Vail Resorts, Inc. has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Forest Service for a comprehensive summer activities plan at Vail Mountain, that marks the first proposal of its kind in the country following passage last fall of the Ski Area Recreational Opportunities Enhancement Act, championed by U.S. Senator Mark Udall of Colorado.
Vail's summer activity effort, named Epic Discovery, a Summer Mountain Adventure, will encourage “learn through play” by featuring extensive environmental educational elements interspersed between numerous new fun activities located in already developed areas of the mountain. Vail Resorts will work with The Nature Conservancy to bring scientific content to the eco-discovery experiences and will be contributing 1 percent of all summer lift ticket and activity revenue toward forest restoration projects. This substantial initiative marks the first proposal of its kind in the country following passage last fall of the Ski Area Recreational Opportunities Enhancement Act, championed by U.S. Senator Mark Udall of Colorado.
Epic Discovery is designed to connect kids and families with our national forests in an active, fun and engaging way. The proposal includes a number of new activities, including zip lines, ropes courses, mountain excursions and Forest Flyers with extensive environmental and interpretive programming, offering guests a unique opportunity to try new outdoor activities, challenge themselves physically, discover an appreciation for nature and create lasting family memories.
“Epic Discovery will allow our mountains to truly provide guests from across the country and around the world an experience of a lifetime in the summer. Epic Discovery will make the national forests accessible and engaging to people of all ages and abilities and will help educate them on the unique ecosystem and wildlife on our mountains,” said Rob Katz, chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts. “Our proposal could not be possible without the recent passage of new legislation, but with Epic Discovery, our Company has raised the bar even further as we teach our kids about the spectacular natural environment that serves as backdrops to our resorts.”
Vail Resorts also announced that it will work with the leading conservation non-profit organization, The Nature Conservancy, to assist with the creation of environmental education programming and interpretation. In an unprecedented move, Vail Resorts has created a new program, “1% For The Forest”, under which it will contribute 1 percent of all summer lift ticket and activity revenue to The Nature Conservancy for forest health restoration projects on national forest lands in the West.
“When Vail Resorts, approached us with an incredible project such as this, we at The Nature Conservancy seized on the opportunity to not only help bring more families into the national forests, but to inspire them through nature education,” said Tim Sullivan, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Colorado. “Then to further be able to raise funds to support forest restoration projects at such a critical time, this is exciting and important work we'll be doing with Vail Resorts and their guests.”
Vail Resorts hopes to begin construction on Epic Discovery activities, after U.S. Forest Service approval, in the summer or fall of 2013. When approved, the resulting on-mountain, eco-conscious experience will generate new jobs related to both the construction of the new facilities and the long-term operation, and will help support a much healthier year-round economy for the local resort community. Epic Discovery will also create a new iconic summer destination for Colorado, attracting guests from around the world.
“As a lifelong outdoor enthusiast and instructor, I am thrilled that the 'Ski Area Recreational Opportunities Enhancement Act,' which I authored, will enable mountain resorts such as Vail to introduce Colorado's breathtaking forests to a wider group of visitors,” Senator Mark Udall said. “The creation of additional educational and recreational attractions during the summer months will create jobs in our mountain communities, help boost local economies and add to the amazing quality of life Coloradans already enjoy.”
“Home to the majestic Rocky Mountains, Colorado is already known as a year-round destination for amazing outdoor experiences. Vail's new iconic summer experience will be an important addition to the state's diverse tourism offerings. The activities and educational experiences Vail plans to offer in our national forests, all at nearly 12,000 feet, will be unlike anything else offered in the West. We look forward to the public input on this exciting opportunity,” said Al White, director of the Colorado Tourism Office.
Epic Discovery activities and environmental interpretive programming will be designed to be compatible with the existing on-mountain infrastructure of lifts and trails, blending into the natural environment in an unobtrusive manner. In addition to the activities, U.S. Forest Service Rangers will be on site to provide eco-educational experiences for kids and families, helping them to learn more about their natural surroundings. Following are highlights of what guests will be able to experience, discover and learn across Vail Mountain from Adventure Ridge into Game Creek Bowl and down to the mid-Vail area, accessed by gondolas in Lionshead and Vail Village.
- Game Creek and Front Side Zip Line Tours: The ultimate outdoor experiences, these three-hour guided tours will immerse guests in the forest habitat with a stunning array of zip lines and aerial bridges. Guests will learn about the indigenous flora and fauna of this mountain ecosystem while working their way through each course's challenges.
- Adventure Ridge Challenge Tour: A multi-stage tour combining zip lines, ropes swings, bridge components and other features.
- Micro-Interpretive Centers for Education: Integrated with trails and activities around the mountain, these interpretive experiential centers will provide guests with hands-on information and activities about forest health, wildlife and the mountain geography of the White River National Forest.
- More Hiking and Mountain Biking Trails: Comprehensive interpretive and directional signage will be integrated to encourage more hiking and mountain biking across Vail Mountain and descending into the villages below.
- Family Forest Adventure Park: A playground of rope challenges and bridges to introduce young children to the wonders of the forest.
- Forest Flyer: An alpine slide that runs on raised rails, the Forest Flyers wind their way down the mountain, following the natural contours of the landscape through the forest.
- Game Creek Deck and Lookout Tower: A panoramic viewing balcony nestled within awe-inspiring scenery of alpine forests, meadows of wildflowers and wildlife.
- Segway Trails and Tours: A unique way to enjoy a guided tour with your own cross-terrain, self-propelled Segway.
“Creating a less-seasonal, more year-round economy — with far more activities, events and business opportunities in the spring, summer and fall — is vitally important to our local communities. We applaud Vail Resorts' leadership in ensuring that Vail Mountain will once again set the standard in summer activities in the same way we already have in the winter,” said Beth Slifer, chairwoman of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council.
Vail Mountain has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Forest Service that includes the above activities and vision for Epic Discovery. Following acceptance of the proposal, the agency will begin its comprehensive environmental review. Epic Discovery at Vail Mountain is the first installment of summer mountain adventure plans that Vail Resorts has for each of its seven world-class resorts. Plans for Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood will be announced and submitted at later dates.