Vail Mountain Blooms with Activities, Events in Summer

Take a guided horseback trail ride during your summer stay at Vail Mountain, Colorado © 2011 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

When the snow melts, Vail blooms with activities, events, including many that are free. This summer, Vail’s guests can expect thrilling activities like the Top-of-the-Mountain Tour, classic events like Friday Afternoon Club, dining at its finest at Game Creek Restaurant and beautiful blue sky days with temperatures in the high 70’s.

 Activities for All Ages at New Heights

 Eagle Bahn Gondola

Enjoy a scenic summer ride on the Eagle Bahn Gondola (#19) from Lionshead to Eagle’s Nest where you’ll find views of magnificent peaks and an array of affordable dining and adventurous activities for all ages and abilities at your fingertipsWeekend operations begin June 3 and daily operations begin June 23-Sept. 5. *See Vail Mountain summer operation dates and hours listed below.

NEW 9-Hole Mini Golf

Family-friendly putting comes to the Lionshead base area this year with the debut of Vail Mountain’s new 9-hole mini golf course. Children and adults of all ages will be able to practice putting their hole-in-ones underneath the Colorado sun when the new course debuts early this summer. With a location set in front of the Lionshead summer ticket office, the 9-hole course will feature a unique interpretive animal theme that spotlights a different local animal species at each hole. More information will be available soon at www.vail.com.

Top-of-the-Mountain Tour

After its introduction late last summer, the Top-of-the-Mountain Tour returns for summer 2011. Combining affordable, accessible adventure for all ages with incredible views of Vail’s legendary Back Bowls, the Gore Range and Mount of the Holy Cross, the new motorized mountain tour starts its 11-mile loop at Eagle’s Nest, passing Two Elk and Patrol Headquarters with a final destination of the Orient Express Lift (#21) at the top of China Bowl. Top of the Mountain Tours start at $25 a person and can also be combined with lift and lunch packages.

Horseback Tours

Take a guided horseback trail ride through Game Creek Bowl. The 40-minute trail rides begin at the Eagle’s Nest corral for adults and children, ages 7 and up. Full tours start at $50 per person and can be combined with lift and lunch packages. One way tours to Game Creek Restaurant are available for guests who wish to enjoy a scenic horseback ride followed by a complete culinary experience at Vail’s distinctive on-mountain dining establishment. Prices start at $95 for adults and return transportation to Eagle’s Nest is provided. Children ages 2–6 years can enjoy pony rides around our mountaintop corral for just $10.

Friday Afternoon Club

Guests and locals alike kick off the weekend with Vail’s Friday Afternoon Club (FAC) at Adventure Ridge, high atop Vail Mountain. FAC starts at 5 p.m. on Talon’s Deck every Friday beginning June 24-Sept. 2 and features the best views in the valley with amazing sunsets, free live music and activities, food and drink specials, and more. Full schedule TBA at www.vail.com.

Climbing Wall, Rebound Trampoline

Race to the top of the climbing wall at Adventure Ridge, starting at 10,350 feet, or soar to new heights on the bouncing bungee harnessed trampoline at Adventure Ridge.

Disc Golf

Vail Mountain’s 18-hole self-guided disc golf course begins at the top of the Pride Express Lift (#26), winds up to the western edge of the ski area boundary, wraps below the Eagle Bahn Gondola through the Little Eagle Lift (#15) area and ends near Thunder Cat Cave. Maps are recommended and available at the information desk at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. The course is designed for all ability levels and discs, putters and drivers can be rented at Eagle’s Nest for just $10. The course is free to those with their own equipment and disc golf equipment can also be purchased at the Vail Sports location at Eagle’s Nest.

Adventure Ridge Action Pass

With all the fun summertime activities offered at Adventure Ridge – pony rides, disc golf, a climbing wall and rebound trampolines – why limit yourself to just one? Purchase an Action Pass and enjoy three activities of choice for just $22!

FREE for All! Slackline Park, Bocce Ball, Horseshoes, Bean Bag Toss and Dino Dig

Grab your friends and family and try your luck at horseshoes, bocce ball, bean bag toss or the new slackline park where kids and adults can test their balance at a variety of levels. Children age four and up are invited to dig through sand to uncover dinosaur bones and learn about prehistoric creatures through an educational display. Digging tools and a map are provided.

