A Powder-Hound’s Guide to Vail and Beaver Creek Mountains

I remember my first visit to the white room. It was the winter of 2010–11, when Vail racked up 459 inches (38 feet!) of snow. Nearly every morning, I’d jump out of bed and stuff my feet into my sometimes still-damp boots and shuffle down to the bus stop at the bottom of Chamonix Lane in West Vail. The town bus, windows completely fogged, would be as packed with skiers and snowboarders as a New York City subway car at rush hour by the time we pulled into the Transportation Center, and I’d join the horde as it clomped up Bridge Street bound for the labyrinth of lift rides that would transport us into the snow globe beyond. As a transplant from the East Coast, I had never experienced champagne powder like Vail’s, and I remember vividly my first turns off Chair 11 (Northwoods Express Lift) that felt like I had ascended into
heaven as waves of snow rolled over my head.

The mythical white room every powder hound chases isn’t a place, it’s a moment. When you’re carving down a run and—poof—like the explosive flash on an old-fashioned camera, you hit a pocket of snow so deep you’re enveloped in white, a plume that boils and roils and rolls around you, envelops you so completely you feel like you’re surfing through the barrel of an ethereal wave. Vail and Beaver Creek typically average about 300 inches of snow (the 2010–11 winter season was record-setting), but on any given day that the snowstakes at both resorts, or either, register six inches or more, it’s time to call in sick (cough! cough!) or at least show up late for work after a few blissful turns in the white room.

Last winter, Colorado’s high country registered a record-breaking 16 consecutive days of snowfall in March that—along with producing historic avalanches that roared onto I-70 and ripped thousands of trees from newly formed chutes cleared like ski runs—yielded sublime conditions on Vail and Beaver Creek mountains. After each powder dump, we dispatched action sports photographer Scott Bellow to document a crew of local, semi-pro skiers and snowboarders seizing that indescribable moment, illustrating our go-to guide to Vail and Beaver Creek powder stashes that—when conditions are right—should be guaranteed to put a perma-grin on your face as you’re floating on snow that’s lighter than air, humming that quintessential Eric Clapton tune (“In the white room….”).

Despite what you might hear in the line for Gondola One on a particularly busy Saturday morning, not all of Vail Mountain’s snow is found in Blue Sky Basin (although, you won’t be disappointed if a tour de Blue Sky is in your powder day plan). With more than 5,000 acres of terrain, there are tons of powder stashes to be found in Vail’s Back Bowls (and on the frontside!). The only dilemma is where to go first….


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