The East Vail Chutes have a reputation that precedes them. This reputation varies by the beholder, but anyone who's heard of them likely has some notion of what they are, whether that be of a playground or a mine field.
Due to a number of fatal avalanches that have taken place in the East Vail area, the mine field stigma isn't uncommon. The chutes are steep, often windloaded, and set in an area where they get enough ski and snowboard traffic to incite the lemming approach: see ski track, assume it must be safe, drop in.
Not to say East Vail isn't often safe. If people got in trouble every waking day out there, that'd be one thing. But the close calls and bad outcomes are rare, even if they're more common there relative to other places. They're also, like anywhere, a result of where you ski -- what aspect, what kind of entry point, the amount of exposure you accept and the way you mitigate it as you descend.
Some days the snow is more fragile than others; you can't
escape that fact. Knowing what days that's the case is the key. If you don't have the greatest feeling about the snow stability, chances are there's a reason you feel that way, and so taking the lower-angle corner route isn't a bad option. That's the nice thing, though: it IS an option.
First thing in the morning on a recent weekday, I joined a friend of mine who knows East Vail pretty well. With only enough time for one lap, we debated where to ski, but neither of us had been out there recently enough to know what the stability off the top would be like, and with some fresh snow having fallen the evening prior, we took the safer route off the skier's left point.
The snowpack had absorbed some recent radiation and was variable in spots, but where it was good, it was awesome. The looming bowl above the runout was locked up by the recent sun, as was the hard, fast exit. We made it back down to the bus stop just as the bus pulled away, so we caught up amongst the second homes before heading into work.
-- Devon ONeill