Vail

Closed
Karl Sander
SnowPak Local Insider
Karl Sander
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Crowds can be a real pain
  • Vail is 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
Overall
4.8

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

Avoid

April

Vail’s season begins the Friday before Thanksgiving and runs till mid-April. 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 of Vail 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. Colorado winters can be fickle and the weather can change in a heartbeat, so consider skiing Vail 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 at Vail, making it slushy and sticky in the afternoon and icy in the morning after it’s had a chance to refreeze. Vail will start closing areas off, usually starting with the Back Bowls… and you want to make sure you get a chance to ski those!

FLY TO

Denver International Airport

DRIVE / SHUTTLE TO

Vail (2.5-3 hours)

Base of Vail (Walk)

  • Made up of three base villages (Vail Village, Lionshead, Golden Peak)
  • 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 Vail resort by bus
  • Hotels and condos
  • Quiet area

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West Vail (3-5 mi)

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

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For beginners

Vail is home to wide range of terrain to suit all abilities and that includes beginners. There are two main beginner ski areas at Vail; the base of Golden Peak and next to Eagle's Nest above Lionshead. For more experienced beginners there are also a whole bunch of green runs to explore around the mountain and beginners can even get a taste of their first bowl skiing experience at Vail on the Game Creek Bowl!

More beginners tips

For intermediates

Intermediates will have endless options at Colorado's largest ski resort though Vail tends to slightly overstate difficulty, so don't be afraid to try skiing the easier-looking blacks! Intermediate and above skiers and riders can take advantage of the free tours provided by Vail's Guest Services. For some gladed tree skiing check out Big Rock Park and Cloud 9 in the Blue Sky Basin! The Miniturn Mile is a backcountry skiing experience strong intermediates don't want to miss out on when at Vail. It's unmarked and unpatrolled so it's best to find a local guide.

More intermediates tips

For experts

Vail might not have as much steep terrain as other Colorado ski resorts but there's still plenty to keep advanced skiers entertained. 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! Vail's famous Back Bowls as well as Blue Sky Basin are also musts for any advanced/expert skier visiting Vail.

More experts tips

Find freshies

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

Ditch the crowds

Vail is a iconic Colorado ski destination drawing skiers from far and wide. To escape the crowds at Mid Vail, head west and ski the long runs above Lionshead such as Bwana, Born Free and Simba.  

Non skiers

Vail might have some of Colorado's finest skiing but non-skiers definitely won't get bored here either. Vail's endless activities, world-class dining, shopping and vibrant nightlife is sure to keep non-skiers entertained.

Families

From designated 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 is known for being quite expensive. If you have little ones, consider staying at Golden Peak on the east end of Vail. It's generally quieter than Vail Village and is home to the nursery, one of the ski schools and has a large learning area making it ideal for those skiing for the first time.

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
uncrowded
snow
back country
value for money
average total snowfall192″ 179″

Vail Reviews

Fabulous 4.5 / 5
based on 164 reviews

How well the resort caters for beginner skiers / boarders

Beginners

How well the resort caters for intermediate skiers / boarders?

Intermediates

How well the resort caters for advanced skiers / boarders

Advanced

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

Accessibility

Quality of the off-piste terrain

Side/Backcountry

Overall value for money of the resort

Value for money

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

Lifts

Quantity and quality of the snow

Snow

How uncrowded is the resort

Uncrowded

Après ski and dining options

Town

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

Facilities

How family friendly is this resort?

Family Friendliness
Superb!5 / 5Jun 13, 2006
MMarilyn
easy to ski runs allover the area & back bowls that an intermediate can ski
Superb!5 / 5Apr 14, 2006
GGeoff
Colorado weather, high quality restaurants, consistently good snow and enough mountain to keep you going in all sorts of weather...
Superb!5 / 5Aug 22, 2005
TTom
I just like vail, everytime I've been there it was great skiing. I also like winter park for it's terrian and views
Very Good!4 / 5May 20, 2004
DDeb
That classic ski area mentality again, on a much bigger scale, but they still do it right. And, you can't meat Vail's back bowls for sking without a helicopter.

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