"The Shining Mountains" was the Ute name for the majestic peaks which overlook Vail Valley & Vail Colorado USA is a truly magical place, both on & off the slopes.
Pete Seibert & Earl Eaton first climbed Vail Mountain in 1957 & thought it would be the perfect place to open a new ski area & this Vail was born, opening in 1962. At that time lift tickets cost $5 & the ski resort had one gondola, 2 years & 9 ski runs!
Fast forward a few decades & Vail is now the largest ski resort in Colorado with 31 lifts, 195, 7 to die for backbowls & over 350 inches of snow on average per year. The skiing along with the picturesque villages, wonderful dining & nightlife make Vail a very special place.
There is so much terrain in Vail ski resort USA that sometimes it's hard to know where to start! If you haven't skied for a while, it's worth beginning your day on some of the easier groomed green / blue runs. Give Espresso, Cappuccino or green run Swingsville a try from the Mountaintop express lift. Then if you're feeling confident try some of the black runs like Gandy Dancer off the Northwoods Express lift. The front side has a huge amount of runs for every ability, plenty to keep you busy for days & days.
The back bowls in Vail are legendary and absolutely incredible on a powder day! The quickest way to the back bowls is via the Golden Peak area, so if you're staying in Vail Village or Lionshead Village, it's worth getting the free bus to Golden Peak to stay ahead of the crowds. Most of the back bowls are unpisted, black runs, but there are also some blue groomed runs on China Bowl for example.
Blue Sky Basin is the furthest bowl past most of the back bowls & involves quite a bit of skiing, including over a little creek (don't worry there's a bridge!) to get there. The skiing is so worth the trip & the views are stunning...
The skiing is out of this world in Vail, but Vail itself is a gorgeous place to visit. The Vail villages are beautifully decorated with thousands of fairy lights, filling you with childish excitement, when you're heading out for dinner in the evening. Boutique shops, galleries, concerts, fountains & ice rinks add to the magical feel of Vail, making everyone feel like they're in a winter wonderland.
Vail has 2 main pedestrian villages - Vail Village & Lionshead Village, plus the Golden Peak base area, which are all linked by a frequent, free shuttle bus service:
Vail Village is the original centre of Vail & has a mix of modern & historic buildings / landmarks including the famous Vail clock tower. Vail Village is a wonderfully pretty place to stroll around, enjoying the views & perusing the many boutique shops, perhaps for a pair of cowboy boots, some unusual jewellery or that fur coat you've always wanted.
Vail Village is famous for its galleries & has a wonderful selection from Artful Sol contemporary abstract gallery to Claggett-Rey gallery with a selection of paintings & sculptures by American artists.
The new "gondola one" takes you up the mountain, directly from Vail Village & has heated seats & wifi to boot, or you can hop on the free bus & try one of the other base areas, but they're all interlinked. Lodge Tower is one of the closest properties to the lift & offers hotel room or self-catered apartments with breakfast included.
Step off the slopes & you're in the heart of Vail Village ready for some apres ski. Choose whether to head to the bars straight from the skiing or pop home & change ready for an evening out in Vail. Vail Village has world class restaurants including my favourite Sweet Basil, Up the Creek, La Tour & the Kelly Liken restaurant. For those who like nightlife, Vail is something to experience! Try the late night bars, all night dance parties & live music from the Red Lion to the Shakedown bar. We really like Frost bar inside the Sebastian Hotel for a cool place to hang out with specialty cocktails.
For something more family orientated sign up for the complimentary moonlit snowshoe tour on select full moon nights or head to Adventure Ridge & try your hand at snowtubing, snowbiking or the mini-snowmobile racetrack. Memories which are sure to last...
Lionshead Village Vail was built later & features the fabulous Arrabelle Hotel & residences right by the slopes. A little quieter & smaller than Vail Village, Lionshead Village is ideal for families & still has plenty of restaurants, shops & bars to choose from. Bart & Yeti's is favourite for apres ski & when I was there we enjoyed a guitarist whilst sitting in the sunshine after skiing - bliss!
The Eagle Bahn gondola & Born Free chairlift rise up the mountain out of Lionshead Village & everything in Lionshead is within a short walk of the lifts & slopes. Lionshead, unlike Vail village, has ski school for those wanting group or private lessons (only private lessons start in Vail village), making it a convenient place to stay if you're in need of a little help wih your skiing!
Lionshead Village has a lovely ice rink, lit up in the Winter with complimentary ice skating (just rent your skates), a lovely activity for familes to enjoy together. Lionshead also has some unique boutique shops & galleries including Lionshead Jewelers with fascinating fossils which we always stop to look at.
Antlers, Vail has self catered apartments & is a wonderful place for families to stay in Lionshead Village with many added extras: On site chef who provides dinner for your hungry family, Go Pros, sledges & snowshoes for guests to use during their stay, plus wine & cheese parties. Montaneros apartments are in the heart of Lionshead amongst the shops, bars & restaurants & just 3 mins walk from the slopes, a convenient choice.
Golden Peak is not as well known as the other 2 vail villages & is a smaller base area, just a short walk from Vail Village.
Golden Peak is home to the main children's ski school (& the nearest if you're staying in Vail Village) & this base area is a great place for children to start to learn to ski. There is some accommodation at Golden Peak: Manor Vail studios & apartments include breakfast & has restaurants on site. This is a popular place for families, as it's just across the road from the ski school & having breakfast provided gives a quick & easy to start to the day. Rams-horn Lodge Vail is a lovely boutique style property with very spacious self-catered apartments & friendly staff.
Golden Peak is also the fastest way to access the infamous Vail back bowls via the Riva Bahn Express lift.
Vail also has Cascade Village which is a little way to the west of Lionshead Village, still on the bus route but a 5-10 min bus ride from the main shops & restaurants. Vail Cascade does have its own chairlift to access the skiing & some dining on site.
West & East Vail are more residential areas, on the bus route within 10-15 mins of the slopes & offer good value for money lodging in the vail area, such as Vail Racquet Club.
Vail certainly creates many magical moments...make the most of it and the memories will linger on and on...
We live in the USA, know the ski resorts & accommodation and visit them regularly.
We can give you expert advice and save you time & effort finding the right USA ski holiday for you.
Helen & Rob Brown
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