Vail isn’t just a ski area, it’s a legend whose fame echoes across the globe. Vast and flashy, yet also pure and classy, this winter resort is worthy of accolades not just for its slopes but also the vibrant villages that fringe its base. Come for a day and get a glimpse of what’s in store. A week pulls back the covers a little more. Return time after time, and you’ll fall in love. Simply put, Vail is a must-do, bucket list sort of place.
Here are eight reasons why you must visit Vail in your lifetime.
1. It’s Epic
With more than 5,200 acres of developed terrain, Vail is one of the biggest ski resorts in the world and is the third largest in the United States. With 31 lifts, 3,450 feet of vertical, and 195 runs, the statistics make it easy to brag. But to fully grasp just how epic Vail is, you have to come see for yourself. Get the EpicMix app to follow your tracks. You ski pass will automatically log lift rides, so you can count your vertical at the end of the day.
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2. It’s Steeped in History
Officially incorporated in 1966, the town of Vail might seem young, but its history runs deep. During World War II, the Army’s 10th Mountain Division trained in these mountains, developing rugged skiers and mountaineers like Pete Seibert. (The vet from Massachusetts returned to Colorado after the war to ski.) While working at Loveland, he scouted out the slopes of Vail with Colorado native Earl Eaton, and the two teamed up to develop the ski area.
To learn more about the history, visit the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame, in the parking garage at Vail Village.
3. The Back Bowls Are Like Nowhere Else on Earth
Looking up at Vail from the village you see just the tip of the iceberg. Take a couple of lifts to the top, and suddenly the pearly gates of heaven open before you. Spanning seven miles, Vail’s back bowls are where to go when you want a challenge. This vast, wide-open terrain (with some trees) is like a blank slate where you draw your own lines. With experience you get to know every gully and hump and might even find yourself repeating the same route time after time.
4. Blue Sky Basin is the Best
There’s nothing like Blue Sky Basin, the farthest outreach of Vail, which feels like its own frontier. Blue Sky sucks snow from the sky and holds powder stashes longer than the rest of the mountain. Keep an eye on the Blue Sky Snow Stake webcam to gauge how much snow to expect. Ski patrol clears it at 5:00 am daily, and many locals set their alarms to see if it’s going to be a powder day. When Blue Sky shows six inches or more, you might want to hustle to get in line for the first chair. That’s right – it might be off-the-beaten-path, but you’ll still find chairlifts and there is some grooming around the trees.
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On a nice day, fill a backpack with bratwurst and grab a grill at Belle’s Camp at lunchtime. Build up the courage to ski off the cornice at Lover’s Leap (skier’s right of lift #37)—some the steepest terrain and best snow on the mountain.
5. The Vibe is Alive
Vail’s four base areas combine deep-rooted ski culture and high-end flash with a Bavarian twist. Walk to après in your ski boots, go shopping, feast on almost any fare, and catch free outdoor concerts.
Vail Village, the main hub of action, is a quaint, cobblestone pedestrian zone modeled after a European town. Lionshead, which recently had a major face-lift, is another bustling base. At the quieter ends of the spectrum, Golden Peak hugs the bunny hill at the east edge, and Cascade Village offering access for those coming from the west.
On the slopes, the chatter of foreign languages fills lift lines. Everyone from families to freestylers can find their favorite terrain.
6. You Can Do So Much More than Ski
Adventure Ridge brims with thrilling activities for off days. For the ultimate adrenalin boost, whiz 3,400 feet down the mountain on the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster. Or you can do laps on the tubing hill. Sign up for a guided ski bike tour to fly down the mountain another way.
When your legs beg for a break, sink into your hotel’s hot tub. Then wander the village, making frequent stops for shopping, people watching, and beer. For those who like to stay up late, Bridge Street Bar bumps with DJ beats and Shakedown Bar is the heart of the live music scene.
7. The Aprés is Awesome
Vendettas in Vail Village is an après institution. Expect to strip your sweaty layers alongside locals and sidle up to a packed bar. If you’re after an Austrian vibe, Pepi’s is the place, with blonde wood paneling and acoustic tunes. On Fridays, join the Tyrolean Traverse, an under-the-radar après that starts at Sarah’s Lounge in Christiania Lodge, where Helmut Fricker plays alpenhorn and accordion. Wear a ski sweater.
In Lionshead, Tavern on the Square serves up tasty bites at the base of the slopes. If you end the day at Golden Peak, hit Larkspur for to-die-for truffle parmesan fries.
8. Your Taste Buds Will Thank You
Vail’s culinary creations are off the charts. No matter your preference or price point, you’ll be pleased. Within a snowball’s throw of the gondola, Los Amigos is the happening spot for Mexican food. For something more casual, grab some grub at La Cantina, a fast food-ish joint in the village parking lot. If you want to indulge in Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s famous Japanese creations, go to Matsuhisa. Terra Bistro is a long-running favorite, with ever-evolving creative concoctions using seasonal ingredients. Mountain Standard is another gem, serving wood-fired fare with Rocky Mountain flair in a tavern-like setting. For on-mountain eats, the 10th can’t be beat. If you’re hungover, venture to the Westside Cafe to wash down eggs with a bacon bloody Mary.
Featured image provided by © Vail Resorts