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How to Vail: A Beginner’s Guide to Your Winter Vacation

Tired of hearing about all the wonderful stories about vacationing in Vail from your 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” and start planning your Colorado ski vacation.


A snow-covered landscape in Vail, Colorado. A stream flows between a valley of pine trees and shrubs.

You’ve got several transportation options to Vail beyond getting in your car and driving.

Getting to Vail: EGE, the closest airport to Vail

The closest airport is Vail’s own — the Eagle County Regional 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. Learn more about flights to Vail.

Getting to Vail: Fly Into Denver International Airport, then shuttle to Vail

Another way to get to Vail is by flying into Denver International Airport (DEN) and book either a private driver, van or rent a car. This option takes roughly two hours after collecting your baggage. Be prepared with snacks, water, fully charged devices and earbuds, as travel time can vary depending on a number of factors, like weather and if it’s peak travel time. 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 DEN). Find more tips for getting to Vail, Colorado.

Once in Vail, there is a free bus system as well as pedestrian-only heated streets to explore. Some hotels offer 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 additionally several local taxi services that are helpful in a pinch. Get information about the free bus in Vail.


A woman standing in front of a fireplace in a hotel bedroom in Vail. She looks out the window at a winter landscape.

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’s 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. Learn more about Vail’s villages and neighborhoods.

Experience classic Vail history at a family-run hotel.

Check out luxury hotels in Vail that’ll take your breath away.


A couple sits close together in a booth at a Vail restaurant. They have glasses of white wine in their hands and are laughing together.

No one visits Vail without having unforgettable gastronomic experiences. There are so many fine-dining and casual eateries to sample, you can try some place new every day you’re here. 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.


A family of five are out shopping in the Vail village during winter. They are leaving a store and two girls carry white shopping bags.

From luxury high-end boutiques to trendy T-shirt shops, it’s a shoppers’ paradise in Vail, and the scene fulfills any retail-therapy needs while you rest your sore ski legs. See a list of top gift shops.

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.

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

Find a full list of Vail shops.


1. Skiing and Snowboarding

Two skiers in bright, colorful winter jackets make a run down the mountain. The sky above them is blue and the mountains and trees are covered in fresh snow.

It goes without saying that a few days on Vail Mountain skiing the acres and acres of endless terrain are unparalleled. 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. Vail Mountain is a great for beginners, too. Sign up for a lesson with an expert instructor.

2. Other Winter Adventures

Two people cross-country ski through a Vail valley. The person in front wears an orange and maroon winter jacket.

Off the ski mountain, Vail Nordic Center, located near Golden Peak, offers fat biking, snowshoeing and cross-country 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.

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.

3. Après-Ski Spots

A group of men and woman dine outside in winter at an après-ski restaurant. Everyone is raising a glass to toast and celebrate a day on the mountain.

A trip to Vail would be incomplete if you skip après-ski. So, please don’t. Skip it, that is. 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 BarRoot & FlowerVendetta’sThe Red LionAlmresiLos AmigosPepi’sBart & Yeti’s or Garfinkel’s — you can’t go wrong with any of them. See the list of top après-ski spots.


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 the Discover Vail calendar for things to do, special events, free concerts and more.