By Joshua Berman
Special to The Denver Post
VAIL — A coat of smooth, white snow flashes below my dangling boots and board, broken only by delicate trails of tiny paw prints darting in and out of the trees. I’m riding the Born Free Express out of Lionshead Village. As the lower portion of Vail mountain continues sliding magically below, I stare ahead in calm anticipation.
It is my first chair of the season. My battered, 15-year-old snowboard and clunky boots pull toward the ground, stretching strange, forgotten muscles in my legs. Considering I skipped the slopes almost entirely last year — life was just too busy down on the Front Range — this is a particularly momentous occasion.
As it is for every ski town across the state. It’s early in the season, and down in Vail Village, the Texans, Californians, New Yorkers and international one-percenters are arriving. Everything is easing into place, here and in other resort towns: festivals, concerts, competitions, peak room rates and unique package deals. Each town tries to create and display its own funky yet predictable version of Colorado winter culture.
Here in Vail, the next event is an ice theater at the Ninth Annual Winterfest, opening Dec. 23. The plan is to project films onto a unique ice structure on the Gore Creek Promenade. It’s part of Vail’s Art in Public Places project and promises screenings of holiday cartoons and Warren Miller and Vail Resorts ski clips. Other towns have events to draw fun-seeking crowds and families.
But today, I’m flying solo, another rare event, my family occupied down below. It’s almost too good to be true, I think, staring at the blank canvas below and at the stunning Gore and Sawatch Ranges around me. I don’t deserve this. Yet, here I am, sliding along on top of the world in the early winter sun.
As we approach the top, I start envisioning my first turns. I’m trusting my muscle memory will kick in and I won’t fall down. Not right off the lift, anyway. Not until I float farther down the ridge, into the soft stuff.
If you go
If you haven’t booked a holiday ski trip yet, don’t worry. Some properties, such as The Antlers, often offer last-minute specials for people looking for only a night or two around Christmas. Like many resorts, The Antlers normally has a five- or seven-night holiday vacation minimum, so this shorter-stay opportunity could be the answer for some travelers. Winter rates start at $200 per night and go (way) up from there. 800-843-8245, antlersvail.com.
Ice Theater screenings will begin daily once the sun goes down and will continue until the ice melts. More: artinvail.com.
During January and February, there are free guided snowshoe tours from Vail’s Nature Discovery Center at 2 p.m. most days, including Dec. 23 and 24. vail.net/guided-snowshoe-tour
This article originally appeared in The Denver Post on December 20, 2015.