Steep powder now available | VailDaily.com

Steep powder now available

Stephen Lloyd Wood

Special to the Daily/Jack Affleck, Vail ResortsAndy Henkes takes Milts Face, in Vail's Sun Up Bowl, for a powderful ride Wednesday. With 81 inches of snowfall since Nov. 1 and a 27-inch settled base at mid-mountain, the resort plans to open Sun Up and Sun Down bowls on Friday. The Highline Lift, Chair 10, opens today.

With a couple of powder days already this week, Vail is turning the power on for the revered ol’ Highline Lift, Chair 10, today. And Friday, the resort drops the ropes for two of its famous Back Bowls, Sun Up and Sun Down, served by the High Noon Lift, Chair 5, and the Sun Up Lift, Chair 17.

“It was looking really good today, but tomorrow should be incredible,” Ben Tabor, a ski technician at Aalta Sports in the Vail Village, said Wednesday. “It’s stayed cold, so the snow has stayed really nice. There’s still a lot of powder hanging around.”

With 81 inches of snowfall since Nov. 1 – 12 of them since Dec. 1 – Vail has a settled base at mid-mountain of 27 inches. Tabor said he’s one of the many skiers and snowboarders who’ve been hiking out of Northeast Bowl, home of the Northwoods Express Lift, Chair 11, to the top of the Highline Lift, which serves some of Vail’s most famous – and cherished – long, steep mogul runs, such as Highline, Blue Ox and Roger’s. While no moguls have formed yet, he said, the hard-core traffic has taken its toll on the untracked snow on those slopes, which until today have not been open to the public this season.

“Yeah, it’s already tracked up, but it still should be pretty nice,” Tabor said. “But, hey, the big day comes Friday with Chair 5.”

Super!

The first day in the Back Bowls is one of those celebrated days of the ski season – especially this year, when exceptional early conditions have many powderhounds yearning for those vast, treeless, south-facing slopes known for their deep, fluffy powder. Chairs 5 and 17 provide access to more than 920 acres of skiing and snowboarding in the Back Bowls.

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Even Pepi Gramshammer, the famous Austrian ski racer who made Vail his home in the 1960s – and who’s hosting his most special guests this week as part of his thrice-annually Wedel Weeks program – said he’s excited to see Chair 10 and the Back Bowls open for the season.

“We had really good snow (Wednesday), super!” said Gramshammer, 71, who, the story goes, named one of Vail’s most famous runs, Forever in Sun Down Bowl, for the length of time it took him to hike back out of it the first time he skied there. “Having it open helps a lot. I’m sure everybody will go back there and ski. It’ll be fun.”

“Dial it down a bit’

Brian McCartney, vice president of mountain operations, said he skied the Back Bowls Wednesday and the snow was “terrific.”

“The ski patrol has worked hard to get things ready,” McCartney said. “We’re excited to be able to open portions of the Back Bowls.”

McCartney warned, however, that it’s still early season and unmarked obstacles do exist.

“If everybody can dial it down a bit, we’ll all have a good time,” he said.

Also today, the Pride Express Lift, Chair 26, will open above Lionshead, providing 80 additional acres of skiing and riding. By Friday, a total of 23 lifts will serve more than 2,300 acres of open terrain.

Snowboarders and freestyle skiers, meanwhile, will be happy to know the entry-level terrain park on Bwana, above Lionshead, is open for rail-riding and jumps.

“Just looking at it all’

Tony Ryerson, a skier at Vail for 25 years, says having untracked powder available in the Back Bowls this time of year is quite a bonus.

“That’s what gets me excited. I typically never get my hopes up, though, before Christmas,” he says “It still may be a little grassy, but that’s OK. It’s a great experience any time riding up Chair 5 and just looking at it all.”

Other openings this week include the Cascade ticket office on Thursday and Wildwood Restaurant on Friday. Mountain operations expects to open additional terrain in the next seven to 10 days.

Beginning Friday, the single-day lift ticket price will be $65 for adults and $42 for children ages 5 to 12.

For more information, call the Vail Activities Desk at 476-9090.