Vail Ski Resort
Vail Ski Resort is HUGE - 7 miles wide, over 5000 acres of terrain, 31 lifts, and 193 trails make Vail the largest skiing and snowboarding resort in North America. It's so big that on an average day there are only 2 skiers or snowboarders per acre increasing to just 4 on a busy day. Vail has 3 distinct areas: the Front Side, the 7 Back Bowls, and the Blue Sky Basin. All are supported by an efficient fast lift system to get you quickly to the top for a fun day of skiing. And Vail has runs for all skill levels - wide groomed cruisers to double black diamonds as well as 4 terrain parks. Vail gets an average of 346 inches of snow and 300 days of sunshine! Maybe all of this is why Vail has been selected by Ski Magazine readers as the #1 Ski Resort in North America ten times since 1988. Whatever you do, don't get frustrated skiing from lift to lift to try multiple areas in a day - pick an area and ski it for a day, then ski another area the next day, and by the end of the week you'll have covered most of the mountain!
The Front Side offers an awesome variety from wide, gentle, smooth groomers to some moguls and glades. Plus there are four terrain parks including the Golden Peak Terrain Park with jumps, jib park, and superpipe. This area is perfect for warming up and for beginners to intermediate skiers - you're not just limited to one area like most other resorts, you can ski the entire front side.
For intermediate skiers you can ski down the Front Side Trails (Lionshead is great), head over to the back side and ski China Bowl's Poppyfield for fun powder skiing or snowboarding, or try the Game Creek Express for fun and fast runs or some of the easier black diamond runs. Intermediates can cruise the entire front side on carpet-like trails - the Loinshead run is a particular highlight.
The Seven Back Bowls are all natural and over six miles wide with 2966 acres to ski and these bowls are serviced by 8 lifts. The bowls make up over 1/3 of the skiable terrain and they are suitable for advanced to expert skiers and snowboarders and offer wide open powder and mogul fields of varying steepness with a few sections of good treed terrain.
For experts and daredevils, the double black terrain around the Highline Chairlift on the Front Side will push even the best to their limits and if you head further left it gets steeper and even more challenging. In the Back Bowls the Forever Trail in Sun Down Bowl is renowned for its large moguls and good powder but the Seldom, Never, and O.S run are even better for pristine powder. In China Bowl the gladed Shangri La Glade under Orient Express Lift is fantastic and the left hand side of the Skyline Express Lift is steep and fast.
Blue Sky Basin is one of Vail's farthest to reach areas and it has no dining options but does have a warming hut and bathrooms. Blue Sky Basin is home to some of the best backcountry skiing on over 645 acres served by four high speed quads. Here you find fewer skiers, lots of solitude, and great powder - Blue Sky Basin is two miles into the wilderness area and well away from civilization. This is terrain that is similar to what you experience if you were to hike or helicoper in to ski. This area is for for advanced to expert skiers and has only blue and black runs with bumps, steep and deep powder, a couple groomers, and some tree gladed runs. Some parts of the Basin are groomed for intermediates but generally there are no specifically marked trails more just general suggested markers.
Check out the Vail Trail Map.
Vail Fast Facts
Snow: Average Annual Snowfall 350 inches
If you don't want to ski, you can buy a foot pass on the Eagle Bahn Gondola and head to the top of Vail Mountain for some unbelievable scenery; a lunch, drink, or hot chocolate at the Blue Moon Restaurant & Bar; or a fun time at Adventure Ridge. Adventure Ridge has great activities for families and kids - tubing, ski biking, ice skating, snowshoeing, kid's snowmobiling, and a bunge trampoline. There are also three huge base areas at Vail, all of which are interconnected with an effecient bus system and full of restaurants, shops, rentals, and fun nightlife:
- Golden Peak - Golden Peak is the furthermost east base area of Vail Mountain. It's famous for being quickest access point to the top of Vail Mountain and the Back Bowls (something to keep in mind on powder days). Golden Peak offers the Riva Bahn Express, a beginner area, expansive children ski school programs, a half-pipe, terrain parks, several dining options, ski and snowboard rentals and the Small World Play School for children who aren't quite ready to hit the slopes
- Vail Village - radiates Bavarian charm with cobblestone streets and the ambiance and intimacy of a small European village. You'll find plenty of apres ski spots, a plethora of dining options from casual to very upscale, and a wide variety of shops
- Lionshead - has the timeless feel and ambience of some of the finest European villages and an excellent blend of luxury lodging and accomodations and features shops, restaurants, special events, and the Vail Valley's only gondola, the Eagle Bahn Gondola
Vail dining competes with the quality and variety you would find in San Francisco and New York City. And the nightlife is some of the best and most fun with a lively friendly crowd. After skiing or for non-skiers Vail offers plenty to see and do, some of which includes: