Vail provides an excellent setting for a beginner or first-time skier. Novices can start out on of Vail’s many magic carpets, either at Golden Peak or at Eagle’s Nest’s Practice Parkway, and slowly and comfortably progress to the chairlift, and before you know it they’ll be cruising along on one of Vail’s many meandering, green circle trails. Practice Parkway is located at about 10,000 feet, so beginners, alike, can soak in Vail’s famed scenery.
With nearly 18-percent of the mountain’s 5,289 acres to explore, beginner skiers at Vail have many options. The Vail beginner terrain is found on the front side of the mountain. There are numerous traverse trails, like Lion’s Way, Gitalong Road and Trans Montaine, which allow beginner skiers to ski significant chunks of the mountain. For an incredible view of the Gore Range, beginners should take a run on Eagle’s Nest Ridge accessed via Avanti or Wildwood Express Lift. Beginner skiers can also peer into the Back Bowls off of the Sourdough Lift.
Like nearly every Vail experience, its ski school has a steeped history of excellence, receiving many accolades annually. Vail’s combination of high-alpine beginner terrain and a renowned ski school makes it one incredible place to learn to ski. Golden Peak, which is the main children’s ski school, provides several magic carpets, each designed for different ages and skill-sets, and a small chairlift that’s great for progressing. Once beginners can ride the chairlift, the possibilities at Vail are endless. Over at Eagle’s Nest, on looker’s right side of the mountain, there’s another learn to ski areas off the Coyote Crossing lift. There are also designated Vail ski school locations in Vail Village and Lionshead.
To learn more about Vail beginner skiing call, or chat with, one of Ski.com’s knowledgeable Mountain Vacation Specialists.
Few resorts can boast over half their terrain as expert. Think about it. Combine Vail’s 53-percent expert terrain with its monstrous 5,289 skiable acres and you’ve got an expert skiers promised land. The Vail expert skiing ranges from iconic leg burners, like Riva or Prima, to cornice entrances on Blue Sky Basin’s Lover’s Leap, and steep groomers on former women’s World Cup run International to ungroomed chunder in Mongolia and Siberia Bowl. It’s all there and it’s all ripe for the taking thanks to Vail’s mind- blowing expanse.
We’ve said it time and again, Vail is huge. So to get around quickly and get as much skiing in as possible, you’ll need to ski Vail like a local−especially on a powder day. If the snow is flying, you’ll find most expert local skiers starting they’re day off at Golden Peak’s Riva Bahn. From the top of the lift they’ll head to Northwoods Express lift, and take a couple runs on North and South Rim, which features moguls, trees and some flowy drops under the lift. From the top of Northwoods Express they’ll drop into the main Back Bowls catwalk, Sleepytime, and follow that into Tea Cup Bowl, staying high on skier’s right traverse into Morning Thunder. Drop into Marmot Valley and head up on the Skyline Express to get the goods in Blue Sky Basin. From the top of Blue Sky you can head skier’s right or left. Far right takes you into Scree Field, a rock littered powder field, which can be great if snow-pack permits. Or follow the lift towers and drop in into Lover’s Leap cornice for some GNAR points. You’ll be dropped off at Pete’s Lift, named for Pete Siebert, a 10th Mountain Division soldier who discovered Vail, and from there you can access well-spaced glades. Or you can bypass the lift and head back down for another lap on Skyline Express.
If you opt skier’s left, which is considered to be “Earl’s,” a co-founder of Vail, head into Champagne Glade, which is a leg-burning, gladed bump run that usually fills in quite nicely. This run drops you back off at Earl’s Lift.
To learn more about Vail expert skiing call, or chat with, one of Ski.com’s knowledgeable Mountain Vacation Specialists.
Vail is an intermediate skier’s slice of heaven. Vail isn’t considered a particularly steep mountain, Jackson Hole or Crested Butte standards, so it’s an ideal ski resort for intermediate terrain. Skiers can comfortably improve their technique and explore the Vail intermediate skiing. Trails are groomed daily, sometimes mid-day, for the pristine cruisers intermediate skiers dream about. Nearly 30-percent of Vail’s 5,289 acres are designated as intermediate terrain. The frontside of the mountain contains many long, sustained top to bottom intermediate groomers perfect for warming up for the expansive splendor of Back Bowls.
