Vail’s powdery slopes and massive back bowls are world-renowned, so it’s no surprise Vail Mountain has produced decades of ski and snowboard champions. From recent world-cup racers like Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn to past Olympic skiers to WWII ski soldiers training at Camp Hale, Vail has long been a stomping ground of elite winter-sports athletes. If you’re looking for things to do in Vail this winter, here’s a host of ways to celebrate and experience their legacy.
Mikaela Shiffrin is Vail’s — and America’s — ski hero. She’s earned the most wins of any alpine skier, male or female, with 88 World Cup victories and two Olympic gold medals.
Born in Vail, Mikaela trained at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, which you can check out at its slopeside clubhouse on Golden Peak, where athletes warm up and get their equipment tuned. Club members primarily train on the mountain’s 1,700 vertical feet of racing terrain, 230-meter mogul field (the steepest in the Rockies), halfpipe and park via Chair 6.
Lindsey Vonn is another favorite ski racer that was formerly based in Vail, Colorado. Her family moved to Vail when she was 11 to support her training, which paid off with a gold medal and two silver medals in the Olympics, and four overall World Cup victories (with 13 single victories). Ski down Lindsey’s on Vail Mountain to pay her tribute.
Vail abounds with other ski and snowboard athletes, both old and new. In the early 1960s, Vail founders courted the legendary Austrian racer Pepi Gramshammer to prove the town a premier ski destination. He did that, and more, opening Hotel Gramshammer and Pepi’s Restaurant. Today, the boutique hotel offers chic, European-style rooms with cozy down comforters, original art and hand-carved wood furnishings. The restaurant specializes in American and Austrian dishes like their crispy fried Wienerschnitzel. Or, take a seat at the bar for a beer and a warm soft pretzel and catch some live music for an ideal après ski.
Mogul skier Tess Johnson grew up in nearby Edwards and became the youngest person to make the national team, at age 14, as well as the youngest American freestyle skier to earn a medal in the World Championships. She’s involved in Girl PowHer, a Vail Valley Foundation YouthPower365 program that provides mentorship for middle school girls. Additionally, you can drive by Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy at 1 Academy Loop in Minturn, where Tess trained for competitions.
Other Iconic Athletes and Athletic Destinations in Vail
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail
You can support Ski & Snowboard Club Vail as they train possible future Olympians through their alpine and Nordic swaps, which take place every fall. They offer great prices on everything from skis and snowboards to boots, bindings, clothing and accessories. SSCV launched in 1962 so Vail Mountain could host USSA- and FIS-sanctioned races. Rudd and Scott Pyles were the first SSCV racers to make the U.S. Ski Team in 1969.
Colorado Snowsports Museum & Hall of Fame
No experience of Vail and elite snowsports athletes is complete without a trip to Colorado Snowsports Museum & Hall of Fame. Small but mighty, the free (donations appreciated) museum honors the region’s roots of skiing and snowboarding, including the 10th Mountain Division, World Cup, Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
Check out the torch Coloradan Cindy Nelson carried through Vail on its way to the Salt Lake Olympics and her second-place World Championships downhill trophy from 1982. Don’t miss Mikaela’s 2018 winter Olympic Spyder outfit and her original 2017–2018 FIS World Cup Overall trophy (complete with crack, so FIS replaced the globe). Size up Lindsey Vonn’s 2017–2018 speed suit, helmet and gloves; the 2018 Olympic Team USA opening ceremony parka designed by Ralph Lauren and worn by Tess Johnson; Vail-born Chris Klug’s bib; and plenty of other medals and jackets from a host of Olympians. You can also purchase 10th Mountain Division mugs, drinking glasses, posters, ornaments and books about the troops at the museum.
10th Mountain Division Statue
If it weren’t for the 10th Mountain Division soldiers, Vail Mountain might not exist. The 10th Mountain Division Soldier Statue, which depicts a larger-than-life soldier dressed in full gear, proudly stands to the right of the covered bridge in Vail Village. It honors the ski soldiers who trained for WWII at Camp Hale. Those same soldiers took control of the Mount Belvedere ridgeline in Italy, which resulted in at least 23 German troops surrendering. In addition to opening ski areas and playing key roles in the industry, veterans like Gordon Wren placed fifth in ski jumping in the 1948 Olympics.
The Edge Statue
The Edge statue stands at the base of Gondola One and pays tribute to winter Olympians and World Cup athletes who have lived and trained in Vail in past decades with its list of engraved names. Sculpted by Gail Folwell, the contemporary statue measures two times the size of an average ski racer.
Discover More Vail Destinations
Ready to discover Vail’s rich history and more? Check out these itinerary ideas for your next trip.