Vail celebrates 60 years: Has the western mountain paradise stayed true to its roots?  

Vail Ski Resort opens for enterprise right now — nevertheless it’s no strange season for one of many world’s largest and most iconic snow sports activities locations.

This 12 months, Vail celebrates its 60-year anniversary with a lineup of particular occasions and classic tributes that take inspiration from six many years of evolution.

From its roots as a frontier outpost, Vail has grow to be one of the vital illustrious ski locations in North America, commonly drawing skiers and vacationers from locations like Mexico, Argentina and Australia, to not point out Hollywood.

On opening day, Dec. 15, 1962, it value simply $5 to get pleasure from a day on the snow with the resort’s one gondola, two chairlifts, 9 runs and eight instructors, plus condos and base services.

Now, that walk-up value is as excessive as $275, although you possibly can pay considerably much less by planning forward with an Epic Move, which additionally has single-day passes obtainable for lower than half that price.

This vital inflation is maybe unsurprising, nevertheless it begs the query: After 60 years and a pandemic, has Vail retained its roots as a western mountain paradise for snow-seekers looking for the perfect powder, or has it grow to be an après-ski playground for the elite?

A shocking origin story

As Colorado ski cities go, Vail’s historical past is brief. Although it has an old-world — some say Disney-ish — really feel, it’s decidedly not previous. For comparability, Breckenridge was based in 1859, Telluride in 1878 and Aspen in 1879. In different phrases, there was no Vail till Vail Mountain.  


Its inception has roots in World Struggle II when the U.S. Military arrange Camp Hale south of the Vail Valley to coach the tenth Mountain Division for alpine fight in northern Italy. (President Biden designated that coaching heart a nationwide monument in October 2022, and the restaurant Margie’s Haas at The Hythe, a Luxurious Assortment Resort, Vail pays homage to an affable residence cook dinner who commonly fed the troopers close by.)


Vail was the imaginative and prescient of a former tenth Mountain Division soldier named Pete Seibert, who based the resort with pal, rancher and enterprise accomplice, Earl Eaton.

After returning residence, most of the tenth Mountain veterans entered the burgeoning ski trade, together with Seibert. He dreamed of discovering a ski space to develop with a European ski tradition vibe a la Bavaria, simply as he had skilled throughout the conflict.

Seibert and Eaton climbed Vail Mountain in 1957, then the property of the U.S. Forest Service, and looked for traders to buy the million-dollar allow wanted from the USFS to start out the ski space. Amazingly, early traders paid solely $10,000 for a condominium plus a lifetime season cross.  

“Whereas it has modified, grown, developed through the years, I do assume it’s stayed true to its inception,” mentioned avid skier Jonathan Reap, 4 Seasons Resort and Residences Vail director of gross sales and advertising and marketing.

“The mountain was created and based by 10th Mountain troopers — skiers that grew to become troopers that grew to become entrepreneurs. Why? As a result of they liked to ski, greater than absolutely anything on this planet.” 

The Hythe, a Luxury Collection Resort, Vail

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How a novel setting rapidly set Vail aside

Vail has what just about no different resort on this planet presents: seven iconic again bowls that at the moment are extra accessible than ever due to new high-speed chairlifts.

To a non-skier, bowls could sound unremarkable, however these huge pure vessels for powder present free-wheeling thrills to these within the know.

Then there are the 300-plus days of blue skies yearly and Blue Sky Basin (with self-service grills for cooking your personal mid-ski meal) a whopping seven miles from Vail Village — that’s how actually gargantuan the resort is.

For zealous skiers, it doesn’t get higher.

To Invoice Hanlon, 87, who moved from Boston to Vail in 1966 and by no means left, Seibert was “a visionary” for determining that Vail, on the apex of two snow patterns, had the proper confluence of things for a ski resort.

And never simply any snowy hill, however “the best ski space on this planet,” mentioned Hanlon matter-of-factly on the cellphone from his Vail store of 54 years, Wild Invoice’s.

