10 things that are free and fun in Vail and Beaver Creek this winter | VailDaily.com

10 things that are free and fun in Vail and Beaver Creek this winter

Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy a ski pass.

And in the Centennial State, almost $5 billion is generated annually by the ski industry, according to a 2015 study by Vail Resorts and Colorado Ski Country USA.

While it's terrifying to take a look at money spent on gear and other aspects of spending winter in the high country, it's a surprisingly long list of things that are free coming up this season. From free Snow Days concerts in Vail to free viewings of World Cup races that millions will watch from their couches on NBC, and of course our favorite daily Cookie Time at Beaver Creek, there's lots do to without getting out the hammer and breaking the piggy bank — and it's more than just free granola bars.

Patience pays off, with the opening weeks of Vail and Beaver Creek packed with free shows, parties and more.

America's Winter Opening

In conjunction with the Birds of Prey World Cup races at Beaver Creek, America's Winter Opening brings the party to the Beav'.

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On Thursday, Nov. 30, things get going with an '80s Ski Welcome Party with Ted Ligety in the Beaver Creek Village from 4 to 7 p.m., with live music (an '80s cover band), kettle curling, giveaways and fireworks.

Birds of Prey races

On Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1-2, the world's fastest men on skis take to the racecourse at Beaver Creek. Get a free seat in the bleachers for the races, or check out the free Birds of Prey Way viewing area in the village.

The best men ski racers will be hanging around town and hitting one of the most difficult downhill courses where they face drops as extreme as 800 yards — and we get to watch for free. Don't miss it.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Competition

On Beaver Creek's Opening Day, 5,000 fresh cookies will be served in one hour with the tasting and judging beginning at 2 p.m. for the 14th annual Chocolate Chip Cookie Competition.

Every day at Beaver Creek at 3 p.m. is Cookie Time, when chefs walk around the base with platters of fresh-baked, warm chocolate chip cookies. Free cookies, every day.

Vail Snow Days

The signature kickoff event in Vail includes three days of mountaintop yoga, guided snowshoe tours, family skates and a free live concert in Solaris Plaza on Saturday, Dec. 9.

RSVPs are required for the mountaintop yoga on Friday, Dec. 8, and Saturday.

Winter Markets

Well, these farmers markets are free to stroll, but all of the holiday gifts, local crafts and vendors, authentic food and drink will cost money. But holiday markets are perfect for finding a unique gift or souvenir.

The two-day Kris Kringle Market in Vail on Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 16-17, is presented by the same people who bring the farmers market to the streets during the summer. Along with the vendors, there will be live music, samples and visits from St. Nick.

In Minturn, the Winter Market takes place on consecutive Saturdays, Dec. 2 and 9.

Again, window shopping is free, and fun.

New Year's Eve Torch Light Ski Down & Fireworks

Completely open to the public, Vail's annual New Year's tradition features skiers and snowboarders from Vail Ski riding down Golden Peak with glowing sticks in their hands, creating a stunning stream down Vail's mountainside. Then, the fireworks show lights up Golden Peak.

Sustainable Film Series

Walking Mountains Science Center presents its annual, free, Sustainable Film Series on the first Tuesday of each month at Loaded Joe's in Avon and the third Tuesday of the month at The Dusty Boot in Eagle.

On-Mountain EpicMix

This free app will track your vertical feet as well as lift lines and conditions on all Vail Resorts mountains. EpicMix Time is new this year and shows what lifts are turning and how many minutes the wait is.

Ski With a Ranger

At Beaver Creek, join partners from Walking Mountains Science Center and the U.S. Forest Service every Monday starting Dec. 11 at 1:30 p.m. for a complimentary tour of the mountain's wildlife, plants and winter ecosystem. Beaver Creek also offers free Mountain Welcome Tours starting Dec. 18 — a two-hour guided tour of terrain for intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders.

Parking

After 3 p.m. at the structures in Vail is free, and the lower lots of Beaver Creek are free to park in after 1 p.m.