Vail Mountain to open Friday with nearly 80 acres, 2 runs on upper mountain
Mountain saw good snowmaking conditions on Wednesday, Thursday with possibly more snow on the way
VAIL — Vail’s lifts will open to the public at 9 a.m. Friday, with Gondola One transporting guests to Chair 4 where nearly 80 acres of skiable terrain will greet skiers and snowboarders on the Ramshorn and Swingsville runs.
But the party will begin at the base of Gondola One an hour before the lifts start spinning.
“We’ll have complimentary breakfast for those loyal guests joining us early for first chair and music playing all day long,” according to info on Vail.com. “We’ll be celebrating the official first chair banner breaking at the top of Gondola One, promptly after lifts open at 9 a.m. After you’ve had your fill of Opening Day laps, head back down to the base of Gondola One to sample products from our friends at Cutwater Spirits in addition to plenty of swag and giveaways.”
Natural and human-made snow
Vail Mountain has only enjoyed short windows of snowmaking during the run-up to the 2021-22 season, Vail Chief Operating Officer Beth Howard said at the 2021 State of the Valley event Wednesday, which was put on by the Vail Symposium and the Vail Valley Partnership.
But as Howard spoke, Vail Mountain was taking advantage of one of the few opportunities there has been for daytime snowmaking prior to Friday’s long-planned opening.
Cold temperatures and snowy skies blanketed the area Wednesday, and in his Wednesday morning report, Colorado ski conditions forecaster Joel Gratz with OpenSnow.com said Thursday night could see “narrow bands of intense snow, and along with a favorable wind direction from the west-northwest and the northwest, mountains near and north of I-70 have a chance to see 2-6 inches of snow (or maybe a bit more).”
Hedging his bet, however, Gratz added “there’s also a chance that it stays just a bit farther to the north and hits Copper and Summit County and Winter Park and the Continental Divide north of I-70 and just misses Vail and Beaver Creek and Cooper and Aspen.”
Howard said regardless of the weather, Vail’s plan is to open with two runs, Ramshorn and Swingsville, accessed via Chair 4.
To get to Chair 4, skiers and snowboarders will have to ride 2,000 vertical feet up the mountain via Gondola One, and will also have to download the gondola to depart Vail Mountain, Howard said.
“As we get cold temps, we’ll start to connect the dots and get snowy egress down to our villages,“ Howard said. ”The mountain can change pretty quickly, and that’s our goal.“
Visa workers returning
Howard said Vail will have access to an international workforce this year and will use visa workers to fill many positions, primarily in hospitality and food and beverage operations.
Visa workers will be “a huge boost to us, this year,” Howard said.
“We took last season off without any international workforce, and we’re bringing them back full force again this year,” Howard said. “They typically arrive right before Christmas, so we will lean on them heavily this year.”
Lifts back to pre-COVID operations
No reservations will be required to access lifts, and lifts will be loaded to full capacity, Howard said.
“So we won’t have those long lift lines and ghost lanes in between,” Howard said.
Facemasks will not be required on lifts, but they will be required at indoor facilities. Guests will be allowed to enter large dining facilities like Two Elk without a reservation to warm up and use the bathroom, but to dine, “we will ask for not only a reservation, but verification that you’ve been vaccinated,” Howard said. “And then you can come in and enjoy the restaurant as you always have.”
For smaller table service dining like The 10th at MidVail, vaccination proof will not be required.
On Friday, MidVail, Buffalo’s and Express Lift will be open for food, free breakfast burritos will be given away in the morning, and a surprise lunch could be in store for a guest in the right place at the right time.
“We’re excited to get open again in a different version of this pandemic and look forward to seeing you out on Vail Mountain again,” Howard said. “Thanks to all of you for your support, patience and community leadership and collaboration as we go through this marathon of the COVID era.”