Overview of Vail, Colorado
Written by Greg and Heather Burke
Simply put, Vail Colorado is huge with over 5,200 acres of skiing and 32 lifts. Vail has 195 interesting fall line trails plus the immense Back Bowls that comprise over 3,000 acres of wide open natural terrain skiing. It is an ideal skiers' mountains, from the perfectly pitched slopes and modern lifts to the beautiful base villages, Vail Village and Lionshead. Vail has long been the king of Colorado skiing, since 1962 when it was founded by 10th Mountain Division soldiers, their vision to create a European style ski resort stateside has been supremely successful. Vail Resorts has since grown and now owns 16 ski resorts across the country, to include nearby Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, plus Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in California, Park City Mountain Resort which now includes The Canyons in Utah, Afton Alps and Brighton in Michigan, and Whistler Blackcomb in BC Canada, and Stowe Mountain in Vermont, but it all started here and it is epic - like the name of Vail's all inclusive season pass, the Vail Resorts Epic Pass and their Epic Mix ski app.
Vail is awesome - from the vast ski terrain to the iconic original slope side Vail village, modeled after a Bavarian alpine town. Vail’s base is at 8,200’ elevation and the scenic summit is 11,570’, so Vail gets plenty of snow typically, but also boasts about 300 days of sunshine and classic western blue skies - it's either snowing or sunny at Vail say the locals.
Starting with Vail's Front Side, Vail has dozens of the best signature trails – long and cascading Simba and Born Free, Gandy Dancer which rolls and turns down the mountainside surrounded by towering pines and aspens. Cappuccino and Christmas have gorgeously groomed morning trails. The 4-mile Riva Ridge named for the 10th Mountain Division is long, steep and superbly scenic.
Then Vail’s back side offers seven wide-open bowls encompassing 3,000 of Vail’s 5,289 total acreages, with natural snow terrain, untouched and often untracked. Vail's huge grooming fleet rolls out much of the front side terrain daily and also a swath down each of Vail’s Back Bowls, but otherwise this hearty bowl terrain is powdery amid perfectly spaced aspen trees, all served by swift high-speed lifts (hardly time to catch your breath) from Sun Up and Sun Down Bowl to Siberia and Outer Mongolia - as remote and adventurous as it sounds.
Finally, Blue Sky Basin and Pete's Bowl offers even more - steep and beautiful glades served by three high-speed lifts. Game Creek Bowl is another hidden gem as you wrap back around to Vail's Front Range. You could ski Vail for a week, a month or a season, and still find stashes. Kids will love Fort Whippersnapper, Golden Peak Park, and Adventure Ridge at Eagle's Nest with snow fun and games - zip lining, snowmobiling, and a mountain coaster.
The on mountain lodges at Vail are beautiful for the highly scenic ski to lunches too, especially the summit Two Elk - cafeteria style food but in a very regal lodge setting. Buffalo's and Wildwood serve more café style food in a cozy setting. The 10th Mountain Lodge is the place to go for table service lunch, slip off your ski boots and into comfy slippers, the locker room here is deluxe, sink into a leather chair, watch the skiers fly by as you savor a great lunch in this grand lodge. The 10th bar is chic and usually surrounded by skiers enjoying cocktails. There is even a phone charging station if your mobile is thirsty too.
What else do you need for a perfect ski mountain? A Zermatt-style village, of course, and Vail’s pedestrian Bridge Street is an alpine postcard with chalet roofs, chic ski boutiques and après ski bars that rock with live music as skiers pour off the mountain ready to party in their ski boots. Vail has grown, especially Lionshead - the village to the west, which replicates the Austrian style architecture of the original Vail village - but it's more Disney like - particularly the Arrabelle Rock Resort. We love Vail Village for its authentic charm and personality, beautiful Bridge Street with twinkling white lights and the covered bridge - its mountain magic, especially in the evening. See our Top Après Ski Spots in Vail. We also love Vail's fun events like Taste of Vail, Pink Vail, and >Spring Back to Vail.
Vail is sophisticated, but still a real skier’s town, with classic spots like the Red Lion and Pepi’s. The Place to stay at Vail village, the original that opened with Vail Resort in 1962, is The Lodge at Vail – an Austrian style hotel just steps to Gondola One and Vail's ski slopes, with ski valet, beautiful suites with private balconies, a lovely fireplace lobby, and very elegant RockResort spa with outdoor hot tub and a pool. Lodge at Vail is located at the top of Vail Village, so it's an easy stroll to Vail's best eateries and shops, like Pepi’s, Gorsuch and Golden Bear. Manor Vail is another swank location with gorgeous condo style lodging, beautiful views of the mountain, walking distance to Golden Peak ski lifts, and the on site Ski Butlers will have your skis waiting by the slopes in the morning, and bring them in at night.
Vail is a must visit for every skier, so much terrain surrounded by the impressive Gore Range in the Rockies. While Vail is no longer the biggest ski resort, it will always be among the best ski mountains anywhere. Staying in Vail, day trips are easy to Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin, and Keystone - all on the Vail Epic Pass. We recommend a day at Beaver Creek most of all, this ski resort feels like a private club - it's posh, with perfectly groomed corduroy, steeps on the Birds of Prey Downhill, great on mountain lunches at Ritz Carton Bachelor Gulch, and a lack of crowds.
To visit Vail, you can fly into Denver airport, and take the 2-3 hour drive up I-70, the skiers’ highway, which can be very snowy on the mountain passes. Or fly into Eagle Airport and your just 20 minutes to Vail.
Vail is a huge mountain. Ii is my number 2 choice (number 1 in Colorado). The Terrain is awesome, the back bowls are great and the the people we have met there have always been really friendly.
Again great staff who are willing and able to assist you. It's only the sheer size that makes it "less friendly" at times.