By the way in which, right now there are two gondolas, 33 lifts and 195 trails; the 4-mile run Riva Ridge is called for the placement of a hard-won 1945 battle between the expert tenth Mountain Division and the Germans.  

“Anyone that got here right here, they got here of their very own free will,” shared Hanlon — whose purpose is to ski Vail when he’s 90 — of the early days. “Everybody got here right here stuffed with enthusiasm.”

Two weeks after opening day 60 years in the past, 22-year-old Paul Testwuide moved from Breckenridge to Vail after attending to descend Cow’s Face with a pal on the ski patrol.

“I mentioned, ‘I’m within the improper ski space!’” the 82-year-old native recalled. “None of us got here out to Vail pondering we had been going to make any cash; we got here for the journey of it. Everybody loved the little wins we had, whether or not or not it’s a brand new raise or a brand new path or a brand new bar or restaurant or a brand new particular person shifting to city.”  

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Creating an outstanding ski resort from scratch

As modest as its first golden years could have been, Vail was not precisely an unintended achievement. It was developed with particular, strict rules — reminiscent of a city heart with solely two-story buildings — like one massive master-planned group.

Hanlon says that they had enjoyable within the course of. “We might have a look at what was naked floor and see the event and be happy with what we completed.” 

The ‘60s had been an lively time of speedy progress, with high-profile guests reminiscent of former President Gerald Ford (who finally bought property) and the primary — nonetheless standing — lodge, The Lodge at Vail.

Within the ’70s got here a transit system, new lifts and trails, an ice enviornment and a library. 4 high-speed quad chairs had been put in in 1985, and in 1988, the China Bowl opened with a brand new quad chair, placing Vail on the map as the biggest ski space in North America. The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater opened in 1987, which lately attracts the likes of the New York Philharmonic.  

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Interesting to the plenty in fashion

The final 35 years have been even busier and embody the opening of Blue Sky Basin in 2000.

It appears clear that at Vail, high-speed lifts aren’t an indication of promoting out. They’re exactly the purpose of all of it: higher entry for the skiers and riders who come hungry for five,317 acres of powdery half-groomed, half-natural terrain — a lot of it geared towards skilled or superior skiers.

Hanlon admits issues “have gotten very costly, sure, however our greatest disaster is worker housing.” It’s a problem at just about each ski resort come wintertime.


There are bougie lodging choices to make sure, such because the Biedermeier-styled, all-suite lodge and spa, The Arrabelle at Vail Sq., A RockResort, full with a each day Signature Scorching Chocolate Cart, plus Sixtieth-themed cocktails for this season.

There are high-end artwork galleries and reservations for upscale white tablecloth lunches with Gore Mountain panoramas at The tenth restaurant, which nods to the tenth Mountain Division in its title.  

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None of that is truly an excessive amount of of a departure from the early years. In 1971, my father labored as maître d’ and sommelier at The Lodge at Vail’s Salt Lick restaurant whereas spending his sunlight hours snowboarding.

He wore a tuxedo to arrange tableside dishes reminiscent of steak Diane, Caesar salad and bananas foster for well-dressed diners.


“One factor concerning the city is that we by no means wished to shoot low,” defined Hanlon. “All the pieces we did was carried out in a first-class method.” Vail was deliberately upscale from the start and has remained as such.

Whereas Aspen is the place with standalone Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton outposts, Vail has boutiques stocking high-end labels dotting pedestrian-friendly villages of eating places, spas and luxurious resorts. By some means paparazzi are uncommon, permitting recognizable faces to remain considerably off the radar. 

A legacy price celebrating


Ice bars

Vail’s Dec. 15 birthday — celebrated over a whole week — will embody a cake, in fact. Moreover, ice bars, the last word après-ski custom that pays homage to a mid-‘60s idea that originated on the mountain, will as soon as once more make an look.

Testwuide, first a ski patrolman and later a chief govt, remembers consuming on the first ice bar, constructed by early Vail pioneer and investor Invoice Whiteford, who he describes as “all the time in search of one thing enjoyable to do.”

