Vail Ski Resort is world-renowned for providing guests with an experience that truly is “Like nothing on Earth.” Founded in 1962, the Colorado resort is home to seven legendary back bowls spanning seven miles across the backside of the resort. The ski area is enormous with over 5,289 acres to explore and four distinct base areas connected by free buses and heated walkways. It draws skiers from all over the world and provides excellent terrain for all ability levels.
The resort has great terrain options, excellent ski schools and a large assortment of shopping and dining options. The two main base areas are Vail Village and Lionshead. Vail Village located at the base of Gondola One is the original base area and is home to Vail’s iconic covered bridge that crosses Gore Creek. Lionshead Village, located just west of Vail Village, is serviced by its own gondola and is home to luxury resorts.
Denver to Vail is about 1.5 hours – or more depending on traffic. It is 100 miles from Denver International Airport and 30 miles east of Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE). There are plenty of shuttle services to Vail. Once you get to Vail, you can navigate the town by bus for free.
Vail is a great destination for many skiers, but the resort can get crowded on the weekends. So, check the chair lift status signs at strategic intersections on the mountain to avoid backups. A yellow light means the lift maze is full so choose an alternative route if possible. A green light means you are good to go.
While many other ski resorts in the western United States started as mining towns, Vail was built from the ground up to be a ski resort. During World War II the U.S. Army established a training center at Camp Hale located just 14 miles south of what would later become Vail Mountain. The U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division trained at Camp Hale and consisted of excellent skiers and mountaineers that fought in the mountains of northern Italy during WWII. Upon their return from the war, they quickly became major players in the burgeoning ski industry.
A veteran of the 10th Mountain Division, Pete Seibert returned to Colorado after the war to search for a perfect location to build a ski area in the Rocky Mountain region. Pete teamed up with friend Earl Eaton who led Pete on a seven-hour climb up a no-name mountain, where they crested the summit to discover the now legendary back bowls.
Centrally located in Colorado and right off of Interstate 70, Vail is easily accessible from both the Eagle Airport (35 miles west of Vail) and Denver International Airport (110 miles to the east).
Both airports offer rental cars and shuttles to the area. Once in Vail, the town’s free bus system takes visitors almost everywhere they need to go.
A 35-minute drive to Vail, Eagle Airport (EGE) is serviced in the winter by American, Continental, Delta and United. Eagle Airport features non-stop flights to and from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York (Kennedy and LaGuardia) and Newark. The majority of service begins Dec. 15, 2011 and continues through April 2012.
Denver International Airport (DEN) is located 110 miles east of Vail via Interstate 70. Denver International Airport offers numerous daily flights to and from most major U.S. cities, and connections to destinations worldwide.
Colorado Mountain Express (CME) is the largest transportation service to and from Vail for both Denver International Airport and the Eagle Airport.
High Mountain Taxi offers airport transfers from Eagle Airport as well as in-town transportation.
Most national rental car chains have locations at both Eagle and Denver International Airports.
Many of the streets in Vail are pedestrian-only, making getting around on foot easy and enjoyable. Additionally, the Town of Vail operates one of the largest free public transportation systems in the country, which utilizes GPS technology to give riders real-time arrival information at every stop.
Regional bus service is also available for modest fares to Beaver Creek, Minturn, Leadville, Eagle-Vail, Avon, Edwards, Eagle and Gypsum.
The Westside Café in West Vail is the perfect spot to fuel up before hitting the slopes. Offering different varieties of omelets as well as traditional favorites, Westside should be your first stop on a powder day - or any day.
For a quick cup of coffee or a pastry on your way to the lifts, swing by Yeti’s Grind in Solaris Square in Vail Village.
Situated at the heart of Vail Mountain, The 10th is a ski-in, ski-out fine dining restaurant overlooking the majestic Gore Range. The cuisine is world-class with a focus on Modern Alpine classics. Step out of your boots and into a pair of complimentary slippers to enjoy an upscale lunch, cozy up to the bar with a hot drink for après, or take a nighttime ride on Gondola One to enjoy a gourmet dinner atop Vail Mountain.
