Skinning up Vail and Beaver Creek mountains gives you access to first tracks on some of the most famous ski runs in the world. Jenn shares her stories of hiking up the mountains to experience the grand views, pristine snow, and unbridled thrill of flying down your own private slope.
Between the snow storms last week and this week, we are gearing up for a great season. It seems as though everyone has been doing their part in the snow dance as Vail and Beaver Creek opened with extensively more terrain than in previous years. Thanks to the large amount of pre-season snowfall I was able to skin up our local mountains more than once to enjoy beautiful views, serenity in nature, and incredible skiing conditions.
With a plethora of new technology, it is possible to strap on a pair of alpine touring (AT) bindings to your powder skis so that you no longer have to carry those heavy boards but can glide on them while hiking. Alpine touring bindings unlock so that you can hike on them like a telemarking binding but lock back in for the downhill ride. You also need a pair of skins — removable strips of velvet-like material that stick to the bottom of your skis for ascending. They are called skins because they resemble sealskin and are designed to let the ski slide forward on snow but not backward. These are removed for the descent.
My season on Vail Mountain started earlier than most thanks to my Salomon AT set-up. I took advantage of our first snow storm and hiked Riva Ridge starting at the base of Gondola One and ending at the top of chair 4. I traveled for two hours, covering the distance that Gondola One and Chair 4 would cover in about 16 minutes (with no lines). My persistence, though, was rewarded with untouched, glistening snowfields awaiting fresh turns. And my return trip — less than 15 minutes.
The following day I found myself hiking up Beaver Creek with my best friend and our trusted snow guide Jackson, a 1 ½ year Malamute weighing in at 130 lbs! Though we did not make the trek all the way to the top of Beaver Creek, we settled for a rest at Spruce Saddle before ripping down two of my favorite runs Gold Rush and Fool’s Gold and then enjoying a warm drink at the Coyote Café just below the new “chondola” — Beaver Creek‘s unique combination lift replacing the Centennial Express that includes a series of six-passenger chairs alternating with 10-person gondola cabins.
The conditions were so great, before I knew it I was heading out for a third day and then I realized, the addiction had started. Winter, even though it is not December 21st yet, is finally here. My ski boots, skis, skins, and socks (these are very important) never leave my line of sight and I am on my skis almost every day, even if the lifts have already closed. I am also fortunate enough that my home is accessible from the top of Game Creek and thus can ski home. The legendary Minturn Mile is an off-piste ski run accessed from the top of Game Creek, leaves the Vail ski area through a back-country gate and drops you off at the Minturn Saloon. That’s my ride home! More to come about the Minturn Mile in a future blog!
As the snow begins to taper this Wednesday morning, I check the weather for next week and am excited to hear that another storm will be rolling through after the weekend and I am all smiles. It’s going to be a fantastic season in the valley!