True, Vail is known worldwide as a premier mountain resort for ski and snowboard vacations. But that doesn’t mean it leaves non-skiers out in the cold. To prove the point, here comes an entire week of winter activities non-skiers can enjoy on a visit to this magical mountain resort.
DAY 1: Arrive in Vail
Vail delivers an out-of-this-world experience – but without the hassle of trying to find a space shuttle ride that fits your schedule. Getting to this world-class mountain town is actually rather easy, especially if you go for one of the two most common options.
Option 1: Denver International Airport (DIA)
Fly into Denver International Airport and shuttle up or rent a car for the 120 mile drive from DIA to Vail. More than a dozen different airlines fly into DIA, and a handful of car rentals companies are at your service.
Option 2: Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE)
Eagle County Regional Airport is a scant 30 miles from Vail, landing you even closer to your ultimate destination. A number of airlines fly into Vail, with special nonstop flights from a handful of cities during the winter. Yep, even they know how alluring it is to plan a winter mountain getaway in this Colorado gem.
Fly into EGE on a commercial flight or private jet, then take advantage of the full-service transportation available from the airport. A free bus service transports you around Vail once you arrive, so renting a car is not a necessity.
Since you have already booked your lodgings in advance, you’ll know exactly where you need to go. We do recommend booking as early as possible for the winter season to ensure you get your top choice of accommodations.
Although, to be fair, pretty much any choice is a top choice for Vail. Lodging options range from luxury resorts to private condos in any of Vail’s different villages. And every single one of them is going to give you a breathtaking view!
DAY 2: Get Your Bearings (and Some Gifts)
Day two starts by pinching yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming. Yes, you’re technically in North America, the United States to be exact. But your surroundings look more like a charming Bavarian village.
Actually, don’t pinch yourself. Just go with the flow. Absorb the magic of it all. Day two is dedicated to getting a grand overview of your surroundings to take in the delightful vibe. It’s also the day to go shopping and see if there are any special events you want to add to your agenda.
It’s also the day to plan out where you want to wine, dine and enjoy any late-night outings. With so many world-class dining options around town, we didn’t want to inadvertently leave any out that may end up being your favorite.
So, we left dining and nightlight options up to you to fill in as desired. Today’s the day to make a game plan for them both.
Getting your bearings is also important so you don’t leave Vail without being able to recite its neighborhoods – or crossing the famous covered bridge.
- Vail Village is the heart of it all. Here’s where you’ll find the covered bridge. You’ll also find a quaint village atmosphere with a smattering of shops, world-class restaurants and late-night hotspots. Gondola One heads up the mountain from here.
- Lionshead Village is closed off to cars and busses, providing the perfect pedestrian paradise. It, too, is home to shops, restaurants, bars, along with a distinctly Bavarian-inspired atmosphere. You’ll also find an outdoor ice rink and the Eagle Bahn Gondola.
- West Vail takes you away from the central hubbub a bit, although you still get some shopping and dining options. It’s best known for more wide-open spaces and easy access to hiking and biking trails.
- East Vail is another more remote option. It’s located east of the Vail Golf Course, although winter golfing is not a very popular option for some strange reason. You’ll also get easy access to miles of trails.
- Cascade Village offers private vacation rentals, plenty of personal space, and access to the host of amenities at the Grand Hyatt Vail. Here you’ll also find Chairlift 20 that whisks you up the mountain for snowboarding and other snow-happy activities.
Make sure you do some shopping and enjoy your first Vail dining experience on day two. And perhaps sneak in a scenic gondola ride while you’re out and about.
DAY 3: Time to Get Wild
Now that you’ve enjoyed a grand overview of everything Vail has to offer, it’s time to get out and experience it full throttle. Since day two had a focus on shops, restaurants and other places packed with people, day three is your immersion in nature.
Snowmobiling and snowshoeing are perfect options to get out into the Vail winter wonderland. Backcountry tours are one of the most splendid ways to truly experience the wild and wide open spaces of Colorado.
Both Vail Backcountry Tours and Sage Outdoor Adventures serve up wild, once-in-a-lifetime experiences (provided the snow conditions are right and you packed your face covering). Nova Guides will take you snowmobiling at Camp Hale, the country’s newest National Monument and dedicated to the 10th Mountain Division soldiers who trained there for WWII.
The Vail Nordic Center is another great option for a wild and wintery experience. And yes, you were looking for a winter mountain adventure that doesn’t include skiing. But cross-country skiing lessons are available at the Vail Nordic Center just in case you’re overcome with the urge to learn. Warning: The urge to ski can be highly contagious during a Vail winter.
DAY 4: Time to Get Western
Colorado has a strong presence as part of the Wild West, and you know what that means. It means rugged, romantic – and including horses. No winter vacation in Vail is complete without a horse-drawn sleigh, giving you a chance to bond with one of the most majestic animals out in the crisp mountain air.
DAY 5: Ice is Nice
Although you had an ice skating option on day three, there were so many other things going on that you may not have taken it. So, take it on day five. Ice skating is kind of an unwritten rule for a winter vacation in Vail, followed by hot chocolate. And you don’t want to break the rules now, do you?
The only dilemma now is where to go ice skating, as Vail comes with a handful of options. Vail Square Ice Rink is one of the most popular outdoor options, with Solaris Plaza taking a close second.
Indoor ice skating is a thrill at Dobson Ice Arena. As one of the biggest ice facilities around, the arena serves up 35,000 square feet of available space. So even though you’re technically indoors, you still get plenty of freedom. They also offer ice bumper cars where you can zoom around the ice with family and friends.
DAY 6: Relax and Rejuvenate
You know how you return from some vacations – only to need a vacation to recover from your vacation? That’s not going to happen here.
Your final full day of winter vacation in Vail is time for you to recharge. Here you want an activity that’s soothing, serene and a shade more exciting than lying around your Vail resort room watching TV.
Two options come immediately to mind. The first one is ice fishing. No, we’re not kidding. Winter fly fishing trips can be one of the best ways to unwind. Vail Valley Anglers is just one of several outfitters you can contact to set up a tranquil day of winter fishing.
If the winter fly fishing trips don’t fill you with glee, another soothing option is a spa day. Now we see you smiling! Several hotels offer massage, facials and other spa services that’ll have you looking and feeling rested and absolutely beautiful.
One last round of shopping also needs to be on the agenda for your final full day in Vail. That way you can pick up that absolutely perfect item you spied but didn’t buy on day two.
Day 7: It’s Hard to Say Goodbye
Remember what you did to arrive in Vail on day one? Now it’s time to do the opposite. Depending on the time of your departing flight, you may have time to pick up a last-minute memento from the trip, perhaps from one of the unique shops you didn’t hit on your first or second round of shopping.
You may also have time for one last stroll across the covered bridge, one last photo with Vail Mountain in the background, and one last gaze at the natural beauty that surrounds you. Then close your eyes and start to dream…of your next trip back to Vail.