A celebration of Colorado’s highest peaks, Bistro Fourteen features family-friendly cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. Adults will enjoy a large selection of regional fare and seasonal microbrews. Ride the scenic Eagle Bahn Gondola to dinner, and make it a spectacular evening with amazing views and creative entrees. Located at Eagle’s Nest at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead.
If you don’t want to waste time skiing the seven miles to the base from the Back Bowls for lunch, pop into Two Elk Lodge at the top of Chairs 14 and 36. The views will inspire you.
Game Creek Restaurant takes fine dining to new heights. Literally. Located in Vail's scenic Game Creek Bowl, this European chalet is the perfect location for a romantic evening out or a gourmet meal for the whole family. Take a short ride up the Eagle Bahn Gondola to Eagle’s Nest, where you will be whisked away by snowcat through the woods to the restaurant. The magnificent setting is matched with a gourmet, multi-course meal and an award-winning wine list. This is truly a dining experience not to be missed. Located on Vail Mountain.
Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, one of the premier chefs of Japanese cuisine, opened his 29th restaurant, Matsuhisa, located in the lobby space of The Solaris Residences in Vail Village in August 2011. Matsuhisa Vail joins dozens of the celebrity chef’s restaurants under the Nobu brand around the world, and only three that carry the Matsuhisa name – Aspen, Beverly Hills, and Mykonos, Greece. Matsuhisa has taken traditional Japanese cuisine and infused bold South American and Western flavors to create a style that captivates audiences worldwide.
Open for dinner nightly in the heart of Vail Village at The Lodge at Vail and less than a block from Vail Mountain’s Gondola One, Elway’s features USDA hand-cut prime steaks on an award-winning menu chock full of Colorado lamb, fresh fish and creative side dishes. An affordable wine list boasts over 350 selections. The lively bar offers classic cocktails alongside unique appetizers. Dine indoors in the casual mountain setting or après ski in the Colorado mountain sun on the covered or sunny outdoor patios.
Named the “most dynamic restaurant in Vail” by Wine Spectator Magazine, Chef/Owner Thomas Salamunovich’s Larkspur Restaurant brings fine dining to new levels with his contemporary American cuisine. Featuring an open kitchen, giant fireplace, and floor-to-ceiling glass wine room, Larkspur is a treat for your senses. Located at the Golden Peak base area, Larkspur features an extensive bar menu and dinner options that change weekly based on the selection and seasonality of ingredients.
Located in Vail Village at Solaris Square, this is not your neighborhood bowling alley. Complete with a full-service dining room, a 60-foot bar, and 10 bowling lanes, Bōl is a one-stop-shop for an evening of entertainment. Featuring a modern but relaxed atmosphere and a surprisingly creative menu, Bōl is a perfect spot for a date, large groups, and families.
A favorite spot for Vail Mountain Ski Patrollers, Vendetta’s has been serving some of the best pizza and Italian food in the Vail Valley since 1983. For a quieter meal, sit in the main dining room, but for local color and excitement, opt for the pizza bar.
Nestled within The Arrabelle at Vail Square and only steps away from the Eagle Bahn gondola, Tavern on the Square is a great spot for delicious food and drink, before and after you hit the slopes. The outdoor patio is a great spot to soak up some sun for après ski. The tavern boasts a large selection of regional brews as well as cocktails and wine.
One of Vail’s best kept secrets, The Fitz Bar & Restaurant is tucked away in the Manor Vail Lodge adjacent to the Golden Peak base area, making it a popular destination for Vail Ski School instructors and significantly less crowded than the après spots in Vail Village. The atmosphere is casual and the menu burgers, tacos and more.
Garfinkel's is a classic ski-town sports bar and grill, offering a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere to grab a drink and catch a game. Locals and tourists alike can enjoy a sunny deck, friendly service, and specials.
