Vail has gone to great lengths to make itself a place that appeals to as many people as possible. That means there are plenty of things to do off the slopes in addition to the variety of terrain.
Tubing, Snowmobiling, etc
To begin with, check out Adventure Ridge. It could be a winter recreation destination all by itself! Located at the top of Eagle Bahn (#19), it offers activities such as tubing, ski-biking, kids’ snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and the Forest Flyer alpine coaster.
Snowshoe and Cross-Country Skiing
The golf course turns into 10 mi of Nordic skiing when the snow comes, and Vail’s Nordic School offers snowshoe and cross-country ski lessons and tours. Hour-long naturalist-guided snowshoe tours leave the Nature Discovery Center every afternoon at 2:00 pm. An evening tour is available Tuesday through Saturday at 5:30 pm.
Bistro Fourteen offers kids 12 and under a special three-course meal for $10, and offers their grown-ups sit-down dining and a full bar. There’s even a fire on the deck for roasting marshmallows! People who don’t ski or snowboard can hitch a ride up Eagle Bahn with a Scenic Gondola Ride ticket, or for free after 3:30 pm.
Down in the village, there’s ice skating at Arrabelle Square in Lionshead. It opens up around Thanksgiving and is open from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm until closing day. It has skate and skating aid rentals available. There are also plenty of fire pits around the side of the rink in case, like some of us, you’re not as graceful on ice as on the snow and just want to people-watch!
Snow Daze, in mid-December, is the kickoff party to start the season. It includes free concerts in the village and an expo with product samples from sponsors and other swag.
Skadi is the women’s ski fest held in January. It offers the ladies custom on-mountain experiences with female instructors, female-specific ski and snowboard demos, and off-mountain events.
Carnivail is Vail’s answer to New Orleans’ Mardis Gras, held in late February. There’s a Crawfish Boil at Eagle’s Nest, which Vail claims is the highest in the world! It has all the color and excitement of Bourbon Street, just in ski clothes.
The Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships take place at the end of February or beginning of March (depending on the year), and along with the world-class competition, spectators can enjoy nightly concerts and a broomball tournament.
Vail celebrates the end of the season with Spring Back to Vail in mid-April. In addition to a luau, parties, and concerts, enjoy the World Pond Skimming Championships!
Vail Valley Food Tours
If you're a bit of a foodie or just looking to explore more than what the mountain has to offer, then it's time to check out Vail's culinary delights. Get an insight into the local culture, history and chefs that make Vail so special with Vail Valley Food Tours. Eat your way through Vail on their guided walking food tour and taste some of the best flavors the town has to offer. Or if you're legs need a break then opt for their Booze, Brews and Bites tour where you'll be driven to different breweries and distilleries to sample the local artisan beers and craft distilled spirits that Vail is known for.
Vail is also a heaven for shoppers. Familiar brand name shops like Patagonia, the North Face, and Marmot line the heated walkways. They share the promenade with specialty stores like Surefoot, which sells ski boots; Gorsuch, which sells ski apparel, casual wear, and household goods; Double Diamond Ski Shop, which offers boot fitting, tuning and repair, rentals and sells apparel and accessories; and Outdoor Divas, which specializes in women’s active wear and ski gear. Perch is another women’s boutique, while Grey Salt is a men’s store (but we’re not sure what their name is implying) and Skipper and Scout is where to go for children’s items. Vail also has its fair share of high-end boutiques. Axel's boasts a beautiful collection of clothing all made in Europe or the United States. A favorite for unique jewelry and gifts is the J Cotter Gallery.
Massage, Spa and Fitness
In a resort with a reputation for high-end recreation, it should be no surprise that there is no shortage of massage, spa, and fitness options. Some of the highlights include the Spa at The Arrabelle in Vail Village, which has over 10,000 sqft of spa facilities and a modern fitness center. The RockResorts Spa at the Lodge at Vail, also in Vail Village, has 7,500 sqft of spa, 3,500 sqft of fitness center, and features a room for couples including – among other things – a fireside tub for two. In the Lionshead area, the Golden Leaf Spa in the Vail Marriot Mountain Resort offers a 24-hour fitness center, heated indoor and outdoor pools, and a full menu of treatments. In the Golden Peak area, the Manor Vail’s spa offers a full list of treatments in a smaller and more intimate setting.
There are heaps of Vail activities you can choose from but we highly recommend visitors to consider taking a ski lesson or two. The Ski and Snowboard School is owned and operated by the resort and anyone giving instruction on the mountain either has to be an employee of Vail or from a school that has some sort of agreement with the ski area. But you can book your lessons with Vail in confidence, since their school has an excellent reputation and has drawn top-notch instructors from around the world! Not only will you get to polish your skills no matter what your ability level, the instructors know the mountain back to front and will show you where to find the good stuff – plus, you’ll be able to use the ski school lift lines!
