Vail vies with Whistler for the accolade of best resort in North America, and it’s definitely a strong contender. With over 5000 acres of fantastic terrain, a reputation for receiving enormous amounts of dry powder snow, and an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, you’d be hard pushed to fault it. It’s also one of the glitziest resorts in North America with plenty of fur shops and Chanel ski suits, but don’t let that put you off as the mountain really is something special, as the crowds of snowboarders who flock there every year will testify to.
The mountain can be divided into three massive areas which are linked by one of the most efficient lift systems in the world. The Front Side mainly consists of immaculately groomed and marked runs, ranging from gentle cruisers to steep double black diamonds. Most of the trails are cut through the trees and there’s plenty of opportunity to dip into the gladed areas without fear of getting lost, or stuck!
The Front Side is also home to the resort’s three terrain parks. The biggest of the parks is at Golden Peak, near Vail Village, and has two halfpipes (one for beginners and one full size), nine jumps ranging from ten to fifty feet, and over thirty jibs, boxes and rails. The other two parks are aimed more at beginners and intermediates, and can be accessed by the Eagle Bahn Gondola over at Lionshead.
Drop over into the famous Back Bowls and the terrain is completely different. Here you’ll find seven wide open, and invariably powder-filled bowls which you can tackle whichever way you like. There are cornices, bumps, trees, drops… or you can just make fresh tracks through an expanse of untouched powder. From here you can also head into Blue Sky Basin which has even more exhilarating and varied terrain. Our favourite spot is over by the Pete’s Express Chairlift in Pete’s Bowl which tends to be a bit quieter than the runs down from the top of the Skyline Express, and you can choose whichever route down you like, taking in whichever of the features and hits you fancy, including a natural halfpipe at the bottom. On a nice day (of which there are many) take some and drinks up to Belle’s Camp at the top of the Skyline Express and cook up a barbeque in the sun. Lunch on the mountain doesn’t get much better than that!
Vail town sits on a stretch of the I-70 (the highway from Denver) and is spread across a number of separate areas between East Vail and West Vail. The main hubs are Vail Village and Lionshead, and it’s here that most of the guest accommodation, shops, bars and restaurants are located. Most of Vail’s accommodation is high end and not cheap, but there are much more affordable places to stay further out towards East and West Vail. Although the town is fairly spread out, it is very well connected by the free bus service which runs regularly throughout the day and until late at night.
As you’d expect in a high end resort, Vail has a number of fancy bars and restaurants, but it’s not all champagne and fine dining. There are also a good number of more down to earth bars such as The Tap Room and The George in Vail Village where you can enjoy a pint, a burger and a game of pool. The Red Lion and The Club are lively places for a few après drinks, or on a sunny day grab a spot on the patio at Garfinkles in Lionshead. They all have happy hours and deals on food so with a bit of good timing you can make your money go a lot further! If you’re based out in West Vail then check out the Sand Bar which often has live bands playing and is a popular spot with locals and seasonnaires. And if you’re up for some dancing later on, head to Samana Lounge in Vail Village which is within stumbling distance of many of Vail’s hotels and condos. Just beware of the infamous cougars!Snowboarding in Vail,