Vail

Colorado, USA

If Aspen is Hollywood then Vail is Wall St - popular with the money-never-sleeps-but-it-does-wear-Bogner set. Attracting tens of thousands of visitors a year, it’s quite the place to be seen, and to ski! Luxury is standard at Vail, the pedestrian-friendly villag

Scout Loves

  • European-style charm with pedestrian-only roads weaving around buildings that look straight out of the Bavarian Alps.
  • No matter what your standard of skiing, there’s plenty of varied terrain to keep everyone happy.
  • Amazing powder and bowl skiing that’s an intermediate and advanced skier’s heaven.
  • Outstanding dining and shopping – bring your spare credit cards.
  • Cool après scene at the base of the slopes – make a beeline for the Red Lion.

Scout Tips

  • If you’re on a tight budget there are a few options but, let’s face it, Vail’s on the pricey side.
  • The ski area is huge. It does take a while to reach the best advanced skiing in the Blue Sky Basin area.
  • The Back Bowls face south and soak up the sun. They’re brilliant on bluebird powder days, but in poor snow conditions it can get slushy.
  • There aren’t many ski-in ski-out options in Vail, but most hotels are a short, easy walk to the slopes.
  • The i70 is a huge highway that runs through the Valley. You don’t notice it while you’re in the village but some hotels have rooms that look straight at it.
  • If you’re planning on skiing more than four days, invest in an Epic Pass. The seven-day pass pays for itself after four days and the season does the same in just six days.

Scout Review

Put simply, Vail is big. And although it boasts amazing terrain that will easily keep all levels of skiers happy, it truly is an intermediate skiers’ paradise. From the long groomers on the front side with gladed tree runs off the side to the legendary powder in the Back Bowls, there is so much fun to be had regardless of what type of skiing takes your fancy. On a powder day head straight to the Back Bowls but get there quick as most people will have the same idea.

Despite its closeness to Denver (2 hours from Denver International Airport) crowds easily disperse around the mountain, even on busy holiday weekends thanks primarily to a modern and efficient lift system. To avoid choke points, Vail provides chair lift status guides around the mountain – a yellow light indicates a long line. The facilities on the mountain are varied and plentiful; The 10th at the top of Gondola 1 is a sit-down fine-dining experience, and Dawg Haus at Blue Sky Basin is perfect for skiers to grab a quick bite between powder runs. The breathtaking 360-degree views of the surrounding ranges rank as some of the best in Colorado.

Vail Village is as much a part of the experience as the skiing.

Whether you need a new fur coat or souvenir T-shirt, Vail has it all. You could easily spend two days just shopping, before hitting the happening apres scene and ordering up a storm at the fine-dining restaurants - but be advised, they book out early, especially on holidays and weekends, so make sure you make reservations well ahead of your visit. Don’t miss Matsuhisa Japanese restaurant (from the famed chef Nobu) in Solaris or the ever popular Sweet Basil.

Vail Accommodation

Three base areas serve Vail – Golden Peak, Vail Village and Lionshead. Ski school operates out of Golden Peak and Lionshead, making these areas popular choices for families. Lionshead has its share of restaurants and shops, but Vail Village hogs most of the action. Skiers staying in Lionshead can walk to the village, but most hotels offer shuttles or there’s the public bus system, which is easy and frequent.

Fantastic hotels abound at Vail and most deliver five-star luxury. There are a few budget-mid range options, but you won’t get the same value for your money as you would in a smaller resort such as Crested Butte. Those in the main village area come at a premium while Lionshead and Golden Peak areas offer a few more budget options. If you want a great view, you usually have to pay more, as many of cheaper rooms face the i70. 

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Resort Activities

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Without a doubt the main attraction other than skiing is Vail Village itself. There is so much to do from shopping, drinking and dining, to ice-skating, bowls, movie theaters, day spas, galleries and a fascinating ski history museum. Plus, there’s sleigh rides, tubing, kids snowmobile and mountain dining (Game Creek Restaurant).

Getting There and Around

By Plane

Eagle County Regional Airport operates 40 minutes away and has direct flights from some major cities. Denver International Airport  is about a 2-hour drive away and has direct flights from most cities in the US. The major interstate that heads west out of Denver, the i70, can be notoriously slow in bad weather and with weekend traffic, so allow plenty of spare time if catching a flight.

Transfers from Airport

There are several different shuttle-service options from Denver airport with most operating on hourly schedules until late hours. Most also offer private transfer options. The most well known is Colorado Mountain Express, which costs $84pp one way from DIA (kids aged under 12 are half-price) for door-to-door service. It also has shuttles from Eagle.

Other transfer companies with similar or cheaper rates include:

Summit Express 
Powderhound Transportation 
Fresh Tracks Transportation 
Peak 1 Express has private shuttles to Vail 

Getting Around:

Vail is easy to get around on foot. If you are staying in any of the village areas you will not need a car and given most hotels charge high nightly parking rates it’s another good reason to catch a shuttle. Many of the hotels have shuttle services and the town is well serviced by a free bus service. If you do bring a car, the only alternative to hotel parking is at one of the town’s two parking stations (in Vail and Lionshead), which cost $25 a day.

When To Go

Vail usually opens at the end November until around late April. February is usually the most reliable month. If you can, try to avoid weekends due to day trippers from Denver crowding the mountain.

Other holiday periods that are busy are:

  • Christmas and New Year.
  • Martin Luther King long weekend, January 17-20 (2014).
  • President’s Day long weekend, February 14-17 (2014).

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 8120ft / 2470m Gondolas 2 Beginner 18%  
Summit Elevation 11,570ft / 3526m Express Quads 16 Intermediates 29%  
Vertical Drop 3450ft / 1051m Quad Chair 1 Advanced 25%  
Skiable Area 5289ac / 2140ha Triple Chairs 2 Expert 28%  
Annual Snowfall 366in / 9.3m Double Chairs 1      
Longest Run 4 miles / 6.4km Surface Lifts 9      
Operating Hours 8.30am –4.00pm          
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