Vail

Ski Resort in Colorado, United States

Introduction

Vail is one of the largest ski resorts in North America with 5289 acres of excellent ski terrain, including wide open runs, steep slopes, powdery bowls, beginner areas and more. Combined with a yearly average of 346 inches of snowfall and 300 days of sunshine, Vail is a skier’s paradise.

One of the most exclusive ski resorts in the world nestles in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in the USA. Apart from Aspen, Vail is probably the most well-known ski area on the North American continent. Across almost 2000 hectares of terrain, ski enthusiasts of all ages can let their skis do the talking. Founded in 1962 the attractive, purpose built resort brings Alpine charm to the American Rockies. Ranked as one of the finest ski resorts in the world, ski holidays in Vail offer a wide variety of skiing for all levels on the largest single ski mountain in the USA.

Vail often comes top of the rankings of U.S. ski resorts and for a variety of reasons. Years of investment in ski facilities have provided an unrivalled range of lifts and runs. Constant attention to the slopes throughout the season keeps them in pristine condition and when you move off the slopes Vail has that essential sense of style-mock Austrian-Tyrolean in parts, certainly-but style nevertheless.

In sum, Vail has fabulous skiing, glitz, a lively crowd, and good nightlife. But sometimes it is crowded, suffers lift lines that are long by American standards, and prices both in the resort and on the mountain are relatively high.


Vail info card

Resort Altitude2475m
Highest Lift3427m
Total Piste317km
Longest Run5km
Directions of SlopesN, S,
Uphill Capacity51781
Total Lifts33
Gondolas/Cable cars1
Chairlifts23
Drag Lifts9
Snow Parks3


Vail Ski and Snowboard Terrain

The Vail skiing area is one of the largest in the world with 2,140 hectares (5,289 acres). 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 one gondola and 17 high speed quad chairs!

Vail Colorado has three distinct ski areas. The front side is generally crowded and includes lots of cruisers and the beginner areas. The Vail back bowls 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 boundless backcountry trails, lots of advanced terrain and tree skiing.

For the Beginner

Novice skiers are catered for in the Golden Peak area (Gopher Hill, a short walk from Vail Village) and the Eagles Nest (at the top of the Lionshead gondola).

More confident beginners can head up to the Sourdough Express lift which has the best beginner terrain at Vail. Beautiful wide, super groomed and tree lined sheltered runs converge at the base of the chair. There are various other green runs on the Frontside, but it may require some confidence to navigate these. Beginners will need to keep a trail map handy and their eyes peeled on signage. Unfortunately much of the beginner terrain at Vail is actually on cat tracks, which leaves little space for error. So get a lesson, learn fast and get on the bountiful intermediate runs.

Intermediate Skiing Vail

Vail is pretty good for intermediates, particularly low-end intermediates that enjoy short runs. Vail has countless intermediate runs. You’d struggle to ride them all in a week!

Many intermediates are understandably drawn to the Mid Vail area on the Frontside. There are some fantastic runs to be had, however be warned. It can get really congested. One of the fantastic advantages of Vail is that intermediates can also head down the Back Bowls and across to Blue Sky Basin. All that exploring is a lot of fun.

Vail has some limitations for strong intermediates who enjoy fast long fall-line groomers. In addition to the grooming problems outlined above, there are only a couple of runs that continue long enough to get the thighs burning (e.g. Blue Ox and Riva Ridge – see below) and lots of runs change ability rating on the way down. For example in the Lionshead area there are runs such as Simba; it’s blue then it turns to black moguls and then blue again. If you want to stay on blue trails…… you guessed it, you’ll have to head onto a cat track! And if you want to go at Mach 1 on a groomer, then your options are very limited. There are an abundance of manned slow zones and Vail proudly displays signs to indicate how many people have lost their lift tickets for speeding.

The Game Creek Bowl has some choice terrain for intermediates to progress and try a few advanced runs. On a powder day, runs like Faro, Ouzo and Ouzo Glade will get you onto some pitch, but with the added safety of being able to traverse out to ‘safer’ terrain if you get in trouble.

Vail Ski and Snowboard Terrain - Advanced

For advanced riders that relish the thought of a well pitched, super groomed, fast, long, leg burning black run, look no further than Riva on the Frontside. You can smoke down here at Mach 2 with your sphincter puckering the whole way as your legs turn to jelly. It generally only gets groomed once a week, so check the grooming reports.

For advanced riders that want to stay off the groomers, Vail is absolutely perfect. Vail has superb terrain variety including mega moguls, tree skiing, and open powder bowls.

The Back Bowls provide some of the best bowl skiing in the world for advanced skiers and boarders. The slopes are not particularly steep but the bowls are just beautiful. Boarders should avoid going out to Inner and Outer Mongolia, unless they are prepared for the torture of a long walk!

Blue Sky Basin is not super steep either and it provides fabulous tree skiing and boarding. In Blue Sky Basin there are some “must dos”. These include jumping off the extensive cornice at Lovers Leap, and hucking off the rocks in the Skree Field. Otherwise just go exploring.

To show off at the end of the day on the Frontside (or crash and burn in front of an après crowd), rip a bumpy line down Pepi's Face at the base of the Vista Bahn.

Vail Skiing and Snowboarding - Expert

Vail isn’t particularly well renowned for its expert terrain. Some people go so far as to say Vail is flat! Whilst Vail doesn’t have the steep alpine chutes of some other resorts in USA, Vail has a smattering of cornices, tight steep trees, and small cliff lines if you’re willing to do a bit of recon. The marked double black trails are not super challenging relative to some other USA ski resorts, but still a bit of fun.

Easy to get to technical trees are on the Front Side off the Gitalong Road. These include the Frontside Chutes, Mudslide, The Narrows and Pumphouse. Cover can be a bit dodgy here, so adhere to any closed signs or suffer the consequences to your body.

Also on the Front Side, long, well pitched bump runs exist off the Highline and Northwoods Express lifts. Opportunities exist to duck into the pine trees also. Various cliff lines, cornices and tight steep trees exist off the Northwoods Express. Drop in off the rim anywhere from between the top of the lift along to the Prima cornice area. However, scope out your entry before diving in!


Ski Resort Topography & Configuration

Elevation

  • Base: 8,120 ft (2,470 m)
  • Summit: 11,570 ft (3,530 m)
  • Vertical Rise: 3,450 ft (1,050 m)

Slope Aspects

  • North: 40% of skiable terrain.
  • South: 20%
  • East: 20%
  • West: 20%

Trails

  • Skiable area: 5,289 acres (21.40 km2)
  • Trails: 193 total (18% beginner, 29% intermediate, 53% advanced/expert)
  • Longest run: Riva Ridge - 4 miles (6.4 km)
  • Average annual snowfall: 370 inches (9.4 m)
  • Terrain Parks: 3
    • 1 Superpipe
  • Bowls: 10 (7 official)
    • Sun Down Bowl
    • Sun Up Bowl
    • China Bowl
    • Siberia Bowl
    • Tea Cup Bowl
    • Inner Mongolia Bowl
    • Outer Mongolia Bowl
    • Pete's Bowl
    • Earl's Bowl
    • Game Creek Bowl

Lifts

  • 31 total
    • 1 Gondola (12 person)
      • Eagle Bahn Gondola (#19)
    • 1 Gondola (10 person)
      • Gondola One (#1)
    • 2 high speed six packs
      • Mountaintop Express (#4)
      • Avanti Express (#2)
    • 15 high speed quads
      • Wildwood Express (#3)
      • High Noon Express (#5)
      • Riva Bahn Express (#6)
      • Game Creek Express (#7)
      • Born Free Express (#8)
      • Highline Express (#10)
      • Northwoods Express (#11)
      • Sourdough Express (#14)
      • Sun Up Express (#9)
      • Orient Express (#21)
      • Pride Express (#26)
      • Teacup Express (#36)
      • Skyline Express (#37)
      • Earl's Express (#38)
      • Pete's Express (#39)
    • 1 fixed grip quad
      • Cascade (#20)
    • 2 triple chairlifts
      • Gopher Hill (#12)
      • Little Eagle (#15)
    • 9 Surface Lifts

Vail Snow Conditions

The average snowfall per season at Vail has increased over recent years to 366 inches (9.3 metres), possibly due to their cloud seeding schemes that aim to get more precipitation out of each storm! During the 2007/08 and 2008/09 seasons, Vail scored over 430 inches of snowfall. Strangely, Vail also has about 300 sunny days per year, so it’s perfect for fair weather powderhounds (if there’s such a thing!!).

The quality of the powder is pretty typical for the Colorado Rockies, and the elevation is reasonably high so the snow quality is well retained, particularly on the north facing slopes. And in case Mother Nature is being unkind, about 9% of the terrain has snowmaking capabilities.

