Vail, Colorado, is one of the most popular wintertime destinations in the United States, thanks to its famous ski slopes and legendary powder. This month, however, Vail Mountain Ski Resort will be opening a brand new warm-weather attraction for summer visitors.
The attraction, called Epic Discovery, is an outdoor play area that includes nature walks, canopy tours, alpine coasters, zip lines, and interactive exhibits designed to teach kids about area wildlife and ecology.
The “ultimate playground” (as Vail calls it) has activities for all ages. On the guided and informative Game Creek Aerial Adventure, adults and kids (ages 10 and up) can ride on zip lines and climb aerial bridges as high as 300 feet above the valley floor, while the Forest Flyer gravity-based alpine coaster gives travelers the chance to descend through the forest on a raised track—and gives riders full control of their speed. On top of this, interactive exhibits allow each visitor a chance to find out if he or she is as strong as a bear or can jump as high as a mountain lion and to see the world through the eyes of a trout, experience what it would be like to soar as an eagle, and travel through the forest canopy like a squirrel.
Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and COO of Vail Mountain, said he is excited to see how the new offering transforms the way visitors experience the area.
“Epic Discovery will provide an avenue for our summer guests to experience our alpine settings in a new, immersed way, similar to what our ski and snowboard guests experience in the winter,” he said. “For kids, it will be the ultimate playground in an alpine setting.”
As with most winter-oriented mountain resorts, Vail already offers hiking, mountain biking, adventure courses, a bungee trampoline, and other activities. Jarnot said he hopes Epic Discovery encourages visitors to try new things in a more controlled environment.
Epic Discovery also represents a new era of public-private partnership for ski resorts—in this case a partnership between Vail Mountain Resort and the U.S. Forest Service. Earlier this decade, when Congress had to modify a forest use bill, lawmakers realized that the original bill did not allow for pastimes such as snowboarding on National Forest land. To rectify the problem, they added new language to the bill to allow for more activities in both winter and summer. Vail was the first area to take advantage of the new rules, and the Forest Service hopes to use the Vail program as a model for how the agency can work with other resorts.
Epic Discovery opens June 28; prices start at $49 for kids and $89 for adults for all-day unlimited access.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In more than 18 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Alaska Airlines, and more. He is a senior editor for the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.