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Vail Encore 2013

April 22, 2013

Remember when I celebrated Vail’s Closing Day over a week ago and told you that the resort had decided to reopen the following weekend?  At the time I thought I’d ended the season on the perfect note and didn’t plan to take advantage of the reopening.  Then I realized that I was being an idiot.

After all, about 3 feet of snow had fallen since the mountain closed on Sunday, and I had Friday – the first day of the reopening – off from work.  That meant that all that fresh powder had just been sitting up there waiting for me.  I started to get excited.

Vail Reopening Powder

So first thing Friday morning, I geared back up in my ski clothes and headed for Vail.  When I got there, I stumbled upon another bonus of this extended season: free parking.  If you’ve never skied Vail or a similar resort, that might not mean much to you, but if you have, you know it’s huge. I got there in time to snag a spot in the Lionshead parking structure and headed for the gondola.

Much to my surprise, there was no line.  I’d figured that the fact that Vail had opened only a handful of lifts that day, combined with the aforementioned powder, would add up to huge lines all day.  Not the case in Lionshead!  I boarded a gondola with a handful of other people who were heading up for their second run of the morning and got the report: it was awesome up there.  They had all skied right underneath the lift we were riding and recommended sticking around –  the snow was excellent and they’d all heard the other side of the mountain was crowded with skiers trying to get back to Chair 5, the only open lift serving the Back Bowls.

Gondola Powder

I decided to take their advice and proceeded to lap the gondola to some of the best runs I had all year.  I was at least boot-top deep in fresh powder for the first few runs and knee-deep in places.

Vail Reopening Powder

Even as the morning wore on and the snow began to get skied off there were fresh lines to be found and everything stayed so soft.

On top of it all, it was a warm, sunny day in Vail.

On top of it all, it was a warm, sunny day in Vail.

In addition to the great skiing, the mood on the mountain was incredible.  Every gondola ride was fun and social as everyone seemed excited to chat with one another about this awesome bonus day.  The attitude was truly grateful.  It was like we had all received a fat bonus check that we didn’t know was coming, walked into the bar to a free round of drinks or been given an unexpected gift from a generous stranger.  We all knew how lucky we were and nobody was going to squander the day.

I loved this sign that one of the lifties scrawled on a white board: "Vail Extra Innings."

I loved this sign that one of the lifties scrawled on a white board: “Vail Extra Innings.”

I also felt very grateful to the employees who had thought their season was over, only to agree to come back to work the next week.  I made sure to thank every one that I saw that day.

I skied Lionshead until it started to get really skied off, then ventured toward Chair 5 to see if the rumors of long lines were really true.  I figured one last run down one of my favorite runs would be worth waiting at the bottom, plus my legs needed a break by this point.

Vail Back Bowls

It was early afternoon at this point and the sun had been baking the Back Bowls for hours.  As a result, the snow wasn’t the light powder I’d skied on the front side.  But I truly love skiing  spring snow, and it was super soft and almost as delicious as the powder had been.  I made a run down one of my favorites of the season, Seldom.

So long, Seldom

After waiting a measly 10 minutes in the singles line (I’d heard rumors of 45 minute waits… psh), I was back up Chair 5 and decided to take a couple more slushy runs down. They were glorious.  Then, on the chair ride up the warm sunny weather changed in an instant to cold and windy.  As soon as I stopped feeling perfect, I noticed that my stomach was also rumbling and decided it was time to start working my way back down.

A few hero groomers later, I was back at the base of Lionshead and ready to say goodbye (again) to a great season.  I am so thankful that Vail decided to open back up for what turned out to be one of my best ski days of the entire season.  I’d have absolutely been back on snow the next day had I not had an even more exciting weekend lined up… stay tuned for a recap of my surprise birthday getaway!

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