Ladies and Gentlemen We’ve Started Our Descent…

…into winter. Seriously.  Yesterday when I walked down the steps into Vail Village the water fountains were dry.  Dry.

Vail Village Water Fountain - Empty

The Town of Vail drains all the village water features each year sometime in mid-September when overnight temperatures hover around freezing.  Not only that, the aspens are just about to turn the mountains gold and there’s snow on the Gore Range.  That can mean only one thing, winter is coming.

Snow on the Grand Traverse - Eagle's Nest Wilderness

Around this time last year I started on my first blog entry, Ski Town Milestones, remembering the events that signal the coming of the winter season in Vail.  These seasonal events are the milestones a local looks for when counting down the days until it’s standing sideways time again.

An Early Defector - Aspen Leaf, Eagle's Nest Wilderness

So it’s September 22nd, the last day of summer 2011.  In honor of the Autumnal Equinox, here are 5 Local Ski Town Milestones in Vail, Colorado:

1. Autumn Aspens – The changing of the leaves is one of the first obvious indicators of the upcoming winter season.  This autumn the colors have delayed their show a bit longer, but they’re starting.

Autumn Aspens - Almost There

2. Oktoberfest – In a three weekend bratwurst n’ beer celebration-o-rama, Oktoberfest started Labor Day in Beaver Creek, moved to Lionshead the next weekend and finished strong in Vail Village the weekend after that.  Sure it rained the last weekend, but the Gore Range got a fresh blanket of snow.

Vail Oktoberfest 2011

3. Vail Village Water Features – Yesterday morning when I came down the steps in Vail Village I saw one of the most glorious sights a local can see, dry water fountains.  It’s a big one despite it being a mundane event.  It means the temperatures are moving towards freezing.  And we’re all a bit closer to sliding on snow time.

Empty Water Feature - Vail, CO

4. Loveland or A-basin? – It’s all very hush, hush but mainly it’s still too early in the descent to know who will be the first to open. Loveland has a countdown until snowmaking begins on their website which is awesome (7 days at today’s publication).  The Basin’s site simply says: “Arapahoe Basin plans to open for the 2011-12 ski season in mid October, 2011”.  Either way, holy shit.

East Wall with Early Snow - The Basin

5. Epic Pass – With only a few more weeks until the skiing and riding season begins in Colorado the next step toward opening day is renewing my Epic Pass.  Long gone are the days of standing in lines like when we first moved here.  But what makes this year epic-er is that I’m a member of the 2011-2012 Snow Squad.  I get to talk about Vail, my home mountain, and collaborate with a group of incredibly talented people the whole winter.  Amazing.

Happy Autumn!

Epic Pass