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Multiple Personalities

All ski mountains are not created equal. We know that here in Eagle County because ours are better than pretty much anyone’s. But even among our mountains ” Vail, Beaver Creek and Arrowhead ” each has its own distinct personality.

Vail Mountain

Let’s just say Vail Mountain is a person. What would that person be like, Stephen Laterra?

“Easygoing. And friendly,” said Laterra, the mountain’s terrain park designer and a rider for Team Vail. It would be a friend who really likes to give you things. Things like steeps, cliffs, powder, tree runs and terrain parks.

“It just fits me perfectly,” he said. “It’s so wide open. If you’re looking for something, you’ll eventually find it.”

It would also be a big person. A person with 193 trails, 5,289 acres, four terrain parks and seven legendary bowls.

Vail Mountain returned this year to No. 1 in the vaunted SKI magazine poll, the 14th time in 19 years it has taken the top spot.

The mountain will continue its emphasis on grooming this year, running its snowcats all night and during the day, too. If you catch Riva Ridge at the right time, you’ll get four miles of luxurious carpet from top to bottom.

You also might try to catch the cats in the afternoon off Chair 2 grooming one of the rolly trails like Lodgepole or Ledges.

Vail will expand its terrain parks this year, putting a small halfpipe in the Aviator terrain park under the gondola. There’s another small park at the top of the mountain under Chair 3. Above Golden Peak is Vail’s biggest park, which is a mile long and contains the Superpipe.

If it’s a powder day, head for the Back Bowls. “What defines Vail is definitely the Back Bowls,” said Chris Anthony, a local pro skier and ski film star. “They are so unique. It’s so much open terrain.”

Be careful not to get stuck in the line at the bottom of Sun Down and Sun Up bowls. Chair 5 is a late-model fixed grip lift, so it can get backed up on busy days.

But Vail’s so big, you can always find a little of that 5,289 acres for yourself.

“You can have a lot of people skiing on the mountain, and you can get away from all of them, if you know where to go,” said Troy Goldberg, who owns Troy’s Ski Shop in Vail Village.

And don’t forget Blue Sky Basin. This latest addition to Vail’s terrain offers gladed skiing in a spot that makes you feel like you’re miles away from civilization ” which you actually are. The area has plenty of cliffs and a mean cornice just below the Skyline Express Lift.

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek lives in a gated community and is famous for his luxury. But he still has a mullet, Anthony said. “All business on top, and a party in back,” he said.

On the business side, Anthony pointed to the world-class groomers on the top of the mountain, including Red Buffalo, Piney and Powell. And those are some of the least-crowded slopes around, he added.

But it’s wild on the other side of the mountain, where the Birds of Prey World Cup race course is a steep trip down the mountain. While it’s groomed and iced for the World Cup race in November, it accumulates fun bumps the rest of the season.

Farther west, Grouse Mountain has some of the steepest trails in all of Eagle County.

“Beaver Creek doesn’t get enough credit for its longer, sustained steeps,” Anthony said.

But Beaver Creek is a mullet-wearer who’s a dedicated family man.

“If there was one buzz word, I would say family-friendly,” said Mike Brumbaugh, who owns Venture Sports in Avon.

It has lots of wide-open blue runs, like in Rose Bowl, but also a lot of variety within close proximity, Brumbaugh said. Dad could pound bumps on Spyder, Mom could cruise groomed Red Buffalo, and junior could explore the backcountry feel of Stone Creek Chutes ” and then they could all meet up for the next run.

Brumbaugh added that, compared to Vail there is very little traversing needed to go from one area to another.

“At Vail, you have to go up and over, and up and over, and up and over to get where you’re going,” he said.

Maybe it’s really leading a double life. It’s the family resort, but it’s also a place that will satisfy longtime powder hounds.

“I prefer it to Vail because I can rip up the hill and ski very steep stuff very quickly,” said Brumbaugh.

New this year, Beaver Creek will open Stone Creek Chutes, which was long skied by locals but is now within the resort’s boundaries. The short double-black-diamond chutes have about 500 feet of vertical and are as steep as 45 degrees. Not for the faint of heart.

A new high-speed quad was installed last year in Larkspur Bowl, which has a lot of groomers but also some great bumps far skier’s right.

Arrowhead

Arrowhead is the farthest west part of Beaver Creek. If Beaver Creek leads a double life between family man and wild man, Arrowhead is entirely for the family.

“It’s the quintessential family- and kids-friendly (area),” Brumbaugh said. “Tons of greens and tons of blues.”

And with one base area, everyone filters back down to one spot. So if a family decides to ski different trails, they will all meet back down at the bottom.

Plus, there’s free parking at the base, and it’s a short walk from the lots to the lift.

Try a Blinky Burger at the base after a day of skiing.

Vail, Colorado


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