Ski Guide: Vail, Colorado
Anyone who longs for the first flakes of winter, the early morning haul to the mountain, fresh tracks, deep powder and the unmatched relaxation felt at fireside après-ski feels the pull of Vail. For beginners, there are miles of soothing, groomed terrain for perfecting turns. Intermediates delight in the large number of slopes easily accessed by the village. And experts put their knees to the test on the Front Side’s challenging terrain and Vail’s celebrated back bowls.
Only at Vail
Vail is home to more groomed terrain than any other resort on the planet. It’s a charming, pedestrian, Swiss-chalet village. It has the country’s largest ski school (with over 1,000 instructors and classes for all skill levels). It offers fully interchangeable lift tickets with other Colorado ski resorts at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. Its 7 back bowls are the powdery stuff of legends.
Its popularity as an alpine skiing hot spot is legendary—so perhaps Vail’s best-kept secret is the opportunity to appreciate the winter wonderland of the Southern Rockies on cross-country skis. Visit the Vail Nordic Center for rentals starting at $17 and trail passes for $8.
Where to Sleep
Vail condominium rentals are as abundant as snowflakes. Many are individually owned and contain more personal touches than hotels or resorts—they’re also ideal for families or groups. Those on a tighter budget may opt to stay in Eagle, about 20 miles west of Beaver Creek and 30 miles west of Vail. Eagle’s accommodations include the Comfort Inn Vail Valley, with rates as low as $99 a night, and the Best Western Eagle Lodge & Suites, starting at $130 per night.
Of course, Vail is home to luxury lodging options like The Arrabelle at Vail Square, a storybook resort that sits in the center of Lionshead Square. It’s Vail’s only true ski-in/ski-out resort—and the prices reflect its location, luxury and amenities. In winter, room prices can begin at $700 a night.
Where to Eat
Locally grown ingredients are featured in the signature dishes at Kelly Liken. The potato-crusted trout filets and elk carpaccio are standouts on a remarkable seasonal menu complemented by an extensive wine list. The weekly menu and wine collection at Larkspur are renowned, and the restaurant’s prime location in Vail Village couldn’t be more convenient. Click here for a full guide to Vail’s dining options.
Where to Shop
Vail Village, full of luxury accommodations, restaurants and shops, sprawls into several interrelated centers: Lionshead (aka Vail Square), East Vail, West Vail and Cascade Village. Shopping at those locations is not for bargain hunters or rack divers. Art galleries, fine jewelers, gourmet food sellers and high-fashion retailers line the streets of Vail Village. Click here for a full listing.
For the Non-Skier
Vail is not only home to stunning skiing and luxury lodging, it’s also the venue for some of winter’s hottest events: Snow Daze, a week-long celebration featuring demos, DJs and live concerts. Carnivail, offered every March, is billed as the country’s highest low-country catfish boil, including a Fat Tuesday parade and plenty of free concerts.Vail also wraps up each ski season with a Back to Spring bash featuring free concerts.
The summer and fall months at Vail can hardly be considered the off-season. Art, music and dance festivals pepper the events calendar, and in September, there are 2 weekends set aside to celebrate Oktoberfest. September is also Vail’s restaurant month featuring well-known chefs, wine and beer tastings, and spa and health packages.
Biggest Bang for Your Buck
Visit www.vailonsale.com for last-minute lodging deals. Additionally, book travel during off-peak times (avoiding the holiday season) for discounted lodging, airfare and lift tickets.
Travel Channel Tip
If you’re not a first-timer to Vail, that doesn’t mean you can’t find new ways to explore this winter wonderland. The Adventure Sessions program matches you with similarly skilled skiers led by a top mountain guide who will share technical tips, allow you to cut lifts lines, and find new and exciting trails. Moonlit snowshoe tours get you out of your bindings to trek through packed powder while learning about astronomy.
Ski Weather Report