The very first one was rudimentary, actually piled-up snow with an indication studying “ICE BAR,” plus a menu that includes crepe Suzette, pizza, pastrami, corn beef and milkshakes. The fare is completely different right now, however the thought is charmingly related, with the addition of reside music and signature cocktails.  


This season there are two ice bars: one at Wildwood beside two new chairlifts, and the opposite at Eagle’s Nest, which will be reached by anybody by way of gondola (and likewise presents 4 non-public Snow Bungalows).

The bodily varieties will consistently shape-shift because the grooming workforce piles contemporary snow atop sculpted ice block bases after every storm.

Native small-batch distillery tenth Mountain Whiskey created two bourbon collaborations for the event, too, together with one named for Vail’s first avalanche rescue canine, Henry. (A portion of all proceeds goes to K9s for Warriors, which offers service canine to veterans.)  

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Particular occasions

Talking of Henry, a brand new partnership with ski clothes retailer Helly Hanson is reviving a Saturday lunchtime meet-and-greet known as Dine with the Canines.

One other particular taking place is the free limited-edition Vail Après Passport, which might be dropped all through the season and unlocks particular occasions and giveaways to those that make it to Signature Après stops round city.  

Final season, aerial journey photographer Grey Malin shot two new high quality artwork sequence at Vail, together with a classic one to be launched in January. The images might be previewed on the mountaintop Bistro Fourteen, which opens mid-December with a refreshed gallery-like design and an elevated menu of basic cocktails. Malin’s art work can also be being built-in all through Vail.

Moreover, the modern àpres spot Treatment Bar at 4 Seasons Resort and Residences Vail has a brand new 60 for 60 menu that features choices for an appetizer, entree and dessert for, you guessed it, $60. 

Legacy excursions

Even earlier than this anniversary, Vail has all the time made an effort to light up its historical past.

Throughout free Legacy Excursions, hosts take teams of skiers across the mountain to share the backstories of how runs had been named. On the Legacy Hut, skiers can write and deal with free fine-art pictures postcards to be despatched from Vail’s highest mailbox.


Mountain eating places are additionally bringing again old-school dishes, together with hen and wild rice soup and pork inexperienced chile. There’s even an novice “Look Ma Mogul Problem” scheduled for early spring, with prizes for vintage-themed ensembles and hot-dogging ski fashion.  

Waiting for the subsequent 60 years

In true well-planned Vail kind, the resort has additionally unveiled a blueprint for the subsequent 60 years, together with focuses on fairness, inclusion and variety; sustainability efforts; and adaptive snowboarding and snowboarding.

Most notably, it’s working towards working at internet zero by 2030, with a customized recycling heart and resource-efficient snowmaking. Vail’s soul has and sure all the time might be entrepreneurial in spirit, as pioneering comes with the territory in Colorado.

“Has Vail modified? Sure, it has modified,” mentioned Hanlon, summing it up: “We had mud streets within the ‘60s and ‘70s. Now we’ve got heated streets. That’s how far we’ve come.”  

The nice and cozy, clear roads are actually not dissuading vacationers lately.

“Though it’s a site visitors jam of humanity, I feel the ambiance of downtown has saved its character,” shared Testwuide. “They do a beautiful job of adorning it in each winter and summer season, and it’s nonetheless a magical feeling whenever you stroll down Principal Avenue.”  

The Hythe, a Luxury Collection Resort, Vail

With 60 years underneath its skis, because the lifts hearth up for the primary time this season, it’s shaping as much as be a terrific 12 months to go to the mountain.

Vail stays true to its roots as a world-class ski vacation spot, however with a dose of posh aptitude so whenever you’re carried out for the day in its well-known bowls you possibly can loosen up in fashion and luxury — earlier than doing all of it once more the subsequent morning.

Learn on for extra assist in planning the proper journey to Vail:

  • First-timer’s information to visiting Vail
  • What to anticipate when snowboarding at Vail Resorts this 12 months
  • How you can plan your ski journey with factors and miles
  • Evaluate of the Vail Hythe, a Luxurious Assortment Resort
  • What it’s like snowboarding Vail’s bowls for the primary time

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