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10 Things We Bet You Didn’t Know About Vail

1.  The original name for Vail Mountain was Shining Mountain…. sounded kind of icy for a ski resort, so it was eventually renamed.

2.  Vail got it’s name from the man responsible for bringing the highway through the area, Charlie Vail:

Charles-Vail 10 Things We Bet You Didn't Know About Vail

3.  The Town of Vail was not incorporated until 4 years after the resort began operating

4.  The Vail area was mostly cabbage farms before the development of the resort.

Charles-Vail 10 Things We Bet You Didn't Know About Vail

5.  The landmark clock tower in Vail village was actually an apartment for awhile. The clock quit working for several years… later it was discovered that someone had stuck some chewed gum in one of the gears. When it was removed, the clock started working again.

Charles-Vail 10 Things We Bet You Didn't Know About Vail

6.  Vail had the very first gondola in the US.

Charles-Vail 10 Things We Bet You Didn't Know About Vail

7.  Vail boasts 5,289 ski-able acres (21.40 square kilometers), which is nearly double the size of the town itself (12 square kilometers).

8.  The Median income in Vail is only about $33,000 or $2,750 a month; while average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment is $2,340.

9.  In Vail, it’s illegal to hit obstacles while on skis or a snowboard making most accidents a crime!

10.  Vail is home to the highest botanical gardens in the world! The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is located at 8,250 feet above sea level. The gardens host over 3,000 species of high-altitude plants.

Charles-Vail 10 Things We Bet You Didn't Know About Vail

Sources:

The Future of Skiing – Virtual Reality, Drones, Robots, Synthetic Snow, & More

Skiing has been around forever.  Rock paintings depicting skis have been found dating back over 5000 years! Back then skis were primarily used as a mode of transportation.  It wasn’t until much more recently that skiing became a recreational sport.  In those 5000 years there have been many important innovations that have helped to transformed skiing into it’s modern day form.  My favorite of which is without a doubt the chairlift which was invented less than 100 years ago.  Going from hiking up every run to being effortlessly whisked to the top of mountains in less than 100 years leads me to wonder what is in store for the next 100 years of skiing.  I have thought long & hard about what the future of skiing holds for us.  The following predictions are what I have came up with.

How Virtual Reality Will Shape The Future of Skiing

You may not be aware but virtual reality skiing already exists in a pretty advanced form. SkyTechSport has produced a VR Ski Simulator (shown below) that provides panoramic 4K views that look like a ski resort and motors that reproduce sensations so it feels as if you were actually skiing.

In it’s current form virtual reality skiing is ideal for downhill racers allowing them to train without risk of injury & in the off-season.  It doesn’t, however, replicate the full experience of skiing.

For me, it’s missing one big thing, freedom.  Skiing isn’t just carving back & forth. It’s powder sprays & 360’s. It’s nose butters & hucking cliffs.  It’s so much more than SkyTechSport’s simulator is capable for.

With that being said I fully expect virtual reality skiing to improve in leaps & bounds over the next couple generations.  Do I think it will ever fully replace real skiing? No.

Augmented Reality is Already Altering Skiing

Virtual reality’s under-loved brother augmented reality is already here in early forms as well.  AR has far different implications on the sport than VR.  For those not aware of the difference; Augmented reality is the addition of digital elements into a live world, whereas virtual reality is complete submersion in a digital world. Personally, I am far more excited for the future AR holds for the sport. Before we get there, let’s look at where augmented reality skiing is today.  Meet RideOn the world’s first augmented reality ski goggles & smart helmet.

Once again this is just the early stages of augmented reality skiing.  The possibilities, however, are near endless.

As if skiing wasn’t fun enough, now you can play digital mini-games while shredding.  In the future these mini-games will advance far beyond skiing through digital gates.  In my mind I am picturing a first person shooter style game (as these were my favorite games as a kid) with digital snow creatures hanging off of trees or popping up in the middle of a run.  Plus, thanks to the heads up display a collusion avoidance system would be easily implemented for skiers to prevent them from getting too distracted by the digital elements.

