Picture yourself perched on top of the world, a whopping 11,570 feet high, panoramic frosted mountain as far as you can see, knee-deep in snowy white powder, freshly waxed skis on your feet, and a perfect Colorado bluebird day just waiting for you to take your first run. This is the reason people are flocking to Colorado. Locals and visitors alike clamor to feel the heady rush of expertly navigating a steep vertical drop down a Rocky Mountain slope, to spend hours cruising through forested glades, or just to kick back and enjoy the awe-inspiring scenery.
Vail is a world-class mountain resort that has enchanted skiers for decades. A mountain getaway like few others, Vail boasts 5,317 acres of skiable terrain serviced by a whopping 31 lifts. Cobbled roads and free shuttle buses connect two distinct base villages. The options for dining, shopping, and partying are bountiful, and you will find many tourists taking full advantage. If you have a keen eye, you will also find that the mountain employees have an affinity for visiting certain establishments after their day is done and they have enjoyed a few downhill runs.
Vail’s history is a series of unplanned events that resulted in one of the world's best-known ski resorts. In the 1870s, the Colorado gold rush descended on Gore Valley, and settlers and fortune-seekers drove the local Ute people out of the area. Legend has it, the Utes set fire to the forest, and the result was the creation of Vail’s Back Bowls.
During World War II, the Army’s 10th Mountain Division used the area backcountry for alpine survival training. There is a statue in Vail Village dedicated to these hearty troopers. In 1962, three veterans, Pete Seibert, Bill Brown, and Bob Parker, joined forces with Earl Eaton and broke ground on their vision, a Colorado Rocky Mountain ski resort. The ski resort today captures every visitor’s heart, convincing many to relocate and become a local.
1. Ski The Famous Back Bowls
Vail’s Back Bowls are an exciting playground for confident intermediate and expert skiers and snowboarders. With 3,017 skiable acres marked by wide-open basins and partially perched above the treeline, the Back Bowls embody the exhilaration and excitement of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The terrain varies from expansive basins that gradually encompass forests, glades, cliffs, streams, and so much more.
There are five different bowls at Vail, each with its own unique cachet.
Northwoods Bowl has options for intermediate and expert skiers with wide-open bowls and awe-inspiring views.
Game Creek Bowl offers a few unobstructed beginner trails where you can test your skills. The advanced skier should check out Ouzo Glade to search for their own private powder stash.
China Bowl offers a mix of groomed and natural runs with steep terrains and picturesque vistas.
Sun Up and Sun Down Bowl is home to one of Vail’s iconic runs, Forever, and every Vail story needs to include this run.
Finally, the granddaddy of all the bowls is Siberia and Mongolia Bowl, where the experts find themselves knee deep in heavenly powder. If you want to be on top of the world, away from the crowds, and challenge your abilities, this is the place.
Some of the best skiing in Colorado is here, and you will find yourself skiing with locals, celebrities, and world travelers all looking for the best stash, the deepest powder, and the most thrilling black diamond run of the day.
2. Ski The Front Side
The Front Side is everything you expect from a Colorado Mountain ski resort. Groomed downhill trails ranging from beginner to expert, moguls to challenge your skill, and gentle glades to enjoy Mother Nature’s gifts.
It is here you will find Vail’s longest run, Riva Ridge. Four miles of downhill fun oscillating between black diamond and intermediate terrain along the way. This run dumps you out at Vail Village, with many onlookers checking out your technique and style.
3. Ski Blue Sky Basin
Blue Sky Basin offers backcountry skiing for all levels. Dotted with gorgeous glades and views that will take your breath away, Blue Sky Basin is a delicate gem wrapped up in a small space of 645 skiable acres.
4. Practicing Tricks At The Parks
Two freestyle terrain parks offer tricksters plenty of options. Golden Peak has jumps, rails, boxes, and rollers that will challenge your techniques and aerial prowess. Avanti is a beginner park where first-timers can test their bravado.
5. The Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships
In an obscure Vermont barn in 1977, Jake Burton took the first steps to making snowboard history. His dedication to the sport and his unwavering quest to make the best board launched Burton to the top of the market. Snowboarders around the globe dream of carving on a Burton.
With the best of the best showing off their skills, the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships at Vail is an event worth planning your visit around.
Demonstrations, competitions, concerts, exhibits, and a closing party capped off by fireworks are the highlights of the Burton US Open. Watch amazing extreme snowboarders conquer the half-pipe and show off their slopestyle runs. These talented athletes perform jaw-dropping moves against Vail’s beautiful, snow-covered backdrop. It’s a party-all-day atmosphere.
6. Dine At The Alpenrose
Hands down, the Alpenrose is the Vail dining tradition and has been since its opening in 1974. Serving Austrian-inspired comfort food in a rustic, casual atmosphere transports you back to a time and place that harkens to the mountaineering spirit.
Tourists love the ambiance and delicious cuisine. You will find locals who work the slopes stopping in for an after-shift drink and gather with their buddies. They are usually more than happy to share their slope expertise and invariably have an interesting story or three to share. It is a great way to find out what runs are at their peak.
7. Dine In Avon And Edwards
If you want to dine like a local, then you need to go to where they live. The small towns surrounding the resort are home to many of the mountain's employees. They have a love of the slopes and great food. An added benefit to taking a drive off the resort -- the scenery is gorgeous.
Avon has two notable establishments. Vin 48 is a fine-dining restaurant and wine bar known for fresh, locally sourced ingredients and handcrafted dishes. Small plates for sampling and sharing are the perfect way to spend an evening with good friends.
If you are looking for Asian cuisine, stop by Pho 20 Avon, where you can feed a gang great food without breaking the bank.
Edwards has some great options also. Try Loaded Joe’s for a hearty breakfast before you hit the slopes. The Avocado Toast or the Lamb Scramble will fuel you up for a day of fresh air and sunshine. They also have a spot in Vail for a quick and convenient stop.
For other local haunts and dining options, check out 10 Fantastic Restaurants Locals Love Near Vail, Colorado.
8. Apres Ski At The Red Lion
If you ski at Vail, then you know the Red Lion is at the center of the bar scene. Nightly entertainment, great I’ve-been-working-all-day pub grub, and an extensive beer list are exactly what you want for apres ski. You may stop at the Red Lion for a quick drink, but you will end up staying for dinner and the entertainment when you experience their warm, friendly hospitality.
9. Closing Day Shenanigans
Closing day at Vail is more than just an event -- it is epic. Gangs of costumed snow enthusiasts flock to the slopes for a spring skiing extravaganza. This is the ultimate party of the season, and many go to the mountain just for the experience.
Crowds will form at the top of the mountain, 4 at 4 for those in the know, to salute another amazing year of snow bunny fun. Fill up your pack, don your best wacky get-up, and hit the slopes for a memorable, end-of-season day.
Pro Tip: You don’t need to be a skier to enjoy the electric atmosphere of Vail. There are still plenty of things to do, see, and experience. For a list of ideas, visit 10 Wonderful Things To Do In Vail Besides Skiing.