Nature Discovery Center & Guided Nature Hikes

Located in an all-seasons yurt adjacent to the Eagle Bahn Gondola atop Vail Mountain, the Nature Discovery Center has provided the visiting public with meaningful access to the wonders of the natural world since opening its doors in 2000. The mountain top nature center is open during the winter and summer seasons and features an array of natural history exhibits and artifacts related to Vail Mountain.

 Enjoy Nature on Foot and Bike

Vail Mountain and the surrounding valley offer expansive trail systems for the outdoor enthusiast that wind through lush forests, brilliant wildflowers and native wildlife to provide breathtaking views of the surrounding environment.

Hiking on Vail Mountain

The Vail Valley offers a wide variety of hiking trails for you to choose from. All ages and abilities can take advantage of miles and miles of trails that offer the chance to escape into nature. A few favorites include:

  • Eagle’s Loop: Short, “green” ridge-top loop with great views of Mount of the Holy Cross. 1 mile, 15-20 minutes
  • Berrypicker: Starting at Lower Fireweed, this intermediate trail winds down from Eagle’s Nest to Vail Village or Lionshead. 4.6 miles, 2-3 hours
  • Ridge Route: Intermediate climb from Eagle’s Nest to Wildwood and back with spectacular views of Mt. of the Holy Cross and the Sawatch Range. 2.8 miles, 1.5-2 hours.
  • Ptarmigan Loop: This scenic, 360-degree-view trail through shaded woods connects with Ridge Route at Wildwood to Ptarmigan Point and back. 1.2 miles, 30-40 minutes; Loop with Ridge Route: 4 miles, 2.5 -3 hours.
  • Grand Escape: This trail offers an alternative hiking experience with spectacular views of the Gore Range. Combine with Ridge Route for a loop. 1.5 miles; 1.5-2 hours one way.

Trail Running

Forgo the blacktop pavement and enjoy a run surrounded by nature on one of Vail’s many scenic trails. Runners will find a variety of trails and terrain throughout Vail that are sure to meet their fitness needs all while providing extraordinary views of the lush summer landscape.

Mountain Biking on Vail Mountain

As the host of two previous Mountain Bike World Championships, Vail’s trails suit the amateur and the seasoned professional. Family cruisers can ride the gondola, explore the forests on two wheels and enjoy a mountaintop barbeque. Downhill junkies can ride uphill then seek out the most technical terrain for their descent. Equipment is available for rental or purchase at local shops. An additional bike haul ticket is needed to take a bike up the gondola. Bikes are not allowed on the gondola after 4 p.m. A few of Vail’s many mountain biking trails include:

  • Lucy’s Loop: NEW! Beginner loop from Eagle’s Nest to Mid-Vail and back.
  • Village Trail: Longest and most pleasant beginner route on the mountain, the Village Trail is a winding gravel road that traverses the mountain in a descent. 7 miles.
  • Fred’s Lunch: An alternating single and double intermediate track path that leads from Mid-Vail down the mountain, providing spectacular views. 3.2 miles
  • Grand Traverse: Vail’s signature intermediate trail crossing the Back Bowls, starts easy and becomes more difficult, accessed from Adventure Ridge or the Wildwood connector. 5.3 miles
  • Hanks Hideaway: A fun yet challenging single-track that leads from Lion Down to Lionshead Loop. 1.2 miles.

Free Events

There are scores of free activities and  events during the summer at Vail Mountain.

Art & Nature

Free Wednesday Art Walks (June 29 – August 31)
A free hour long walking tour of Vail’s public art collection meets Wednesdays at 11:00 am at the Vail Village Visitor Information Center on the top level of the parking structure. The tour then winds its way through the Village with discussions of master planning and the importance of site specific commissioned art in creating the charm of the village. Visit www.artinvail.com or call             970-479-2344       for more details.

Free Guided Nature Walks
Nature Discovery Center, June 23 – August 30, Daily, 11am & 2pm
Located in an all-seasons yurt adjacent to the Eagle Bahn Gondola atop Vail Mountain.
Join Walking Mountains Science Center on a morning or afternoon nature walk and discover how plants and animals adapt to the high elevation environment as you identify signs of life on Vail Mountain;  call  (970) 754-4675  .