Like I said the possibilities here really are only limited by imagination. Where virtual reality has it’s main shortfall is that it takes you away from real skiing.  Augmented reality only serves as an add-on to real skiing.  Which is why I think it will have a much bigger impact on the future of the sport.

Will Drones Eliminate the Need for Chairlifts & Snowmobiles?

This is without a doubt my favorite theory about the future of skiing to imagine.  Just picture it for a second.  Instead of buying a lift pass, waiting in line, & riding the chairlift to the top of the mountain.  You simply hook your harness onto your drone & are flown to the top.  Once there you detach from the drone & it follows its pre-programmed course returning to the bottom to wait for you.  Either that or it follows you until you are ready for another lift.

Personally, I love this idea.  Primarily due to the no lift ticket required aspect.

With that said, I do not think drones are going to replace chairlifts.  I just can’t imagine the problems that it would cause if everybody at a ski resort had their own drone.  I’m talking extremely crowded airspace & mid-air collisions.

I do, however, think that drones will become the backcountry tool of choice.  Forget about needing a snowmobile & a second person to drive it down.  Forget about helicopters. Above all else, forget about hiking to the top of a mountain.

Where Will Robotic Technology Fit Into Skiing in the Future

Robots, robots, robots.  Many people in wide varieties of professions fear that in the future robots are going to be replacing them.  The sad part(?) is most of them are probably right. The ski industry is no different.  My prediction is that many ski jobs will be eliminated in the coming decades due to the advancement of robotic technology.

Many ski resorts are already replacing ticket scanners with electronic gates. Will lift operators be next? I mean what purpose do they really serve except for stopping the lift in case of a problem & perhaps slowing it down for children? I think it would be fairly easy to automate both of the features.  Simply, install some sensors to detect problems with loading & unloading.  Even easier than that, a consumer operated button could allow anyone to slow the lift for loading should they desire.

Next under the automation cross-hairs is the mountain groomers.  Commonly hailed as one of the best mountain jobs due to it’s shifts being outside of ski hours.  Groomers, unfortunately, are not going to last long in a robotic future. Being easily replaced by Roomba style grooming robots.

Indoor Skiing Already Exists, but is it the Future of the Sport?

Year round skiing? Yes, please! With indoor skiing this is now possible, without chasing the snow around the world.

Not gonna lie this place looks pretty awesome.  It has definitely been on my bucketlist to go indoor skiing since I first learned it existed.

While definitely a neat concept I’m not convinced this is going to be the future of skiing.  I see quite a few problems with the idea.  First & foremost I can’t even begin to imagine the A/C bill required to maintain the 23 degree temperature in this massive space.  Speaking of space, this video showcases the “world’s largest indoor ski resort”.  While it is impressively large it will never compete with the size of a true mountain.  I think it is neat, but a little gimmicky.  I do think more of these complexes will be built  in the future, but like virtual reality skiing I don’t think it will replace the real thing.

Synthetic Snow

Similar to indoor ski resorts another new technology claims to be able to make year round skiing a reality.  That is synthetic snow.

Honestly, I think this simply looks lame.  You are welcome to disagree with me on this, but it just doesn’t appeal to me.  Skiing synthetic snow, in it’s current form, isn’t landing a spot on my bucketlist  that’s for sure. I say in it’s current form because this is a post about the future of skiing not current innovations.  I think this idea is a start that can & will be improved upon.  Synthetic snow is a phenomenal idea.  These tacky mats just haven’t quite knocked it out of the park.

Even in it’s current form I do see some practical uses though.  For instance, these mats could be used near the base areas of mountains.  These areas, at lower elevations, are slower to receive snow & faster to lose it.  Put down a couple of mats & boom you extend the season on either end.  Skiers can still shred real snow at the higher elevations and glide into the chairlifts & base area on the synthetic stuff.

Conclusion

Nobody really knows what the future of skiing is going to look like.  Personally, I hope the future holds real snow on real mountains! If you agree with me on this aspect help me in supporting Protect Our Winters.  I also hope the future includes drones & augmented reality mini-games, but maybe that’s just me.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the future of skiing in the comments below.  Do you think drones will ever replace the snowmobile? Do you think virtual reality skiing will be able to fully replicate the real experience? Have any other thoughts on how robots might impact the sport? Or do you disagree with me on synthetic snow? Let me know, below.

