We all have those things that every year we say we're going to do, and in a place like the Vail Valley that - literally - has mountains of options for activities and entertainment, it can be hard to tick things off the list. While there's nothing wrong with having a growing bucket list, these five favorites are rites of passage for tourists and locals, and should find a spot at the top of any itinerary for the New Year.
Take a Run on The Minturn Mile
One of the more popular lift-accessed backcountry offshoots of Vail Mountain, "The Mile" takes skiers and snowboarders to the awaiting après-ski scene at the Minturn Saloon, after some powder turns, a stop at the beaver ponds, and a traverse through the luge, of course. The Mile is a more approachable sidecountry option for varying ability levels (although competency and backcountry skiing experience is a must) than some of the other lift-accessible out-of-bounds stashes on Vail Mountain, and can be reached via chairs 3 or 7 (Wildwood Express Lift and Game Creek Express Lift). While the Mile isn't quite as technical, appropriate gear (headlamp, food and water), clothing (extra layers), and familiarity with the terrain and route are imperative, and it's advisable to do the Mile with a group that knows the route - and to keep in mind that once you leave the resort boundary, you're out of ski patrol's jurisdiction (which means if you get into trouble--injured, lost, etc.--you are on your own; most typical mistake: leaving at dusk without a headlamp and getting stranded in the dark). Once you exit the trail in Minturn, walk to one of the popular watering holes--the Saloon, Turntable, or Magusto's--and toast your great adventure.
Attend a Hockey Game at Dobson Ice Arena
Nestled between Lionshead and Vail villages, Dobson Ice Arena is the place to catch the Vail Yeti, Vail's home team in the Mountain West Hockey League, which competes against other ski town rivals and teams from around the western United States. Yeti players have competitive backgrounds that range from college experience to time in professional leagues in Europe, and games are often a rowdy local's tradition. Catch a game against the Breckenridge Vipers for one of the more spirited rivalries of the season, or check Dobson's website for information on free skate hours. 970-479-2271, vailyetihockey.com
Catch a Show at The Vilar Peforming Arts Center
The Beav's signature event space is a must for visitors and longtime locals alike. Sure, the tickets can be spendy, but the Vilar hosts enough concerts, plays, and symposiums throughout the year to hit a range of interests and budgets. January's event calendar features a stop of Broadway's Once the Musical, a performance by Grammy Award winning artist Peter Cetera, and the 2017 Global Energy Forum. Other acts include performances by The Revivalists, Takacs Quartet, Brett Dennen, and Martin Sexton, among others. 970-845-8497, vvf.org
Spend a Day at Ski Cooper
Ski Cooper may lack the heated, Wifi-equipped gondolas of Vail, but that's all part of the charm. Located off of Tennessee Pass on the road to Leadville, Ski Cooper's the place for fixed-grip lift service, non-existent lines, and après-ski at Katie O'Rourke's in the base area. The ski area's offering deals all month like 2-Fer Tuesday (two lift tickets for $52), and $30 Thursdays ($30 lift ticket specials on Thursday). Check out Ski Cooper's cat-skiing on Chicago Ridge, available for an additional fee. 800-707-6114, skicooper.com
Skin to a 10th Mountain Division Hut
A trek to one of the huts in the 10th Mountain Division Hut System is both a tribute to Vail's past, and a must on a New Year's to-do list. Accessible via a backcountry touring set up (skis+skins, splitboards, or snowshoes), the huts can be reserved for the night for a small fee, although they tend to get booked months in advance. Keep in mind that like skiing the Mile, you're on your own should you get lost, sick or injured, so appropriate planning and equipment -- and experience with backcountry travel and navigation -- is mandatory. There are several different options in the Vail area located from Vail Pass to Leadville, although the Eiseman Hut is the closest to Vail Village. It's a beast of a hike (6.8 miles and 2,720 feet in elevation gain - one way), but if you -- and more importantly, your fitness -- are up for the challenge, getting to experience the terrain across the valley from Vail's iconic runs is worth the skin. 970-925-5775, huts.org