Vail Mountain claims that they have the most groomed terrain on the planet, and their aim every day is to groom at least one trail from every major lift. However Vail probably shouldn’t be boasting about their grooming because it’s not their strength. Vail has a trillion cat tracks that they groom, and they spend a lot of time grooming the terrain parks. They even spend a lot of time making a huge wide trail down the back bowl when a narrower one would probably suffice. So considering the size of their terrain, it doesn’t leave them much time to groom the blue runs you actually want to ski down. We were disappointed that many of the blue runs were left ungroomed for many days, and got a bit of a fright in Game Creek when a groomed blue run suddenly terminated into bumps.


Vail Activities

Away from the slopes, there is also a variety of different ways to enjoy a day in Vail. In the Adventure Ridge Park, adventurers of all ages can try their hand at snow tubing, ski-biking and zip-lining. There are even mini-snowmobiles especially for kids. Fancy trying a snowshoe hike? If so, guided tours are on offer through the endless fields of powder in the backcountry.

Vail was built in the 1960s and the town itself is very much reminiscent of the architecture in an Alpine mountain village. In its design, great importance was attached to providing the utmost convenience and an attractive townscape. The town’s pavements are fully heated, while the centre of town is completely free of cars. The pedestrian zone is a great place for a relaxing stroll and spot of retail therapy. In fact, you will find shop after shop in the area between Lionshead and Vail Village.

However, after a day in the cold snow, perhaps a different kind of therapy is in order – a visit to the spa. Massages, wellness and other exquisite applications are a blessing for tired muscles and limbs. Guests can choose from these treatments and much more besides at Arrabelle’s RockResorts Spa, the Lodge at Vail RockResorts Spa and Golden Leaf Spa at the Marriott Mountain Lodge.


Après-Ski and Nightlife

As you would expect from a top ski area, there is plenty of après-ski on offer in Vail. And you won’t have to look far to find a party hotspot! Watching the final skiers descend the mountain over a beer or a glass of wine is the perfect way to end a day on the slopes. From Garfinkels, the Chop House or the Los Amigos, you can enjoyfabulous views over the runs down into the valley. Don’t miss the opportunity to grab a slice at Vendetta’s, the hottest pizzeria for locals and visitors alike.

The Red Lion is also a popular spot, with great drinks and live music every night. The George is a somewhat quieter affair, and it belongs to the Mountain Haus Lodge. Night owls can shake a leg in Vail Underground or in the Samana Lounge to the beats of the guest DJs which change every week. As almost everything in Vail is within walking distance, you don’t have to decide on one location and bar-hopping is therefore a definite possibility.


Dining and Restaurants

The range of restaurants on offer is also extensive in Vail, with something for every taste. First stop for connoisseurs is La Tour, where head chef and owner Paul Ferzacca conjures delicious dishes from fresh and seasonal ingredients. The Kelly Liken Restaurant is also a great place to eat, with simple and refined cuisine varying with the season and regional produce on offer. Accompanied by fine wines, a dinner here is a truly unforgettable experience. The Larkspur is another exclusive spot where American dishes are reinterpreted in stylish surroundings.

A “Mountain Dinner” in the Game Creek Restaurant below the Eagle’s Nest takes exclusive dining to a whole new level. You make your way up the mountain by snowcat after the lifts have closed, enjoying unspoiled views over the Game Creek Bowl accompanied by five-star cuisine. The restaurant, which is designed in the style of a European mountain chalet, treats its guests to top-notch American and French dishes complemented by selected wines.


Family Activities

Vail Adventure Ridge near Eagles Nest (at the top of the Eagle Bahn) is the centre for family fun, and is open from 2pm to 9pm, 5 days a week (970-476-9090). There are activities for the kids, the whole family, and those that still think they are kids. Snow tubing, mini snowmobiles, free snowshoe tours, Nature Discovery Centre in a yurt, bungee harnessed trampolines and snow biking are all available. Access to Adventure Ridge on the Eagle Bahn gondola is free.

If looking for something completely different (and scary!), those 14 years or older can try snow biking at night time. Armed only with a snow bike and a headlamp, you can travel all the way to the village at Lionshead in the dark. Take some friends and have a hoot.

Transportation - Get In


By car

I-70 is a direct route into Vail. It's exactly 100 miles from Denver, and about 130 miles from Denver International Airport.

During peak times, I-70 can get very congested and it is not unheard of for a trip from Vail to Denver to take 3 hours or more. Peak times are weekend afternoons (2PM-6PM) both in the summer and winter. Plan accordingly and either leave in the morning, or leave Vail after 5PM in the winter. If you do leave after dusk, however, be warned that road conditions can get icy. If you are from a major metropolitan area, the drive may also seem very dark to you with virtually no highway lighting and no reflectors on the roadway. Due to the darkness, high beam laws are often ignored. You can get a snapshot of travel conditions on the Colorado Highway Patrol web site [www].

If you are not experienced with winter driving conditions, you may want to think twice about travelling to Vail by rental car. Although most of the time you'll find the highway dry and perfectly fine, when it snows the road can get nasty. The ride from Denver takes you from 5,280' to the Eisenhower pass/tunnel at over 11,000'. After a steep drop to Silverthorne at 8,750' I-70 winds through Officer's Gulch which is notorious for black ice conditions, high winds and white out conditions when the weather is severe. I-70 then climbs over Vail Pass at 10,650' before the drop to the Vail Valley floor at 8,120'. If you are uncomfortable driving in the severe conditions that may occur on this drive, it is recommended that you spend a little extra money and employ one of the private charter services available in the Vail Valley. Note that although some Denver based companies also offered chartered service to Vail, their drivers often have limited experience in severe weather. Many Denver charter companies also use all season tires in the winter. If you do a little research, you should be able to find a reputable Vail based company that uses studded snow tires during the winter.

Scheduled and chartered services are available from Denver International Airport and Eagle County Regional Airport.


By plane

Fly into Vail/Eagle County Airport (EGE ) or Denver International Airport (DEN ). Note: Vail/Eagle County Airport is still about 35 miles from Vail, a shared ride in a Van from there to Vail will cost you about $70 per person. If you are traveling with your family or in a group, there are a number of private charter services that are also available. These are often more convenient than a shared ride service since they transport you door to door. Although you might think about renting a car, parking is expensive in Vail and most everything is in walking distance or a short ride away on the town's extensive free bus system. If you fly into Denver, you might think about renting a car, but you should be warned that the 100+ mile trip from Denver takes you over 2 mountain passes at elevations of 11,000 and 10,600 feet. An option to get from Denver Airport to Vail is to take a private chartered service that is familiar with the drive and road conditions.

Another Option from Eagle Airport is to use the county bus system (ECO). This is difficult to find: Exit the airport out the front door, make a right and walk about 100 feet to the bus stop. The bus takes about 80 minutes. The bus runs from Eagle airport through most of the towns and goes to the Vail Transportation Center. The cost in 2011 was $4 each way.

Most private "transport companies" quote prices of $120 to $180 each way for a trip into Vail.


By bus

The Vail Transportation Center at 241 S Frontage Road E (between Vail Road and Vail Valley Drive) acts as the local bus station.

Several carriers offer limo, van, or bus service to and from Aspen, Denver, and other cities in Colorado ($300 one-way), or the Eagle Vail airport ($100 one-way). Greyhound will be the cheapest at $12-30 one-way with advance purchase.

  • Bustang links Vail with Glenwood Springs and Eagle to the west and Denver and Frisco to the east.

Transportation - Get Around

Vail has four main villages on the south side of the I-70 and there are also various “suburbs” of Vail. Moving from east to west (left to right on the trail map) the main villages are Golden Peak, Vail Village, Lionshead and Cascade Village. Golden Peak is a small area that has lots of kids’ facilities and is home to the Gopher Hill beginners’ ski area. Close by is Vail Village, which is the heart of Vail and has many of the Vail restaurants, bars and shops. A little further west is Lionshead Village, the second largest hub of Vail that has lots of restaurants, shops and services. Cascade Village is a sedate little village that’s further to the west.

The main parts of the villages have heated walkways so if you want to wear your stiletto boots out, you probably can! And whilst it is possible to walk from one end of Vail to the other, it can be a bit taxing after a long day on the slopes, so make the most of the free bus service that inter-connects the villages. Maps and directions at the numerous bus stops make it easy to understand and use. Buses are regular and they are only crowded towards the end of the skiing day.

Many of the upscale hotels also have their own shuttles or private limos to help you get between the hotel and the slopes, or to get to dinner.

If you are staying in Vail or Lionshead, having a car will be more hindrance (parking fees) than a value. The town is set up so you can walk between most places and the slopes. There is also a free shuttle that will take you to the immediate surroundings as well as up to Beaver Creek.


By car

If you are coming from somewhere else and skiing, you can park on site. It will cost about $25 (2010) per day. Best advice arrive early (before 9AM) on busy days and you won't have problems. There are two parking garages, one in Vail and one in Lionshead. The Lionshead garage is the shortest walk to the slopes.

If the garages do fill up, you may to park on the road. The problem being that they don't let you park on the road until BOTH garages are filled. So say you drop your friends off at Golden Peak (so they can put their kids in child care) then go back to the Vail parking lot, its full, so you then have to go park in Lionshead and take a bus back to catch your friends.