Until next time,

Peace, Love, Pow.

Visiting Vail on a Budget

Traveling on a budget is never easy.  The most realistic way to make budget travel work is to pick an affordable destination.  Perhaps it’s a small town off the beaten track, or its a city known for it’s low cost of living, or for international travelers it’s a country whose economy isn’t doing too hot.  Vail Colorado is none of those things.  Known for luxury, grandeur, lavishness, & extravagance; Vail is definitely not a discount destination.  While this may be, it does not mean you should write off the stunning ski village just because you can’t afford the $300 Ribeye at Flame (& yes, that’s a real thing…).  Take it from me as somebody who is currently spending my second season living in Vail on a seasonal worker’s salary. This place is spectacular regardless of income level. Visiting Vail on a budget is not incredibly easy, but it’s certainly possible.  Here’s how:

Pick Your Accommodation Wisely

Always check Airbnb although in this area it doesn’t always have the best deals. The Vail Valley is currently experiencing a housing crisis pushing prices up across the board.  Most “affordable” options are going to be rented out to seasonal workers & locals.  Leaving the higher end vacation properties as the only options listed on Airbnb.  These can end up being a good deal if you have a large group to fill a multi-bedroom house & split the cost.

Consider Minturn or Avon the next two towns over from Vail.  Currently I am living in Minturn & absolutely love this small mountain town. Personally I think it has more character than Vail.  Unfortunately it doesn’t have too many accommodation options.  Avon on the other hand has quite a bit of options but isn’t particularly budget friendly either as it is home to Beaver Creek & Arrowhead. 2 more high-end ski areas. Both towns have transportation to Vail via the Eco Bus which runs $4 each way.

Honestly, finding an affordable place to stay in Vail is going to be the hardest part of visiting Vail on a budget.  Unfortunately there is very little insider information that I can provide that will significantly help you in this aspect.  My largest piece of advice (as mentioned later) is to avoid the holiday periods including spring break.

Eat Where the Locals Eat

Avoid on-mountain dining like the plague.  These restaurants are owned by Vail Resorts & are happy to charge you for the convenience they offer. To put it in context, while working as a ski instructor at Vail I was privy to 50% off at these restaurants.  I still didn’t eat there…

Frankly as a local in Vail I did not eat out much.  Opting instead for homemade meals (think eggs, ramen, soup, tuna & rice).  When hitting the mountain I primarily went with lunch & snacks in my jacket pockets.  This is a win-win in my opinion as it saved me money, plus I never had to waste precious ski time stopping for lunch, eating my pocket meal on the chairlift instead.  If you are considering this option check out the City Market in West Vail (with free daytime parking on the free in-town bus route on the street right in front of the store). Plus, as a new addition to the area for the 18/19 season the Vail Market in Lionshead Village has surprisingly great prices.  Don’t waste your time with the Lionshead General Store though.

Throughout last season I did make it a point to try out some of the more affordable options at-least once, largely for the purpose of being able to make informed recommendations.  Also, Vail is fairly renowned for it’s culinary scene & I think it’s important to treat yourself every now & again (Even if I never dropped a paycheck on a steak).

636324562238014099-treatyoself-main01 Visiting Vail on a Budget

In Lionshead I would recommend:

The Little Diner – Breakfast classics from morning to afternoon, plus hearty lunches in snug digs with counter dining.

Moe’s Barbecue – Easygoing chain serving Alabama-style pulled pork & other meats smoked in-house.

Bart & Yeti’s – Longtime institution lures locals with a rustic feel, an outdoor deck & traditional pub grub.

Garfinkel’s – Popular sports pub offering American grub, a wraparound bar & large deck with mountain views.

In Vail Village:

Loaded Joe’s – Cozy, casual venue with coffee & sandwiches during the day & beer, wine & music at night.

Blü Cow Café –  A fun modern European style cafe serving the cultish Swiss Hot Dog, Ernst’s famous soup, Elk Brats, paninis, and other unique foods, handcrafted cocktails, European and local beers.

La Cantina – Authentic Mexican food, large servings affordable prices.

