The Snow Report
Vail is fairly synonymous with American skiing. It’s gotten that famous for a variety of reasons. First: it gets a lot of snow—around 350 inches per year. Second: It’s got a lot of runs—193, most of which are black (but enough green and blue slopes keep beginners out of experts’ way as they shred the groomers). Third: The off-mountain offerings are astounding.
Let’s start by looking at the snow options. Though Vail’s ski season is shorter and its powder days fewer than many of the other resorts on this list, its 31 diverse lifts take eager skiers up 3,450 vertical feet groomed over 5,289 skiable acres. Four terrain parks cater to snowboarders, and eight onsite gear shops let you rent prior to arrival, and offer a 20 percent discount for doing so. This is one of the most expensive single-day lift tickets out there, so any way to save helps—if you’re not intent on making first tracks, consider buying a half-day ticket, as they’re a fraction of the full-day cost.
The robust ski school offers Nordic, telemark, and showshoe workshops, plus “Adventure Sessions,” which pair skiers with a high-caliber teacher who gives as much instruction about the sport as about the mountain itself. “Dynamic Skiing” gives a whole-body workout for balance and control, and for kids, the “Micro Mice” program gets tots in gear and teaches basic techniques while keeping things fun. (Those who’d rather not make the effort to stay upright can tube or ski-bike at the mountaintop Adventure Ridge area.)
We at Outside featured Luke Cartin, one of Vail’s environmental managers, for having one of the top 10 cubicle-free jobs. Some of his work is apparent on the mountain in the form of 42 solar panels. In addition to using renewable energy, Vail protects local wildlife by installing bat housing and closing the back bowls for calving elks. Vail also recycles and has achieved a water-use reduction rate of around 25 percent over the past four years.
Of the 60 hotels within a five-mile radius—many of which have excellent spas—two are resort-owned: The Lodge at Vail, where ski valets de-burden gear-laden guests, and Arrabelle at Vail Square, whose RockResort standards earned it a AAA 4-Diamond rating. Among the other notable lodgings are the European-style Four Seasons, the Sebastian, Sonennalp, and the Ritz-Carlton Residences. For those who’d prefer to camp, sites line Red Sandstone Road.
There’s no shortage of places to eat or drink, either. More than 100 restaurants and bars satisfy hungry guests but the finest among them are Sweet Basil, Elway’s, Matsuhisa, and Restaurant Kelly Liken. For après-ski debauchery, head to Shakedown, Semana, or Los Amigos. At Bol, you can roll a strike and at CineBistro, you can watch new releases while having a full dinner experience. A slew of festivals happen here each year (Vail Film Festival, Snow Daze, and Taste of Vail among them), so check the calendar of events before nailing down your trip’s dates.
CONTACT: (800) 805-2457, vail.com
SEASON: Mid-November to mid-April
TICKETS: General: $105 (discounts available for military personnel, flight attendants, and travel agents; half-day tickets are less expensive), ages 65 or older: $95, children $73, ages 4 and younger: free