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How to Ski & Snowboard Like a Local in Vail

Vail’s snowy slopes have seen it all, from Olympic athletes hitting quad corks to kiddos getting their first ski and snowboard legs. So, strap on that helmet and see what Vail Mountain and the surrounding villages have to offer.

Whether you’re a newbie to the lifts, a weekend warrior or visiting Vail for a whole week, here are tips that you can use to make the most of your days on and off the slopes.

The skies above Vail are dark blue, but the village and road to town are visible and brightly lit.

How to Get to Vail Mountain

If you’re driving in from out of town, especially on a weekend day, it’s safe to expect longer-than-average drive times, so plan accordingly. We are also big believers in doing our part to reduce the impacts of climate change — transportation-related emissions make up 25% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the state, after all. That’s where carpool apps like Treadshare and Caravan can make your life much easier. With both, you can help reduce traffic on I-70, meet new friends and save money on gas. It’s a win-win-win.

Coming from downtown Denver or Lakewood? The Colorado Department of Transportation’s statewide bus service, Bustang, and shuttle service, Pegasus, make daily runs to Vail. For around $20, it takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes. Get this: There’s Wi-Fi on board!

Some hotels offer shuttles to Vail Mountain, too. For example, The Lift at Highline Vail operates throughout the day and will take you to both villages and the ski resort. The daily shuttle between the villages at Grand Hyatt Vail also runs 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the winter, and guests just call in to request the service. Check in directly with your hotel to see if they have a shuttle you can hop on.

More insider tips on how to get to Vail, Colorado

Vail Parking Tips

If you’re traveling by car to Vail, check road conditions as you go via the COTrip app and leave your parking anxiety in the dust. The Lionshead parking structure and the Vail Village parking structure have a live availability tracker so you can plan before you arrive. Get more Vail parking tips.

A couple cuddles together on a ski lift heading up Vail Mountain in Colorado.

Denver to Vail

If you’re landing at Jeppesen Terminal at DEN: There are many shuttle options to get you from Denver International Airport to Vail, so you don’t have to worry about piloting a rental car on icy roads. Some possibilities include Uber Ski, Epic Mountain Express, Peak 1 Express, Blue Sky Limo and Colorado Airport Express.

How to Avoid Long Lines

Vail residents know the afternoon is a great time to strap in, gondola up and shred down. So, do as they do and get your turns after a full day of fun.

Start your day with a ramble through the European-inspired Vail Village to grab a steaming cup of coffee. Insider tip: We recommend the Mud Season latte at Yeti’s Grind. It has flavors of dark and white chocolates, plus hazelnut.

Or reserve a spot for a filling brunch (remember, ripping down the mountain is a workout). The Little Diner is a local favorite. Order the pannekoeken (similar to a Dutch baby) covered in bacon and sauteed apples. Then, spend the rest of your pre-slope adventure hitting the shops for gear and souvenirs.

Book a spa session if you want an even more relaxing way to wake up. The Sonnenalp Hotel’s dry-brushing body treatment is a boon during the winter season. If you’re in need of some adjustment from the altitude, Bloom Spa at The Sebastian Vail’s 80-minute program begins with a foot soak and ends in a full body massage, with an oxygen-therapy session in between.

Once the morning ski crowds begin dispersing after lunch, use the My Epic app for lift-line wait times.

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.

Stay Safe

From dressing for the weather to taking a lesson, staying safe on your ski day is top priority. Remember: Skiers and snowboarders who are downhill of you have the right-of-way. Always stop where you are visible. Look uphill first before you begin skiing or snowboarding down, and lastly, leave no trace.

Even if you have been conquering the mountain for years, there’s always more to learn, so signing up for a lesson with Vail’s ski and snowboard school is never a bad idea. There are classes for everyone — from beginners, children and experts to people with disabilities.

Be sure to dress appropriately for winter temperatures with all essentials. The higher the elevation is, the colder it will be. Check the snow forecast using tools like OpenSnow, and always layer your outerwear with removable underlayers. Helmets are a must, as are protective goggles and ski- or snowboard-specific gloves or mittens. Don’t forget your ski/snowboard socks (blisters in the cold are even worse than usual); and, remember, hand and toe warmers aren’t just for the little ones.

Where to Eat in Vail

During the peak season, locals don’t let something like a long lunch wait stop them from getting to the chairlifts. Try packing a fit-in-your-pocket lunch from Joe’s Famous Deli & Homemade Ice Cream or The Market at Vail and snacking on it at one of the on-mountain picnic tables.

Of course, Vail residents also participate in après at places like Pepi’s and Garf’s, where if the walls could talk, they’d tell incredible stories of past presidents, famous celebs and citizens who’ve made Vail what it is today.