In West Vail:

Westside Cafe – Cozy spot for down-home cooking from breakfast to dinner, plus cocktails like a popular Bloody Mary.

Vail Ale House – Sports bar feel with over 20 craft beers on tap.

West Vail also is home to a Mcdonald’s, Subway, Qdoba, & Yellowbelly.

Know Thy Happy Hour Specials

636324562238014099-treatyoself-main01 Visiting Vail on a Budget

Don’t Buy Your Lift Ticket at the Window

In fact don’t buy a lift ticket at all.  Full price lift tickets are the biggest mistake any Vail skier can make costing about $200 a day.  On the other hand the Epic Pass is a surprisingly fair deal.  Paying for itself in about 5 days of skiing plus you get access to many other mountains throughout Colorado & the world.  My advice is to pick up an Epic Pass as early as possible to score early bird pricing & rack up as many days on mountain as possible.  While technically it is not allowed I have seen Epic Passes resold for a good chunk of change as well.

If you do opt to purchase lift tickets instead of a pass, be aware there are many ways to find discounts.  Liftopia for instance generally has discounts for non-peak periods.  With your best bet being to purchase in advance.

Rent Gear Elsewhere

Ok, so to be honest I personally have no experience with gear rentals.  I purchased my equipment before coming to Vail for my first season.  Just to brag for a quick second I would like to note that I got my skis off Ebay used for only $60 including shipping.  I also picked up my boots & poles at an off-season sale from a small ski shop near my hometown.  All together I probably spent less on my gear then a week long rental costs.  Which brings me to my first point.

If you are a frequent skier, even just a couple days a year, consider the benefits of purchasing versus renting.  I’m definitely not suggesting you walk into a shop in Vail & pick up some brand new gear.  I’m just saying that rental gear can be an overpriced, uncomfortable, hassle that those who own don’t have to deal with.  If you are looking for gear be sure to check out our Guide for Finding Heavily Discounted Ski Gear.

If you are going to rent, however, it is probably not wise to do it in Vail.  From everything I have heard from friends & read online there are much better options.  If coming from Denver stop by a shop over there or one of the ones along I-70 on the way out to save a fair amount.

Definitely Avoid the Holidays

Christmas in Vail is a no-no for those looking for an affordable vacation.  For reference, when searching for housing this season I found a 4 bedroom rental listed at $5,000 a month. Thinking it sounded reasonable (especially considering how many seasonal workers could cram into that much space) I clicked on the listing.  As it turned out the property had different prices for different months with the price spiking to $50,000 in the month of December!  The sad part is they will probably get that much… or more through short term renting.  Without getting on my soapbox I will simply once again reference the Vail Valley housing crisis mentioned earlier.

Outside of Christmas & New Years another peak time to avoid is the spring break period in March.  The kids are out of school, the weather is mild, & families are flocking to Vail like crazy.

While I am not personally aware of the affects this has on prices the Burton U.S. Open is a very large event held in Vail annually.  Sure,  it’s an exciting time to be in Vail with concerts, parties, & the events themselves going on; but, I doubt it is a great time to try visiting Vail on a budget.

Consider the Mud-Season

The mud-season (off-season in spring following the mountains closure) is without a doubt the most affordable time to visit Vail.  Unfortunately, there is no skiing to be had during the mud-season.  If you are looking for a ski vacation this piece of advice is not for you.  Vail has quite a bit more to offer than just skiing though, so if you are a little more indifferent to this aspect of Vail than mud-season might just be ideal for you.  Due to the decreased demand hotel’s prices drop.  Many restaurants also offer off-season menus with more affordable options. Plus, if you enjoy shopping most stores offer end of season sales, especially on ski gear.  Mud-season is perfect for those looking to enjoy the impeccable Vail architecture & renown culinary scene at a discount.

Don’t Fly Into Eagle Airport

If your travel plans include flying to Colorado you should choose to fly into Denver not Eagle.  While the Eagle airport is a little more convenient for getting to Vail it comes with a hefty price hike.  Shuttles run from Denver International to Vail regularly & cost about $60.  Compare this to the several hundred you will be charged to fly into Eagle & the choice is a no-brainer.