Is Aspen a little too snobbish for you?
Then head to Vail where you still get all the class, style and trimmings without all the pretentious pomp. Vail is the biggest ski resort in the US, however it has maintained a small town feel and laid back atmosphere that makes it one of the most charming winter destinations in the world.
In Vail, you are not as likely to spot a celebrity as in Aspen, but that’s just the way fans of Vail like it.
Credit: Zach Dischner
Vail is located in central Colorado, sitting over 8,000 feet high in the Rocky Mountain chain, about 100 miles west of Denver. The town did not come into existence until 1966, four years after the establishment of the Vail Ski Resort. Today, Vail and it’s more than 4,500 residents welcome 1.7 million skiers to their mountain each year.
Vail Ski Resort
How Vail manages to get a whopping 350 inches of snow annually, while still boasting 300 days of sunshine is anyone’s guess. Yet this is exactly what makes it such a great place to carve snow. Ideal conditions, supremely beautiful settings and enough variety to appease every taste, (on and off the slopes) is what makes Vail so special.
In terms of size, Vail is second only to Canada’s Whistler in all of North America. It has 5,300 acres (2,145 ha) of ski-able land, with 31 lifts leading to 193 trails, more than half of which is designated black diamond. For those less skilled, don’t worry, there are plenty of runs for you to get excited about too.
Vail Offers Variety
There are three major ski areas in Vail and together they form a radically diverse and enjoyable week of skiing. The most frequented section is the Front Side with 127 trails many of them great for beginners. This massive area has a wingspan of seven miles (11km) and is bigger than most American resorts all by itself.
The vast Back Bowls section is even bigger, offering seven powder filled bowls for the strong intermediate to expert skiers. The smallest, yet most loved section is the Blue Sky Basin, cherished for its untouched splendor, spectacular panoramas and the priceless feeling of freedom. Intermediate to advanced only.
Apres Skiing in Vail Village
Nightlife in Vail reflects the nature of the village itself – Nothing flashy, just good old-fashioned fun. There are countless top end shops, dozens of fantastic restaurants and more activities than you could shake a finger at. It also boasts great lodging and for those who want extra pampering, there are many health spas to choose from.
While it doesn’t have the extreme wealth of Aspen, there is a reason why it continually wins annual awards for being the best ski resort in the US. It’s simply the most well-rounded and charming resort in America.
When To Go
The best time to visit Vail is during the ski season from mid-November to mid-April. These dates may change depending on the snow.
During the winter, average daytime temperatures range from 20 to 30°F (-7 to -1°C).
Getting There & Around
Vail Ski Resort is located in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
The best way to get to Vail is to fly into Denver International Airport and drive 97 miles (156km) west on highway 70.
The best way to get around is shuttle.
- Mid-range accommodations: $150-200
- Meals: $20-30
- Bottle of beer: $3
- Lift ticket for 2 days: $150-250
- Get a discount on your lift ticket by booking in advance.
- Load up on snacks, fruit, and drinks in Denver before driving to Vail. The resorts are known to charge up to 50% more for those items.
- Check the Vail calendar for concerts and events.
- Rent your gear at the resort. Bring your own or rent in Denver.
- Go wonder off trail or attempt a trail beyond your skill level.
- Go into the back country alone or without telling someone.
- As of 2011, Vail has 193 trails on 461 acres (187 ha).
- The longest run in Vail is 4 miles (6.4 km).
- Breckenridge, a resort near Vail, has the highest chairlift in North America.
Feature Image Credit: snowbuzz