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 village weaves around the buildings and has a wonderful European-style feel to it. The mountain terrain (one of the largest in the world) boasts perfectly groomed corduroy, powder stashes galore, and pristine tree skiing. Team this up with endless accommodation options, easy access from Denver, and one of the best après scenes in North America, it's no surprise Vail is a favourite among local and international ski enthusiasts.

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 or Bart & Yeti's

Scout Tips

  • It can get very crowded on weekends
  • Vail can be a little pricey with only a few budget accommodation options.
  • The ski area is huge. It does take a while to reach the best advanced skiing in the Blue Sky Basin area (but worth it!)
  • There aren’t many true 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 pass 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. Saying that, the area is massive, meaning you're bound to score fresh turns well into the morning.

Despite its closeness to Denver (2 hours from Denver International Airport) crowds usually easily disperse around the mountain, even on busy holiday weekends thanks primarily to a modern and efficient lift system. That said, some days do get very crowded to to avoid choke points, Vail provides chair lift status guides around the mountain to allow you to steer clear of any long lines and maximise your time on snow. The facilities on the mountain are varied and plentiful; The 10th at the top of Gondola 1 is a memorable fine-dining experience (think, modern alpine cuisine), and Dawg Haus at Blue Sky Basin is perfect for skiers to grab a quick bite between powder runs (the chilli dog is a popular choice). Waffle Way (at the base of the Avanti Express Lift) is a hit with the kids, especially their apple pie waffle snack. 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 après scene (Red Lion and Bart & Yeti's are our go-to!) 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 Skiing

With over 5289 acres of terrain to explore, Vail Ski Resort is one of the largest resorts in the world. This means there is incredible terrain to be found for all ability levels. Split into three main areas - the Front Side, Back Bowls, and Blue Sky Basin - each offers fantastic skiing and manicured runs. The Front Side hosts the majority of groomed runs and some really tight tree runs. It also has the best vertical in all of Vail. The Back Bowls seem to draw in the snowfall, so is definitely the place to be on a powder day. This area boasts world-renowned inbounds bowl skiing, with perfect alpine turns and plenty of snow coverage for even the most avid powderhound. After a big snowfall, you'll need to be on first lift to score some incredible turns as it's the most popular spot to ski. Blue Sky Basin caters mainly towards advanced skiers, with plenty of non-groomed runs with natural hits and features, monstrous moguls, and gladed tree skiing. 

Intermediate skiers and snowboarders will love Vail for its fun groomed runs, and off-piste areas that provide a good introduction to more advanced skiing (with plenty of options to bail out if the going gets tough). For beginners, heading up the Eagle Bahn Gondola or Gondola One opens up accesss to mellow green cat tracks that snake all the way back down to the village base, while the Gopher Hill Lift is a perfect spot to master the art of pizza and french fries. The Sourdough Express also has some nice and short green runs that can be easily lapped, and access is best via the Highline Express Lift.

Snowfall at Vail measures approximately 9 metres a season, and the powder snow is light and dry, typical for the Colorado Rockies region. The resort also boasts over 300 bluebird days a year, so perfect opportunity for those who seek the ultimate powder day.

Vail's massive terrain requires a very efficient and modern lift system to cater to the influx of visitors each season. Generally, crowds are relatively small, besides on weekends and public holidays, when there can be a road block at the main gondola and express quad lifts, particularly on a powder day. If you steer clear of the groomed runs that flow back into the main lifts, and head off-piste to find some secret stashes, it's possible to avoid the ominous lift-line shuffle. Vail also has fantastic lift status signs throughout the resort, so you'll know which chairlifts to avoid and which ones to lap into the afternoon.

Vail Resort is part of the EPIC pass, allowing you to explore more of the resorts in both North America and Canada.

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Vail For Families

The quality and range of services and facilities at Vail are what gives the resort its world-class status. High-quality rentals, internationally renouned ski school, and great programs for kids means Vail is incredibly family friendly. 

Like many of the resorts in Colorado, Vail offers fantastic childcare facilities, with a good mix of child minding and skiing from the age of 1.5 years. Private babysitting services are also available. The Vail Snowsports School is known for hosting some of the best instructors from around the world, and with five locations throughout the resort, there are a wide range of programs for adults and kids. Most of the ski rental shops offer equipment storage facilities right near the slopes, and ski concierge services at many of the hotels make it even easier for families to hit the slopes. 

As you might expect at a world-class resort, Vail provides superb food to satisfy those mid-ski cravings. The Two Elk Lodge is the go-to spot for families, with a large range of food options. Both Vail Village and the Lionshead Village boast an unlimited choice of restaurants, bars and cafes, so families are spoilt for choice each evening.

Fortunately, the accommodation choices at Vail are endless, with a great range of hotels, condos, vacation rentals, and bed and breakfasts to suit all families and budgets. Vail is overall a bit pricier than other resorts in Colorado, however, you're paying for the quality. Vail Village and Lionshead, the two main base areas, are the go-to areas to stay in Vail, and are both super close to the slopes and resort amenities. Neither have much ski-in/ski-out lodging, but the slopes are barely minutes walk away. Golden Peak is another great area popular for families as it is home to a mellow beginners' ski area, perfect for the kids, and has a ski school and childcare nearby. All four villages at Vail resort have lift access to the mountain, so no matter where you make home base, you're within easy access to the slopes. They are also well-connected by a free resort shuttle bus.

Vail Accommodation

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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. There is a fourth base, Cascade Village, however, this is a small and quiet area with limited facilities.

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. 

Find a great map of the complete Vail resort area and location of Golden Peak, Lionshead, and the main Vail Village here.

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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). Phew, so many things to do on a down-day!

Getting There and Around

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.

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. Scout can book a transfer as part of a Vail ski package.

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).

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
  • President’s Day long weekend

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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Photo: Vail Resorts.

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Due to the current uncertainty of future travel surrounding COVID 19, our regular T&Cs are overridden by individual supplier cancellation policies. We will clearly communicate all cancellation policies prior to confirming any booking, so you can be confident with your plans and book risk free.

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