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How to Vail: A Beginner’s Guide to Winter Fun

Tired of hearing about all the wonderful stories about vacationing in Vail from your oh-so-cool friends who frequently travel to the dreamy mountain town? Well, now is the time to see what all the fuss is about and become a Vail aficionado. It’s as easy as one, two, three. Follow along our step-by-step guide for “How To Vail”.

How to Get to Vail

You’ve got several transportation options to Vail beyond getting in your car and driving (not recommended unless you live in Denver!). The closest airport is Vail’s own – the Eagle County Airport (EGE) – located 35 miles west of town. Many airlines connect there via midwestern airport hubs, while some airlines fly direct from coastal cities. There are also quick flights that connect with your flight into Denver. Either way, Vail’s airport is the best option for getting as close to Vail as possible. And, if you have access to a private jet, there is the Vail Valley Jet Center at EGE which is also very convenient.

Another way to get to Vail is by flying into Denver International Airport (DIA) and book either a private driver, van or rent a car. This option takes roughly two hours after collecting your baggage and can result in some traffic along Interstate 70. Be prepared with snacks, water, fully charged devices and earbuds. Peak 1 Express shuttle vans take the stress out of driving and offer a relaxing, scenic ride to Vail with free Wi-Fi.

You can also hire a private driver to whisk you to your hotel from either airport (EGE or DIA). Ben at Benjamin’s Transportation (call 970-471-6840) has a fleet of clean, comfy and spacious suburban vehicles ready for your crew, replete with champagne on ice (upon request) to toast the beginning of the best things to come. No matter the road conditions, Ben will get you to your hotel, guaranteed. He will also make complimentary liquor stops upon request. Ben knows “How to Vail”.

Once in Vail, there is a free bus system as well as pedestrian-only heated streets to explore. All the hotels have their own transportation to take you to places as well – the hotel’s concierge will be more than happy arrange it for you. There are also several local taxi services that are helpful in a pinch. 

Where to Stay

Vail is made of up four small villages and outlying neighborhoods. On the eastern end is Golden Peak, Vail Village is located in the center, Lionshead is situated to the west and Cascade Village is at the western edge. From Golden Peak to Lionshead it is only 4 miles from end to end, all at the base of world-renowned Vail Mountain and along the banks of the gorgeous Gore Creek. Each center has convenient express lift access up the mountain including high-speed quad Riva Bahn in Golden Peak, heated Gondola One at the base of Vail Village, the Eagle Bahn Gondola out of Lionshead, and the Cascade Village lift in Cascade Village. Together, these vibrant villages make up the heart of the Town of Vail. A tranquil paved path winds through the villages along Gore Creek, beckoning pedestrians.

There are also residential neighborhoods in the outskirts of the heart of Vail – East Vail, West Vail and Intermountain – that access the free bus system from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily in the winter.

Where to Dine

No one visits Vail without having unforgettable gastronomic experiences. There are so many fine dining and casual eateries to sample, it’s up to you where you imbibe. If you are looking for an exquisite formal evening, try the elegant Larkspur at the base of Golden Peak; their award winning menu features the perfect blend of ingredients combined with impeccable care and service in a sophisticated dining room.

Hip and cool Mountain Standard in Vail Village, overlooking Gore Creek, is a rustic and relaxed gastropub where the food is cooked over an open wood fire. The Standard wedge salad (crispy prosciutto, blue cheese, puffed farro, and avocado and herb ranch dressing) complements all that incredible skiing, fresh air and healthy lifestyle you’re embracing as you actively “Vail”.

Or load up on carbs at the charming La Nonna Ristorante in the village. Enjoy their fresh pasta made daily, including gemelli, rigatoni, linguini, tagliatelle and gnocchi dishes. Pair it with a roasted rack of Colorado lamb or Paillard-style pork chop, and you’ll be fueled for your next ski day.

Speaking of the mountain, take a break from making powdery miles of fresh tracks with Mid-Vail decadence at The 10th: Truffle fries, burrata salad, and butternut squash soup await. Slippers too. After lunch, schuss over to the top of Eagle’s Nest for a stop at the new Ice Bar, built in honor of Vail’s 60th birthday. A nod to the original ice bar that existed back in Vail’s early days, this vintage Vail experience will serve 10th Mountain Whiskey spirits among other libations.

Where to Shop

Shop ‘til you drop in Vail. From luxury high-end boutiques to trendy t-shirt shops, it’s a shoppers’ paradise and fulfills any retail therapy that may be in order to soothe sore ski legs.

La Maison Ogier’s glamorous and sophisticated French collection of men’s and women’s ski wear, active wear and shoes are uber elegant and timeless. Laurent Ogier, the chief executive of luxury ski wear brand for Maison Ogier, was recently named the “most innovative CEO in the Winter Sportswear Industry” in the 2022 Business Worldwide Magazine CEO Awards. Plan to spend some time in this Vail Village boutique and then wear Ogier’s creations on and off the slopes.

If you still need a fashion fix, meander over to Perch also in Vail Village, where a carefully curated collection of women’s clothes are both on-trend and mountain casual.

Dakota Craftsman in Lionshead captures the spirit of the Wild West with turquoise earrings, necklaces, bracelets in addition to Navajo pottery, artworks and home décor. Bring a little slice of western lifestyle and Vail Mountain back home.

Don’t forget gifts for all your friends at The Vail T-Shirt Company in Lionshead. Not just a T-shirt mecca, they also sell on-point souvenirs and gifts with a Vail vibe.

Things to Do

1. Skiing and Snowboarding

It goes without saying that a few days on Vail Mountain skiing the acres and acres of endless terrain are unparalleled compared to all other ski resorts. Yes, all other ski resorts. The Back Bowls, Blue Sky Basin, China Bowl, The Front Side, the mogul fields, the trees, the corduroy, the powder, the omnipresent express lifts – all are THE BEST. Milt’s Face, Forever, Yonder, Lover’s Leap, Northwoods, Poppyfields, Simba, Avanti, Whistle Pig, Blue Ox and Riva runs will be etched in your mind for months after you leave.

2. Other Winter Adventures

Off the ski mountain, Vail’s Nordic Center, located near Golden Peak, offers snow biking, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing trails (both classic and skate) underneath the picturesque backdrop of the rugged Gore Range. A rental and retail shop has what you need for this fun day off the slopes of Vail Mountain.

And if you haven’t had enough of bumps and jumps on the mountain, check out the indoor Dobson Ice Arena in Lionshead where Ice Bumper Cars offer an exciting activity for the entire family. Outdoor ice skating rinks beckon in Vail Village at Solaris Plaza and in Lionshead Village at the Arrabelle at Vail Square by day and in the evening.

3. Après-Ski Spots

A trip to Vail would be incomplete if you skip après-ski. So, please don’t. Skip it, that is. Vail is the perfect place to perfect the art of après-ski. Defined as going out, having drinks and generally socializing at the end of the ski day, après-ski is at the heart of “How to Vail” and Vail local culture. Skiers often stop at après hotspots after clicking out of their ski or snowboard bindings at the end of the day. Don’t be afraid to show up in full on ski gear. It’s a thing – we promise. Shakedown Bar, Root & Flower, Vendetta’s, The Red Lion, Almresi, Los Amigos, Pepi’s, Bart and Yeti’s, Garfinkel’s – you can’t go wrong.

Book Your Trip

All that is left for your “How to Vail” trip is to book it. Make your lodging reservations today and pack your bags. Be sure to check back here for things to do, special events, free concerts and more.