When one thinks about the legendary ski resorts around the world, a number immediately spring to mind. The Vail Ski Resort in Colorado is definitely one of those. Resorts don’t reach legendary status without good reason. Vail Colorado has it all – massive and varied terrain, a huge modern and efficient lift system, great vertical, tons of snow, classic après, vibrant nightlife and a booming “village” (err…town, um….city) with all the services one would expect from a mega resort. Vail is the quintessential world class ski resort that many others try to imitate.
Vail Ski Resort Review
Vail Ski Resort is BIG and pretty much has something for everyone. If you want to ski cruisers all day – you can do it. If you want some in-bounds backcountry style skiing and then cook a steak on a BBQ at 11,500 ft elevation – you can. If you expect powder – it will happen. If you want to ski trees and moguls or jump off cornices – guess what – it’s there. If you want to eat at five star restaurants and shop in fur boutiques, or just get a roll from Subway – you can do that too. If you want to economise and shop at Safeway to cook in your self-contained lodging, go right ahead. Make the journey to the Vail Ski Resort before your knees give in!
Pros & Cons of Vail Colorado
- Vail is an amazing all-rounder so it’s not surprising that it’s a multi-award winner and scores various “best skiing in USA” awards from us.
- The size of the terrain at Vail Ski Resort is substantial.
- The terrain is perfect for advanced riders, both on-piste and off-piste.
- Vail receives a good amount of snow. Your money is well invested and is even spent on working with Mother Nature via cloud seeding to get more snowfall; an impressive 354 inches (9m) on average per season.
- The Vail ski area has good lift infrastructure.
- The Vail villages are home to great après, nightlife, and an array of restaurants and shops.
- Vail is not as ideal for intermediates as you’d first think considering the huge number of blue runs on offer.
- Crowds – yikes! On the mountain they do spread out but it’s somewhat common to get caught in a choke hold and you’ll have to work hard on a powder morning to get fresh lines.
- Experts will find better Colorado ski resorts.
- Vail has very little ski-in ski-out lodging relative to other big name USA ski resorts.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
- It is possible to do Vail economically, but if you want ski rentals, lessons, child care, accommodation near the slopes or dining, you’ll pay a lot. Lift passes are also incredibly expensive if you purchase by the day, whilst an Epic Pass provides great value for money, especially considering the infrastructure on offer plus the access to many other ski resorts.
- Vail Village and Lionshead are big villages. They are purpose built and have a degree of charm even though the busy I-70 highway is not far away. If you’re looking for an enchanting historic Colorado ski town, this is not the place to stay.
Vail Ski and Snowboard Terrain
The Vail skiing area is very large by North American standards, with 5,289 acres (2,140 hectares) of terrain. Off-piste there are infinite lines. You’ll never run into your ex-wife, and you’ll still discover new trails after skiing there for a week. Vail has all the terrain you could ever desire, especially if you’re an advanced skier or snowboarder. The lift system is amazing with 31 lifts in total, including 2 gondolas and 17 high speed quad chairs.
Vail Colorado has three distinct ski areas. The front side is generally crowded and includes cruisers and the beginner areas. The Vail back bowls provide 3,000+ acres and are renowned amongst advanced skiers and are a good way to escape the masses (except on a powder day!). The north facing Blue Sky Basin is peaceful and has lots of advanced terrain and tree skiing.
Where is Vail Colorado?
Gateway airports are the Denver International Airport (120 miles / 194km away), and the Vail/Eagle County regional airport which is only 35 miles (56km) to the west of Vail. Ground transportation to Vail Resort is readily available from both airports.
Vail lodging options are seemingly endless across four main regions. Vail Village is the center of all the action; the Lionshead area has good access to the skiing area via the gondola; Golden Peak is a great area for families; and Cascade is a quiet village that still has good access to the lifts. Across the different villages, you can choose from Vail hotels, condos, and vacation rentals to suit most budgets.
At Vail, skiing and snowboarding is really only part of the vacation. The off-slope Vail activities are numerous and just a few examples include sleigh rides, day spas, galleries, and of course the amazing Vail shopping. Definitely pay off the credit card before you arrive because there are too many temptations!
The purpose-built Vail Village and Lionshead Village are bustling and trendy, yet still somewhat charming. Après and nightlife options abound, and there are a multitude of Vail restaurants.