For those doing child care there is also a ($25/day) valet parking at Golden Peak, cheaper to park at the main Vail garage and walk (5 mins). Most Hotels in Vail, (see: upscale) will provide you with a free shuttle, just ask before you arrive.

Most major car-rental firms are located in Denver and Vail airports. There a many free buses going throughout the Vail valley.

  • Vail TransitIt is completely free and the buses go from East Vail to West Vail every 30min or so. The best part is that it's they run til 2AM everyday. Free

Accommodation & Hotels


Property Location: When you stay at The Galatyn Lodge in Vail, you'll be near ski lifts and minutes from Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum and Vail Ski Resort. This 4-star condominium resort is within close proximity of Cogswell Gallery and Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.

Rooms: Make yourself at home in one of the 19 air-conditioned rooms featuring DVD players and flat-screen televisions. Wireless Internet access (surcharge) keeps you connected, and cable programming is available for your entertainment. Conveniences include safes and desks, and housekeeping is provided daily.

Amenities: Take advantage of recreation opportunities such as an outdoor pool, or other amenities including wireless Internet access (surcharge) and concierge services. This condominium resort also features ski storage and complimentary use of a nearby fitness facility.

Business, Other Amenities: Featured amenities include a business center, dry cleaning/laundry services, and laundry facilities. Self parking (subject to charges) is available onsite.

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests say the hotel is perfect for a romantic getaway.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Wonderful sightseeing
    • Comfortable beds
    • Friendly service
    • Nice building
  • THE GALATYN LODGE SUMMARY
    • With an excellent TrustScore of 95, this hotel is one of the top 13% in its city. Guests highly recommend it because of its location, rooms and service.


The Four Seasons resort Vail is a bold new landmark at the gateway to Vail village - just short stall to shops restaurants and the vista bahn chairlift. Guest rooms and suites are decorated in an arts and crafts style and most offer stone fireplace and balconies. Living areas have comfortable chairs and flat-screen TVS with DVD players. The large bathrooms features a deep soaking tub separate shower stall, and separate WC. Rooms have wireless internet access while-complimentary-internet access is available in the business centre. The style of the Four Seasons Resort Vail is healthful and invigorating with a restaurant that offers nutritious, conscious dining as well as a rejuvenating spa, fitness centre and year round outdoor pool. Children have access to the kids centre depending on their ages. A complimentary resort shuttle service is available to locations in the Vail village although it is just a short walk to the resort ski concierge at the foot of the vista bahn chairlift Four seasons resort Vails with thoughtfully personalized care will make every stay in Vail effortlessly exhilarating and memorable. -Room amenities- Comp shoeshine/ down pillows/ CD player/ Fax machine on request/ Voice mail/ Twice-daily housekeeping service/ Bottled water and ice delivery/ Wire or wireless internet access-fees apply/ Hypo allergenic pillows on request/ Special amenities for children including Children toiletries. FOUR SEASONS OFFERS COMPLIMENTARY WI-FI FOR UNLIMITED DEVICES WITH HIGH SPEED INTERNET.

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests say the hotel is perfect for a romantic getaway.
    • Guests recommend this as a luxury hotel.
    • Guests think this is a family-friendly hotel.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Friendly service
    • Professional service
    • Nice building
    • Great reception
  • FOUR SEASONS RESORT VAIL SUMMARY
    • With an excellent TrustScore of 96, this hotel is one of the top 1% in its city. Guests highly recommend it because of its service, rooms and location.


Turn on the Charm - European Chic in a Vail HotelSince the mid 1960s Austria Haus Hotel has welcomed skiers from around the world to experience Western luxury and sophistication wrapped in European charm. Inspired by authentic family run ski chalets of the Austrian Alps; this exquisite 25-room boutique hotel emanates warmth and hospitality from the moment you arrive. Nestled between Gore Creek and Meadow Lane the hotel is perfectly situated in the heart of exciting year-round Vail Village amenities and activities. With Vail Mountain a 5200-acre playground in your backyard skiing snowboarding mountain biking hiking and horseback riding beckon you outside. While summertime radiates with the ever-popular Vail Farmers Market giving life to the street below with fresh foods fine arts and unique finds just outside your door.

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests say the hotel is perfect for a romantic getaway.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Friendly service
    • Impressive bathroom
    • Spacious rooms
    • Great view
  • AUSTRIA HAUS HOTEL SUMMARY
    • With an excellent TrustScore of 95, this hotel is one of the top 3% in its city. Guests highly recommend it because of its rooms, service and location.


Manor Vail's location graces the banks of Gore Creek and looks out to Vail's Golden Peak Base Area. Guests enjoy convenient access to skiing on Vail Mountain and to children's ski school. The world renowned dining, shopping, and nightlife of Vail Village are just a short walk away. Reopening December 2008 after extensive renovations, Manor Vail guests will be welcomed in a warm and inviting redesigned lobby while the addition of elevators and connecting hallways offers a new convenience. Enjoy breath taking views of Vail Mountain and Gore Creek from the cozy lodge restaurant and lounge. Beautiful exterior landscaping with heated pathways, new pool areas, and an underground parking structure complete the overall experience. The resort features studio, one, two and three bedroom condominiums. Each condominium is privately owned and offers all of the conveniences of home with full hotel services. Guests enjoy access to on-site spa services, saunas, steam rooms, an exercise facility, two outdoor heated pools and four Jacuzzis, ski storage, and concierge services.

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests say it is the perfect hotel for a city trip.
    • Guests think this is a family-friendly hotel.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Fair breakfast prices
    • Friendly service
    • Winter sports facilities are close
    • Accessible parking
  • MANOR VAIL LODGE SUMMARY
    • This hotel has an excellent TrustScore of 92. Guests highly recommend it because of its rooms, service and location.


The Sebastian - Vail - A Timbers Resorts - is in the heart of the Vail Village in Colorado creating a year-round combination of luxury and comfort. The location is ideal, just steps from the main pedestrian walkway, the ski slopes, surrounded by boutiques, restaurants, galleries and apres-ski venues that create the Vail experience. Inside, you'll find that everything is new, stylish and exhilarating - an eclectic confluence of approachable chic and high mountain comfort. At the gateway to Vail Village, The Sebastian - Vail's massive cobblestone porte-cochere leads to a soaring atrium. Impressive wood and stonework is softened by rich, velvet textures accentuates the spaces throughout, setting the stage for stylish gathering spaces. Guests can unwind in finely appointed and cozy hotel rooms, Executive Suites and Residential Suites. Dine at Leonora or enjoy an apres cocktail at Frost. For the ultimate in relaxation, visit Bloom Spa or the outdoor heated pool and hot tubs, sure to invoke peace and tranquility in even the most stressed traveler. It's a thrilling time, with an array of sensational new services and amenities that grow richer by the day. A resort fee of $30 per room, per day (includes all applicable taxes) will be collected at the front desk. Resort fee includes wireless internet access throughout the property, enhanced welcome amenity (water, sodas, fresh fruit, sweet & savory snacks), nightly turndown service with a sweet treat, access to Bloom Spa, the fitness center, pool & hot tubs, a selection of newspapers in The Library (New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Vail Daily) in-town car service, free DVD rentals, business center, complimentary local and toll free phone calls & incoming faxes, Adventure Concierge, and ski-in/ski-out access at Base Camp and full-service ski valets located on Vail Mountain at Gondola One.

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • This is a wonderful boutique hotel, as guests say.
    • Guests say it is the perfect hotel for a city trip.
    • Guests recommend this as a luxury hotel.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Stylish hotel
    • Beautiful architecture
    • Bathroom could be optimized
    • Friendly service
  • THE SEBASTIAN - VAIL SUMMARY
    • With an excellent TrustScore of 92, this hotel is one of the top 15% in its city. Guests highly recommend it because of its service, rooms and location.


The Arrabelle - a Rockresort - combines the old world charm and timeless elegance of Europes grand resorts with the romance and style of Vail. Guests enjoy unmatched personal service and luxury amenities - including elegant guest rooms -averaging 550 sq ft- a signature Rockresorts spa - three restaurants - a rooftop pool and hot tubs - a comprehensive business center and library - a conference center with ballroom and more. Located in the heart of the new Vail square The Arrabelle is only steps from the eagle Bahn gondola and within easy walking distance of world-class shops restaurants and entertainment. The Arrabelle offers an unforgettable luxury resort experience that guests will want to enjoy time and time again.

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests think this is a perfect airport hotel.
    • Guests say the hotel is perfect for a romantic getaway.
    • Guests recommend this as a luxury hotel.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Clean hotel facilities
    • Impressive bathroom
    • Stylish hotel
    • Friendly service
  • THE ARRABELLE AT VAIL SQUARE, A ROCKRESORT SUMMARY
    • With an excellent TrustScore of 93, this hotel is one of the top 8% in its city. Guests highly recommend it because of its service, rooms and location.


