Vail, Beaver Creek skiers, riders reveal their powder stashes and go-to runs
Runs not to miss
Forever: Black, open bowl, long fall line, perfect powder on a day, views of Holy Cross.
Riva: Black to blue, groomed on Tuesday and Friday, longest continuous run in Vail at 4 miles.
Emperor’s Choice: Black, groomed open bowl, great way to ski the backside without fresh snow.
Genghis Kahn: Black, open and steep terrain, usually accumulates more snow than reported.
Widges: Black, long open terrain, quintessential Vail Back Bowls.
Apres Vous: Black, open trees, powder pockets, playful terrain.
Morning Side: Black, soft snow, accessible, “delightful.”
Golden Eagle: Double black, extremely steep, site of 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships downhill.
Cresta: Blue, groomed, short lift lines.
Harrier: Blue to black, unique fall line, quiet, secluded for main mountain skiing.
Royal Elk Glade: Double black, tight trees with open powder pockets, like skiing backcountry.
Stone Creek Chutes: Double black, extreme terrain, cliffs.
Saw Buck: Green, groomed, mellow pitch, great for arching big controlled turns.
Larkspur: Blue, rolling groomer, open terrain, easily accessible for laps.
With 5,289 skiable acres on 195 trails off 31 lifts at Vail, and 1,832 skiable acres on 150 trails off 24 lifts at Beaver Creek, the amount of terrain to ski locally can be downright maddening.
Many locals have spent years dissecting this acreage with hundreds — if not thousands — of days logged between the two mountains. Where they ski every day and why is a vetted decision. Here, seasoned locals reveal their favorite places to ski at Vail and Beaver Creek.
Powder, bumps or views?
The word “favorite” carries a lot of weight for locals frequenting Vail and Beaver Creek — so much so, that longtime skiers like Steve “Louie” Boyd claim it’s impossible to have a favorite trail, especially in a place like Vail.
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Boyd moved to Vail and took a job as a patroller in 1963. He has called Vail his home mountain ever since. He is also the author of “The Understories: A Patrolman’s Tales of Life in the Early Days of Vail and Aspen.”
“Every day is so different,” Boyd said. “People who are visiting sometimes don’t know the variables involved. The runs you take could mean the difference between a great day or a miserable day of skiing.”
For instance when it comes to bumps, he points out that Prima (accessible by Chair 4 and Chair 11) top to bottom during a light snow storm offers softened moguls and good light if you stick near the trees. On a powder day, Boyd looks at Forever (accessible by chairs 4, 5 and 11) saying it is one of the best fall lines he has ever skied. The run begins on the crest of High Noon Ridge and heads west onto the Sun Down side of the ridge offering breathtaking, open territory.
Vail pioneer Pepi Gramshammer named Forever when he first skied it with Pete Seibert in 1961. The duo had to climb out, as the lift wouldn’t be built until the following summer. He loved the run, but said it took “forever” to climb back out. Luckily, skiers now have Chair 5 for return service.
Boyd’s other favorites also belong to the Back Bowls. He likes Seldom and Never, Apres Vous through the trees, Ricky’s Ridge and Mongolia Bowl for the views. “You can ski at least three snow conditions on a particular day,” Boyd said. “I mean, you can drive yourself crazy wondering where to go. But once you are up there you can have a great day any day. Vail is so versatile.”
Get out of your comfort zone
Pursuing that versatility is 40-year Vail resident and Executive Director of the Colorado Ski Museum Susie Tjossem. At the beginning of each season, Tjossem sets out a new trail map and a highlighter. After each day, she takes the highlighter and marks what runs she skied on that day. By the end of the season, the entire map is colored.
“It is a great way to get out of your comfort envelope,” Tjossem said. “Vail is so big. It is easy to get up there and ski the same runs. It takes me all season. I put some of them off, like the little chutes on the front side — but I got to do them.”
While variety is the objective, even Tjossem will admit to frequenting her favorite terrain — again, letting the word “favorite” be dictated by the day’s conditions.
Topping the list is Dealer’s Choice (accessible by Chair 7) for a warm-up run. It’s “always delightful,” she said.
One of her recently highlighted items was the popular bump super combo of Prima to Pronto to Log Chute (which begins at the top of chairs 11 and 4, and finishes at the base of Chair 10). With fresh snow, Tjossem heads to the Back Bowls, specifically scoping out Morning Side Ridge for its long fall line. She also looks toward Genghis Kahn (accessible by Chair 36 and Chair 17), saying there’s always snow to be found there.
On Genghis Kahn, Tjossem might run in to another local skier — Chris Anthony. Anthony has skied Vail for 35 years and has spent much of his time traveling and competing at the international level, as well as becoming a prominent mainstay in Warren Miller films.
