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

4.9 / 5

Nov 27, 2017
DDDerek D.
advanced skier
I've skied many places in North America including Whistler Blackomb, Park City, Deer Valley, Heavenly, etc., but the place I always love to go back to is Vail because of the overall experience including the snow, apres ski, lodging, and ski terrain that is unmatched. Every trip to Vail is different just like every trip to Paris is unique. In... More

4.5 / 5

Nov 26, 2017
JAJoshua A.
expert snowboarder
I'm originally from the blue ridge mountains but I moved out to Colorado about 10 years ago. I'd really never been to any large ski mountains until I went to Vail. I was impressed with the number of lifts, runs, acreage and back bowls. It was tough to get used to powder at first but when I finally did it became an obsession. There's nothing like... More

4.3 / 5

Nov 25, 2017
JHJohn H.
advanced snowboarder
I have been going to bail since I was 12. I love the expansive amount of run and all of the back bowls. It is nearly impossible to see all of the mountain even when boarding for 3 days. I love that aspect of adventure and novelty because it all ways seems like new terrain. The moutain is crowded and the lodging is pricy but it's all worth it.... More

4.5 / 5

Nov 24, 2017
CJCollin J.
advanced snowboarder
Vail is a world class resort. Beautiful part of the country with huge acreage, I can never get bored exploring the terrain around vail. Powder days at vail are the best, but you have to get it fast before it is tracked out and turns into huge moguls.... More
Very Good!

4 / 5

Nov 24, 2017
DJDaniel J.
expert snowboarder
Vail is Vail. Well known for a reason. Large and challenging as well as beginner friendly. The back bowls on a powder day are where you should be and in the trees is where you will avoid the crowd. Be prepared to have a lot less in your bank account. ... More

4.4 / 5

Nov 24, 2017
BMBradford M.
advanced skier
Vail in a powder day is unbelievable in 2 ways. It's insane that 20k people can fit on the mountain and blue sky is heaven on earth. Also their bathrooms are nice. ... More

4.5 / 5

Nov 24, 2017
expert snowboarder
One of my favorite places on earth. Amazing terrain for any skill level and with the right knowledge some amazing off piste terrain. Lift tickets and lodging are a bit costly which is my only complaint. The town is vibrant and always alive. Many great options for food and drinks and some great little nightlife spots. ... More

4.9 / 5

Nov 24, 2017
BFBen F.
expert skier
Simply put, there is no comparison on the planet when it comes to skiing and riding Vail. Whether you like skiing knee-deep powder in Vail's legendary back bowls, navigating the tree-lined chutes in the steep, backcountry trails of Blue Sky Basin, or zipper-lining the bone-jarring moguls on Prima, Pronto, and Logchute, Vail has it all. Let's not... More
Very Good!

4 / 5

Nov 23, 2017
ZBZane B.
advanced skier
Blue Sky Basin was life changing. I assumed Vail was over hyped and over groomed but BSB changed my perception. Lines weren’t as bad as I expected and the facilities were clean. The views were amazing. ... More

5 / 5

Nov 22, 2017
ABAustin B.
advanced skier
I skied Vail last year with a couple buddies last year. A good friend had the season local epic pass and was able to bring me on to his buddy discount. I had an absolutely phenomenal time. The back bowls were incredible and there was something for all levels. I have skied Beaver Creek before with family growing up, but I’d be hard pressed to not... More
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