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Thanksgiving in Vail 29 November 2010

Posted by magicdufflepud in Skiing, Travel.
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No explanation yet from the CAIC on the avalanche that killed the head of Wolf Creek’s ski patrol last week. I’ll let you know when I know more.

In the meantime, let’s explore a happier subject: Thanksgiving in Vail. This year, the resort once again placed a respectable number two (behind Utah’s Deer Valley) in SKI‘s annual reader rankings of North American resorts. Only SKI readers would rank Deer Valley number one, and in fact, the first few lines describing the place highlight its perfect groomers and chanterelle mushrooms. So it’s not all about the terrain. But most everyone, from hardcore big mountain skiers to wine-tasting ski moms, will agree that Vail’s a great place. Not jaw-dropping, but great.

And this Thanksgiving must have ranked among the best in the resort’s nearly fifty-year history. Early season snow has a way of putting a smile on everyone’s face. Christmas had come and gone last year by the time Vail opened as much terrain as was open for Thanksgiving this time around.

Funny thing was, no one seemed much interested in skiing it. Three days after the last storm, fresh lines sprawled through the bowls. Powder stashes existed in every clump of trees. That’s not to say, “Too bad. You missed it,” but rather, “it’s still out there. Go get it.” So much terrain open so early seems to have everyone mystified.

I wonder, then, if perhaps Denver hasn’t completely understood exactly how much snow has fallen on the I-70 resorts. Colorado Pass holders, who only receive 10 days to spend at Vail and Beaver Creek over the course of the season, rightly travel to Vail and the Beav only on the best of days. But quite honestly, some of those days are happening right now.

Despite the belief that it can’t possibly be that good, it is. Or was. The skiers who arrived for Thanksgiving seemed more or less uninterested in finding powder lines–like the guy last year who asked me in all seriousness, “All this snow is nice, but why don’t they groom it a little sooner? A couple days after a storm. That’s when I like it.” It’s evidently that sort of person who skied Vail over Thanksgiving.

But I don’t blame them. As a place to spend the holiday, it doesn’t suck. That Vail also happens to offer skiing appeals to a certain set of travelers. Off the slopes, the Christmas lights twinkle, carolers roam the streets, someone blows a Swiss tune into an alpenhorn. Of course, it’s not the real world, nor anything like what Peter Siebert imagined it might become, I’m guessing, but it doesn’t have to be.

This is Vail the escape, the mountain getaway, where the Swiss-themed village can let us live out the holiday fantasy of a life where only skiing, shopping, dining and drinking exist. If Vail were the “real thing” we’d go home at the end of the day. Instead, we linger, hoping to spend a little more time in the holiday wonderland.

Blue Sky Basin opens this Friday. Will you be out there to ski it?

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