Nestled in the heart of Vail Village is the family-owned Tivoli Lodge, a luxury ski resort known for years for providing friendly, caring, personal service. There are 66 spacious, hotel rooms offering a choice of mountain or village views, many with fireplaces, and the Peter Seibert Suite serves up stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. The entire hotel is wireless, and other amenities include - meeting rooms, a fully-equipped fitness room, two outdoor hot tubs with mountain views, underground parking and ski storage. The luxurious and spacious lobby offers stunning mountain views and is reminiscent of a plush, lodge-style living room with over-sized chairs, leather sofas, floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace and small wine bar. The new European-style architecture blends perfectly into the surrounding natural environment with unobstructed views of Vail's golden Peak ski area. As the most visited, top ranked ski resort in North America, it's easy to envision Vail as a place to just ski, ski, and ski some more! Being just a block from Vail's main access point, the new Gondola One, and a slightly longer walk from both the Golden Peak and Riva Rahn chairlifts, Tivoli Lodge is ideally situated to make your Vail ski vacation unforgettable. As if the centralized location isn't enough, they also offer skiers a valet ski and boot storage to make your transitions on and off the mountain as easy as possible. Being a ski town, Vail locals will tell you there are two seasons: snow, and the rest. Don't be fooled: "the rest" has a lot to offer. For example, when temperatures are soaring around the nation, Vail, at 8,250 feet above sea level, hovers comfortably in the mid-70s. Summer recreation options include everything from the highly intense: jeeping, rafting, kayaking, downhill mountain biking, rock climbing, and paragliding; to the more relaxing: balloon rides, horseback riding, fishing, golf, hiking, and tennis. You'll find Vail offers endless adventure, regardless of the season, and that the town is always bustling with a diverse and lively array of recreational and cultural offerings. In 2013, Tivoli Lodge has been ranked as the number one hotel in the Vail Valley. In 2012 Tivoli Lodge was voted one of the top 40 Western Resorts and top 50 ski resort property by Conde Nast readers. Please note Valet parking is $35 per vehicle per night over winter, $19 per vehicle per night over summer (April 21-November 19).

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests say the hotel is perfect for a romantic getaway.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Friendly service
    • Wonderful sightseeing
    • Great shopping
    • Impressive bathroom
  • TIVOLI LODGE SUMMARY
    • With an excellent TrustScore of 92, this hotel is one of the top 10% in its city. Guests highly recommend it because of its rooms, service and location.


Property Location: With a stay at Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer, you'll be centrally located in Vail, steps from Cogswell Gallery and Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum. This ski hotel is within close proximity of Colorado Ski Museum-Ski Hall of Fame and Vail Ski Resort.

Rooms: Make yourself at home in one of the 39 guestrooms. Complimentary wireless Internet access keeps you connected, and cable programming is available for your entertainment. Private bathrooms with bathtubs or showers feature hair dryers and bathrobes. Conveniences include phones, as well as safes and desks.

Amenities: Spend the day on the slopes, or enjoy recreational amenities including a sauna and a fitness center. Additional features at this hotel include complimentary wireless Internet access, concierge services, and ski storage.

Dining: Enjoy a satisfying meal at a restaurant serving guests of Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer. Quench your thirst with your favorite drink at a bar/lounge.

Business, Other Amenities: Featured amenities include a 24-hour business center, complimentary newspapers in the lobby, and dry cleaning/laundry services. Self parking (subject to charges) is available onsite.

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests say it is the perfect hotel for a city trip.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Friendly atmosphere
    • AC needs updating
    • Hotel could use some updating
    • Friendly service
  • HOTEL GASTHOF GRAMSHAMMER SUMMARY
    • This hotel has a very good TrustScore of 86. Guests recommend it because of its location, rooms and service.


Nestled in the heart of Vail and the Colorado Rockies is your ideal vacation condo rentals - Destination Resorts Vail. Offering over 100 fully equipped condo rentals just steps from the Vail Children's Ski School and the Eagle Bahn Gondola, leading directly to all levels of Vail ski slopes/mountain bike trails during the day and the fun-filled activities of Adventure Ridge at night! Our condo rentals range from one- to four-bedroom loft, value to deluxe, offering many Colorado travelers' budgets convenient and comfortable condo rentals in Vail Colorado. Each of the individually decorated condo rentals includes a fully equipped kitchen, fireplace, balcony, daily maid service during winter season (condo rentals offer daily towel & trash change during summer season), covered parking, scenic Colorado views, separate living & sleeping areas, Cable TV/VCR, and a choice of outside heated pools, hot tubs, and saunas. All the amenities you need at these condo rentals to make the Vail Colorado Landmark Properties lodging feel like your home away from home and to make this escape to the Colorado Rocky Mountains everything you wished for! PLEASE NOTE there will be construction on-site at the property through November 2009, but this should not affect the units being rented. All guests must be 25 years of age to check in.

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests recommend this for traveling with friends.
    • Guests recommend this hotel for budget travelers.
    • Guests think this is a family-friendly hotel.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Facilities in need of refurbishment
    • Hotel could use some updating
    • Rooms in need of an update
    • Great shopping
  • DESTINATION RESORTS VAIL SUMMARY
    • With a good TrustScore of 80, guests choose this hotel because of its location and value for money. However, some guests complain about the amenities and Vibe.


The Lodge at Vail intimate luxury in the perfect location. Thelodge at vail prides itself on a location unlike any other in vail... it rests at the very base of mountain-just steps away from the villages main ski lift. On the hotels other side- you will find vails pedestrian village -a world of boutiques-shops- nightclubs and cafes. Renowned for its relaxed luxury and impeccable service- the lodge at vail combines the elegance of an alpine lodge with the warmth of western hospitality. Its a place of award winning restaurants where the staff greets its guests by name and anticipates every need.

  • WHAT KIND OF HOTEL
    • Guests recommend this as a luxury hotel.
    • Guests say this is a wonderful resort hotel.
    • Guests say the hotel is perfect for a romantic getaway.
  • GOOD TO KNOW
    • Friendly service
    • Rooms could be larger
    • Wonderful sightseeing
    • Rooms need regular maintenance
  • LODGE AT VAIL, A ROCKRESORT SUMMARY
    • This hotel has a very good TrustScore of 86. Guests recommend it because of its location, service and amenities.

Ski Area

The front side of Vail Mountain offers a trails for every ability level, but Vail’s seven legendary Back Bowls are what set Vail apart from the rest.

The ski and snowboard experience at Vail is enveloping, and keeps ahead of its rivals by investment in facilities-lifts, runs, ski school, and instruction. There are plenty of runs, generally short lines and in the unlikely event you should tire of the Vail's slopes, there are a half dozen others nearby resorts. Base elevation is 8,120 feet (2,475 m) while the summit reaches 11,570 feet (3,527 m), giving a vertical descent of 3,450 feet (1,052 m).

Vail is so big it is difficult to comprehend unless one has been there. This poses quite a challenge for Vail's PR department. It is simply impossible to put into words the massive size of the resort. It is the biggest in North America in terms of acreage and dwarfs its competitors. For example, Vail is so large that all four Aspen resorts (Aspen Mountain/Ajax, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, and Snowmass) would fit nearly within Vail's boundaries. Vail is so big, it doesn't have just one slopeside base village - it has three: Vail Village, the newly redesigned and European-esque Lionshead Village, and Golden Peak Village.


Vail ski trails

With 193 trails and 5,289 acres (2,140 ha) of skiing, Vail has a lot to offer. While some mountains have a little bit of everything, Vail has a lot of everything. Vail is comprised of three separate and distinct sections: the Front Side, the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin. The front side of Vail Mountain-mostly north facing-offers a conventional trail design cut through the trees, featuring terrain for every ability level. Vail's seven legendary Back Bowls offer 2,724 acres (1,102 ha) of wide-open expansive terrain that is a must-ski on a powder day. Blue Sky Basin, the north-facing front side of the next ridge beyond the Back Bowls, offers Vail's best expert terrain.

Ski trails are graded green for beginner, blue for intermediate, black for advanced/expert, and double black for experts only. With 18 percent beginner, 29 percent intermediate and 53 percent advanced/expert, the emphasis is less on cozy, more on challenging. Having said that, Vail is good for beginners and in comparison to some other resorts-especially the more challenging European resorts-there is a tendency to over-classify some black runs.

Snow reliability on north-facing slopes is excellent with an exceptional natural snow record supplemented by extensive snowmaking facilities. Snow quality is not always so good in the Back Bowls as these are mostly south-facing slopes, except Blue Sky Basin-largely north-facing and sheltered from the sun by trees-which holds good powder for several days after the last snowfall.


Backcountry in Blue Sky Basin

Blue Sky Basin, the new jewel in Vail's terrain crown, is a must for intermediate to advanced skiers and boarders. Fully completed in 2001, it provides a genuine backcountry ski experience and is different from any other area on Vail Mountain. Blue Sky Basin features 645 acres (261 ha) of intermediate to advanced terrain in Pete and Earl's Bowls. There are some easy groomed (blue) trails but most of the terrain is ungroomed, and because it is mostly not very steep it allows intermediates the opportunity to experience the thrill of exploration and adventure as they find their own way on in-bounds ungroomed terrain. It also provides a means of escaping the crowds on other parts of the mountain.


