Vail Local Guide

Vail, like nothing on earth. When someone gets asked about the most famous ski resorts in North America, the vast majority of people in the ski community immediately think about Vail. Large amounts of snow, terrain accessible to all levels of skiers & riders, a European-style feel, daily aprés, and a thriving town, it’s no wonder Vail Ski Resort has been deemed elite since its beginnings in 1962.

Image Credit: Vail Realty

At 5,289 acres, Vail is the third largest single mountain ski resort in the United States, behind Big Sky and Park City. It features seven back bowls and incredible glades especially in Blue Sky Basin. You can discover new trails and areas even after skiing it for an entire week. Vail has three distinct ski areas. The front side is usually crowded and provides lots of groomed cruisers and areas available to beginner skiers and riders. The legendary Back Bowls are famous amongst advanced skiers and some will say their best powder days occurred in the Back Bowls. They are a great way to truly feel in the mountains and escape the masses. Lastly, Blue Sky Basin is like another resort, within the resort. It’s peaceful,  and it has ample amounts of backcountry trials and tree skiing. On a powder day, get out there early and head to Blue Sky Basin first for some of the best lines and views you’ll ever experience.


Between Vail & Beaver Creek is the town of Minturn. With a historic downtown, reasonable prices and a relaxed atmosphere, this charming small town has big character. Afterall, it’s the oldest town in the Vail Valley. Be sure to visit the Minturn Saloon with the best all-natural margaritas around. Sage Outdoor Adventures provides visitors with a different winter day in the mountains. Only 30 minutes away from Vail, Sage’s private mountain and snowmobile trail system is larger than the Vail ski area. They have many tour options from the never-ever to expert riders. If you’re not wanting to go too far, walking distance or a short shuttle ride away, head into Lionshead Village. With great coffee shops and places to window shop, you can spend a relaxing afternoon exploring the village. You can even go ice skating at the Lionshead Rink, where the locals will tell you it’s best to go at night.


When visiting Vail, be sure to take advantage of the incredible cuisine! Sweet Basil is located in the heart of the village, and features a creative seasonal menu. Not to mention, its wine selection is highly rated by locals and visitors alike. Be sure to book your reservations early, because this place is popular and fills up fast! Vendetta’s is another hot spot and is a great place for people of all ages to dine. With great staff and fantastic Italian fair, you must get one of their pizzas while there. Located just steps off of Gondola One, Vendetta’s has a great patio for a fun and lively apres experience. Located in Manor Vail Lodge, the Fitz is another extremely popular choice amongst locals. Since they open just before the mountain closes, the Fitz is a classic apres spot. With a great selection of appetizers and entrees along with their unique cocktails, you’ll be hard pressed to have a bad time at the Fitz. They just recently renovated their outdoor patio as well, making it a stellar spot for mountain views. For the later portion of the night, Shakedown is one of the more well known bars. Also located just off Gondola One, they bring in great live music which usually begins around 9:00pm. That said, Shakedown is popular late-night, so be sure to get there before the music starts so you can find a good table. This place will get packed with locals and visitors all clamoring for a place on the dance floor.

Vail is one of the biggest and most popular snow sport destinations in the World. With what is now a mecca for the ski and snowboard community, winter family travel and luxury experiences, it can be easy to forget Vail’s humble beginnings.

Image Credit: Vail Daily

The area was formerly a sheep pasture up until 1939, when the development of Highway 6 began connecting Denver to the Gore Valley. During World II, the Army’s Tenth Mountain Division used Vail’s backcountry for survival training. Looking at it now, Vail has set the standard for 5-Star accommodations, variety of terrain, & off-mountain activities that many try to emulate.
 

There’s never a shortage of on-mountain events to get involved with when visiting this world class resort. Vail’s Closing Day & Spring Back to Vail feature live concerts, pond skimming, an Expo Village, on-mountain luau, giveaways, and so much more. Everything kicks off in mid-December with Vail Snowdays, a four day festival featuring incredible apres deals, live concerts at the incredible venue Ford Park, on-mountain specials and after dark parties. The most popular and well known event that’s going to be taking place in Vail for the seasons to come is the Burton U.S. Open, bringing world class snowboarders and family-friendly experiences to this resort community. Additionally, there is no shortage of hangouts and places to warm up with a well deserved hot drink throughout the mountain. Many bring backpacks with fixings for burgers and dogs to claim a spot on the grilling patios scattered throughout the peaks of Vail. Enjoy good times with your family and friends while taking in incredible views of the Gore Range, but be sure to mark your territory early, especially on weekends.

Image Credit: Ski.com

Vail offers hundreds of shops, from boutiques to outdoor gear to art galleries. The shops of Vail sell everything imaginable, including high-end jewelry, fine art, ski boots and cowboy hats. The free in-town bus is a convenient way to get around if you are weighed down by shopping bags. One of the more unique offerings that visitors can do when in Vail is dog sledding. Not every resort has access to this activity, so take advantage of it when you can. Alpine Adventures up by Leadville is a great outfit since you’ll get to take a very peaceful and serene drive to get there. If you plan on spending some time in Steamboat hit up Mountain Mushers along the way. They have a private trail system with 2 hour rides in the morning and afternoon so you can do at least a couple activities during the day to maximize your vacation time.

 

Located in the Sonnenalp Hotel, Bully Ranch provides you with the classic western feel as soon as you walk through its doors. It offers the best brunch in town and you can bring the whole gang to enjoy the Southwestern and American menu. It offers classic mountain dining in cozy, rustic atmosphere. Believe or not it’s most famous drink on the menu is their mudslide so it’s highly recommended that you treat yourself. Another way to treat you and your loved ones is by taking advantage of the on mountain dining at The 10th. Overlooking the Gore Range, The 10ths name was inspired by the 10th Mountain Division. You can ski in and ski out or ride in on Gondola One. Root & Flower is a small, cozy lounge offering drinks only. You will have the best Vodka Tonic you’ll ever have with their custom and unique tonic they will never share even when you ask nicely.  Zip right on up to Red Lion afterwards to enjoy a laid back atmosphere, the best chicken tenders in town and great live music. Something completely different for you and the family to do would be going to a Vail Yetis hockey game. Typically taking place on Friday and Saturday nights, this raucous atmosphere will get you behind the home team. Be sure to hit up Altitude Bar & Grill in the Evergreen Lodge for the post game drinks and wings with all the locals.


 

Resources:

Vail’s Free In-town Shuttle Service

Vail Valley Partnership

 

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