfast and got dressed for the day. We walked a few hundred feet to the nearby free bus stop, and rode a bus full of excited skiers and riders to the mountain. We arrived around 10 a.m. to an almost non-existent line at the base. The lift attendant pointed a RFID reader in our vicinity, and we were headed up. I can’t even explain THE FUCKING CONVENIENCE.

Vail Opening Day Conditions Report

The conditions for Vail’s opening day 2014 were all that you could ask for. Multiple skiers and boarders stopped us on the mountain to incredulously ask “Can you believe it’s this good on opening day?!” There was powder aplenty on the higher sections of the mountain, which is a real rarity on opening day at a ski resort.

Seven lifts were open:

Vail Gondola One

Napping between runs in heated Gondola One.

  • Gondola One out of Vail Village
  • Eagle Bahn Gondola out of Lionshead Village
  • Avanti Express
  • Born Free Express
  • Little Eagle
  • Wildwood Express
  • Lionshead Carpet beginner surface lift
Vail Ski Map

Vail Mountain Trail Map

VAIL CONDITIONS UPDATE DECEMBER 1, 2014: The Vail back bowls have begun to open for the 2014 ski season. The Sun Up Bowl and Sun Down Bowl are both open, with word coming from Vail Resorts that the China Bowl will be open soon! Get out there and make some trails in the Legendary Vail Back Bowls!

The full list of what ski runs are open on Vail can be found here.

The lower runs were fairly trafficked and icy. The trails down to the Vail Village Gondola One (which has wifi and heated leather seats, jesus) and the Eagle Bahn Gondola were all-bad, not-good, practically no fun. Transitioning out of some edge-of-run powder onto these groomers made me wince involuntarily, more than once.

All said though, conditions on the mountain were great. If you are considering paying a visit to Vail for opening weekend, I would aim to come on Sunday, as there’s a big storm which is supposed to start dumping on the Vail Ski Area around the end of the ski day on Saturday. Sunday should be a powder day, if there is any luck with us here on Vail opening weekend.

Luckily, I don’t have to make those sorts of decisions. If you don’t know already, let me tell you: commuting to ski is the absolute worst thing you will find yourself unable to stop doing. Short of cocaine.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive I-70

I grew up in Boulder, Colorado. Boulder’s a great town, and relatively close to the mountains. When you live in Boulder and want to go skiing, here’s what you do:

  1. Pack all of your gear into the car on Friday night, and go to bed as early as physiology will allow.
  2. Wake incredibly early on Saturday morning— up way before physiology will allow.
  3. Brew three thermoses of coffee to try and overcome your unavoidable grogginess.
  4. Get in the car and start driving before the coffee’s even cool enough to drink
  5. Spend three hours in traffic up, because apparently even though you hit the road at 5:45 a.m., everyone else got an earlier start than you. Also none of them know how to drive in snow. Interstate-70’s 70 mph speed limit becomes a cruel joke.
  6. You really need a bathroom because you drank all that coffee but there’s no fucking way you’re getting off the highway.
  7. You finally arrive at your resort, where hopefully you don’t have to pay for parking.
  8. You pay $70-$120 for a life ticket, depending on where you’re going.
  9. You rush to the slopes, ski until last chair to make the interminable drive worth it
  10. Get in your car at 4, absolutely exhausted.
  11. Sit in traffic for four hours getting home (assuming there are no road closures or accidents)
  12. Hate your life/ wish you were still skiing

It’s horrid. People from out of state tend to ask “Oh, you’re from Colorado? Do you guys like ski and snowboard every day?” No. No we don’t because I-70 is where souls go to die.

Living in a ski town

None of that is an issue when you’re living in a ski town. I cannot overstate how much of a difference this makes.

We took a bus into town, got to the mountain late, left early, and were out only $5 for a coffee break. Not that this is normal for Vail (as I’ve discussed before, Vail is very good at making you spend money), but it’s also totally possible.

Living in a ski town is awesome. Period. Full stop.

Wherein I spend $80 seeing a movie at CinéBistro

Wine in movie theater

I took my girlfriend to see “Interstellar” this past weekend (Review here). We decided to do “dinner and a movie” on Sunday night, to celebrate her starting work (I work from home, and let me tell you, that’s difficult to do when your unemployed girlfriend is walking around in her underwear all day). This was a cause to celebrate, at least in a modest “dinner and a movie” way.