Exemplary mountain safety

For the past three years, Vail has been recognized as having an exemplary skier-safety program for both education and enforcement. The program includes a stand-alone safety group tasked with monitoring, education, enforcing, and providing positive reinforcement of "Your Responsibility Code". Skiers and snowboarders are taught about Your Responsibility Code through increased signage on the mountain, in on-mountain restaurants, and elsewhere. Some visitors may occasionally find the yellow-jacketed mountain safety officers a little overzealous, though.


Vail Beginner Skiing

Vail's Beginner Skiing is as expansive as the resort itself. With lots of green runs to choose from all across the mountain, novice skiers love Vail.

At Vail, beginners get to start at the top-at the top of the mountain that is. The beginner area is located at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola at Eagle's Nest. Nursery slopes at altitude and lower down at resort level are excellent but they can be overcrowded. While Vail's legendary Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin are meant for more experienced skiers, beginners can ski in places all over the front side of Vail Mountain from Golden Peak to Lionshead.


Vail Intermediate Skiing

In Vail, intermediates can ski much of the same terrain as advanced skiers, even the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin, providing they choose the easier trails and gradients.

The bulk of the Vail's front face is intermediate level with plenty of easy cruising trails-and that means it is well suited to most skiers. Intermediates wanting something more challenging can check out the easier black diamond trails on the front face, before moving on to the Back Bowls. There you can find easy, groomed blue trails as well as ungroomed slopes which-snow conditions permitting-offer good opportunities to learn to ski powder.

In Vail, intermediates can ski much of the same terrain as advanced skiers. It's a matter of choosing different trails in the same areas, like the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin, and selecting trails with gradients that suit your ability and confidence level. There are a handful of intermediate trail pods, but intermediates can ski off almost every chair. The longest trail, Riva, is four miles (6.4 km) long and is also the most challenging for a number of reasons: it has an interesting fall line in places and tends to have steeper sections as well as bumps.

Many intermediates enjoy the Game Creek Bowl at the far right of the Front Side, but beware. Once you're at the bottom of Game Creek Bowl, the only way out if the often-crowded Game Creek Express Quad.


Vail Expert Terrain

Vail's expert terrain is all about powder in the Back Bowls and great frontside runs.

Vail is famous for its expansive terrain. With three different sides to explore it’s difficult to get bored at Vail. Expert terrain is spread across three distinct faces: the Front Side, the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin. The Front Side is home to traditional treelined ski runs and some of the more challenging runs on the hill can be found off the Highline and Northwoods Express Quads. Over the backside of the mountain are the legendary Back Bowls and beyond them lies Blue Sky Basin, home to Vail’s most challenging off piste terrain.

True experts will find the number of black diamond trails to be plentiful, but the steepness of those trails to be somewhat weak. In some respects, that’s part of the Vail experience. The ski resort has built a loyal following amongst vacationing skiers who come out especially to ski - and later brag about - the Back Bowls. At most other Western resorts (e.g. Aspen or even sister resort Breckenridge), much of Vail’s black diamond terrain would be classified as blue. True expert skiers looking for spine-tingling steeps, couloirs and cliff should look elsewhere. For the vast majority of skiers though, the Back Bowls are worth the pilgrimage and even the most ardent expert would be forced to admit there’s something very enjoyable about skiing down huge, open powder bowls. And no one has as many as Vail.

Front Side Expert Skiing

Many first time visitors to Vail make the mistake of skipping the front side entirely, so powerful is the allure of the Back Bowls. They miss out on some of the best expert skiing on the mountain and shorter lift lines. The Front Side offers a variety of terrain that the homogenously open Back Bowls do not. In fact, there are black diamond runs from almost every Front Side lift.

Working from left to right on the trail map, we start our examination of the Front Side steeps at the Highline Express Lift. Because this pod of terrain is so far to the extreme boundary of the resort, it is easily overlooked. This area is home to the best mogul skiing on the mountain. In particular, Highline is worth a run for anyone who likes to bash moguls, but Roger's Run is the most challenging of the bump runs because of its double fall line.

Just a short traverse away is the Northwoods Express. If heading back to the chair, a handful of short blacks at the top of the chair – the most interesting of which is Gandy Dancer – give way to long run outs. But a quick traverse down the green Swingsville trail leads to another trio of first class expert runs. Prima Cornice is, in our opinion, the most challenging trail at Vail and is should top the list of Front Side must-ski runs. The Prima (trail) to Pronto combination is also worth at least one lap.

Continuing farther towards the center of the trail map, skiers come across the most famous Front Side run – Riva Ridge. Vail was founded by veterans of the US 10th Mountain Division and Riva Ridge was a bloody battle fought in the Italian Alps. The trail is famous not so much for a section about 2/3 of the way to the bottom known as “Tourist Trap,” so named because the upper sections of the trail can lull intermediates into a false sense of security before the bottom drops out on this steeper (usually icy and scraped) section. Vail’s ever-present yellow-jacketed mountain ambassadors are waiting at the bottom to give warnings and pull tickets from beginners who got in over their heads despite the multiple warning signs above. When skiing down Riva Ridge, look up to the left to see the exits from a quartet of short double black diamond tree runs, all of which are accessible from the top of the Eagle Bahn gondola.

The Game Creek Bowl (the only Front Side bowl) and the adjacent Wildwoods Express Chair offer a nice collection of shorter, groomed black runs that are popular with progressing intermediates. The remainder of the Front Side is scattered with black diamonds, but those omitted from this primer are generally shorter and less interesting.

Back Bowls Expert Skiing

The Back Bowls transcend skiing. Even non-skiers have heard about the legendary Back Bowls and Vail went so far as to trademark the term. So what’s all the hype about?

The Back Bowls are actually one, long continuous ridgeline. This southern-facing slope was the victim of a wildfire shortly before the ski resort was founded, leaving this exposure almost entirely devoid of trees. In size and scale they are unparalleled in North America. It can easily take several hours to work from one end to the other and it’s difficult to describe the vast, emptiness of the bowls to anyone who is unfamiliar with skiing in Europe where such treeless expanses are more common. They are truly unique and awe-inspiring.

In general, the Back Bowls are rated as single black diamonds, with a few steeper double black and less steep blue pitches demarked on the map. In truth, strong intermediates comfortable skiing on ungroomed snow will have little difficulty skiing the Back Bowls except when conditions are made more challenging by a lack of recent snow. During these less snowy stretches, the bowls’ southern exposure can result in freeze-thaw conditions that make skiing them a lot of work even for strong expert skiers.

Technically, there are five Back Bowls, from left to right on the trail map: Sun Down BowlSun Up BowlTeacup BowlChina Bowl and Siberia Bowl. With the exception of the cirque-shaped Sun Down Bowl, it can be difficult to tell exactly where one bowl ends and another begins. The many trails marked on the trail map are indicate various lines down the bowls, but they too are intermingled and sometimes indistinguishable.

Again owing to a position on the periphery of the resort, Sun Down Bowl tends to receive the least attention from visitors, though the honor of least crowded bowl falls to Siberia Bowl on the opposite boundary. The trails here are actually amongst the more interesting in the Back Bowls because they are treed. Many visitors want the true “Back Bowl” experience and so also eschew these runs because they are less open.

Adjoining Sun Up Bowl can be skied in whole or in part. The runs here tend to be more open than Sun Down Bowl and are quite popular because they are perhaps the easiest to reach from the Front Side. The Sun Up Lift halfway down the Sun Up Bowl provides both an escape for intermediates in over their heads as well as a convenient means of transport to the top of Teacup Bowl.

Teacup Bowl is the smallest of the five Back Bowls and easily missed as skiers move from Sun Up Bowl to China Bowl. Teacup Bowl occupies a tiny hollow between the two and offers a handful of open runs that funnel back to the Teacup Express. Be warned, however, that the Teacup Express is the only lift back to the Front Side from Blue Sky Basin. When Blue Sky Basin closes at 2:30, liftlines at the Teacup Express can stretch over an hour on busy days.

Next to Teacup bowl is China Bowl, the gentlest of the Back Bowls the only one to offer blue trails that run down the fall-line of the bowl. Often, Vail will groom wide swaths of China Bowl using 10 or more groomers, creating a European-style piste through the middle of the otherwise off-piste terrain. China Bowl has the fewest trees of any of the Back Bowls and is perhaps the part of Vail that most embodies the vision of what first timers imagine the Back Bowls to look like. A handful of small cliffs sprinkled in on the skier’s right side of the bowl (giving rise to the name for the black Dragon’s Teeth run) are the closest expert skiers will get to anything intense on this side of the mountain. Nearby Ghengis Khan is considered the steepest pitch in the Back Bowls.

