VAIL, Colo. -- An uncooperative Mother Nature and controversy over
Vail Resorts' Category III expansion project at Vail Mountain
combined to undercut skier visitor numbers at the resort last
season, but officials are confident that there will be a return to
normal this year.
"Vail didn't have a great year last year," Paul Witt,
communications director for Vail Resorts, acknowledged.
In all, the resort had about a 16% drop in skier visits,
although Witt attributed some of the decline to Colorado skiers who
are used to the best conditions and "can afford to be picky."
"We were about 10% off our average snowfall, and it came late in
the season," he said.
Destination skiers, who fly in from elsewhere, continued to be a
strong market for Vail last year, Witt said, "and, for the most
part, they were happy with the conditions."
"There was never a day with no skiing," he said, but added that
the entire mountain didn't open until early January.
"Our back bowls were not open during Christmas, which has rarely
happened in our 37-year history," he said.
Another fly in the ointment last year was unfavorable media
attention about the expansion project, which Witt said is moving
ahead of schedule despite the recent closing of a temporary access
road to the construction site by the U.S. Army Corps of
The dirt road, built by the resort to remove construction
materials from the area without going through the town of Vail, was
discovered recently to be in a wetland area.
The closure is the latest in a series of controversies that has
plagued the resort since the expansion project began.
Environmental groups, concerned about the effects of the
expansion on the Canadian lynx, have opposed the project, and an
extreme environmentalist group called the Earth Liberation Front
claimed responsibility for fires that destroyed several facilities
at Vail Mountain last October. Two Elk Lodge, Buffalo's Restaurant,
the ski patrol headquarters and several chairlift structures were
destroyed in the fires.
This summer, however, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in
Denver gave its approval to the expansion, siding with Vail and the
U.S. Forest Service that the effects of the expansion on the lynx
had been properly considered.
The Town of Vail, Eagle County, the Colorado Division of
Wildlife, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. District
Court also approved the expansion.
"The original layout had the access road going through wetlands,
so we moved it uphill to avoid wetlands, not realizing that was
different wetlands," said Witt.
"Most likely, we won't have a resolution on this until next
summer, and, in the meantime, the timber we have cut has been moved
to the side, stacked and is waiting to be hauled."
Although the 885-acre expansion area was not expected to be open
for skiing this season -- the 2000-2001 season is the target
completion date -- an accelerated construction schedule pushed the
grand opening to Jan. 6, 2000.
Three-fifths of the new area, to be called Blue Sky Basin, will
be open to skiers and snowboarders, and three of the four new
high-speed quad lifts will be in operation.
The 29,000-square-foot Two Elk Lodge, destroyed by the fires,
will reopen by Christmas and will be larger than the original
The ski patrol headquarters, which also is being rebuilt in time
for the upcoming ski season, will be transformed into a multiuse
facility featuring a 2,000-square-foot restaurant able to seat
about 85 people.
The restaurant will serve gourmet coffee, soups and sandwiches
in an informal setting for people who want a quick snack or
New for snowboarders will be a "Superpipe," billed as the
largest in Colorado, enabling riders to do larger jumps and "catch
bigger air," officials said.
Also new is a Lunch-for-Less program on the mountain, with value
meals and early bird specials offered at select restaurants.
Lift ticket prices will hold steady this year at $59 per adult
per day.Resort to offer lodging ratings
VAIL, Colo. -- Vail Mountain is reaching out to travel agents
this year by devising improved information on mountain lodging,
resort officials said.
The resort is working on a lodging quality initiative in
conjunction with the town of Vail and other nearby communities to
provide agents with a rating system and information on area
"We are a 37-year-old resort, and we need to continually raise
the bar on our standard of quality for the price paid," a
spokeswoman for the resort said.
Detailed information on properties and amenities will be
available through the resort's two central reservation numbers as
well as to agents via the company's sales force, she said.
Agents looking for ease of booking also can take advantage of a
reciprocal lift ticket program with Vail Resort's three other ski
facilities: Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge.
Any lift ticket purchased at Vail or Beaver Creek is good at
Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge. Tickets purchased at
Keystone or Breckenridge, however, have a three-day minimum.
Vail MountainBlue Sky Basin to offer 520 acres
Phone: (970) 476-5601
VAIL -- What will the vaunted Blue Sky Basin offer visitors this
season? In addition to groomed trails in Pete's Bowl and Earl's
Bowl, the area includes gladed and naturally open terrain.
In all, there will be 520 acres of terrain, comprising 60% of
the full expansion, of which 73% will be intermediate and 27%
The area, which will be served by four high-speed quads, will
feature a warming hut, ski patrol outpost and restroom
The resort will mark the grand opening with a weekend
invitational charity celebration Jan. 6 to 9, 2000.
The remaining terrain in the expanded area is scheduled to open
for the 2000-2001 season.