Backcountry skiers and riders can get their fix with the help of the lifts at Vail.
It would take many days to check off every run at Vail, and the terrain is so good that there would never be a reason to leave the boundary of the resort... if it weren’t for the crowds. But for those who want a bigger mountain experience and none of the tourist vibe, there’s East Vail. The mountain’s out-of-bounds eastern slopes hold chutes and ridges that are absolutely epic, and they are surprisingly easy to reach. Getting there takes just a short hike from Mongolia Lift, then exiting a gate. The finish is near the interstate, where a traverse gets you to a bus stop and a ride back to the resort, making it possible to get more than one lap in a day.
Just because you can go, though, doesn’t mean you should. To the untrained skier or snowboarder, the relatively simple access belies the severity of the terrain. East Vail should be considered full-on backcountry because it’s unpatrolled and prone to avalanches, and a number of accidents have occurred.
In the words of Devin O’Neil from Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine, “there may be no backcountry zone in Colorado more seductive or infamous than the 3,000-vertical-foot expanse...of East Vail.” Don’t go if you aren’t prepared with skills and equipment for snow safety and the fitness for steep, serious lines. If you can handle it, though, East Vail may be the raddest lift-accessed skiing you’ll ever do.