On looker’s right side of the mountain, from Lionshead Village, you’ll find iconic intermediate runs like Born Free, Bwana and Simba that run from the top of Eagle Bahn Gondola to the base. Showboat in Game Creek Bowl, the run beneath the chair lift, is also a great run for working on arching parallel turns. Off the Mountaintop and Wildwood Express lifts at Mid-Vail, you’ll find several intermediate runs, like Whistle Pig, Cappucino and Christmas that you can quickly lap. And off the Northwoods Express lift, don’t miss the Northwoods run, which is another wide-open groomer. And of course, the Back Bowls are absolute must, if only just for one run and take-in Vail’s grandeur. China Bowl offers the best Vail intermediate terrain, with runs down the gut of the bowl like Chopstick and Poppyfields.
A word to the wise for first-time Vail vacationers, this mountain is huge, so be sure to take advantage of Vail’s complimentary “familiarization” tours meet at the Game Creek Desk, located at the base of the Eagle Bahn Gondola and from the top of Gondola One at the Mid Vail Ski School desk each morning promptly at 10:30 a.m., and the tours last about two hours.
To learn more about Vail intermediate skiing call, or chat with, one of Ski.com’s knowledgeable Mountain Vacation Specialists.
When the lifts close, or if you’re legs need a break from Vail’s epic terrain, don’t despair there’s few places that compete with Vail’s stacked list of activities. Vail offers visitors every winter experience from tubing, ski biking or bungee trampoline-ing at Eagle’s Nest Adventure Ridge, taking a star-lit gondola ride to one of Vail’s famed on-mountain restaurants, horse-drawn sleigh rides, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, bowling, movies, world-class nightlife, a renowned dining scene or perusing Vail’s many art boutiques and shops. History buffs and long-time skiing enthusiasts will love a visit to Vail’s Colorado Ski Museum Ski Hall of Fame. Vail’s newest family and après-ski attraction is Bol, a boutique bowling alley. Bol serves up gourmet appetizers, features an extensive wine list and has a wall of flat-screen TVs, sure to please everyone in your group or family. There’s a never-ending laundry list of off-hill must-do activities on a Vail ski vacation.
An afternoon at Adventure Ridge, accessed via the Lionshead Village Gondola, is in high order, especially for families. Everyone will love sliding around the area’s tubing park, trying out snow bikes and reaching new heights on the bungee trampoline. Afterwards enjoy a lunch or dinner at Eagle Nest’s Bistro Fourteen. Stop in at Vail Nordic Center to get your skate on and experience Vail at a different speed.
There are few ski towns that can compete with the Vail dining scene. Vail’s dining options are as versed as it’s terrain, from Iron Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s famed Japanese fine dining restaurant to affordable option like a slice pizza and a beer at Vendetta’s, the Vail dining scene offers something for every palate and budget. And there are unique dining experiences like boutique bowling or traditional alpine cuisine. Whether you’re spending $100 or $5 on meal, you can expect impeccable service and quality. This is Vail after all.
Vail restaurants are varied and versed, perfect for the many different types of vacationers that frequent the Vail Valley. While it’s hard to narrow down a don’t-miss list−since there are so many incredible Vail restaurants− we rounded up a couple of favorites.
The Vail Chophouse is an easy pick thanks to its convenient location at the base of the Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead Village. And it’s a lively place throughout the day: lunch, après or dinner. Known for their surf and turf, prime cuts and tasty appetizers, like buffalo meatballs and smoked honey salmon. Be sure to try their famed bloody mary with their house made pepper vodka. Make some memories over a pot of fondue at the Swiss Chalet in Vail Village. The Swiss Chalet is a great dining experience for families and larger groups. Beer and wine lovers, alike will be pleased with this high alpine European restaurant. The Swiss Chalet offers arm-sized mugs of European draft beers and a Wine Spectator-acclaimed wine list. And for dessert don’t miss the chocolate fondue or their classic apple strudel.
