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Vail - Ski Area Guide

Vail, United States

Ski Resort in American Rockies (2,480m8,136ft to 3,530m11,581ft). Rated: 4/5 (from 6 ratings)

The largest single ski area in the USA with the most high-speed detachable quads on one mountain. Regarded by many as one of the world's top five all round ski resorts.

 Vail Snow News

The next notable snow forecast for Vail is 4cm1in, expected on 22 February, with around 9cm4in forecast over the next 7 days. There is some snow currently indicated by the long-range (7 days+) forecast; but too far ahead to be relied upon.

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Who is Vail good for?

Ratings for Vail
Expert Skiers
Intermediate Skiers

Vail Ski Area

Piste and Lift Stats for Vail
Number of runs
Cross Country
Total Length
45km28 miles
Ski Lifts
Number of Lifts

Vail Ski Area Height

Max Vertical and Resort Altitude for Vail
Max Vertical1,050m3,445ft
Highest Lift3,530m11,581ft
Resort Altitude (Vail)2,500m8,202ft
Lowest Piste2,480m8,136ft
°F / in / ft / miles°C / cm / m / km

Vail Summary

The American Ski Resort of Vail has direct access to 193 individual pistes, served by 33 ski lifts.

The ski resort itself is at 2,500m8,202ft, so skiing or boarding back to the resort is usually possible. With ski lifts as high as 3,530m11,581ft, skiing and snowboarding is assured throughout the season.

There are three Airports within two hours drive, so ski weekends, snowboard breaks and short ski holidays to Vail are perfectly feasible. Vail/Eagle Airport is just one hours drive away, in good driving conditions, so you can be on the piste quickly.

Skiing in Vail

Vail has great skiing for all standards and it's all on one mountain so you don't need to take shuttle buses to get about - unless you want to use your lift ticket at another of the Vail Resorts owned ski centres in the area. Vail mountain is the single largest ski area in the US and it has the most high speed quads on a single mountain - useful queue gobblers with the resort being so popular. Electronic signs located at key points on the mountain advise of areas where there is queue build up at peak times so you can avoid them. The lift system is very well designed so it's easy to move about quickly and to organise rendez-vous with party members if you split in to smaller groups to tackle different terrain.

The 47% of terrain that is easy or intermediate standard is mostly on wide open trails that are unintimidating and are north facing with, of course, state-of-the-art snow-making to cover any failure on the part of mother nature. The treeline is high - at 11,000 feet (3,353 metres), much higher than the Alps, so the slopes are often cut through pleasant woodland and forest.

The key access route on to the mountain outside Vail town itself is the Lionshead Gondola, installed in 1996 with a 14 million dollar investment. Typical of the resort, the cabins, originally designed to hold 15, have had capacity decreased to 12 people each - giving a higher quality uplift experience. Apart from the regular skiing terrain the lift accesses a night-time activity centre - Adventure Ridge.

During the daytime beginners will find state-of-the-art ski tuition programs, naturally, and a dedicated beginner skiing area, as well as long easy runs from the top of the mountain as soon as you have a little confidence. Intermediates have the biggest single mountain ski area in North America to enjoy - and one of the world's largest. Intermediate skiers can safely tackle some of the easier runs in the Back Bowls (see below) also. With just over half and the largest chunk overall of Vail's terrain graded advanced - expert, Vail is an essential stop on the tour of skiers who spend their lives checking off the world's top destinations.

Vail's status as the ski racing capital of North America has been underlined by it being chosen as the venue for the World Alpine Skiing Championships twice in 11 years - 1989 and '99. The resort has also hosted world cup finals in recent years and is a training base for the US Ski Team. However the main magnet for most good skiers are the legendary Back Bowls (Vail has trade-marked the words 'Back Bowls'). Six miles (nearly 10km) wide these snowy expanses a world-away from Vail resort have dozens of black trails and off-piste routes down in to them, with lifts serving to return skiers and 'boarders to the top of the bowl and back down the front of the mountain to the resort. The expansion in to a further large area of terrain, originally known as the Category 3 expansion but renamed 'Blue Sky Basin' was partially opened in January 2000, the remainder in the 2000 - 2001 season. Four quads serve this newest area, envisaged though it was 40 years before in Vail's original development plan.

