Karl Sander
SnowPak Local Insider
Karl Sander


  • Biggest ski area in Colorado covering 5,289 ac
  • Pristinely groomed and long wide runs
  • Charming European-style pedestrian-friendly ski town
  • Plenty of off-slope activities to keep skiers and non-skiers entertained
  • Iconic Colorado ski destination


  • Crowds can be a real pain
  • Prepare to dig deep into your pockets, it's an expensive place to ski
  • Lacks an abundance of steep terrain
  • Quite corporate so lacks the local charm of other resorts
  • I-70 can be closed during snowstorms, with Vail Pass being one of the main closures, meaning you can't get in or out of town



It’s one of the biggest and the baddest. It’s the model destination ski resort, the resort so many others try to imitate. It’s the golden child from a family of the most iconic destinations in North American skiing. It’s the one for everyone. It is, as they say, like “nothing on Earth”: It’s Vail! For years, it was the largest ski resort in the US. Even though recent combinations in Montana (Big Sky/Moonlight Basin) and Utah (Park City/Canyons) have since eclipsed Vail’s acreage, it remains one of the legendary names amongst international snow sports destinations and still the biggest resort in Colorado. With something for just about everyone, from a wide variety of terrain to an array of off-slope activities and more dining options than you can shake a fork at, Vail has set the standard.

17/18 Historical Snowfall

Best month to go

February and March



Vail’s season begins the Friday before Thanksgiving and runs till mid-April. This season, Opening Day is slated for November 17th. During the early season (anything before mid-December), only a few parts of the mountain are open unless there’s been an unusual amount of early snow. The extensive snowmaking on the front side means you can count on most of it to be open. However, the Golden Peak area often hosts race training camps so some areas, especially the Golden Peak Race run, may be off-limits. While Colorado winters can be fickle and the weather can change in a heartbeat, consider visiting in February and March. January is still in the coldest part of the high country winter, while February and March are generally the best months for snow. By the time April comes, longer days and warmer temperatures start taking their toll on the snow, making it slushy and sticky in the afternoon and icy in the morning after it’s had a chance to refreeze. The resort will start closing areas off, usually starting with the Back Bowls… and you want to make sure you get a chance to ski those!


Denver International Airport



Vail (2.5-3 hours)

Base of Vail (Walk)

  • Made up of three base villages
  • Most popular place to stay
  • Plenty of dining, shopping and nightlife options

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Cascade Village (Walk)

  • West of Lionshead
  • Quieter area, away from main villages
  • Served by its own lift

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East Vail (3-5 mi)

  • 25 minutes away from resort by bus
  • Hotels and condos
  • Quiet area

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West Vail (3-5 mi)

  • 25 minutes away from resort by bus
  • Hotels and condos
  • Fast food chains and two supermarkets

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For beginners

There are two main beginner areas (at the base of Golden Peak and next to Eagle's Nest above Lionshead), and a bunch of beginner runs around but for a taste of beginner bowl skiing head to Game Creek Bowl!

More beginners tips

For intermediates

Intermediates will have endless options at Vail though the resort tends to slightly overstate difficulty, so don't be afaid to try out easier-looking blacks! For some gladed tree skiing check out Big Rock Park and Cloud 9 in the Blue Sky Basin!

More intermediates tips

For experts

Forever is our favorite run. It has just the right steepness for the perfect ride and you can enjoy some stunning scenery as you zush down the mountain! The Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin is also a must.

More experts tips

Find freshies

Fresh pow gets quickly tracked out in the easier-to-access bowls, so venture out east to Siberia (in particular the Rasputin's Revenge run) and Mongolia Bowls. You'll also find some good stuff between the trees.

Ditch the crowds

To escape the crowds at Mid Vail, head west to the long runs above Lionshead such as Bwana, Born Free and Simba.  

Non skiers

Non-skiers definitely won't get bored here. Vail's endless activities, world-class dining, shopping and vibrant nightlife is sure to keep non-skiers entertained.


From desginated adventure trails and play zones to a variety of accommodation, dining and activities for the whole gang, Vail is perfect for families. Just be prepared to dig a bit deeper into your pockets here!

Vail vs
VailArapahoe Basin
beginner18 %10 %
intermediate29 %30 %
advanced28 %37 %
expert25 %23 %
total runs195 109
ski area5,289ac 960ac
summit elevation11,570ft 13,050ft
total lifts31 8
child lift ticket$117 Free
adult lift ticket$169 $100
back country
value for money
average total snowfall192″ 179″

Vail Reviews


4.5 / 5

based on 164 reviews

How well the resort caters for beginner skiers / boarders


How well the resort caters for intermediate skiers / boarders?


How well the resort caters for advanced skiers / boarders


How accessible and convenient it is to get to this resort from a major destination


Quality of the off-piste terrain


Overall value for money of the resort

Value for money

Quality of lifts, lift speed and lift layout in the resort


Quantity and quality of the snow


How uncrowded is the resort


Après ski and dining options


Services and facilities e.g. child care, tubing, health care, equipment hire


How family friendly is this resort?

Family Friendliness

5 / 5

May 24, 2008
large mountain, varied terrain, huge # of skiers not a problem because of size, massive grooming great for the family

5 / 5

May 14, 2008
Life doesn't get much better than skiing the back bowls at Vail. When you stop to take a breath, be sure to breath, because the scenery is breath-taking!!!

5 / 5

Nov 12, 2007
We loved the performance (?)lessons. They were the ones that guaranteed that you would move up one level during the session.
Very Good!

4 / 5

Sep 20, 2007
We've been there many times and Lee in childcare is great to work with. My children love her!

5 / 5

Aug 26, 2007
Skiing the back bowls at Vail is the pinnacle for a skier. The long trails of powder as you descend for an eternity -- there's nothing like it anywhere.

5 / 5

Jun 06, 2007
- Vali has it all it seems, great skiing, shopping, lodging, etc. - However, I'd rate Deer Valley as #2 on my list. Beautiful mountain, not too crowded, wonderful ski experience.

5 / 5

Dec 25, 2006
everything is top self. You go the bowls and you stay in the bowls

5 / 5

Dec 19, 2006
the back bowls are wild just the overall mountain views we don't have many in Delaware

2 / 5

Oct 18, 2006
Great mountain but gets crowded

5 / 5

Sep 29, 2006
Always heard great things about Vail. It completely met my expectations. Very large area. Lots of diversity in terrain. Good snow.
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