Blue Sky Basin takes on its fourth season |

Blue Sky Basin takes on its fourth season

Veronica Whitney
Blue Sky Basin opened Wednesday.

Inaugurating its fourth season, Blue Sky Basin, an expansion of Vail Mountain, opened Wednesday at 10 a.m., with more than 640 acres of gladed and open terrain at Pete’s and Earl’s bowls.

“Pete’s Bowl was great. We did tree chutes all morning, and we always found untracked powder,” said Sparks, who drove up with his friends Greg Mesch, 42, of Denver and Dave Dorr, 32, of Evergreen. “It hasn’t been this good so early in the season for more than four years.”

Since mid-October, Vail Mountain has received more than 100 inches of snow, making for perhaps the strongest openings in the resort’s 40-year history.

Nine-year-old Oliver Netterd and his father, Eric, of Virginia, left his mother and sisters in the front side of Vail Mountain.

“This is our first time here,” said Eric Netterd, who has been coming to Vail for more than 20 years. “The snow is just incredible.”

Chris Moran was another diehard who didn’t mind the short waits at the Skyline Express and Pete’s Express lifts.

“Blue Sky Basin is one of my favorite places,” said Moran, 26, of Minturn. “I can get lost and be by myself – even when it’s crowded.”

Wednesday, however, was hard to find lonely spots in Blue Sky Basin. If you didn’t see somebody in the glades, at least you could hear them laugh and yell.

Like hungry birds scouting a river for fish, skiers and snowboarders dove into the snow looking for fresh powder. After tackling Steep and Deep and the cornice above Iron Mask, skiers and snowboarders headed to Pete’s Express lift to make turns in untracked powder.

Some of the first skiers and riders in Blue Sky Basin Wednesday were disappointed to find out most of the trails served by the Skyline Express Lift had been tracked. The area was opened briefly from 10 a.m. to noon Monday, said Jen Brown, spokeswoman for Vail Mountain.

Moran was one of the lucky riders who, by chance was by the Skyline Express Lift when the ropes dropped Monday.

“It was fresh, bottomless powder; people were not even speed-checking before jumping the cornice,” Moran said. “I felt like a kid in a candy store.”

Vail founder Pete Seibert first envisioned Blue Sky Basin’s two bowls four decades ago. The expansion area opened on Jan. 6, 2000, after lengthy court battles. Environmental groups first took the U.S. Forest Service and Vail Resorts to court over the expansion, a 19 percent addition to the mountain that now comprises more than 5,000 acres. Many environmentalists have said Blue Sky Basin, formerly known as Category III, jeopardizes an important migration corridor for the endangered Canada lynx.

“Blue Sky Basin has become a local’s favorite,” Brown said. “In addition to the experts, intermediate skiers love it there, too. It’a unique experience; you have trees, groomers and the tables at Belle’s Camp for a family picnic.”

Wearing a “we-had-a-great-morning-at-Blue-Sky-Basin” smile, Greg Mesch, a Denver resident who has a home in Vail, and his friends wrapped up the ski day by noon.

“We’ve had worse days heli-skiing,” Mesch said.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at

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