The Ski Resort
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 2,000 hectares of terrain, ski enthusiasts of all ages can let their skis do the talking. Vail is a new town which has been a popular ski resort for more than 50 years, and is a favorite destination for several athletes from the US ski team. The so-called “Back Bowls” on the rear side of the mountain attract freeride fans from across the globe.
The Ski Resort of Superlatives
Vail is a ski resort of superlatives by all accounts – its vast size is complemented by a plentiful supply of snow including its famous “champagne powder”. The ski area is roughly divided into three zones, with 195 trails spread among them – the “Front Side”, the “Back Bowls” and the “Blue Sky Basin”.
The Front Side is primarily dominated by beautiful long groomers running down into the valley. Whether black or blue-marked, all the trails are immaculate, making it easy for both beginners and expert skiers to enjoy some seamless carving. Broad, tree-less runs like Riva Ridge and Simba are ideal if you are looking to make some laid-back turns. Meanwhile, young skiers can enjoy themselves in the Kids’ Adventure Zones and learn to make their first turns on two skis. Freestyle skiers and snowboarders have three different terrain parks to choose from, with various obstacles catering for all skill levels. The extensive ski area is fed by entry points in Vail Village, Lionshead and Golden Peak.
A Challenge for Advanced Skiers
Vail is a particularly great destination for advanced skiers looking for a challenge – a whopping 103 kilometres of black-marked runs certainly provide that. Steep descents like “Ricky’s Ridge” and “Champagne Glade” will test even the most experienced of skiers. The legendary Back Bowls on the other side of the mountain are a true paradise for powder lovers. Perfect powder, or “champagne powder” as the locals like to call it, and broad runs with incredible panoramic views make this area absolutely unforgettable. There are seven different bowls to discover, from the Sun up and Sun down Bowls to the China Bowl and the Siberia Bowl, although you certainly need to be proficient on your skis to navigate some of these demanding runs.
And if that still isn’t enough terrain for you, then you can explore the trails and lifts of the Blue Sky Basin. Sections of this area are somewhat less demanding than in the Back Bowls, however the landscape here is not quite as open and wide. The trails leading down from Pete’s and Earl’s Express lifts are something special, as are the lifts – named as they are after Vail’s founding fathers Pete Seibert und Earl Eaton.
- Offering 5288 acres of slopes and terrain, Vail is among the 5 largest Ski Resorts in the USA.
- Vail is among the 3 best rated Ski Resorts in the USA.
- It is known to be the most family-friendly ski resort in the USA.
- The vertical drop from summit to base is 3451 ft. The average difference in altitude between base and summit of Ski Resorts in the USA is 1204 ft. Most runs are therefore relatively long. The high point of the ski resort is located at an elevation of 11568 ft.
- Average snow depth during the season is 18 " at summit elevation and 16 " at base elevation. Snow coverage is usually best during March, offering an average snow depth of 59 " at summit elevation and 0 " at the base.
- Vail features 108 sunny days on average per season. The average for all ski Resorts in the USA is 73 sunny days. January is the sunniest month with an average of 21 sunny days. This makes the ski resort one of the 10 sunniest in Colorado.
On Mountain Dining
The range of terrain across the ski area is only matched by the variety of restaurants on offer. There are plenty of opportunities to refuel with food and drink, both on the mountain and in the valley. The Mid-Vail Restaurant, which was the very first mountain restaurant established in Vail, is located next to the Mountaintop lift. Here, you can get everything from a burger or a gourmet sandwich to Asian dishes and barbecue specialities.
There is also a typical American barbecue at the Wildwood restaurant, located directly at the station of the Wildwood Express – breath-taking views come with excellent meals. Vail’s flagship restaurant, the Two Elk, is built in the style of an old lodge and is situated right next to the entrance to the China Bowl.
For experienced skiers looking for a real challenge, the legendary Back Bowls are a must. Top snow conditions combined with demanding runs ensure top-notch skiing throughout the season. However, if it’s perfect trail conditions you’re after, then you don’t have to look any further afield than the Front Side. In particular, the 6.4 kilometre-long Riva Ridge, Cloud 9 and The Woods trails are hard to match for carving conditions.
Most Difficult Runs
Off the slopes, there is also a variety of different ways to enjoy a day in Vail. At 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, and the town centre 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 last 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 enjoy fabulous 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 House 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” at 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, designed in the style of a European mountain chalet, treats its guests to top-notch American and French dishes complemented by selected wines.
Vail is located in the central Rocky Mountains in Colorado, some 160 kilometres from Denver. Interstate 70 runs directly to the ski area from Denver airport. Alternatively, it is also possible to take a domestic flight to Eagle County. The airport is only around 20 minutes from Vail and easy to reach by taxi.