Lastly, on the far right of the trail map is Siberia Bowl. Siberia Bowl is both the largest and least skied bowl at Vail. It is also, in our opinion, the best of the Back Bowls. In large part the sparseness of crowds is attributable to the fact that Siberia Bowl is not serviced by its own lift. The entrance is hidden off to the side of China Bowl and requires skiers to take the Mongolia poma lift to reach its summit. From there, a number of large bowls with short, widely-space pine trees await. Powder tends to stay here longer because fewer skiers find Siberia Bowl. Even those that do are often turned off by the flat traverse at the bottom back to the Orient Express chair. If there can be said to be a secret in the Back Bowls, it is unquestionably Siberia Bowl. It’s worth the circuitous poma entrance and flattish traverse out.

Blue Sky Basin Expert Skiing

Blue Sky Basin is the newest of Vail’s three faces. When it opened in 2000, it set off a terrain expansion arms race across the Rockies. Suddenly, Vail had true off-piste skiing that could attract expert skiers. The opening of Blue Sky Basin heralded a new era in the sport where resorts started to bring theretofore backcountry skiing within their boundaries because skiers, equipped with new fatter skiers, demanded more powder and more challenging slopes.

While revolutionary when it opened in 2000, Blue Sky Basin has been eclipsed by many other Rockies resorts. The terrain is easily the most interesting and challenging of Vail’s off-piste offerings, but, again, true expert skiers won’t be overly impressed. Aspen, Telluride, Big Sky and any number of other Rockies resorts have far scarier steeps. The main difference between the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin is trees, not pitch.

Blue Sky Basis is actually two separate peaks serviced by three express quads. The more popular and easily accessible of the two peaks is on the right of the trail map and is serviced by the Skyline Express Lift. Skiers can easily reach this lift by skiing past the bottom of the Teacup Express Lift at the base of Teacup Bowl.

With a few notable exceptions, the runs off the Skyline Express tend to be narrow, long mogul runs. Vail usually grooms at least one of the runs from the top, but these black diamond runs are of high quality and confident skiers won’t tire of trying different lines back down to the lift. On far right of the trail map is a lift easily overlooked by many skiers – Earl’s Express. The two main runs back down to Earl’s Express, and in particular Champagne Glade, are the best tree skiing on mountain. The trees are well-spaced, making it easy to get into a rhythm that one can hold for the entire descent.

On the opposite face from Earl’s Express is Lover’s Leap. A small (3-5 ft) cornice builds up on the top of this trail in most years and hucking the small cornice within fall sight of a cheering audience on the Skyline Express is a popular occurrence. The drop in is the most challenging aspect of Lover’s Leap, but it is still the most challenging of the open bowls at Vail and should not be missed by strong skiers.

Lastly, on the opposite (trail map left) side of Blue Sky Basin is Pete’s Express. The trails off this trail tend to be more gentle that the Skyline Express and the two blue trails receive a lot of traffic as they are the only non-cattrack intermediate runs in Blue Sky Basin. The handful of black diamond trails empty into the same drainage as Lover’s Leap. A groomed blue run (Cloud 9) returns skier to Pete’s Express or, continuing past Pete’s Express, to either Teacup Express (to the Front Side) or back to the Skyline Express.


Vail Snowboarding

Vail's Golden Peak Superpipe and Terrain Park features an award-winning Superpipe and more than 40 rails.

Freeriders can spend the day at the Golden Peak Superpipe and Terrain Park, which features an award-winning Superpipe and more than 40 rails. Vail's lift system makes it easy for riders to avoid catwalks and flat areas so they can spend the day accumulating vertical trails instead of going across the mountain. Learn the basics at the Mule Skinner and Bwana parks. Vail hosts top freeskiing and snowboarding events each winter, including the spectator-friendly U.S. Freeskiing Open and Honda Session snowboarding in January-complete with great parties and live music.

Ski lifts & pass

Vail has a world-class lift system with many high-speed quads, but weekend visitors sometimes clog up the base area lifts.

Vail's lift system is a combination of 34 lifts, including one gondola, making it one of the top lift networks in the world. With 14 high-speed quads, the lifts move people up and around the mountain in a most efficient manner with a capacity for 53,381 people per hour, up from 51,781 with the addition of new chairs on the existing lifts in Blue Sky Basin. Lifts open at 8:30 am and close at 3:30 pm (2:30 at Blue Sky Basin - yes…it takes that long to get back to the base area from far-flung reaches of Blue Sky Basin…). Vail has continued to upgrade its lift system in recent years and the resort's commitment to modern lifts translates into generally manageable lift lines except at a few chokepoints.

The Eagle Bahn Gondola leaves from the newly revamped Lionshead Village, taking visitors to Eagle's Nest, home to Adventure Ridge, Vail's mountaintop activity center. Golden Peak is the eastern base area and features the Golden Peak, Superpipe and Terrain Park, the Nordic Center, daycare, and much more. The Riva Bahn takes skiers and riders up to the middle of the mountain, allowing for easy access to the legendary back bowls and Blue Sky Basin.

Because of the influx of day-skiers from nearby Denver, the lines for some lifts can be bad (15 minutes and more), especially at weekends. The base area lifts, the Vista Bahn and the Eagle Bahn Gondola, tend to have the worst problem with lines. However, it's easy to avoid them by taking the Riva Bahn Express out of Golden Peak, or the Born Free Express up out of the Lionshead base area. These two lifts provide easy access to the entire mountain with no lines.

Navigating between the Front Side, the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin is surprisingly easy. Vail has taken great care in laying out its lift system so that skiers can get back from the base of Blue Sky Basin to any of Vail's base areas with just one lift (the Teacup Express). However, the Teacup Express can become extremely crowded with wait times of over an hour not uncommon when Blue Sky Basin closes. Be sure to beat the rush back from the Back Bowls and use this lift before Blue Sky Basin empties out.


Lift passes

Vail Resorts offers a number of pass deals. The most popular pass, the Epic Pass, gives skiers and rider unlimited, non-blacked out access to all 5 Vail Resort, Inc. owned mountains: Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge and Heavely. Check out www.snow.com for ticket prices. Buying early grants skiers incredible access at ludicrously low prices. The Epic Pass is, in our opinion, the best deal in North American skiing.

There are several ways to purchase lift passes. They can be bought through the website or, once in the resort, every base area has a lift ticket window where lift passes can be purchased. Juniors and seniors get discounts. If you're a beginner and would like to take lessons, there is a special beginner ticket included with the ski lessons. Vail's incredible terrain comes at a price, however, as lift tickets come in at just under $100 per day. Look for discounts online, through local ski shops, in package deals, or multi-day passes. Peak season is the week between Christmas and New Year's, and mid-February through the end of March, while low season is November through mid-December, and April.

Facilities & Services

The range and quality of ski resort services and facilities at Vail are phenomenal. The amenities are part of what gives Vail its mega-resort status. The only downside of Vail is that most things cost a lot more than your average USA ski resort. Ski lessons, ski rentals, snowboard hire and child care all have a “Vail mark-up”.


Vail Ski Rentals

The resort owned shop for snowboard and ski rentals is Vail Sports who have various locations across Golden Peak, Vail Village and Lionshead. They can provide for all your skiing and snowboarding rental needs and they provide complimentary in shop equipment storage and delivery to your room. The rates they charge for ski rentals are extraordinarily high relative to most other USA ski resorts.

There are lots of other outlets for Vail ski rentals peppered throughout the resort. These ski shops generally also offer overnight storage and most have rates that are significantly cheaper than Vail Sports. For example American Ski Exchange in Vail Village has good rates. The rentals at Gorsuch are also high quality and their tuning workshop is top notch.

Like most upscale resorts there are also a few ski rental services that come to your accommodation.


Facilities for Children

The only child minding facility in Vail is the Small World Nursery located in the Golden Peak area adjacent to Vail Village. It caters for children from 2 months to 6 years old, with the kids grouped into age appropriate rooms. For children over 20 months, they also offer a Micro Mice program as part of the child care, whereby your child can have a 30 minute skiing experience.

Vail also has various private babysitting services that come to your hotel or condo.

Adventure Ridge at Eagles Nest has superb activities for kids.


Vail Ski School

Vail Snowsports School employs some of the best instructors from around the world. The school has five locations in the resort including two on the mountain at Eagles Nest and Mid Vail. As expected, a wide range of programs are available.

Vail Snowsports School has numerous programs for kids including Mini Mice, Mogul Mice, and Superstars. Kids ski school is for ages 3 up to 12 and consists of a full day lesson that includes lunch and lunch time supervision. Full day lessons are also available for teens.

Adult group lessons are generally for the full day. In addition to standard group lessons they also have premium lessons that have a maximum of 3 or 4 participants per class. For strong intermediate riders and up, the Vail ski school also offers Adventure Sessions which entail guiding around the mountain whilst also providing a few pointers along the way.

Private lessons are a minimum of a half day, and you’ll need your black Amex card ready to go!


