Vail

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Karl Sander
SnowPak Local Insider
Karl Sander
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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″ 180″
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Vail Reviews

Fabulous 4.5 / 5
based on 168 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
Poor!1 / 5Oct 20, 2017
EWEvan W.
Vail is for the rich snobs and the tourists who don't know any better. This place sucks. So packed you won't know what to do. The back bowls are pretty bomber, but the snow here is weak sauce!
Superb!5 / 5Oct 18, 2017
WBWyatt B.
Large Bowls and Beautiful Scenery to go along with deep powder days. The accommodations and restaurants are amazing with five star restaurants and spas. You are sure to have a great time in Vail
Superb!5 / 5Oct 18, 2017
MMMark M.
Perhaps I'm biased being from Colorado, but it doesn't get much better (if at all) than Vail. The town, the slopes, the nightlife - all are world class. Easily my favorite! Been here many times with friends and family. There is something for all ages. You simply cannot go wrong with a trip to Vail!
Superb!5 / 5Oct 17, 2017
MVVMatthew Van V.
Vail is a complete experience that includes every aspect a mountain should have. The beauty, the village and atmosphere are all top notch. The staff and locals are all very accepting and helpful as well .
Superb!5 / 5Oct 16, 2017
MFMichael F.
Vail is the only resort that my family has been to more than once. It is the mecca of skiing in Colorado and for good reason. When the back bowls are open I don't think there's anywhere better in the area, especially with the rustic town and all the history there.
Superb!5 / 5Oct 09, 2017
JSJensen S.
Literally like nothing on earth. With all the terrain you could ask for, Vail is a present to open day after day. I never tire of finding new spots to call my favorite to add to a list that's too long to count. The staff is amazing and make it feel like home.
Superb!5 / 5Oct 09, 2017
RLRich L.
Biggest bowls and the sweetest drops. I have ski'd all over the west, CO, CA, WA, UT, and Canada. of course it depends on the snow, but, all things being equal, this is by far the the best mountain. Hail Vail!!!!!!
Superb!5 / 5Oct 08, 2017
JCHJuan Carlos H.
I always enjoy skiing in Vail, there are many hidden gems at this resort. I am always happy to go to resort that I call home as I grew up here and learned how to ski and snowboard here. I also like what they do with SOS Outreach for local youth as I was involved in this program growing up.
Superb!5 / 5Oct 08, 2017
TLThomas L.
Vail is Huge! Each Back Bowl is like it's own ski resort. Varied terrain for all abilities. One can always find powder stashes. Beautiful Snow! On a snowy day you can get free refills. A Favorite of mine!
Superb!5 / 5Oct 08, 2017
TLThomas L.
Vail is Huge! Each Back Bowl is like it's own ski resort. Varied terrain for all abilities. One can always find powder stashes. Beautiful Snow! On a snowy day you can get free refills. A Favorite of mine!

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