A view from the top of Vail | VailDaily.com

A view from the top of Vail

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
CVR Jeep Tour1 DT 8-10-10

VAIL, Colorado – Mark and Lisa Ermine don’t ski and had never seen the top of Vail Mountain’s ski runs before a Friday morning Adventure Ridge four-wheel drive Top-of-the-Mountain tour.

The Ermines, from Columbus, Ohio, were amazed at the views from more than 11,000 feet high.

“It’s breathtaking,” Mark Ermine said. “You don’t get the perception of how high and steep this is up here from looking at maps and pictures.”

Vail Mountain’s new four-wheel drive tours are done in a custom-built Ford F350 pick-up. Vail Resorts had comfortable, elevated seats built into the bed of the pick-up, which looks like an Australian outback safari vehicle.

The tours are great for anyone looking for a new adventure. For locals who are familiar with Vail as a skier or snowboarder, the trip provides a completely new experience for exploring the mountain. For people like the Ermines who wouldn’t otherwise see the tops of China Bowl or the Blue Sky Basin Overlook, the experience is a truly unique opportunity.

Tour guide and driver David Owen has been preparing for the resort’s newest summer activity for months and it shows – he provides guests with an extensive history of the area and the natural surroundings, adding some education to the hour-long adventurous ride from Eagle’s Nest to China Bowl and back.

Owen met with staff members at Walking Mountains, formerly the Gore Range Natural Science School, to learn about local wildflowers and the mountain pine beetle epidemic. He also learned about the surrounding mountain ranges and peaks and how they got their names.

For other information, such as details surrounding Blue Sky Basin’s controversial expansion and Vail Mountain facts like ski terrain acreage and rankings, Owen did a lot of his own research.

The Ermines and their friends Chuck and Bonnie May, also of Columbus, Ohio, were impressed with the tour and all of the information they learned.

“He covered so much,” Bonnie May said.

The Mays have been skiing in Vail for 25 years, yet found the mountain-top tour provided an entirely new experience for them.

They saw parts of the mountain they don’t typically ski, which for Bonnie May meant the top of China Bowl because she doesn’t like riding the rope-pull lift between the top of China Bowl and the Two Elk Lodge.

“I never come over here,” she said.

The hour-long tour stops at China Bowl so guests can get out, take photos and use an outhouse if they need to. The views from the top, which is about 11,450 feet high, are panoramic and include views of both the east-west Gore Range and the north-south Sawatch Range.

Owen shares some mountain facts along the way, including that the Sawatch Range has 15 14,000-feet and higher peaks, including Colorado’s tallest peak, Mount Elbert.

Don Dressler, snow ranger for the U.S. Forest Service’s Holy Cross Ranger District, was at Vail Mountain Friday checking out the views and looking in on the tour. He said it’s a trial activity and he’s hoping to hear a lot of feedback on how the tour is going this year.

Dressler said he sees the new tours as a great way for people just like the Ermines to see a side of the mountains they might never be able to see otherwise.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.

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