Free Creekside Nature Tours, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sundays
Depart from the Vail Farmers’ Market Join the Nature Center for a casual stroll along Vail’s streamside paths. Tours depart from the Vail Nature Center booth at the Vail Farmers’ Market Sundays throughout the summer. No reservations required.

Stop by the Free Vail Nature Center
Nestled along the banks of Gore Creek, this 7 acres forest, meadow and stream are a delight and peaceful place known by many locals and visitors as their favorite place in Vail. Explore or take in one of the educational programs offered. For more information, please call             (970) 479-2291      .

Enjoy the beautiful and free Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
Enjoy the highest botanical gardens in the world with a unique collection of alpine, sub-alpine and other mountain plants and flowers. Open from dawn to dusk daily through September with tours, children’s programs and many other daily activities; call  (970) 476-0103 .

Family & Kids Events

Family Fun Ride
Looking for something to do with the entire family? Vail Sports invites you to participate in our free Family Fun Rides daily from Memorial Weekend through Labor Day Weekend. Experience Vail like never before with our one-hour guided ride through Lionshead Village, Vail Village, and Golden Peak. You may bring your own bike or rent a bike with us (bike rentals start at $16) . For more information, contact Vail Sports at  970-476-3600   or visit vailsports.com.

Family Saturday Afternoon Club
July 9, 16, 23, 30 & August 6 & 13; Lionshead 3:00pm to 6:00pm
The Family Saturday Afternoon Club includes a variety of activities including a Kids’ Fun Zone & Crafts Center, full of interactive projects that families would work on together, hosted by the world famous Blue Creek Children’s Theatre Company. This area also features an incredible array of of special activities including face-painting, a Hula Hoop Zone, a 60ft inflatable obstacle course, the awesome Blue Moose Pizza Dough Tossing Contest, a family “Water Balloon Toss of Death” Contest – which was an incredible hit, merchant displays, special appearances by the Vail Fire Department Family Safety Zone; and the Kids’ Discovery Zone. This fun and educational area is where “Fun Learning” is the goal. Each week the “Kids’ Discovery Zone” featured a special theme with visits by experts like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, The Denver Butterfly Pavilion and a special “Green Planet Kids Expo” presented in partnership with the Town of Vail Environmental Sustainability Department. For more information contact Brian Hall, Blue Creek Productions, Inc. brian@bluecreek.com or    (970) 926-5855

Burn off the kid’s energy at the many town Parks or stroll around town
Ford Park, Pirateship Park, Donovan Park, Bighorn Park – each is different – check them all out to bring a smile to the kiddo’s faces! There’s no better place to just relax and enjoy your surroundings than Vail – with benches and beautiful sitting areas all around to breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the summer time flowers and surrounding landscapes. You may even happen upon one of our street entertainers as you relax and enjoy. And be sure to take in the many fountains and water features throughout Vail Village.

Free AT THE VAIL LIBRARY
Story Time every Tuesday and Wednesday
Kids love story time and arts & crafts. Toddler Story Time (ages 18-30 months) is from 10am -11am and Preschool Story Time (ages 2-5 yrs.) is from 11am-12pm.

Sports & Recreation

Free for All at Adventure Ridge! Slackline Park, Bocce Ball, Horseshoes, Bean Bag Toss and Dino Dig
Grab your friends and family and try your luck at horseshoes, bocce ball, bean bag toss or the new slackline park where kids and adults can test their balance at a variety of levels. Children age four and up are invited to dig through sand to uncover dinosaur bones and learn about prehistoric creatures through an educational display. Digging tools and a map are provided.

Hiking around Vail and atop Vail Mountain is always free!
Enjoy spectacular wildflowers and wildlife as you explore the nature and forests of Vail. Pack a picnic and your camera!

Go for a run with the Vail Rec District’s Free Summer Running Club
Residents and visitors are encouraged to join the VRD for its free, weekly running club this summer that will lead participants around Vail’s scenic recreation paths and mountain trails. The club will be led by local runner Greg Decent and will meet at 5:30pm on Thursdays, beginning June 23 at the base of the Vista Bahn in Vail Village, located in the Mountain Plaza area. For details, email jgunion@vailrec.com.

Explore the Free Vail Recreation Path
The Vail Recreation Path is an affordable way to have fun with your entire family. Located right in the middle of town, the trail winds from West Vail to East Vail and has 1,100 acres of open space available to the public. The path stretches for 15 miles and is surrounded by 350,000 acres of national forest.

