Vail’s Trail Names: Part 1

Jan. 28, 2015

Ever wonder how your favorite area or trail at Vail got its name? Here are a few often-asked for explanations behind the trail signs…Pete Seibert Earl Eaton Vail

HAIRBAG ALLEY: Named for the “hairbag” long-haired skiers that frequented this gulch out of Northwoods in the 70s.

COOKSHACK: The ruins of an old logging camp cook shack were found here when the mountain was surveyed for skiing. This run is used for mogul training and can be seen on your right as you are riding up Avanti #2.

COW’S FACE: A tree-cutter once described a Loveland Basin run as “steeper than a cow’s face, and her a-grazin'”. Vail founder Pete Seibert, then manager at Loveland, remembered the description and thought it fit this trail perfectly.

CHINA BOWL: Years before it was officially open to skiers, China Bowl had been named for its headwall, visible now from the top of Orient Express, Chair 21.  This long limestone formation reminded early Vail skiers of the Great Wall of China. In 1988, Vail opened Tea Cup, China, Siberia, and the Mongolia Bowls, all served by the Orient Express Lift #21. The expansion more than doubled the size of Vail’s ski terrain. In 1985, ski patrolman Jim Himmes and Sandy Hinmon began naming the ridges, chutes, and gullies. Other patrollers added their ideas and trail names fell into place incorporating the Chinese theme, with Sibera and Mongolia Bowls relating to the remote stretches of the Asian Continent.

GENGHIS KHAN : One of the steeper and meaner areas, named for the notorious 13th century Mongol conqueror.

WIDGE’S RIDGE : Named for Alice “Widge” Ferguson, an early Back Bowls fan from Denver, who always seemed to bring snow with her when she came to Vail.

old trail map

Vail Trail Map, winter of 1975 – 1976


WHISTLE PIG: Whistle Pig is a nickname for the yellow-bellied marmot, western relative of the woodchuck. These alpine rock-dwellers whistle sharp warnings when approached.

CADY’S CAFE: An early member of the Mountain Operations team with the last name Cady was given the project of overseeing an early waste facility below Mid-Vail – this building became known affectionately as “Cady’s Cafe”. When the building was converted to storage and the waste removal process at Vail was upgraded, the area around building was opened to skiers and the name stuck.

O.S.: This trail skirts the far southwest boundary of the ski area and then cuts back into Sun Down Catwalk. In Vail’s early days, if a skier missed the cutback and skied on down through the trees, he found himself below the chair and had to walk back up the hill. O.S. meant “Oh, s**t, I missed the turn!” A good reminder always to obey ropes and closure signs! If you do, you avoid making this mistake.

Curious about other trail names at Vail? Check out Vail Trail Names: Part 2!