Vail Mountain to open season Friday with 200 acres of terrain
The ski season that Eagle County needs in the worst way is finally here, thanks to a big assist from Mother Nature and the full force of Vail’s massive snowmaking system.
Vail Mountain will open Friday at 9 a.m. with 200 acres of terrain, top-to-bottom skiing and access to terrain from all three base areas — more than doubling last year’s Opening Day acreage.
“We are excited to open with 200 acres of terrain,” said Beth Howard, Vail Mountain’s chief operating officer. “We worked tirelessly to open as much terrain as possible in order to provide lift access from three base areas and top-to-bottom skiing and riding. This all supports our mission to provide room for guests to feel comfortable and physically distance while they enjoy the outdoors.”
It will, for sure, be different than previous season openers following the unprecedented shutdown of both local mountains in March at the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Eagle County is currently in the orange, high-risk phase of the state’s COVID-19 dial, with daily case numbers surpassing previous highs in March and July, and neighboring counties entering the red phase — with full shutdowns looming.
But after eight months of reinventing the entire on-mountain experience, Vail will open with its new reservations system in place to control crowds and with face coverings required for mountain access. On-mountain dining, equipment rentals and the ski school experience will also look different, all in an effort to prioritize safety and social distancing protocols.
John Plack, the senior communications manager for both local mountains, said Vail Resorts is measuring success this season by opening and staying open.
Only passholders will be able to access the mountain Friday and through Dec. 7. Reservations for Vail’s Opening Day through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend are now available to book on epicpass.com.
Vail has received more than 2 feet of local snow in the early season. Couple that with the mountain’s state-of-the-art snowmaking system, completed over the summer of 2019, being used to full effect in the run-up to Friday and you get an Opening Day experience that rivals previous years for terrain.
- From Vail Village, skiers and riders can access Mid-Vail from Gondola One and Mountaintop Express (Chair 4). Egress skiing to the base will be open on Gitalong Road and Vail Village Catwalk.
- From Lionshead, skiers and riders can access the mountain from Born Free Express (Chair 8) and the Eagle Bahn Gondola (No. 19), and egress to the base on Gitalong Road, Vail Village Catwalk and Born Free. Carpet No. 34 will also be open at Lionshead Base for children’s ski and ride school.
- From Golden Peak, skiers and riders can use the Gopher Hill Lift (No. 12) and Gopher Hill learning area for ski and ride School guests, and access to Gondola One on the connector trail between Golden Peak and Vail Village. Sherry’s Carpet (No. 33) will also be open for Ski and Ride School.
On-mountain dining will be open at Express Lift in Vail Village Mountain Plaza, Mid-Vail and The 10th at the top of Gondola One, Buffaloes at Vail Mountaintop and Eagle’s Nest at the top of Eagle Bahn Gondola.
Guests who would like to sit down to dine can book their table through the new Time to Dine platform on the EpicMix app. The app allows guests to book mealtimes to maximize skiing and riding without worrying about the lunch rush. Due to limited capacity in all on-mountain dining establishments, Vail Resorts also recommends bringing your own snacks and water to the mountain this season.
In an effort to prioritize safety and ensure a successful winter season from start to finish, face coverings will be required to access the mountain and in all aspects of operations, including in lift lines, and while loading, unloading and riding in lifts and gondolas.
To allow for physical distancing, access to the mountain will be managed through a reservation system that prioritizes pass holders and limits the sale of lift tickets.
Vail Resorts has said in its messaging leading up to the season that it will be able to accommodate everyone who wants to ski and ride. Pass holders have exclusive early season access, including early access to up to seven advance Priority Reservation Days, all before lift tickets go on sale Dec. 8, and pass holders will also have access to as many week-of reservations as their pass type and availability allow throughout the winter season.
For more information about the reservation system, and on-mountain protocols, visit the Winter Experience page at Vail.com.
Skiers and riders must observe all posted signs and warnings, have a face covering with them, and maintain physical distancing. Closed trails may contain hazards due to limited natural snow coverage and snowmaking operations.
Uphill access is currently closed at the resort. Normal uphill routes are not yet open and hazards including snowmaking equipment and limited coverage still exist, Vail Resorts said. Guests should always call the uphill access hotline at 970-754-1023 before accessing the mountain, and can visit the Mountain Info page on Vail.com for more information on the resort’s uphill access policy, guidelines and designated routes.
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