There are lessons at each of the base areas. Classes for kids 14 and younger start at $229 for a full day group lesson. Smaller group lessons with four or fewer students start at $395. All kids’ lessons offer discounts on the daily rate if you book for multiple days and there’s even a package for six lessons if you’ll be there that long! Adult intermediate and advanced group lessons cost $210, or $420 for three consecutive days of lessons. Morning (9:00 am) and afternoon (12:45 pm) lessons run $705 per lesson and full day lessons go for $965; family private lessons are available for the same prices. There are even specialty lessons including women’s programs, telemark, and lessons specifically tailored for older skiers who might still have some habits from the days of straight 210cm skis!
Vista Bahn Ski Rentals
Whether you're someone who wants to float through waist-deep powder in Vail's famed back bowls or fly down frontside groomers, demo ski packages from Vista Bahn Ski Rentals will get you outfitted with the latest gear. Founded and owned by a local family since 1977, VBSR is just steps away from Gondola One in Vail Village, making it easy to pick up ski and snowboard gear on the way to the slopes. Rentals can be reserved online in advance and stored overnight at the shop for additional convenience. This family-friendly shop is also the place to go for ski and snowboard services and repair.
Vail Sports is the resort-run rental outfit, and have shops in the Ritz Residences, Mountain Plaza, Vail 21, Arrabelle, and Golden Peak. You can book online through RentSkis.com and save up to 20%! They have rentals for every ability level, full-service tuning, free delivery or convenient pickup locations, and free overnight storage. There are also two snowboard-specific shops, Burton at the Arrabelle in Lionshead and Burton Vail Village. Rentals for children taking lessons can be arranged through the ski school.
If you’re renting a car or have some flexibility in your travel schedule, it’s often cheaper to rent in Denver or one of the towns along the I-70 corridor such as Frisco or Silverthorne. There are also independent rental shops in the resort area, such as the family-owned American Ski Exchange in Vail Village (which also offers a discount for booking online in advance), Gorsuch with locations in Vail Village and the Four Seasons, and Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead. Christy’s Sports also operates a shop in Vail, conveniently located near Gondola One. Many of the independent shops have cheaper rates than the resort.
Childcare is provided at the Golden Peak Nursery. It’s open 7 days a week throughout the ski season from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, but pick-up time is 4:00 pm. You’ll get charged $15 for every 15 minutes after 4:00pm your child is there, so think carefully about squeezing in that “one last run!” It’s a good idea to make reservations; they’ll accommodate walk-ins if they have room available, but there are no guarantees and walk-ins incur an extra $15 charge. Reservations can be made two or more days in advance online; to make reservations less than 48 hours in advance, call 970-754-3285. Full day care costs $150 and half-day (afternoon only) care costs $120. Kids 20 months and older who are there for a full day can participate in Micro Mice for an extra $43, which gets them a half hour of ski or snowboard time with skis or boards, boots, helmets, and goggles provided. You just bring your little ripper’s snow clothes!
Vail’s Ski Patrol has huts on all the front side peaks and at Belle’s Camp in Blue Sky Basin. Their headquarters is at the top of Mountaintop Express Lift (#4) and Northwoods Express Lift (#11). Vail has a reputation for enforcing its slow zones, so pay attention to the areas marked on the map and the signs on the trails. But ski patrol is really there to help, and if you need them they can be reached at 970-754-1111 or 911. It’s a good idea to have a trail map handy to help describe where you are. If you can’t get a signal, send someone ahead to find any resort employee to get help sent your way.
Vail Health Hospital (formerly Vail Valley Medical Center) is in Vail Village and includes an emergency department. For less urgent care, the Steadman Clinic and Vail Summit Orthopaedics are well-regarded orthopedic care providers.
There are several bank branches throughout the Vail area, including branches of national banks like Wells Fargo and US Bank. ATMs are conveniently located throughout the village. Credit cards are accepted just about everywhere – just about the only thing you can’t use them for is certain kinds of tipping, such as your bellhop or ski instructor (tipping, by the way, runs up to 20%). If you have an EPIC pass, you can link a credit card to it and use it at any resort-owned outlet so you don’t have to take a wallet, extra cards, or cash with you when you hit the slopes!
There is Wi-Fi in establishments throughout the Vail, and even on board Gondola One; so you’re able to post those last-minute updates to make everyone stuck at home jealous. There is reliable cell coverage in the village and for many parts of the mountain itself; although in certain areas terrain can block the signal.