Few visitors to Vail of more than a few days will miss the opportunity of skiing the resort's other ski centres all on the same lift ticket. Breckenridge and Keystone remain the new aquisitions whilst Beaver Creek and Arrowhead, both 'purpose built' by Vail itself are now only the second 'European-style' lift-linked pair of ski villages in North America (Smugglers and Stowe in Vermont being the other two). This achievement follows the linking of the two ski areas by the Bachelor Gulch Express in 1996. It may be considered 'cheating' by some to build the ski area and the ski resort yourself in order to have something to link the other resort to, but that's really being rather petty - the idea is a nice one!

There are a variety of pistes to suit all levels of skier ability, from Beginner to Expert.

Snowboarding in Vail

Vail's snowboarding facilities continue to evolve every year. The snowboard terrain park at the Eagles Nest at the top of Vail Mountain, accessed at night by the Lionshead gondola is one of the longest established, its twin half pipes are served by a dedicated surface lift. There are other snowboard parks and features dotted around the mountain and at Vail's other ski centres. In Vail the 'Hot Dog Park' has metal and wood sliders, a jobline and more whilst Beaver Creek's Strickline Snowboard Park is set amongst the trees in natural wooded terrain. Vail unveiled a newly redesigned Golden Peak Park featuring Colorado's only double barrel super pipe. Improvements included the new super pipe and a new mini jib park at the Burton Super Center. The double barrel super pipe consists of two side-by-side, 400 foot half-pipes. The largest of the two features 15-foot walls with 17-foot transitions. To help maintain a consistent riding surface and create the super pipe, Vail purchased a Super Pipe Dragon.. The resort also added a new Dew Drop Inn sponsored by Mountain Dew at the top of the pipe. The Dew Drop Inn is a heated yurt with vending machines, snacks, sodas, parts kits, video games, tool benches, music videos, a new sound system, as well as a 40-foot deck that provides great views of the Golden Peak Park and super pipe. In addition, the multi-level Golden Peak Park offers various levels of challenging tabletops, spines and jumps that will begin just below the super pipe. This design will allow riders to catch air while going from hit to hit all the way down to the bottom. To further its commitment to snowboarders, Vail also grooms all of its pipes and park daily - whether by machine or hand. Pipe and terrain park specialists oversee the maintenance and service of the areas throughout the season. Grooming times will be posted daily at the top of the Dew Drop Inn, so park enthusiasts know when a freshly cut pipe will be available. The Snowboard School offers tuition from beginner level through freestyle and Alpine Classes for the experienced. Snowboard Camps are also organised with specially designed 'Quick Carve sessions' available to advanced skiers who want to move quickly in to snowboarding. More experienced 'boarders will of course enjoy the Back Bowls and many other exciting routes and the Black Forest Race arena offers head-to-head racing for medals.

Vail Aprés Ski

Après ski normally gets rolling around 4ish and runs on through in to the small hours. The choice of night spots is not bettered in any other ski resort. A good choice to start, if you'd prefer coffee to alcohol, is the Daily Grind, a popular coffee house known for its Java.

Favourite long-standing spots are Pepi's Bar and Sheika's nightclub at the intersection of Bridge Street and Gore Creek Drive. Both are located in the Gasthof Gramshammer owned by Vail pioneers Pepi and Sheika Gramshammer. Vail's microbrewery, the Hubcap, is a favourite with the locals as well as visitors. There are dozens more in Vail itself and throughout the valley.

Apart from clubs and bars there's a lot more choice in Vail - the Eagle's Nest Activity Centre at the top of the gondola offers sliding under the lights in to the night, or you can take a sleigh ride.

Vail in brief

Vail Ski Resort is:
Excellent for Expert Skiers.
Excellent for Intermediate Skiers.
Very good for Beginners.
Excellent for Snowboarding.

Vail Season Dates

We have no confirmed season dates for Vail.


Usual opening - Late Nov.

Usual closing - Late April .

NOTE:- Opening subject to Snow Conditions in Vail.

Vail Webcams

The Webcams in Vail are not always up-to-date. Please check the date on the image to ensure you are seeing current snow conditions.

Vail Piste Map

Vail Piste Map

Where is Vail?

Map showing location of Vail

Vail Ski Lift Capacity

Ski Lift Capacity :- The 33 Ski Lifts of Vail are able to uplift 51,781 skiers / snowboarders per hour.

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