Dinner and a movie, Vail style, is a $100+ date. We spent $80 at the movie theatre.

Vail, 1, thisisyouth, 0.

Vail’s only movie theatre is, unsurprisingly, an upscale affair. Cinébistro at Solaris is a full-service concept, with menus and waiters and wine. It is without a doubt the nicest movie theatre I have ever been in.

The seats are leather, the leg room is spacious; Like most places in Vail, something about it really reminds me of money.

And that’s the thing.

Cinebistro makes it so incredibly easy for you to spend money. This, of course, is the goal of any movie theatre, with their $7 popcorns and $5 drinks and pulling you out of your home to do an activity which you could do from your couch. They trade convenience and the feeling of larger-than life luxury for extortionate sums of money. Cinebistro is maybe the apex of this idea.

When we arrived at Cinebistro on Sunday night, we had already eaten dinner and had two drinks apiece at the cheaper places in town. “Oh you guys are going to see Interstellar? I’m so jealous! I really want to see that movie. Isn’t it like three hours long though?” A bar worker asked us while we sipped on cocktails. “Yeah, that’s why we’re getting a little buzz on now,” I told him. “Very smart,” he said.

We had specifically chosen to eat and drink elsewhere because we did not want to spend too much money at the Cinebistro. Smart thinking that did not get us far.

Roughly 10 minutes before our screening, we arrived at the CInebistro. We paid $24 for two tickets (with the local discount), and reserved a pair of seats recommended by the clerk, which allowed us to extend the already spacious legroom by putting our feet up on the railing.

Thirty seconds after we sat down in the theatre, a waiter arrived and asked us if we would like some drinks. Two drinks deep already, of course we would like more. We order the cheapest bottle of wine on their menu and popcorn, and are out 56 more dollars. We are charged an automatic 18 percent gratuity for in-theatre service. From the time we entered the theatre to when we ordered food, maybe three minutes elapsed. There was little to do but laugh, exasperated, and say to one another, “We just spent $80 at the movie theatre.”

The movie was good. The experience was great. I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that two of us spent $80 at a movie theatre.

Much like Las Vegas, Vail is a town designed to make you spend money.

I told this story over beers, to a group of pink-faced Vail Resorts employees who had been in town for all of two days; homeless and full of idealism. They all immediately pointed to our purchase of concessions as our issue. Which is obviously true. If we had skipped on snacks it would have been a much cheaper excursion.

A few weeks earlier, we saw “Gone Girl” at the Riverwalk Theater in Edwards, a town slightly down-valley from Vail. We drove ten minutes to the theatre and did not purchase concessions. It was a much cheaper outing (and for my money, the movie was better). But Edwards and Vail are very different places.

Vail is a resort town, an experience. To live in Vail without having the experience feels like a huge waste. Sure, you could skate by skiing, working, and drinking when you have the money, but why? Why live in a resort town if you’re not willing to make a little bit of every day a vacation?

If you’re not willing to do that, your heart seems like it would fill up with toxic hostility and resentment, full of the things you feel you can’t do.

This economic tension is one of the deep-rooted forces acting on the community of Vail. I’m very privileged to be able to thread the line of haves and have nots, but honestly, I can’t see doing it any other way.

Sometimes you need to eat rice for a month so you can afford an EPIC Pass (still waiting on mine to come in the mail, eek!), and sometimes the heart just needs an $80 movie.

“Money’s money.”

I infuriate my girlfriend whenever I tell her that. Usually this is in service of a “money’s not everything/ a poor craftsman blames his tools,” type of message. Her attitude is a little different. She has less saved up.

Money gives me a lot of joy, personally. My mother and my sister often took loans from me while I was growing up. I take good care of my finances; I acknowledge that a large amount of societal privilege has contributed to my possessing both money and the skills to manage it.

However, money’s never been the thing for me. You can’t put a price on experience; living life well is always more important than making money. This is why I’m here, blogging, working towards an audience and experience and a goal, instead of sizing boots or flipping burgers for $16 an hour in the town of Vail.

This is why I’m in Vail, to a large degree.

I work a day job, of course. Two, in fact. Hopefully more, if the tendrils I have laid play out. But you need to work for more than money, even at this age. If you are measuring your life in terms of how many $80 movies you can attend, something isn’t right.

But one every now and then sure doesn’t hurt.