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Vail Skiing for First Time Visitors

Photo by Jack Affleck

Start early to beat the crowds in Vail

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You’ll never ski or snowboard everything at Vail (unless you’re a ski instructor who has worked here for 15 winters). But you can reach all Vail terrain from two gondolas and lots of chairlifts. Trails, glades and vast bowls stretch more than seven miles and 3,500 vertical feet. The area is so large — with roughly 5000 skiable acres — that it takes 30 minutes to get to Blue Sky Basin via ski trails and lifts.


Start your Vail ski day

Start your ski day bit on the early side. Ten o’clock is gondola crunch time, when ski classes and vacationing skiers converge. Assuming you’re not taking a free mountain tour, we’ll move you around the mountain a bit. Taking the Eagle Bahn gondola at Lionshead to Eagle’s Nest. From here, good beginner and intermediate warn-up runs are Simba or Bwana, both of which go to the Pride lift, which in turn drops you back at Eagle’s Nest. Pole straight ahead for the trail to Game Creek Bowl, which offers an inkling to Vail’s vastness.


Game Creek is popular

Game Creek, which only one lift, appeals to all levels of skier. Geading up the lift you’ll see Showboat, a good, somewhat steep intermediate run. Halfway up on your right, Wildcard normally has fun (not outrageous) moguls. Less adventurous should head right off the lift and take Lost Boy or Dealers Choice.


Where to lunch

From the top of the Game Creek lift, turn left and ski down to Mid-Vail and the 10th restaurant (named for the 10th Mountain Division) at the base of the Look Ma run. (Make a reservation the night before). Exchange boots for slippers to enjoy a memorable pot pie. (Two more mid-Vail choices: the cafeteria in the main building or brown bag it.)


Where to spend the afternoon

From Mid-Vail take the Mountain Top Express back to the top. Solid advanced and expert skiers head straight off the lift for the back bowls; the Slot in Sun Up Bowl is steep, long, black-rated, and a fun challenge. Otherwise, turn left off the lift for Northwoods.

In nice weather head to Blue Sky Basin. Although it takes a few chairs and ski trails to get there from the base, the slopes are fun and views spectacular.


Apres-ski hours

Head back to the village for a hot tub and nap. There are more than 100 restaurants from which to choose, including our favorites, Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard.

Winter lodging in Vail runs from moderate to very expensive. Find several suggestions and sources here.


Learn more about Vail’s slopes

To learn more about Vail trails, see trail maps.


At A Glance

Price Range:
budget
midrange
luxury
Most Suited to:
single
couples
families
Season:
winter
Length:
day

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