Named after the notorious 13th century Mongol conqueror, one of Anthony’s favorite ways to spend his day is skiing Genghis Kahn after a two-day storm.
“Usually, since it is south-facing, it gets hit by a lot of sun and that adds some cushion. After the second storm, it is money,” Anthony said. “It is the most vertical for being so wide open and because of the leeward facing angles, you can usually find more snow than what has fallen other places.”
His other favorite is freshly groomed Emperor’s Choice (accessible by Chair 17).
“It is such a great Back Bowl run on a sunny day,” Anthony said. “It is a super long, wide open run. You don’t get the crowd from the front side. It is a great way to access the Back Bowls when we haven’t had snow for a while.”
Ski the classics
If anyone knows what Vail’s classic runs are, it’s 13-year Vail patroller Sunny Corigan. Corigan is 35 years old, and she learned to ski at age 2 and has been on the Vail slopes ever since. When she isn’t patrolling, with fresh snow on the ground, Corigan looks to Sun Down Bowl to get her fix of archetypal Vail Back Bowl skiing with Widges, Wow or Forever (accessible by Chair 5).
Her favorite runs to ski on any given day include front side favorites Northwoods and Northstar (accessible by Chair 11). Corigan also mentions Riva, specifically on Tuesdays and Fridays when it is groomed, as a run unique to Vail. It was named by members of the 10th Mountain Division for a ridge in the Italian Apennines.
With free parking, heated sidewalks, escalators, chocolate chip cookie handouts and short lift lines, the good news at Beaver Creek continues on the mountain. The varying terrain offered here is accessible within two lift rides from the main base areas. Locals bask in the opportunity to ski terrain varying from beginner runs like Red Buffalo off Chair 8 to world-class steeps such as Golden Eagle or the site of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
Larry Grossman has logged 31 seasons on the mountain and says he has skied almost exclusively at Beaver Creek since 2000. He is the recognizable emcee of events such as Talon’s Challenge, Birds of Prey World Cup and the Korbel American Ski Classic Week.
“The term ‘quality vertical’ comes to mind,” Grossman said about Beaver Creek. “Every run is endless turns, right back to the chairlift. It’s the steep terrain at Beaver Creek which I really enjoy.”
When he is looking for that quality steep vertical, he heads to the local’s haven that is Grouse Mountain. Renowned for it’s difficulty, the trails off Grouse Mountain are mostly black or double black in difficulty.
“Grouse Mountain is unique, which keeps it a lot less busy than other locations at Beaver Creek,” Grossman said. “You are literally required to be on your A game from the time you get off the chair until you get back on for the next ride up. No rest for the weary, and most visitors are done there after a couple of runs. There is never a lift line on Grouse Mountain, never.”
groomers, blues and greens
However, difficult skiing isn’t all Beaver Creek has to offer. From the top of the mountain (accessible by Chair 8) the terrain flattens out with regularly groomed greens and blues such as Solitude, Powell, Stone Creek Meadows, Gold Dust, Latigo, Centennial and Redtail.
Local weatherman and media personality Ken Hoeve has been riding Vail and Beaver Creek for the past 22 years, and when he isn’t ripping the steeps, he can often be found rolling down these open groomed trails.
“From the top of the mountain, you can ski anything,” Hoeve said. “You can take something steep, in the trees, over bumps or something groomed and easy, and end up in the same place.”
One of Hoeve’s favorite trails falls on the western-most accessible point from Beaver Creek — Cresta at Arrowhead.
“Top to bottom, you can ski that run and have it all to yourself,” Hoeve said. “It is groomed a lot, and there is rarely a lift line. You’ll never see someone post a photo of a lift line at Arrowhead.”
Ski like a racer
Like Hoeve, local Jamie Roberts has logged 22 years skiing Beaver Creek, but the 25-year-old Roberts can attribute a lifetime of skiing on these slopes. She may have skied every inch of every acre at Beaver Creek. Her all-time favorite run is Golden Eagle, the site of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships downhill races, on a Saturday morning after it is groomed or on a powder day.
“The variety of steep and flat terrain along with the fact that the run is famous in the ski-racing world makes it a great trail,” Roberts said. “When you ski from the very top and see ‘The Brink’ coming up, you get the feeling of falling off the world, which is a thrill. Golden Eagle is more than a ski run — it has a unique history.”
From the wide open Back Bowls at Vail to internationally-acclaimed steeps to groomers, bumps and trees, with new or old snow, Roberts said that the two mountains offer plenty of quality skiing and riding.
“There is something for everyone on these mountains, from first-time skiers and riders to the seasoned local,” she said.