It’s no wonder Vail is considered one of the greatest ski resorts in North America. With 5,317 acres of skiable terrain, 195 trails, 31 lifts and a vertical drop of 3,450, the sheer size of the mountain is a skier and snowboarder’s dream.
Only 100 miles west of Denver and boasting an average snowfall of 350 inches (and loads of snowmaking), Vail has become a favorite winter destination for skiers around the world as well as those living along the Front Range.
But what if you only have a day to enjoy the Vail area? Well, better make the most of it!
Usaj Realty associate broker Matt Wilson and full-time resident of Vail offers some insight on some of the best runs and memorable locations to visit while in town. Don’t be surprised if you decide to extend your stay!
Get an Early Start
“To beat the crowds on the mountains, it’s a good idea to get an early start. At the very least, try to get on the lifts by 9 a.m. to escape the 10-10:30 a.m. crowd. And any day spent outside requires a hearty breakfast to give you the necessary energy for the day. Wilson suggests grabbing a No. 3 from DeliZioso, which includes egg, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and pesto. From there, you can walk into the village and get on Gondola One. Don’t forget to look at the grooming report! A couple of cruisers on fresh laid corduroy is a great way to warm up and think about a plan for attacking the slopes.
“From bluebird days to the heavens dumping powder, conditions will dictate your ski day. Keep in mind, the snow on east and south facing slopes will soften up faster. Also, prevailing winds may create crusty and wind-swept conditions on top of some slopes but below you may find light, fall-away snow perfect for big, arcing turns.
“If there is fresh powder, there is no better spot than the Back Bowls. A run down Ricky’s in Sun Down Bowl will get your heart racing before heading to Blue Sky Basin. Drop off the ridge under chair 37 and lap up the fresh snow on Little Ollie. Need a cruiser? Check out The Star by Pete’s Express (chair 39).”
Mid-Day Break Complete with a View
“There are many lunch options on Vail Mountain. The local’s favorite is Wildwood, positioned atop chairlifts 3 and 7. You’ll savor authentic BBQ at 11,000 feet, and some of the greatest views of the northern Sawatch Mountain Range. Inside or outside, savor this intimate setting while taking a break and enjoying the stick-to-your-ribs entrees along with a refreshing drink.
“After refueling, check out some of the timeless runs on the front of Vail. Simba’s Run out of Eagle’s Nest, Riva Ridge from the top of chair 4 (this run is 4 miles long!) and Blue Ox by chair 10 are three of the iconic long-lasting runs that allow you to dissect three completely different sections of the mountain.”
For the Non-Skiers
“While most people who visit Vail opt for downhill skiing or snowboarding, there are a number of activities that will keep non-skiers busy and giddy during a stay in the Valley. These pursuits are also perfect if you want to fill in a day off from alpine skiing.
“Check out Sage Outdoor Adventures in Gypsum. Located about 30 minutes down valley, this operator leads snowmobile tours that are scenic and exhilarating. You’ll be whisked through powder fields and aspen groves while reveling in the mesmerizing vistas of the Vail Valley. Drivers can be as young as 14, and the whole family will love exploring the surrounding forests.
“Those wanting to stay closer to Vail should check out cross country skiing at the Vail Nordic Center on the Vail Golf Course. Featuring a full-service ski shop and rentals, you’ll have 17 kilometers of freshly groomed tracks awaiting you. On-site rentals include skate and classic skiing, alpine touring, fat tire bikes and helmets, plus backcountry skis and snowshoes. This is a great way to enjoy the surrounding scenery and get in a fabulous workout.”
Apres Ski (or Apres Anything)
“No ski vacation is complete without apres-ski. Following an epic day on the slopes, it’s imperative to rehash your day over your favorite beverage and snacks. There is a wide variety of options, such as Vendetta’s (Vail Village) for pizza, Moe’s Original for wings and great happy hour, Garfinkel’s for burgers and Mountain Standard or The Remedy Bar for cocktails.
“One way to maximize your experience is to plan ahead. Thinking about what you’re going to eat and drink makes the after ski time even more enjoyable.
“While on the ski lift, I like to plan out all of the details of our order. We decide on the venue and the exact details of what we’re going to order, down to the toppings on our pizza. During COVID-19, make sure you call ahead and check what the current seating capacities are and whether they take reservations. It’s difficult to enjoy apres-ski without a seat!”
“As you’ve most likely filled up and quenched your thirst during apres ski, it’s time for relaxation. Soaking in a hot tub at your hotel or condo will ease sore muscles and help you unwind after what’s likely been an amazing day. Add a glass of wine or a local craft beer, but remember — you’re going to do it all again tomorrow, so rest up and don’t overdo the partying!
“Whether you like to cook-in, get take-out and visit one of Vail’s highly ranked restaurants, the hours after dusk provide a perfect time to reflect on your day. A stroll through Vail Village, checking out the ice skaters at the Solaris ice rink or finding that perfect memento at the boutiques or art galleries will create long-lastings memories of your glorious Vail vacation.”
And remember, if you’re ready to look for a vacation home or your dream retirement residence, don’t hesitate to contact Usaj Realty for all of your real estate needs.