For a creek side meal, and something a little off the beaten path, head to Up the Creek. This longtime Vail restaurant−since 1988− has tons of windows for perfect views of the babbling Eagle River, making it an ideal lunch spot. The roasted turkey and brie sandwich with orange cranberry relish is a long-time favorite. Check out their incredible cocktail list; be sure to try the Colorado Cucumber, which features Colorado-made Leopold Gin with fresh cucumber. Mountain Standard, a new off-shoot restaurant of Sweet Basil, also offers creek side dining, and pretty views of all the sparkling Christmas lights. The smells coming from Mountain Standard are tantalizing, as they cook nearly all dishes on an open, wood fire. The menu ranges from Southern comfort food to barbecue to Rocky Mountain fare.
The 10th, located at the top of Mid Vail, is the resort’s newest development project and on-mountain restaurant. The lodge-style dining area features floor to ceiling windows, with incredible views of the stunning Gore Range. So be sure to make a lunch reservation, or early dinner reservation if you’re opt for a spring Vail ski vacation so you can enjoy day-time or sunset views of Vail’s most epic scenery. The menu focuses on modern alpine items, like chicken and pheasant pot pie and elk Bolognese.
Vail is something to everyone, and that doesn’t just apply to the skiing. A Vail budget ski vacation is completely in the realm of possible, thanks to its varying and numerous lodging and dining options. Vail vacationers on a budget can find everything from affordable hotels to spacious, reasonably priced condos. Vail’s dining scene does trend towards expensive eats, but there are plenty of affordable (and delicious) options, you just need to know where to look.
With Lion Square Lodge at Vail’s convenient locale, you’ll hardly know you’re staying there on the cheap. The property is just steps away from the Vail Eagle Bahn Gondola and the Born Free Express Quad chairlift. It is also adjacent to shopping, restaurants and nightlife. Lion Square Lodge gives you the option of spacious lodge rooms or 83 deluxe one, two and three bedroom condos to suit the number of people in your party.
Vail Cascade, located on the Western periphery of the resort, is another affordable Vail lodging option sure to impress. This property is located just steps from the Cascade Village chairlift, making it both convenient and quick to get on the mountain and ideally secluded. Vail Cascade offers a wide array of amenities including a spa and fitness club, pool and hot tub. Antlers Lodge is also a great option for Vail ski vacationers on a shoestring. This affordable lodge offers full-size kitchens, private balconies, fireplaces and main service and is conveniently located less than 250 yards from the chairlifts.
If locals can afford to eat and live in Vail year after year, then you can surely do it for a couple days. Head to the local hot spots for inexpensive and good eats. For heart pies and cheap brews, head to Vendetta’s or Pazzo’s Pizza, both in Vail Village, just don’t tell them you went to the other spot. There’s an unofficial, but lighthearted rivalry. For Mexican, you can’t beat La Cantina’s price or quality. Don’t be deterred by its location in the Vail Village parking structure. You can have a good Mexican meal for $12 at Los Amigos. Share one of their house margarita pitchers: the price is right if you’re with a group.
For a more formal, affordable and unforgettable evening head up on the new Gondola One, to Vail’s newest on-mountain restaurant, the 10th. While the resto-lodge is open during the day for lunch and après for skiers and snowboarders, guests can take the gondola up in the evening for dinner at the restaurant. There’s a roaring fire near the bar where you can enjoy a local Colorado microbrew and dinner menu items don’t exceed $30.
Whether you’re based out of Lionshead or Vail Village, you’re bound to experience an electric nightlife and après-ski scene. Party-goers on a Vail ski vacation have options ranging from sunny patio cocktails, sports bars, live music, dance clubs, karoke and authentic ski bars.
