New views, new trails on Vail Mountain |

New views, new trails on Vail Mountain

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyNew York resident Rochel Kaplan, left, and New Jearsy resident Miriam Manela ride in front of guide Derek Owens on Friday in Vail's Game Creek Bowl.

VAIL, Colorado – You might have cruised through the trees of Ouzo Glade on skis, or surveyed the surrounding mountain peaks from the seat of Chair 7, but you’ve probably never seen Vail, Colorado’s Game Creek Bowl like this.

This summer, visitors to Vail Mountain can check out stunning views of the Mount of the Holy Cross, still veined by snow, and spot deer and other wildlife in the forests by horseback. The guided rides are the newest way to explore the mountain, with an option to do a round-trip ride from Eagle’s Nest, or take a ride down to the Game Creek Club for dinner, with a shuttle ride back. Pony rides are also offered at Eagle’s Nest for children ages 2 to 6.

The guides will keep you safe and entertained – Eagle native Trevor Schlegel usually leads the way along with his trusty border collie, Twoe. Arkansas native Derek Owens will lead up the back of the group and chat away with guests.

Avon residents Samuel and Shelley Ecker celebrated their daughter, Lainy’s, eighth birthday with a dinner ride, not sure what to expect.

“It was her first time on a horse, and I don’t think she realized she’d actually be on a horse,” Samuel Ecker said. “She thought maybe she’d get to ride around the corral. I think she spent the first two minutes of the ride not breathing, just staring at the giant horse. Then she started to smile, and by the end she had the biggest grin on her face and was asking whether she could do it again tomorrow.”

The rides are relatively short – about 40 to 45 minutes – and designed for beginners and up. People who have never ridden can still enjoy an easy ride without spending hours in the saddle, and more experienced riders can enjoy scenic views on new terrain. As Owens put it, it’s “hiking without the work.”

“It’s the only way you get to ride a horse through one of our ski bowls and see how beautiful it is in the summer,” said Adventure Ridge Manager Alex Gentry. “You can go and see a place without carrying a lot of gear or making that physical effort at 10,000 feet.”

Not averse to getting your heart rate up? Mountain bikers can check out the mountain’s newly completed cross-country trail, Hank’s Hideaway.

The 1.5 miles of intermediate trail zigzags down the western side of the mountain, featuring meandering stretches through aspen glades, rooted sections and several switchbacks.

“We wanted something that can be ridden up, but from the downhill side, technical enough to be challenging,” said Jack Hansen, a member of the summer ski patrol crew that spent three weeks blazing the trail. “We were looking to do a cross-country trail, to facilitate all the race activities, too, and add to our cross-country quiver. In the future it would be a good place to put the world cup races and such.”

Crews built the trail almost completely with hand tools, clearing dead and fallen trees, and making the path with shovels and a weedeater.

The trail was put to its first test on Wednesday with the Vail Rec District’s Vail Grind bike race. Hundreds of wheels packed down the trail during the race, and riders gave the new stretch good reviews.

“People are psyched to have a new trail on Vail Mountain, and we had really positive feedback,” said ski patrol director Julie Rust.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

The 40-minute tour ends at Eagle’s Nest and is available daily beginning at 10:30 a.m. for ages 7 and up. The cost is $50 for Vail season-pass holders, $60 for lift ticket and tour for non-pass holders.

One-way dinner rides to Game Creek Restaurant start after 4 p.m. for $89 for adults and $69 for children ages 7 to 12. The tour includes a ride and four-course “Wrangler” dinner at the restaurant, with a shuttle ride back to Eagle’s Nest.

Call 970-SKI-VAIL for reservations and more information

Hank’s Hideaway

Vail Mountain’s newest cross-country mountain bike trail features 1.5 miles of singletrack through aspen glades and switchbacks. The trail is rated intermediate and can be accessed by Lion Down trail above Lionshead Village.

For full trail maps, see

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