top of page

Vail ski resort Intermediate Guide



Mountain Areas



Trails: Beginner, Intermediate, Expert

Overview – From Vail Village or Lion’s Head - Start at Mountain Top – China Bowl – Blue Sky Basin - Lunch @ Two Elk – Highline / Northwoods – Return to Base

1. 8:30 AM – Heading up the Mountain

From Vail Village: Ride Gondola 1 to quickly reach mid-Vail. Exit the gondola and head left to Chair 4 (Mountain Top Express). This will take you to the Patrol Headquarters peak..

From Lion’s Head: Take the Eagle Bahn Gondola to Eagles Nest. Then take the short traverse to Chair 7 (Game Creek Express) to the top of Game Creek Bowl. Cruise down Hunky Dory and connect to The Meadows to reach Chair 4 and take it to the Patrol Headquarters peak

2. 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM – Front Side Warm up on Mountain Top

From the Top of Chair 4, take a few laps on Cappuccino, Sleeper Express and / or Whistle Pig.

3. 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM – Poppyfields, China Bowl and Entering Blue Sky

Once you feel warmed up, its time for the back bowls. Enter through the China Bowl by taking the Timberline Catwalk to Chair 14 (Sourdough Express). This sprawling bowl is wide open, not overly steep and large enough to keep stores of powder. (Fun fact, this bowl is named for its headwall as its limestone formation reminded early skiers of the Great Wall of China.)

Poppyfields is the perfect gateway to Vail’s back bowls. It is wide open, groomed daily and offers a prime vantage points to scope the lay of the land. When you reach the bottom of Poppyfields, save up enough speed to head away from the main mountain and take the catwalk across to Chair 11 (Skyline Express) to access Blue Sky Basin.

If you prefer to repeat Poppyfields or explore Chopstix, you can return to the top of China Bowl by taking Chair 21 (Orient Express). We recommend saving more time in China Bowl for later in the day and heading to Blue Sky Basin for its opening at 10:30am.

4. 10:30 AM – 1:30 PM – Blue Sky Basin

Blue Sky Basin is home to 645 acres with a distinctly backcountry feel. Five miles from Vail Village, it’s a trek - but so worth it. Plan to spend at least half of your day here! Blue Sky is made up of two areas – Pete’s Bowl (anything east of Belle’s Camp) and Earl’s Bowl (anything west of Belle’s Camp). Start with Pete’s Bowl, especially if you prefer groomers - Big Rock Park and Grand Review are signature groomed runs at Vail.

To access Pete’s Bowl, exit Chair 37 (Skyline Express) to the left and follow the cat track into Big Rock Park. This expansive area is a natural glade with giant boulders and a variety of mellow routes. Don’t worry about getting lost as all paths funnel to the bottom of Chair 39 (Pete’s Express). Take Chair 39 to the top of Pete’s Bowl and do a few laps alternating between Grand Review, directly under the top portion of the lift and The Star. If you are feeling good, try Resolution immediately to your right when you exit Chair 39 – it’s not too steep and the bumps are relatively tame. Resolution will take you a third of the way down before letting out in the familiar territory of Big Rock Park.


5. Break and Re-Fuel at Belle’s Camp

Getting hungry? We recommend stopping for a snack at Belle’s Camp to hold you over for a late lunch at Two Elk. From the bottom of Chair 39, facing down the mountain, head left to follow the cat track to Chair 37  to reach Belle’s Camp. Food options are limited and can be expensive (its not easy to bring provisions here) and restrooms are outhouses, but the setting is priceless. On a blue sky day, Belle’s Camp has a spectacular setting, complete with outdoor grills for a make your own BBQ picnic.


6. Diving into Earl’s Bowl

Fueled up? Its now time to find powder at a gentle pitch. Take In the Wuides for a few laps using Chair 38 (Earl’s Express), you should be able to forge new routes through the widely spaced trees each time. If you are feeling confident, try a run or two on Montane Glade, just below In the Wuides – where the bumps should not be too large.


****If it’s a powder day and you’re feeling good, consider starting in Earl’s Bowl and then going to Pete’s afterwards.****

7. 1:30 PM Late Lunch at Two Elk (see more on lunch options)

When you are ready to return to the main part of the mountain, take Chair 36 (Orient Express) to the top of the Sun Up Bowl. For the most direct access to Two Elk, take Whiskey Jack to the bottom of Chair 14 (Sourdough Express).


Coming from Pete’s Bowl, you can also take Chair 21 (Tea Cup Express) to the top of the ridge between China Bowl and Mongolia Bowl. From this spot, you can traverse using the Wapiti Rope Tow to Two Elk. If you fueled up at Belle’s Camp already, enjoy a few more runs in these bowls.


You can't beat Two Elk's location and there may be as many lunch options as skiing options. The lodge is huge, but a crowd favorite, so try to get there on the later side, after all, it is the perfect place to enjoy lunch after an extended morning of skiing in Blue Sky Basin.


8. Highline and Northwoods on the Eastern Front Side

If you are eager for a post lunch challenge, head downhill from Two Elk and watch closely for signs for Blue Ox, when groomed, this slope provides a long, but mostly gentle pitch to the bottom of Chair 10 (Highline Express). However, in fresh powder the bumps here can be larger, so make sure to check the grooming report before heading over. Take a lap or two here and then take Flap Jack to return to the bottom of Chair 11 (Northwoods) where you can take Northwoods a couple more times before returning to the base.


9. Returning to Base / Aprés Ski

If you are feeling tired, there’s no shame in taking Gondola 1 back to the base. Otherwise enjoy a cruiser to return to Vail Village. From the top of Chair 11, follow Cappuccino to the base of Chair 4. From there, follow Trans-Montane Catwalk to the blue portion of Riva Ridge and follow Skip Road to the North Face Cat Walk to avoid the bumps on Tourist Trap. The North Face Cat Walk to avoid the bumps on Tourist Trap. The North Face Cat Walk loops back to Riva Ridge and allows you to cruise back to the base. The North Face Cat Walk loops back to Riva Ridge and allows you to cruise back to the base.


To return to Lion’s Head, take Upper Lion’s Way from the bottom of Chair 4 and follow it through Avanti Park and to Lower Lions Way – then take Born Free to return to the Lion’s Head Base.

Congratulations – you’ve explored Vail's Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin - Time for Aprés Ski!



bottom of page