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 among 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.
To be fair, the crowds it draws and the prices you can expect to pay are also like “nothing on Earth.” Not to fear, there are plenty of quieter runs to escape the crowds for the more experienced skiers and snowboarders. While the prices aren’t cheap, there are ways to stretch your dollar here! From top-notch ski and snowboard instructors to first-rate snowmaking and an aggressive lift transformation (they’ve replaced 10 of their 31 lifts in the last 11 years), Vail’s world-class services and facilities offer a good return on your skiing investment.
With enough options on the slopes to keep you exploring for at least a week on top of world-class dining, shopping, and a lively nightlife scene in the Tyrolian-style village, Vail is sure to please solo travelers, families, and groups… even the odd non-skier of the gang!!
Vail’s highest point is 11,570 ft at the top of Pete’s Express Lift (#39) in Blue Sky Basin, across the valley from the Back Bowls. Vail Village sits at 8,150 ft, giving it a vertical drop of 3,450 ft– the sixth largest in a state packed full of big mountains! The terrain includes gentle beginner trails, comfortable groomers, ungroomed tree runs, wide open bowls, and heart-palpitating cornices.
Vail sees a generous serving of 354 in of snow in an average year and to help get the seasons started there’s extensive snowmaking. Vail’s front side and Blue Sky Basin are both north-facing, so the snow there is relatively well-preserved. The popular Back Bowls face south, and tend to be the last terrain to open and first to close every year as the sun deteriorates the snow. Its longest run, Riva Ridge, is 4 mi – enough to make your legs happy to get back on the lift for a rest!
When to Go
Best time 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!
2017/18 Season: Single day tickets for adults range from $130 to $175 depending on the time of the season. For kids age 5 and up, they run between $90 and $117 and budding powderhounds age 4 and below ski and ride for free!
Save on tickets: Alright, they’re pricier than most other resorts but purchasing online in advance will save you money. If you’re well-planned, buying tickets 7 days or more in advance nets you the most savings, but even if you buy the tickets the night before, it’ll still be cheaper than the walk up price.