Shakedown Bar is a great spot for live music and après–ski entertainment. This live music venue and bar showcase artists from all over Colorado.
Vail is arguably one of the most well-known ski areas in the world, and the main reason for that is its sheer size. Boasting 5,289 acres of skiable terrain, 7 back bowls (3,017 acres) and Blue Sky Basin (645 acres), Vail mountain offers something for every ability level. The front side (1,627 acres) of the mountain is ideal for beginner and intermediate skiers looking to cruise perfect corduroy while more advanced skiers can head to the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin for a backcountry ski experience inbounds. The total number of runs is 195.
On a powder day, there is no better place in the world than Vail’s Back Bowls. Chair 5, also known as High Noon Express, which services Sun Up and Sun Down Bowls is a great place to start. Take a pristine run down a classic like Forever or Ricky’s Ridge before working your way east. From the top of Chair 5, take a run in the Sun Up Bowl, and head up Chair 17 (Sun Up Lift), which will put you in a position to ski into Teacup Bowl.
The base elevation is 8,120 feet, mid-elevation 10,250 feet, and peak elevation 11,570 feet, with 3,450 feet of vertical rise. The breakout of the runs is 18% beginner, 29% intermediate and 53% advanced. The area gets 354 inches of snow on average. The longest run is Riva Ridge at 4 miles long
Vail’s world-class grooming is a little slice of heaven for skiers of all ability levels. More advanced skiers will enjoy black diamond cruising on Vail’s longest run, Riva Ridge which gives you four miles of thigh-burning excitement. Northwoods, accessed from Chair 11 (Northwoods Express) is a great option for intermediate skiers as are all the runs off Chair 2 (Avanti Express).
Beginners should head to friendly slopes like Flap Jack and Sourdough off Chair 14 (Sourdough Express) on the East side of the mountain, Lost Boy in Game Creek Bowl or the myriad of green runs at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. For first-timers, Eagle’s Nest is the place to be. Easily accessible from the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola, a practice area with magic carpets and a non-intimidating beginner lift make this the perfect setting to find your ski or snowboard legs.
For the young, and the young at heart, Kids Adventure Zones are scattered across the mountain, teeming with opportunities to discover. Runs like Chaos Canyon, Magic Forest, Sherwood Forest, Porcupine Alley, Coyote’s Escape & Den, and Buckskin Glade await young skiers and riders, promising adventure and excitement at every turn.
When the ski day is done, Adventure Ridge, located at the top of the gondola, is open into the evening—offering even more family activities like tubing, snow bikes, a kids’ snowmobile track, and free guided nature snowshoe tours.
Vail offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing lessons and tours from Golden Peak. You can also book a private tour, rentals, and telemark and backcountry ski programs.
See a show at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater
Enjoy the views at Two Elk Lodge
Visit the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum
Grab a beer or two at Vail Brewing Co.
Looking for winter activities in Vail other than skiing? Adventure Ridge is the place to go! There, you’ll find ski bikes, a kid's snowmobile track, rip-roaring tubing lanes, and more. Take a scenic gondola ride, snowshoe, and enjoy the world-class on-mountain dining that Vail has to offer. Then, stroll around Vail Village and Lionshead, finding shops, delicious food, and live music along the way.
Signature winter events at Vail ski resort include Pink Vail, the world’s biggest ski day to conquer cancer, the 10th Mountain Legacy Parade to commemorate the founders of Vail Mountain, the Burton US Open, and free live concerts at Ford Park throughout the season.
Taking a lesson with Vail Ski & Snowboard School offers guests a world-class experience, with perks like on-mountain photography taken by EpicMix photographers, dedicated lift-line access, and the expert knowledge of a professional guide to lead you around Vail's diverse terrain. Lessons range from beginner to advanced, with private and family options available.
The Small World Nursery in Golden Peak accommodates children ages 2 months to 6 years old. Qualified staff members provide a program of appropriate and fun-filled activities and projects throughout the day. Outside playtime is also a priority and they strive to take each child (over 12 months) outdoors each day.