If you’re staying in Lionshead or the West Vail area, then Garfinkle’s is where you want to be when the bull-wheel stops running. If it’s a sunny day—which it usually is in Colorado—you’re going to want to sit out on Garfinkle’s epic patio, which gives you a front and center view of the slopes. Garfinkle’s serves up a nice array of microbrews, domestic and international beer, great pub-style food and excellent cocktails. The Chophouse is another Lionshead hot spot, serving up their renowned bloody mary’s, turf and surf. If you’re hanging out in Vail Village you have even more après-ski options. There are a lot of choices, and pretty much every place is hopping. Here’s Ski.com’s Vail après shortlist:
If you’re really looking to tie-one-on after Vail’s lively apres scene, you certainly won’t be disappointed with the late-night Vail bar scene. Vail is a hopping party every weekend night, and over the holidays, and even mid-week you’ll find a decent crowd. Vail Village is definitely the place to be, Lionshead shuts down after apres. The Village offers nighthawks entertainment ranging from quiet cocktails and good conversation to wild dance parties and live music. Here’s Ski.com’s Vail bar picks:
As the largest, and most visited ski destination in North America, Vail spares nothing when it comes to the guest’s experience. Fine dining, on and off the mountain, luxury spas and high end shopping aren't just niche activities in Vail, they’re the norm.
Arrabelle at Vail Square, A RockResort, is synonymous with a luxury Vail ski vacation. The property features luxurious hotel rooms, suites and two- to five-bedroom residential suites. The Arrabelle is bedecked in alpine furnishings and elegant decor. All guests have access to the pool, spa, and fitness center. Amenities include a gas fireplace, the latest entertainment technology, including flat-screen TVs, a work desk and humidifier. Bathrooms feature marble finishes, jetted soaking tub and steam showers in the master bath, plush bathrobes, slippers, a hair dryer and luxury bathroom amenities. Arrabelle provides a ski valet, which is conveniently located from the gondola and Born Free Express, for your storing and schlepping ease. The Arrabelle’s spa was recently voted by Conde Nast as one of the world’s top 20 spas, so you can bet a treatment, or two, are in high order on a Vail luxury ski vacation.
Nestled at the base of Vail Mountain, the Lodge at Vail is conveniently located just steps from the ski lifts and in the heart of Vail Village, this legendary resort combines Old World charm with world-class service and unmatched beauty. Understated elegance and intimate attention to detail only begin to describe this RockResort property. Renowned for relaxed feel and impeccable personal service, enjoy award-winning restaurants and world-class accommodations where the staff greets you by name and anticipates your every need. Most rooms have balconies and offer a courtyard, poolside, mountain or Vail Village view.
At the gateway to Vail Village, Four Seasons Resort Vail presents a fresh interpretation of a grand alpine hotel. With 121 guestrooms, 35 residence units, the Resort features amazing mountain views, a signature restaurant, Flame, and full-service spa. The property features impeccable amenities, such as a heated pool, flanked by a fireplace. The Four Seasons provide guests with access to outstanding ski valet and concierge services, making a ski vacation a breeze. With the largest guestrooms in all of Vail Valley—each with a soaking tub and a stone fireplace—it’ll be hard to leave the room. The Resort is just steps away to Village nightlife, shopping, al fresco dining and the renowned Village après lifestyle Vail is known for.
While first and foremost a world-class ski destination, Vail is also an acclaimed culinary destination. The Vail fine dining scene will make foodies feel like a pig in mud. Food Network enthusiasts will be delighted to discover that not one, but two Iron Chef heavyweights residing in Vail. Iron Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s restaurant, Matsuhisa Vail, is a must visit for sushi and seafood lovers. The quality of ingredients, construction and preparation of the sushi, sashimi, rolls and Nobu’s famed Japanese-Peruvian fusion specialty plates are outstanding and sure to please the most discriminating palates. Iron Chef America contestant Kelly Liken’s namesake restaurant is sure to impress connoisseurs keen on the food to table movement. Kelly’s menu incorporates local, seasonal Rocky Mountain produce, meats and fish.
A Vail fine dining tour isn't complete without an evening at Sweet Basil. Vail’s original upscale restaurants recently celebrated its 35th year in business. If this restaurants storied reputation doesn't entice you, its modern American bistro menu and exceptional wine list surely will. For high-end contemporary French food La Tour in Vail Village is an absolute must. There are several creative, and delicious, Asian-fusion appetizers to choose from, classic cheese plates, and the crème brulee flambé is to die for. Larkspur Restaurant, despite its location in the lodge at Golden Peak base area, offers swanky, cosmo ambiance paired with contemporary American fare and an incredible wine list.