Ski and Snowboard Storage, Valet & Concierge Services

To counteract the minimal ski-in ski-out accommodation at Vail, lots of operators have equipment storage facilities right near the slopes so you don’t have to have to lug it back to your lodging.

If you’re renting equipment, many of the Vail ski rental shops offer complimentary overnight storage. Alternatively various ski shops offer a public ski concierge service for a small fee. One example is Vail Sports at Lionshead who have a ski valet and storage facility right near the gondola.

Otherwise lots of the upscale hotels have ski concierge services available for their guests. For example the Four Seasons Vail has a ski valet facility close to the base of the Vista Bahn lift where there are equipment lockers. The concierge staff will even carry your equipment onto the snow and place it down ready to click in. Superb!


Eating On Mountain

The on mountain eateries are top notch. There are at least eight different locations on the mountain to purchase food, and that doesn’t include the huge variety of eateries in the base areas of Vail Village and Lionshead. Some of them can get busy during the “witching hours” of midday to 1.30pm (particularly Mid Vail ie top of the Vista Bahn lift).

Both Eagles Nest and Mid Vail have multiple dining venues. Eagles Nest has a table service restaurant and the 10th is a new flash restaurant at Mid-Vail. Reservations are highly recommended.

The Food Courts at Two Elk and Mid Vail both provide top quality food guaranteed to make your legs suffer whilst skiing the afternoon. The Two Elk lodge is ginormous. This place is so big that if you arrange to meet a friend there for lunch you might not find them!! The day lodge is a self service cafeteria with the usual fare, but they also have great burritos with all the Mexican trimmings. Such lunches can make a download on the Eagle Bahn Gondola and early après at Garfinkel’s look very attractive. Another bonus with the on mountain eateries is that Vail has a policy of serving only all natural, hormone free meats and poultry, and organic dairy products.

One of the most enjoyable ways to eat lunch at Vail is to have a BBQ at Belles Camp in Blue Sky Basin. It complements a perfect Vail experience - sun, good friends, great skiing, 3,550m of elevation, views of several Colorado 14ers, and an awesome BBQ. BYO meat (or veggie burgers) in your backpack. Non alcoholic drinks can be purchased up there. If you have a severe case of ‘lunchtime legs’ after feasting on scorched flesh and burgers, ski down In The Wuides and Kelly’s Toll Road to get back to civilisation safely.

Activities & Things to do


Winter

Ski/Snowboard Tickets $116 (2012 prices) a day too steep? Want to save some money? Well there ARE a couple of ways, but they are not easy:

  • Use of the snow.com or vail.com website has seven day advance internet purchases with highly discounted rates.
  • Colorado Pass - The Colorado Pass provides unlimited slope access at Breckenridge, Keystone and A-Basin, as well as 10 days' access to the lifts at Vail or Beaver Creek. The Colorado Pass costs $449 (2008). It is blocked out on certain dates.
  • eBay - Friends swear by this. Typically for $10 you can buy a 2 for 1 coupon that was issued somewhere in the country. There have been counterfeits so your mileage may vary.
  • Grocery Stores - Discounted tickets for Vail are no longer available at grocery stores on Denver as they once were.
  • Locals - If you have friends in Vail, and they have a season pass, they get 5 "Buddy Passes" that allow you to ski for $35 a day, so make some friends, and ski for less.

Avoid the Lines If you can get on the mountain a little earlier (before 9:30AM) than everyone else you can stay ahead of the crowds and never wait in a line more than 5 minutes. Here are some suggested starting routes:

  • Favorite: Start at golden peak, and take the lift past the first drop off to the top. Get off and take lift 11 (Northwoods) to the very top of the Mt. From there drop into China Bowl or go off to Blue Sky basin. Come back to the front after noon and you'll see a lot of the mountain.
  • Starting at Vail Village. If the Vista-Bahn is really full, take the little two seater chair up. * They do not run the two seater chair, except for races.* Ski over to Golden Peak and follow along above.

Lionshead - Don't wait for the gondola, take the quad chair. Ski over to the far side (the far side can be LOTS shorter) of lift 2 and up.

Avoid: Chair 4 from mid-vail. Always crowded. Chair 11 can get crowded. Check the status boards for the back bowl lift and game creek bowl lifts before going into each as they can fill up and there is only one chair in each bowl.

Ski & Snowboard Equipment Rental Vail resort has a huge range of ski and snowboard rental options. Vail's village is spread over a huge area from Lionshead, Vail Village and Golden Peak, so it is best to source your ski or snowboard rental close to your hotel or even better close to the lifts.

Located at the base of the ski slopes, Pirate Ship Park has delighted generations of children in Vail.

Here are just a few of the many ski rental stores found in Vail.

  • Aalta Sports.
  • Breeze Ski Rentals (Lionshead Vail).
  • Black Tie Ski Rentals.
  • Charter Sports.
  • Christy Sports.
  • Double Diamond Ski Shop (Lionshead).
  • Gravity Jones Ski Werks.
  • Pepi Sports.
  • Ski Base Inc.
  • Troy's Ski Shop.
  • Vail Mountain Adventure Center.
  • Vail Sports.
  • Rentskis.
  • Burton - ArrabelleSnowboards.
  • One Track MindSnowboards.

You can also book your Vail ski or snowboard rental online before you leave possibly saving you time in the rental store and even some money as most offer discounts for pre-booking. Here are the main ski rentals stores that offer online booking service;

  • Black TieAlso offers full delivery service to your accommodation.
  • Breeze Rentals.
  • Charter Sports.
  • Christy Sports.
  • Double Diamond Ski Shop.
  • Premier Ski DeliveryAlso provides a full delivery service to your accommodation
  • Rentskis.

Child Care Vail has an excellent child-care center for all ages of kids. For babies to toddlers, the nursery provides great, on mountain, care. As young as 3 years old the Ski School can really teach your kids to ski and give them a fun day too (and free you up to ski with your spouse). All this does not come cheap, but you get a good quality product and don't have to worry about your kids.

One note: book early (like a month before you get there) for the nursery. They do fill up.

  • Ride the GondolaThe Gondola is free for foot traffic after 2PM. Before 2PM the ticket price is $24 for adults (2009). It is a good way to get the non-skiers and the kids up to the top.
  • Adventure RidgeA fun place to bring kids or friends who don't like to ski! Activities include: ski-biking, kid's snowmobile track and tubing.

Summer

Mountain Bike In the off season, Mountain Bike rentals and lift tickets are available for a reasonable cost. Ride the lift up to the top and bike your way down, taking in thrills, scenery, and encounters with wildlife. Trails are rated by difficulty and are well-maintained. It is certainly easy and fun to ride the gondola up and ride the bike down.

  • Gondola RideAs of summer of 2005 it was $17 to ride the Gondola to the top of the mountain. At the top there is an outside bar with the worlds greatest view, and a pretty pricey grill (check times). You can get a $15 discount at the grill with a $5 coupon. The burger is excellent.Hint: If you want a work out and want to save the $17 walk up to the top. The Gondola is always a free ride down! The hike will take you about 1-2 hours (depending on fitness). Take the Berry Picker trail from Lionshead.
  • Piney LakeA gorgeous view awaits you if you brave the 12 mile dirt road up to the Piney Lake. You can also grab some grub or rent a boat at the Piney River Ranch.

In the Vail Valley

  • Lakota GuidesA world class outfit based in Vail and offers rafting on the Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas River. Door-to-door transportation from your hotel is usually included. Also offers UniMog off-road tours and night vision raft trips on the Upper Colorado. ph. 970-845-RAFT.
  • Nova GuidesBased between Vail and Leadville and offers trips on the Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas River. Door-to-door transportation from your hotel is usually included. Also offers jeep tours, and winter activities.
  • Timberline ToursBased in the town of Eagle and offers trips on the Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas River. Door-to-door transportation from your hotel is usually included. Also offers jeep tours. Timverline Tours also offers group chartered transportation services. Since the company uses its busses during the day for rafting trips, their seats may often be wet for early evening movements.

Rafting

Vail is a great location to plan some rafting adventures. The Eagle River runs through the Vail Valley -- it offers outstanding rafting during its short season (typically May & June, sometimes into July). The Colorado River is just downvalley and offers ample opportunity, especially during summer months, because it has such a reliable water source. The stretch above and through Glenwood Springs is a favorite hot-weather summer family ride. The Arkansas River is about an hour away, and offers several famous whitewater stretches as well.

  • Rock Gardens RaftingThey specialize in family float trips down the milder waters of the Colorado or Roaring Fork Rivers. They also offer fun jeep tours on the nearby flat-tops.
  • Dvorak ExpeditionsSpecializes in longer and multi-day trips in rivers across Colorado. They do really neat Yoga, classical music (a raft with a quartet goes along] and fly-fishing multi-day trips.

Golf

The Vail Valley has half a dozen nice golf courses.

