Eileen skiing back bowls at Vail

DAY 9 – Thirty-some miles. 20,000 vertical feet, 12 lift rides and we barely scratched the surface of Vail Mountain. (www.vail.com )

How could we with 5,289 acres of skiable terrain—3,017 acres in Vail’s famous back bowls and another 645 acres in Blue Sky Basin, the huge expanse of wilderness-like terrain that faces Vail’s bowls and offers intermediate as well as expert skiers moguls, glades tree skiing, cliffs. It becomes my favorite area on the mountain.

Finally. I get to relax. After the extended family heads back to Denver and Connecticut, after my college freshman daughter and her friends head back to school, my husband and I head to Vail where we check in to the Arrabelle at Vail Square–a beautiful boutique hotel celebrating its second anniversary. (http://arrabelle.rockresorts.com )

Sure this place is kid-friendly—the casual Tavern restaurant is full of families watching the USA beat Canada in hockey at the Olympics (preliminary game; Canada won the rematch for the gold medal a week later)—but it is nice to have some adult times in a luxurious hotel with oh so comfy beds, huge bathroom with a soaking tub and fireplace.

It’s just my husband Andy and I for a too short respite at Vail Where we ski with Dave Yost, who has been teaching here for 18 years—a second act that took him from working as a newspaper reporter and photographer, for the government, the airlines and then finally, after his three kids were grown, following his passion. “The back bowls are what sets Vail apart,” he tells us on the lift ride up.  The back side stretches for nearly eight miles with a stretch of south facing terrain that is wide open. “You can ski anywhere you want,” he tells us.

We also sample Game Creek, on the northwest side of the mountain which Yost believes is great introduction to bowl skiing—lots of varied terrain and the best part “Everyone has to end up in the same place at the bottom.”

One caveat: you really need to be an intermediate skier to enjoy this terrain. But what a joy—hardly any people, it seems—they are just so spread out! And the choices—do we want to go through the trees? Or through the fresh powder—eight inches in the last 24 hours?  Or a bump run?  Or stay in more mellow Blue Sky Basin?

China Bowl, Yost tells us, is better for intermediates with terrain that is more likely to be groomed.  I like smaller Teacup Bowl where Celestial Seasonings got naming rights to trails named after their tea blends. (Want to go down Sleepytime?)

“Very few resorts have even one bowl and Vail has seven!  If it were just the front side, this would still be one of the greatest mountains in the world,” Yost says—noting there are 120 named trails and a green way down from every lift on the front side of the mountain. “You can’t ride up a wrong lift!”   This of course is Lindsey Vonn’s home mountain.  She owns a condo in the Arrabelle where we are staying and trains in their well equipped fitness center. The Arrabelle at Vail Square has everything from a ski valet at the base of the gondola and anchors this “Lionshead village” area.” It couldn’t be more convenient.

We stop for lunch at Two Elk Lodge on the mountain where we have to sample Vail’s new  Epic Mountain Burger–made with organic beef, a freshly baked bun, whilte cheddar, lettuce, tomato, pickle and a special sauce. Yum! But I can’t even eat a quarter of the one I share with my husband. The soup is good too!

There is so much we didn’t do in one day–we didn’t go biking on snow or tubing at Adventure Ridge. We didn’t sample more of Vail’s expansive terrain. We didn’t get to see the Nature Discovery Center at the top of the Eagles Nest Gondola.

We end our ski day with a massage at the Arrabelle’s Spa—my husband is not really a spa guy but after three days of hard skiing, he thanked me for booking it.

We end our day with a spectacular dinner and wine pairing at Larkspur restaurant in Golden Peak Lodge, a short drive from where we are staying. It’s known for its focus on organic and local produce and meats. Yum!

I wish we had another day but I know my bad knee needs a rest. Now that we’re heading home, I’m finally relaxed.  Next time, we’ve got to spend more time exploring Vail.