In our December issue, I got the scoop on the origins of some of Vail‘s 193 trail names. It seemed like an appropriate time to look back: The mountain is celebrating 50 years this season. What started as a modest ski spot with one gondola, two chairlifts, and just eight runs has since transformed into a vast and prestigious resort with far-flung name recognition. Of course, the anniversary isn’t passing without celebration—and besides the debut of the new heated gondola, Vail is delivering a packed lineup for this month and beyond. The highlights:

Snow Daze (December 10–16): The annual winter kick-off week gets amped up this year with some major stage presence. Rock out to the Shins (Thursday), Michael Franti & Spearhead (Friday), and Wilco with hometown opener Nathaniel Rateliff (Saturday). Tip: A three-concert pass (general admission) is just $99 through December 11. Ford Park; prices and times vary—purchase tickets here.

Public Film Premiere (December 14): Learn the history of Vail’s founding at this big-screen event. The 50th anniversary flick is by Roger Cotton Brown, Vail’s original filmmaker. 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. (the 5:30 showing is already sold out), Vail Marriot Resort & Spa, 715 W. Lionshead Circle; free—tickets available here.

50th Birthday Celebration (December 15): The mountain’s official birthday is December 15. Help ring it in with an outdoor party capped by a massive on-mountain fireworks show. (We’ve heard there might be cake, too.) 5:30 p.m., Mountain Plaza in Vail Village; free.

Burton U.S. Open (February 25–March 2): After 30 years of throwing tricks and flying down mountains on the East Coast, the Open‘s competitors are headed to their new home in Vail. Expect to see riders like Gretchen Bleiler, Sebastien Toutant, Torah Bright, and Shaun White competing in halfpipe and slopestyle.

Bonus: Is it your 50th birthday? Vail’s letting you ski for free. Seriously.


Let’s not forget these other Colorado resorts celebrating birthdays this year:

Happy 40th, Copper! Celebrations commence this weekend with a Neil Diamond cover band, a scavenger hunt, 72-cent beers, and more.

Happy Fifth Decade, Eldora! The resort honored the occasion by announcing that it’s now smoke-free.

Image courtesy of Connor Walberg

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Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at