Photo: VailResorts/Jack Affleck

The Ultimate Guide to Vail

Located in Eagle County Colorado, Vail is the third-largest single mountain ski resort in the United States with over 5,000 acres of ski trails for skiers to explore.

About Vail

Located in Eagle County Colorado, Vail is the third-largest single mountain ski resort in the United States with over 5,000 acres of ski trails for skiers to explore. Dating back to 1962, two Aspen ski patroller’s inspired by their experiences in the Alps put together their vision to create the next great ski mountain and so the first gondola in the United States was put into place, along with two double chair lifts and a beginner Poma lift.

By the mid-1970s, Vail had earned the reputation of one of Colorado’s greatest ski areas and as it grew in popularity as a winter destination, money was invested to expand Vail as a summer destination, seeing golf courses and mountain bike trails laid out. By 1990, the popularity of Vail the ski resort was marked with the hosting of the Alpine Ski Racing World Championships .

Today, Vail remains as popular as ever for skiing with plenty of alternative activities on offer for the non-skiers of the group.

Photo: Jack Affleck
Photo: VailResorts/Daniel Milchev
Photo: VailResorts

Winter in Vail

A paradise for skiers, Vail is known for its wide, open back bowls and exceptional natural snow record. One of the largest linked ski resorts in the United States, this stunning resort has more than 5,200 acres of developed ski and snowboard terrain with 31 lifts. With three distinct areas including the Front Side, the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin, Vail has something for everyone when it comes to ski terrain. Beginner’s visiting this beautiful ski resort will have nearly 18 percent of the mountain’s acres to explore with magic carpets and green circle trails. Complete with renowned ski schools and high Alpine beginner’s terrain, Vail is the perfect place to learn and build confidence with this exciting winter sport.

Ideal for intermediate skiers, those with more experience under their belts can explore iconic intermediate runs including Born Free, Bwana and Simba, as well as Vail’s south-facing Back Bowls which offer wide open basins above the treeline. With 53 percent of expert skiing terrain, advanced skiers will be in their element as they take on the mostly ungroomed Blue Sky Basin and challenging terrain in Mongolia and Siberia Bowl. Vail also has several terrain parks with plenty of features ranging from jumps to super-pipes.

Non-skiers have plenty to keep them amused too from ice skating on the indoor Olympic ice rink to enjoying a ride on the Luge Alpine Coaster. Nature lovers can explore the landscape on a snowshoe trek, a dog sledding tour or have a go at ski joering. For an adrenaline rush, try paragliding or ice climbing. Afterwards, relax at the QC Terme wellness centre which has a beautiful setting overlooking a small lake.

Photo: VailResorts/Jack Affleck
Photo: VailResorts/Jack_Affleck
Photo: VailResorts/Chris McLennan

Where to stay in Vail

Luxury Ski Chalets in Vail
Photo: Arrabelle Chalet

Located in the heart of Vail with easy access to the slopes and village, Avanti Chalet is perfect for families with plenty to entertain both adults and children including a hot tub on the lower deck, as well as a media and games room featuring AppleTV, Wifi, and a foosball table. Combining traditional alpine features with contemporary fixtures, Avanti Chalet is a charming mountain home able to accommodate up to 14 guests across seven bedrooms.

For a ski-in/ski-out apartment, Arrabelle Retreat is conveniently positioned in Lionshead Village just a few steps from both the Eagle Bahn Gondola as well as the many shops and restaurants of Vail. With an interior infused by Swiss and Austrian chalets, Arabelle Retreat features stone archways and custom leather furniture and has a fully-stocked wine cave perfect for wine tasting. With access to the spa facilities of the Arabelle complex, guests can also unwind in the heated rooftop pool, as well as in the sauna or hot tubs. Able to accommodate eight guests across four bedrooms, Arabelle retreat has two impressive master suites with king-sized four-poster beds.

Part of the same complex, Arrabelle Chalet offers exceptional views of both the slopes and village with its location on the sixth floor of the Arrabelle complex. Providing plenty of living space in which to relax, Arrabelle Chalet has a bright living and dining area which opens onto a wrap-around balcony perfect for al fresco dining. Able to accommodate up to 12 guests, this beautiful retreat has five bespoke bedrooms including two impressive master suites and a children’s bunk room.

Where to Eat & Drink in Vail

It should come as no surprise that as Colorado’s largest ski resort, guests staying in Vail will be spoilt for choice with over 100 restaurants. For a delightful mountain restaurant, The 10th located near chairs three and four has a cosy bar complete with crackling fires and outstanding views of the Gorge Range. Serving unique and modern cuisine, this delightful restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner with dishes boasting a French, Italian and Swiss flare including pea risotto with roasted cauliflower and beef short rib bolognese.

For a romantic dinner, make sure you reserve a table at Game Creek. With its unique location just above the Game Creek chairlift, this cosy restaurant provides guests with both gourmet food and breathtaking views. Accessible only by snowcat in winter, dishes include elk,black cod and wild boar.

Located in the heart of the village, Sweet Basil first opened its doors in 1977, making it one of Vail’s oldest restaurants. Today this charming restaurant remains a popular venue with its contemporary American cuisine and for its collection of 500 bottles of wine. With attention to detail in both presentation and service, delicious meals include beef ragu and pan roasted duck breast. For a taste of Switzerland during your stay in Vail, visit the Swiss Chalet for a fantastic ambience and authentic Swiss cuisine, while Flame is the perfect restaurant for steak lovers.

Top Events in Vail

With a jam-packed events calendar including winter skiing tournaments and summer music festivals, this resort knows how to keep visitors entertained. In February, Vail welcome’s the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships, the World’s greatest snowboarding event where snowboarders compete in the halfpipe, slopestyle and junior jam. Spectators can also enjoy free nightly concerts and activities for all ages.

For film fanatics, Vail’s annual March Film Festival sees thousands of attendees and filmmakers from across the United States and around the world foster independent film through film screenings, panels, workshops, networking events, and educational projects. The best and longest-standing mountain town festival in the country, Spring back to Vail in April also brings a new dimension to spring skiing with free concerts and a variety of live music throughout Vail village and the Lionshead.

Photo: Shutterstock

Summer in Vail

Discover the fantastic off season activities America’s largest ski resort has to offer, from hiking and biking to rafting and golf. When the snow has melted and the summer months have arrived, make sure you get the Adventure Pass for unlimited all-day access to 11 activities in the resort, including scenic gondola tours, mini-golf, climbing walls and the Forest Flyer mountain coaster. The perfect base for water sports, Vail has its very own Whitewater Park, as well as Class I to Class V river trips on the Eagle, Colorado, and even the Arkansas rivers. With several rafting companies, book a rafting trip and learn about the differences between the classes of rapids in Vail’s waterways.

Providing stunning mountain scenery, Vail also has a wide variety of golf courses including the Vail Golf Club which gives a unique 18 hole golfing experience at an elevation of 8,200 feet. With miles of scenic mountain bike and hiking trails accessible via the Eagle Bahn and Gondola One, Vail has both family trails and experienced trails for hikers and biking enthusiasts. For further summer excitement Vail also has zipline tours, scenic fishing spots and summer tubing.

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