Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
The key to skiing Vail is to stay one step ahead of the crowds. Here’s how: Hit the Back Bowls early and as far west as possible, then work your way east until you run into the masses. That’s when you bail into Blue Sky Basin (try Heavy Metal) for a while before reemerging at the Orient Express Lift to begin your return west to the main mountain. It’s a plan that works for almost anyone because the Bowls, while short on novice terrain, have everything else. The centrally located Vista Bahn Express Lift from Vail is a perennial (and sometimes overcrowded) favorite that transports you to Mid-Vail, with access to either the Mountaintop Express or the Wildwood Express, either of which brings you to the Bowls. Just east of the Vista Bahn in Vail, and a good call when the Vista is jammed, is Golden Peak’s Riva Bahn Express, zipping you up to the Northwoods Express, which deposits you at the Vail Mountain summit, with the entire backside at your disposal. From Lionshead, the Eagle Bahn gondola to the Eagle’s Nest summit and the Born Free Express both offer quick connections to the back via Game Creek Bowl, from the top of which you can catch some of the best lines of all in Sun Down Bowl. But don’t get bowled-over and miss other treats: gnarly Prima Cornice, the bumps of Highline, rollicking Riva Ridge at midday and the criminally underused Lionshead slopes anytime. For O.B., everyone loves the Minturn Mile, a well-traveled intermediate schuss to nearby Minturn with a bus ride back. Or find a local guide, and when the conditions are right, go get spooked on the East Vail Chutes. -J.C.