  • Eagle Ranch Golf CourseEagle Ranch Golf Course is an Arnold Palmer Signature Design. The course plays through the Brush Creek Valley and offers panoramic views of the Colorado Rockies on every hole.
  • Cotton Ranch Golf Club530 Cotton Ranch DrPurchased by the town of Gypsum in 2010, this municipal golf course is a Pete Dye designed 18 hole Championship course.
  • Vail Golf ClubLocated in East Vail
  • Eagle-Vail Golf Course.
  • Beaver Creek Golf Course.
  • Arrowhead Golf Course.
  • Singletree Golf Course.

Disc Golf

The Vail Valley has several disc golf courses.

  • Adventure RidgeCourse begins just below west side of the Eagle's Nest. Front nine are shorter and more open while back nine are much more rugged, play through the woods and feature some intense elevation changes.

Dude Ranches

The Vail area has many places to ride a horse.

Restaurants & Nightlife


Vail Restaurants & Bars

Vail has a wide range of cafés and restaurants offering every kind of cuisine, and its nighlife, with lots of live music, is unsurpassed.

If eating out is your (other) favorite activity, Vail is the perfect choice. Vail caters to wide-ranging palates and budgets with 73 restaurants and 16 bars, and apart from Whistler no resort in North America has such a range of cafés and restaurants offering every kind of cuisine, from Chinese and Mexican through to native Californian, for which the Terra Bistro or the Vail Athletic Club are the tops. Vendetta's is an Italian restaurant and is very very good-and who doesn't like Italian? Colorado is a long way from the sea but the fish at Montauk in Lionshead is always fresh and excellent. But restaurants rise and fall, and chefs move about, so ask around among your fellow guests and find out where the good food is really at this season.

The Wildflower is the only Mobile four-star rated restaurant in Vail and it boasts one of the best wine lists in town. Sumptuous breakfasts and skiers' lunch buffets are on offer slope-side for quick dining breaks at Cucina Rustica. It transforms into an authentic Tuscan grill for dinner. Established in 1977, Sweet Basil in the heart of Vail Village is renowned as one of Vail's finest restaurants. The wine list continually receives the Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine and the food features imaginative American entrées with Mediterranean and Asian influences from chef Bruce Yim.

For the family, the Red Lion is great for every member, with a children's menu, great beer selection, and live entertainment, while Bully Ranch is a locals' favorite serving true Colorado Western and barbecue, featuring everything from hand-cut prime beef to veggie wraps. On the budget side Bart & Yeti's in Lionshead offers a variety of burger and sandwich options from US$5 to US$10, while Flying Burrito in Lionshead serves tasty burritos for less than US$6. They're a meal in themselves.

It is strongly recommended that you make table reservations in advance, but beware that in this well-heeled resort standards are high and in the better restaurants (on and off the mountain) New York prices (expensive) are not uncommon.


Vail Apres-Ski

Vail is known for a great apres-ski scene-and excellent celebrity spotting.

It's late afternoon and Vail is known for a great apres-ski scene. After the lifts close check out the Red Lion or Los Amigos in the village, or for great margaritas, Garfinkel's in Lionshead, which sports a large outside deck overlooking the base area and features live acoustic music.

The Red Lion in Vail Village has earned the reputation as "the place to be after you ski." Get there early on a nice day to claim a prize spot near the stage. Live music nightly. Or there's Los Amigos in Vail Village offering one of the best views of the base area-you sit on the outside deck and watch skiers and snowboarders make their final runs down Pepsi's Face. Or you might spot one of the many Vail celebrities who either have a place here or are "passin' thru"-and there are quite a few. If we mention in passing Joe Montana, Oprah, John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, Roger Daltrey, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mimi Rogers, Phil and Steve Mahre, Kelsey Grammer, and Cameron Diaz, you'll get the drift.

The Tap Room at the top of Bridge Street is the place to try one of several types of martinis. In Vail Village, try Vendetta's, a popular locals' place.


Vail nightlife

After dinner, it's time to check out Vail at night and find out why SKI Magazine rates Vail's nightlife tops. There's great entertainment with live music, offering everything from piano jazz and 80s music through hip-hop and reggae at places like 8150, Fubar, and Mickey's Piano Bar. The George has sofas you can sink into, pool tables, and foos-ball, and the Tap Room specializes in great martinis.

Vail's streets come to life every Wednesday night during the Budweiser Street Beat. This free series features nationally and locally recognized acts including the Young Dubliners, the Hazel Miller Band, and William Topley. After the concert, stop by the local's favorite and ski patrol hangout, Vendetta's, for a beer and a slice of pizza. Then hit the Fubar to sing along with Scott Ma.


Vail Mountain Restaurants

The 15 restaurants on Vail Mountain include flagship Two Elk Lodge straddling the Front Side and the Back Bowls and exclusive Game Creek, accessible by snowcat or the Eagle Bahn gondola.

There are more than 15 restaurants to choose from on Vail Mountain, such as Two Elk Restaurant, Vail Mountain's flagship restaurant at the top of China Bowl. It's open for lunch only and has expanded outdoor picnic seating to enjoy Southwestern menu items including wraps, gourmet pizza, pasta and more. Many self-service restaurants are pricey and can be crowded at lunchtimes, and in this respect there is a need for some improvement in mountain restaurant facilities.

If rustic indoor or outdoor barbecueing of smoked chicken, soups and grilled sandwiches are your preference, you'll want to get to Wildwood Smokehouse at the top of Wildwood Express and Game Creek Express. Sample the spectacular views of the Sawatch Range from here. Mid-Vail Food Courts has a New York-style deli, fajita bar, grill and pasta bar on the Terrace Level. There you'll also find an American diner, and the Gore Range Grill on the Look Ma level, with spectacular views of the Gore Range. There's a "Great Lunch for less" option with pasta, salad, and drink for less than $8. Skiers and snowboarders can take advantage of great lunch options at Larkspur, which features chef Thomas Salamunovich's mix of American and rustic French cuisine at the base of Golden Peak. It's been listed as a "Don't Miss while in Vail" in U.S.A. Today.

Undoubtedly Vail's finest on-mountain restaurant is Game Creek, overlooking Game Creek Bowl at the top of Vail Mountain. Ride the Eagle Bahn Gondola to the top for a snowcat ride to the restaurant. Guests are treated to a multi-course menu of Colorado cuisine by chef David Wiehler. It's a private club at lunch and open to the public for dinner.

While Blue Sky Basin does not have any cafeteria facilities, there are barbeque grills and many locals enjoy grilling on warm spring days. Give it a shot, but remember, you'll have to pack in your supplies.

Before you hit the slopes try Blizzard's Deli for great coffee and breakfast burritos or DJ's for any breakfast craving, be it omelets or French toast.

Shopping

The Vail shopping can best be described as diverse. This is a shopper-holics’ paradise - from t-shirts to furs, postcards to paintings, antiques to tacky souvenirs. Shop till you drop!

Vail Village shops are concentrated in Bridge Street and a few of the surrounding laneways. Vail Village has lots of upscale ski shops and other stores where you could easily lash out with your black Amex card. The Lionshead shopping is a little more relaxed. There are negligible fur shops and minimal jewellery stores, and many of the ski and snowboard shops have clothing that is more focussed on functionality than prettiness.


Vail Ski Shops

Vail ski shops are prolific so you’re sure to find any ski or snowboard item you need or want!

Vail Village is home to the flagship store of Gorsuch. Like the other Gorsuch ski shops, they sell a vast range of beautiful ski clothing as well as many accessories, skis, and boots, and they have a special computerized boot fitting system. Gorsuch also sells lots of homewares.

The resort owned Vail Sports has various locations across Vail Village and Lionshead, and they even have a specialised kids’ ski shop in Lionshead. Vail Sports has a huge range of ski and snowboard gear.

A stand out Vail ski shop (located in Lionshead) is the Double Diamond ski shop. This large shop has a lovely retail section with a diverse range of outerwear from brands such as Bogner, Spyder, SOS (a rarity in Colorado), and rh+.

Other Lionshead ski and snowboard shops include North Face, Quiksilver, Patagonia, Burton, and Women’s Ski Center, a ski shop just for chicks.

Silverthorne also has a wide selection of retail shops. Very cheap skis and boards are available at a number of shops. Try the ‘Mountain Sports Outlet’ for some real bargains.


General Shopping Vail

Vail Village has an abundance of souvenir and t-shirt shops, so if you want Vail logo wear or a keepsake of your Vail trip, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Over in Lionshead Village there are only a couple of souvenir stores, but the Shirt Off My Back outlet has a good range of t-shirts and hoodies.

One of my favourite shops is called ‘Mountain Dog’. It is an essential stop for all dog owners where you can buy that something special for the loyal canine you’ve left behind.

Any shopper worth a pinch will want to make the journey over Vail Pass to visit the Outlet Stores in Dillon/Silverthorne. All the major American clothing brands have a store selling their goods at ridiculously low prices. Brand names include Calvin Klein, Gap, Levis, Columbia, Adidas, Jockey, Nike, Oshkosh, Polo, Ralph Lauren, Van Heusen and Tommy Hilfiger.

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