Free Sporting Events & Tournaments
Check out the many sports tournaments taking place at the Ford Park and Vail Athletic Fields. The majority of the events are free to watch and include some of the nation’s best soccer and lacrosse teams and players.

Vail’s Free Skatepark
Head to the LionsHead parking structure and check out Vail’s free skatepark. Open dawn to dusk daily, the free skatepark features a half-pipe, pyramid, multiple ramps, transitions, rails and banks, plus a street course area for younger or less experienced riders.

Play a free tennis match
Enjoy a free tennis match at the Golden Peak Tennis Courts. Tennis can be played at the courts on a first-come, first-served basis for free.

Free Fly Fishing Casting Clinics!
Gore Creek Fly Fisherman is pleased to offer complimentary daily casting clinics at 10:30am in Vail Village along the Gore Creek Promenade. The clinics are perfect for those who have never fly fished before and are considering trying the sport. They are also perfect for those just wanting to brush up on their technique. One of our expert staff will lead the demonstration, and he or she will be able to answer any general fly fishing questions;  call  (970) 476-3296 .

Music & Dance

Free Hot Summer Nights Concert Series – every Tuesday, June 14 – August 23 (shows start at 6:30pm)
This annual free summer concert series is hosted at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater Tuesday evenings throughout the summer months. With shows ranging from rock to country to bluegrass to funk and beyond, the Bud Light Hot Summer Nights has become synonymous with summer for locals and visitors alike. Throngs of music lovers gather at the Amphitheater each week to enjoy sunshine, picnics, friends and incredible free music.

Town Event Highlights

Annual favorites like the Teva Mountain Games return to Vail along with a slew of other great summer events for locals and visitors of the Vail Valley. Peruse fresh produce at the Vail Farmers’ Market—the largest in Colorado –, expand your cultural horizons with Bravo! and the Vail International Dance Festival and witness some of the world’s greatest athletes compete in the Quiznos Pro Challenge Bike Race as the tour ascends upon the valley. With a variety of fresh, local, cultural and competitive events happening throughout the Vail Valley there truly is something for everyone of every age. For a full event lineup, visit www.vail.com. New highlights include:

Teva Mountain Games – 10th Anniversary

Come be a part of the country’s largest celebration of mountain sport, soul and culture as professional and amateur adventure athletes converge upon Vail to compete in a variety of adrenaline pumping sports. Watch as competitors run, climb, bike, kayak, raft and fish for cash purses and ultimate bragging rights June 2-5. The weekend is rounded out with concerts, film screenings and plenty of after-partying to make this event the perfect summer kick-off!

USA Pro Cycling Challenge

Beginning Aug 22nd and continuing through Aug 28th the USA Pro Cycling Challenge is a grueling 600-mile, seven-day bike race that winds through some of the most majestic and treacherous terrain Colorado and the Rocky Mountains have to offer. The pedaling begins in Colorado Springs and hits 11 other cities and towns along the way as bikers ascend and descend their way into the Vail on day four of the race, Aug 25. Racers will cross the finish line in Denver after seven days of arduous cycling over a mix of mountain, sprint and downtown stages. Lance Armstrong was instrumental in establishing this new race which is designed to be the most challenging event in U.S. cycling history! For more information visit www.usaprocyclingchallenge.com.

BRAVO! Vail Valley Music Festival, June 26-Aug. 3

One of the leading music festivals in the country, this event is complete with world-class orchestras, soloists and venues. With three outstanding resident orchestras and guest soloists from around the world, Bravo! brings truly first-rate classical music to Vail. And, with a setting as stunning as the performances, this festival is a summer tradition that should not be missed.

Vail International Dance Festival, July 31-Aug. 13

This legendary festival draws artists from across the globe that come to perform in Vail’s spectacular setting. Highlights for this years’ event include the Beijing Dance/LDTX, the American premiere of Natalia Hills and Gabriel Miss’ tango show, a new work by Larry Keigwin, as well as performances by The Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

For more information or to book a summer vacation at Vail Mountain, visit /www.vail.com .

See more travel features at:

www.travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate

www.examiner.com/eclectic-travel-in-national/karen-rubin

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