Annually ranked as one of the top resorts for families, there’s nothing on earth like Vail for a family ski vacation. Every family’s budget, skiing level, dining tastes and off-mountain interests, will find Vail to their liking.
The Vail family skiing is top notch, thanks to a plethora of designated “discovery” zones on the resorts vast expanse. Kids can learn about Vail’s wildlife, while having a ball in areas like Porcupine Alley and other meandering tree trails near the Avanti Quad. Chaos Canyon, under Mid-Vail, is a guaranteed kid-pleaser, with fun whoop-di-dos, tree trails and more that will have them squealing with delight. The whole family can ski together on the Back Bowls groomed cruisers. Every on-mountain restaurant has menu items that even the pickiest eaters will enjoy, so parents don’t have to worry that their kids are getting the fuel they need to enjoy the slopes.
Renowned for its friendly atmosphere and responsive concierge staff, the Antlers at Vail takes the guesswork out of a family ski vacation. The property is located just 150 yards away from the gondola and ski school. It offers 84 condominiums and amenities such as a pool, hot-tubs, fitness center, ski lockers, fully equipped business center and free heated parking. The condominiums are fully furnished with all the comforts of home including free wireless internet access, full size kitchens, a private balcony, fireplace and daily maid service. Vail Cascade, a lift-side lodging option on the Western side of the resort, provides all the conveniences of home, as well as the amenities of a resort. Amenities include full access to Vail Cascade Resort and Spa amenities, Vail’s largest and most complete luxury spa and athletic club, indoor parking, library and gathering room and pool and hot tub.
Vail’s expansive options for families include dining options, too. For a memorable night out with the whole family head to Bol, Vail’s new bowling alley, located in Solaris. But this isn’t your typical bowling alley; this is “boutique bowling” and includes a cool atmosphere, flat screen TVs, gourmet eats, cocktails and a wine list that parents will love, plus healthy, delicious kid-friendly fare that will put a smile on everyone’s face. The quality of food and experience will make your family want to come back every night during your Vail family ski vacation.
For another great Vail family dining experience, make a reservation at the Swiss Chalet in Vail Village. Everyone can share pots of cheese fondue, and kids will love cooking their own meats, veggies and cheese on a classic raclette. Parents will love the monstrous-sized mugs of European beer or the Swiss Chalet’s acclaimed wine list.
As one of the most renowned, and visited, North American ski resorts, it’s safe to say that Vail lodging options can accommodate a wide variety of guests, with nearly two million visits annually. While there’s certainly no shortage of luxury accommodations, the amount of Vail budget hotels are also nothing to scoff at. Vail offers everything in between too: small boutique hotels, vacation home rentals, ski in ski out condos and recognizable chain hotels.
Families love Vail and Vail loves families, so you can bet there’s a wide array of lodging options to suit their needs. At the top of the list you’ll find that Antler’s at Vail provides incredible services, amenities and has a great locale so families don’t have to worry about schlepping gear around. The property is located just 150 yards away from the gondola and ski school, and offers convenient niceties like ski lockers. Kids and parents, alike, will appreciate the pool and hot tub, perfect for relaxing after a satisfying day on the slopes. The condominiums are fully furnished with all the comforts of home including free wireless internet access and full size kitchens. Vail Cascade is an ideal lodging for the budget-conscious, and families too, thanks to its lift-side locale on the Western edge of the resort. You’ll hardly know you’re in affordable digs, since Vail Cascade is home to Vail’s largest luxury spa, which includes a fitness center, pool and hot tub.
Those in search of luxury accommodations have a slew of options, but Arrabelle at Vail Square, A RockResort ranks at the top of our list. This RockResort property is synonymous with a luxury Vail ski vacation, and features lavish hotel rooms, suites and two- to five-bedroom residential suites. The Arrabelle is oozing with alpine elegance and top-notch services. All guests have access to the pool, spa and fitness center. Amenities include a gas fireplace, the latest entertainment technology, including flat-screen TVs, in-suite Jacuzzis, ski valet and an award-winning spa. In fact, Conde Nast recently voted the Arrabelle’s spa among the world’s top 20 spas.