Vail Mountain, Vail Nordic Center both hoping to be open in coming weeks
Vail also opened on Nov. 12 in 1971
Vail officials say the mountain is still on pace for its planned Nov. 12 opening, which will be one of the earliest openings in the mountain’s 59-year history.
On Friday, John Plack with Vail Resorts said the fresh snow the mountain received last week has helped to that end.
Vail was favored in the recent storm, receiving more snow than neighboring resorts in Summit County, but warm temperatures in the days that followed melted the snow on the valley floor. At the top of the mountain, however, it’s a different story.
“With a foot of snow and great snowmaking weather, the highest elevations are looking fantastic,” Plack said.
Vail also opened on Nov. 12 in 1971, as captured in an article in the Vail Trail published that day.
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“Vail Associates, Inc. began winter ski lift operations today, November 12, as scheduled. Gondola No. 1 and chairlifts 3 and 4 began taking skiers to the upper slopes early this morning,” the Trail reported.
The configuration used in 1971, where skiers were first transported to the upper reaches of the mountain at MidVail via Gondola No. 1, is the same configuration Vail used in 2019 to enjoy one of its earliest openings in decades on Nov. 15.
In 1971, it was natural snow that allowed for the Nov. 12 opening, while in 2019, a new snowmaking system covered the runs Rams Horn and Swingsville with human-made snow, allowing for the early opening. Both Rams Horn and Swingsville were available to ski on Nov. 12, 1971, as well.
‘Don’t pick the flowers’
In 2019, the surface was reported to be good for skiing, while in 1971, “Skiing was reported ‘fair to poor,'” the Trail reported. “Skiing below Mid-Vail is limited to the service road only.”
The Trail also quoted Vail founder Pete Seibert asking for the patient cooperation of early season skiers, saying “Please don’t pick the flowers!”
A week later, however, conditions were fantastic as Vail received more fresh snow following the Nov. 12 opening.
Vail’s director of winter sports, Roger Staub, was photographed skiing fresh powder in a shot that appeared on the cover of the Vail Trail on Nov. 19, 1971 under the headline: “Here’s that famous Vail powder — already!”
Staub, an Olympic gold medalist, is the namesake of the Vail Mountain trail named “Roger’s Run.”
Nordic skiing, too
While the Vail Nordic Center has not yet announced an opening date, the cross-country skiing operation is also hoping for an early November opening.
For the first time in two years, the Nordic Center will hold a ski swap to ready for the season, where people can sell their used cross-country gear and pick up new stuff in one spot.
The Vail Nordic Center ski swap will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 13 at the Vail Nordic Center, located on Sunburst Drive in Vail at the Vail Golf Club.
People who want to see their used gear can drop it off from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 12, and there will also be a late gear drop-off from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 13.
Vail Nordic Center Director Dan Timm said no Alpine equipment will be allowed at the Nordic ski swap.
“Cross-country skis, alpine touring skis and snowshoes only,” Timm said.
Last season, the Nordic center saw increased use as the pandemic had people heading outdoors in large numbers. And Timm said it wasn’t just cross-country skiers heading for the Nordic track.
On the mountain, “it was very crowded, and the lift lines were long, so (Alpine skiers) were coming out to try something different, and cross-country skiing was a great alternative,” he said.
As a result, “In Nordic skiing, industrywide, there’s been a shortage of equipment,” Timm said.
Timm bulked up his supply of equipment for this year and expects to get everyone who shows up at the Nov. 13 swap outfitted. While you’re there, Timm said, you can also pick up a season pass for the Vail Nordic Center ($150 for non-Vail residents) and sign up for a 75-minute beginner group lesson, as well ($62 for adults, $52 for kids 12 and under).
Once open, the Nordic Center will offer about 10 miles of groomed trails.
“We have a top-of-the-line groomer who lays down really nice corduroy,” Timm said. “And we have a lot of flat sections, so it’s really nice to learn to ski on.”