Best of Kin

Best Long Run at Vail and Beaver Creek

When you want to ski downhill for seemingly ages without pausing to find a lift, try these classic trails.

By Whitney Skylar December 3, 2021 Published in the Winter/Spring 2022 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

Beaver Creek’s Centennial Express chairlift/gondola: the gateway to 2,000-plus acres of varied terrain, from thigh-burning, top-to-bottom groomers to heart-racing FIS downhills


Centennial was the most famous run when the resort opened, and you could argue that the resort’s first ski racing venue—host of the 1989 World Ski Championships downhill—remains the marquee attraction more than 40 years later. You start at the summit off the Cinch Express lift, elevation 11,440 feet, and race down the fall line for 2.75 miles and 3,340 vertical feet, riding the spine of the mountain, in full view of everyone on the chair, until you finish at the base village. “When it’s groomed and you can ski it top to bottom, it’s breathtaking. It really is,” says ski patrol director Addy McCord.

Difficulty: Intermediate to expert
Length: 2.75 miles
Get there: Skier’s right off Cinch Express (Lift 8)
Easier alternative: Piece O’Cake, a 2.7-mile green trail that begins skier’s left at the top of Cresta (Lift 17) and drops 1,700 vertical feet as it meanders around Arrowhead Mountain from summit to ski yard.

Riva Ridge

On February 18, 2020, present-day soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division and the Colorado National Guard commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Riva Ridge by staging a ski parade down Vail Mountain’s longest run, Riva Ridge.

Riva Ridge

Named for the site of a decisive battle in the Italian Apennines won by the 10th Mountain Division—a unit of locally trained elite World War II ski troopers that included the resort’s cofounder—Riva Ridge undulates like a roller coaster over 4 miles, with precipitous drops and mogul fields boasting bumps the size of VW Beetles. The run skis as one of the mountain’s best on powder days when it’s left ungroomed and provides the sensation of simultaneously flying and floating.

To learn more about Riva and other heritage sites on the mountain (or sign up for a free guided tour), duck into the Legacy Hut, a mini museum in the trees skier’s right off Chair 4, before you drop down the mountain and take a run through history yourself. This season, Legacy Days Weekend—three days of events honoring veterans who played a role in the development of Vail Mountain and Colorado’s ski industry—happens Feb 18–21, starting with a ski parade down Riva Ridge on Feb 18; other Legacy ski parades on Riva are planned for Dec 29, Jan 14, and March 4 (for more information, visit

Difficulty: Intermediate to expert
Length: 4 miles
Get there: At the top of Chair 4 near Patrol Headquarters, follow Swingsville past Christmas and veer skier’s left at the junction with Prima.
Easier alternative: Born Free, a nearly two-mile blue/green groomer that begins skier’s right off the Eagle Bahn Gondola (Chair 19) in Lionshead, then mellows into a broad green meadow skier’s right of Chair 8 that’ll have you humming the 1966 Matt Monro earworm as you practice carving stem christies.
Also try: Flapjack, a 1.28-mile trail skier’s right off Chair 14, so named because the run begins at the headwaters of a creek that fed a pre-resort sawmill and because it’s as flat as the favored breakfast of lumberjacks.

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