Best of Vail Valley: Snow Day Essentials
The best gear shops, runs, and Nordic tracks in the valley, as voted by Vail Daily readers
The snow is coming down, and it’s time to gear up and get ready for fresh tracks. Here are the best gear shops, runs and Nordic tracks in the valley, as voted by our Vail Daily readers.
In an area where it’s common to see a confusing overlap of large corporations operating outdoor stores (Patagonia on Bridge Street is actually owned by Vail Resorts), it’s often the local ski shops that earn the respect of the snow shredders.
Venture Sports took a top-three spot this year, and describes this phenomena well, saying the locally owned and operated company is “not merely a link in a huge corporate chain.”
Buzz’s Ski Shop in Vail is a family-owned endeavor that affords the owner, longtime Vail local Buzz Schleper, his cherished time on Vail Mountain, where he often finds himself riding Gondola One’s gold cabin.
And Christy Sports, while striving to be a larger entity, still embodies the Colorado character that has made it a favorite for so many years. Christy also offers locals great deals on season-long ski rentals for kids every fall.
For Buzz Schleper, there’s no business like snow business, which is why he’s been a mainstay in the valley since the early 1980s. Everyone at Buzz’s uses the gear they sell and rent, and staffers are passionate about finding you the best gear setup, whether you’re a first timer or an experienced shred ninja. Also, if you’re looking for a mountain conditions report, just ask — staffers take their breaks to go ride.
Transition Sports in Avon always has great deals on lightly-used gear and offers new gear. They’ll also sell your old gear. Consignors receive 60% of the cash value from the sale or 70% store credit for all sold items.
Venture Sports has six locations throughout the valley during the winter where you can rent gear made by trusted Colorado manufacturers like Never Summer and Weston and get outfitted with whatever else you need from helmets to goggles to gloves. Venture Sports will also come to you if you don’t feel like leaving the comfort of your condo with its delivery options. Now that’s service.
Outdoor Gear Store
Whatever you need to gear up for your next outdoor adventure, whether it’s scaling a 14er, getting some new running shoes or a new winter jacket, Transition Sports in Avon, Ptarmigan Sports at the Riverwalk at Edwards and Sun & Ski Sports in Avon have you covered.
Transition Sports offers a variety of new and lightly-used gear. There are always great finds to be had for bargain hunters, and it’s always worth stopping in to see what’s new among the consignment items whether you’re on the hunt for hockey skates or camping and hiking gear. It should also be your first stop for new skate and disc golf gear.
Ptarmigan Sports is a must for anyone who loves the great outdoors — whether you want to pick up a new tent or a new pair of running sunglasses. The family-owned and operated boutique offers premium outerwear, casual apparel, footwear, and outdoor gear for men and women as well as kids. From product knowledge to customer service, Ptarmigan carries some of the best and most up-and-coming gear companies and its friendly staff loves to talk shop on what works and why.
Sun & Ski Sports in Avon also offers a variety of premium outerwear and footwear as well as bike rentals and ski and snowboard equipment rentals. There’s also a wide array of helmets, goggles, snowsports equipment and a big selection of swim gear. And you’ll find great bargains on the sales racks when the seasons change.
The NordicTrack-brand machine did not receive any votes in the Vail area Nordic track competition. Locals in the area appear to prefer outdoor Nordic activities, including the tracks at McCoy Park and the Vail Nordic Center.
East of Vail, the Vail Nordic Center offers beautiful views of 13,180-foot Mount Valhalla in the Gore Range. The area is used as a public golf course in the summer.
McCoy Park at Beaver Creek will continue to offer Nordic skiing opportunities during the 2021-22 season despite the development of 17 new downhill trails and two quad lifts in the area.
Best runs: Vail
The crowd favorite at Vail has always been Riva Ridge, which commemorates the nearly 1,000 members of the 10th Mountain Division who were killed in action while fighting in Italy’s Apennine Mountains during World War II. Vail claims the run is now 4 miles long (that measurement has changed over the years), but nevertheless it’s definitely Vail’s longest run.
Next to it is Riva Glade, a more natural setting that formally opened as a run in 1974 after years of being an unmarked favorite.
And next to that is Christmas, an easier run in an area that was once known to be a good source of holiday trees for locals.
Best runs: Beaver Creek
Rose Bowl, Centennial and Little Brave are the crowd favorites at Beaver Creek.
Centennial made prime time television in 1989 when it became the run on which the World Alpine Ski Championships downhill took place.
From the top of Centennial, a right turn into Rose Bowl takes you to a true bowl on Beaver Creek Mountain, one of two if you include Larkspur.
And over in Arrowhead, Little Brave is a long run with good views to the south-facing slopes of the Eagle River Valley. If you ski it at the right time, you might catch the Red Sandstone Tigers chasing each other around the trees before performing buttery maneuvers on their boards and skis.