Fifteen years ago, Colorado skiing and snowboarding got even better–about 645 acres better to be exact. When Vail first dropped the ropes on Blue Sky Basin on January 6, 2000, it was the start of a new chapter for the acclaimed resort. The basin's vast new terrain promised a remote backcountry feel within resorts bounds and boasted fresh glades, cliffs and steeps sure to delight future visitors. Today, it continues to deliver.
Originally known as Category III, the basin adopted the name "Blue Sky" as a tribute to the Ute Indians–the original settlers of the Vail Valley–who were referred to as the "Blue Sky People." A cool connection to the land's heritage and a heck of a lot catchier than "Category III."
When Blue Sky Basin first opened, it tacked 520 new acres onto Vail Mountain's already-impressive 5,000-acre playground. The expansion included three new high-speed quads–the Tea Cup Express Lift (#36), Skyline Express Lift (#37) and Earl’s Express Lift (#38) in Earl's Bowl, which honored one of the resort's founders. In December of 2000, an additional 125 acres and another new high-speed quad, Pete's Express Lift (#39), opened in Pete's Bowl–named after another founder. With this second phase of the Blue Sky Basin expansion complete, Vail eclipsed Breckenridge as Colorado's largest ski area.
Stunning views and epic snow in Blue Sky Basin.
Copyright: Daniel Milchev / Vail
The new terrain opened to rave reviews from skiers and riders–a relief after the protests that surrounded the original expansion plans. The project's controversy was punctuated in 1998 when arsonists set fire to Two Elk restaurant, Patrol Headquarters and Camp One, causing more than $12 million dollars in damages. It was one of the worst eco-attacks on record at the time. By 1999 the structures were rebuilt and Vail was ready to turn over a new leaf–cue rope drop!
If you haven't had the pleasure of carving up this legendary terrain, you're in for some seriously good times. There's no sugar-coating it–the four lift rides and long traverses required to reach Blue Sky Basin make for a journey; one that will test your stamina as much as your wax. But it's well worth it for the reward of some of the resort's best natural snow conditions and backcountry-inspired 1,900 feet of vert.
It offers a wide variety of terrain to all skiers and riders who venture to its north-facing slopes. From amazing glades like Steep and Deep and Resolution, to big wide groomers like Big Rock Park, there's endless possibilities for combining great lines no matter your style. And don't miss Lover's Leap, a popular run down the edge of cornice that drops you back into the powdery bowl below.
This January, the resort and it's loyal, power-hungry patrons celebrate the 'Basin's 15th season with timeless grins and ample powder on the outskirts of Vail's resort boundary. Visitors from all over have their own reasons for loving Blue Sky Basin, and they're not being shy. If you've experienced its abundance of snow and legendary lines, then chime in with hashtag #BlueSkyBasin.
Happy 15th, Blue Sky Basin! Here's to 15 more years (at least!) of powder days and blue skies.