Number of skiable acres on Vail Mountain: 5,289. That’s an area more than a third the size of the island of Manhattan. With that much terrain to explore, it can take years to really know your way around the mountain, and right when you think you’ve devised the best strategy for how to attack Vail on a powder day, you shadow a stranger you just met on the chair who shows you a whole new—and better—way to do it. Those who don’t understand Vail love to grouse about the minuses—it doesn’t have enough steep terrain, it’s overcrowded on the weekends, it’s too expensive. But skiers who get Vail focus on all the pluses: stellar runs, lifts, bowls, terrain, and powder. Vail may rank fourth in skiable acres among American resorts (after Powder Mountain, Park City, and Big Sky), but from where we sit—soaring over Lover’s Leap on Chair 37—Vail’s our first love, forever number one. Here’s how we crush it: a local’s guide to skiing Vail, from the front side to Blue Sky, starting (and ending: yay, après!) in each of the mountain’s three base areas.