Shades of European Skiing On The Pistes of America

The US ski resort of Vail has been transformed itself into a skier's paradise - and goes out of its way to honour the sport’s European roots. The Alpine villages of Austria and Switzerland appear to have been relocated to the foothills of Colorado and at times you could be forgiven for thinking you are not in America.

However, Vail does not honour every European rule. For example, what would be considered as off-piste skiing in Europe is recognised as free-for-all terrain in the US. Vail simply gives you the freedom to express yourself and provides you with the thrill of unbridled pistes.

That said, there are plenty of groomed pistes to suit all levels. With over 40% of the terrain suited to advanced skiers, however, Vail is one of the most exciting ski areas in the world.

The only real drawback to a skiing holiday in Vail is the cost. The resort is one of the most expensive skiing areas in America despite its huge popularity.

Vail Resort

Skiing in the United States is an experience skiers should not miss, and a skiing holiday in Vail is the ideal destination for high-octane pistes, five-star accommodation and first-class fun.

Situated in Denver, Colorado Vail is the third-largest single-mountain ski area in America and offers an abundance of opportunities to skiers of all levels. If you are planning a skiing holiday in America, don’t forget to register for an ESTA in advance otherwise you will be refused access on to the flight. You must also have an e-passport with a microchip.

Resort Statistics

Base: 2475 meters
Summit: 3527 meters
No. of Pistes: 193
Total Piste: 234 km
Cross Country: 17 km
Total Lifts: 31
Gondolas/ Cable Cars: 1
Chairlifts: 21
Drag Lifts: 9

Piste Map

Vail Piste Map Thumb

Vail Ski Areas & Slopes

Vail is one of the largest single-mountain ski areas in the world and there is no shortage of challenging and thrilling pistes to test your skills and your nerves. The ski area is segregated into three main areas, the Front Side, the legendary Back Bowls and the Blue Sky Basin, all of which have a plethora of exciting runs that are suitable for all levels.

The Front Side

Vail’s Front Side is situated on the northern side of the mountain above Vail Village and Lionshead. The pistes here are mostly in the shade so the powder is perfect. However, as a result, it’s one of the most popular ski areas in Vail so waiting times at the lifts are at a premium.

Intermediate-Advanced: Budding intermediates should head to the Front Side to cruise the blues before tackling the more challenging reds. There is also a couple of black diamond runs that advanced skiers will want to get stuck into. Anywhere around Northwoods Express (Chair 11 from mid-Vail) is perfect from intermediates and above. For a real test, head for the short but steep pitch of South Rim.

Beginners: The short, easy greens from the Sourdough Express are a good starting point for beginners. There’s also a Kids Adventure Zone which is designed for all the family but mostly to help the little ones build up their confidence.

Back Bowls

The legendary Back Bowls account for almost half the ski area in Vail and offer a wealth of runs for everyone. Facing south, the powder can get a little crusty but holds powder for at least two days after a snow dump.

Intermediate-Advanced: Intermediates looking for challenging blues should head for Game Creek Bowl and tackle the ungroomed moguls of Dealer’s Choice. Advanced skiers will not want to miss the steep and speedy Ouzo run or the even more adventurous Ouzo Glade to get a feel for untouched snow patches. The China Bowl, Mongolia Bowl and Siberia Bowl, known collectively as ‘the Orient Express’ is also an excellent playground for intermediate and advanced skiers. The name says it all!

Beginners: The Game Creek bowl is a good introduction to bowl skiing for beginners and there are several sweeping green trails and 63 acres of family learning zone that help to build the confidence of newbies.

Blue Sky Basin

Blue Sky Basin is situated five miles from Vail village so you will probably want to take the shuttle bus. The trip is worth it though. The slopes are accessed by three high-speed lifts from the bottom of the Tea Cup, China and Siberia Bowls. You will find some of the best skiing here and the view of the Back Bowls is superb.

Intermediate-Advanced: With 665 acres of ski area designed for intermediate and advanced skiers, the Blue Sky Basin is regarded as one of the best skiing experiences in Vail. The best-groomed trails here are Big Rock Park and Lover’s Leap, but there is also plenty of ungroomed trails with steep fields and exhilarating vertical drops.

Beginners: Confident beginners can advance their skills and their confidence on a couple of forgiving blue runs, namely Sleepytime Road and Cloud 9. Both runs are quite fast but wide enough to make long, winding turns and remain in control.

Ski Holidays in Vail

Vail Ski Passes

Ski lift passes are expensive at Vail although you can usually find excellent deal bundles through various vendors. Pre-purchase your lift tickets and you will be rewarded with attractive discounts of up to 40%.

Your ski pass automatically logs lift rides so you can calculate how much terrain you have covered at the end of the day.

Ski Schools

Vail’s ski schools are mostly found in Lionshead or Golden Peak. If you need lessons, it’s probably best to find accommodation in either of these two areas. For the lowest rates, reserve ski lessons online.

Equipment Hire

Regardless of which village you stay in, you will not have any problem hiring ski equipment. As you can imagine, the competition between ski hire shops is fierce and you will often find vendors offering up to 30% discounts for online bookings. Some of the best deals can be found at Vail Sport, Vail Ski Shop and Vail Ski Base.

Family Fun in Vail

The pedestrian-friendly villages around Vail and an abundance of adrenalin-fueled pistes make Vail an ideal destination for a skiing holiday in the United States.

Vail is geared towards families and offers a choice of adventure parks for young children to get to grips with ski and snowboards. Both Fort Whippersnapper and Eagles Nest Adventure Ridge have a plethora of activities including tubing, snowmobiling and zip-lining.

For families with infants aged between 6 months and 2-years old, the Small World Nursery in Golden Peak provides child care services between 08:00 and 16:00 every day.

When to Go?

Vail is a very popular ski resort in the United States so the best time to go is when the children are still in school and the queues for the lifts are less crowded. Other than Thanks Giving weekend, the best time to head for Vail is in the early season.

Alternatively, head for Vail in late April when the season is dying down and crowds decline. There is still plenty of ski areas blanketed with snow although with the temperatures getting warmer, the conditions are variable.

Snow Report

The snow conditions are excellent all throughout the season in Vail thanks to regular snowfall and an extensive ski area that is purpose-built to accommodate swathes of skiers and snowboarders. Check out the webcams in Vail for the latest snow reports.

Vail receives moderate weather during the snow season although temperatures can fall below zero.

Operating Times

Vail opens its ski area in mid-November through to late April. The lifts run from 08:30 to 16:00.

Getting There

Vail is located 30 miles from Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE) or 100 miles from Denver International Airport. EGE is served by other major US cities including New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington DC. To get to Vail you will need to hire a car or take a shuttle bus.

UK Airports

Direct flights to Denver leave from London Heathrow. Elsewhere in the UK, flights to Denver leave from Manchester, Belfast, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Leeds and Southampton although you will need to catch a connecting flight from elsewhere in the States.

Airport Transfers

The closest airport is Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE). You will need to get a connecting flight from elsewhere in the US.