Winter in Vail is an enchanting experience: A perpetual blanket of snow covers the forests and mountains, strands of lights twinkle around the village and it feels like you’re in a European fairytale. This magical vibe is part of what makes Vail such a popular winter destination — along with its legendary ski slopes. That’s why it’s important to plan your visit ahead of time, making reservations whenever possible.
Here’s our list of top winter activities you should book ahead of time:
A snowcat adventure is a thrill for experienced skiers and snowboarders ranging from intermediate to advanced. Hire Vail Powder Guide’s snowcat with a group of your best friends to explore Vail’s glorious backcountry from above the high-elevation timberline. Daylong sessions mean you can go for multiple runs through untouched powder amid alpine forests, deep bowls and open glades.
Make the slopes a family affair with first-time lessons for the kiddos or do a skills refresher together. Vail Mountain’s Ski & Snowboard School accepts students of all ages and ability levels. Opt for a group session or snag some one-on-one instruction. You can choose from half-day lessons — or reserve a full day of coaching. Book early for the best prices and availability.
3. Dog Sledding
Pup lovers will forever remember a dog-sledding excursion over powder-covered trails. With Mountain Mushers, you can pile on a sled that winds through private paths lined with aspens and pines. Or take the reins at Alpine Adventures Dogsledding, where you can lead the way and drive a full team of dogs yourself.
4. Sleigh Rides
Cozy up with the family on a sleigh ride through a winter wonderland at 4 Eagle Ranch. Afterward, enjoy the authentic Western dinner and live entertainment that comes with your ticket purchase. You can stroll the property, meet the massive sleigh horses or make gooey s’mores around the campfire.
Strapped for time? Take a quick ride through the historic grounds of Bearcat Stables. Make it a romantic winter date night with the addition of a savory four-course meal at the quaint Bearcat Cabin — dreamy, starlit sky included.
Explore more winter fun with a snowmobile outing from Vail Backcountry Tours. Feel the adrenaline rush as you zoom through snowy landscapes atop a high-powered snowmobile — or even a sleek snow bike. Pick from private and group trips with the option to extend your ride for extra hours of plowing through powder.
For a more exclusive outing, head to Sage Outdoor Adventures to get complete access to their private mountain and its miles and miles of trails. Reserve a private excursion for a customized ride based on what excites you — chase your friends through deep snow fields or take a leisurely cruise for wonderland views.
Rather do it yourself? At Vail Extreme Rentals, you can reserve everything from snowmobiles to timbersleds for several days at a time. Drive without a guide to discover hidden glades and mountain paths on your own schedule — perfect for busy groups and seasoned riders. Reservations are accepted up to 48 hours in advance. Just remember to ride responsibly: Don’t go it alone, respect all the wildlife and leave no trace.
If you love to hike in summer, you’ll adore snowshoeing in winter. Try tromping through a glistening winter landscape at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. Sign up for interesting, fact-filled guided tours, like the easy Winter Tree Trail or the intermediate Winter Web of Life.
Venture through the wilds of Vail with private half- or full-day tours at Vail Nordic School (at the base of Golden Peak), Vail Nordic Center (known in summer as the Vail Golf Club) or Paragon Guides. Take a chill trek over flatter lands or make it challenging with steep climbs to jaw-dropping, Instagram-worthy views.
Atop the Eagle Bahn Gondola, Nature Discovery Center offers free, guided tours — perfect for curious minds ages 10 and up. Explore Vail Mountain’s winter ecology on the naturalist-guided tour or embrace nature at night as you trek over moon-lit snow beneath a starry sky. Even though they’re complimentary, you still need to book your spot.
7. Ice Climbing
In winter, rushing waterfalls freeze solid, becoming captivating sculptures of ice. Why not try climbing one? Whether you’re an ice-climbing newbie or a seasoned expert, the guides at Apex Mountain School work with all ages, abilities and fitness levels. Sessions last all day, so you’ll have plenty of time to learn the ropes. Apex’s Vail offerings include avalanche education as well as guided snowshoeing and backcountry skiing.
After days of whizzing down the mountain, you may crave a slower-paced activity — like fishing Vail’s legendary waters. Knowledgeable guides at Vail Valley Anglers will show you the best spots to cast a line in winter. In addition to traditional ice fishing, their guides can show you how to wade in winter or take you on a float trip. They use a reservation system, so you can’t just drop in; but as summer is typically their busiest season, you can likely book just a few weeks from your vacation date.
9. Spa Time
Whether you need to recover after a day on the slopes or just want some “me” time to recharge, relax your weary body with personalized care and specialty treatments. Choose a holistic signature massage at Sunshine Massage Studio, enhance your natural beauty with a gua sha firming facial at Sonnenalp Hotel or try the revitalizing sea-mineral ritual at the Four Seasons Resort and Residences. When it comes to pampering yourself, less stress is always preferred, so be sure to book ahead of time.
10. Vail Restaurants
Vail’s international culinary scene offers a smorgasbord of choices. In winter, especially during the busy holiday season, many Vail Village and Lionshead restaurants require reservations, though policies differ by location. At swanky hot spots like Chasing Rabbits, Sweet Basil and Yama Sushi, seating can be reserved up to 30 days in advance. Other premier locales, like The Left Bank, allow reservations to be made several months out.
Pro tips: Contact your hotel’s concierge desk to see what booking-assistance services they offer. Always seek to arrange dinner reservations for larger parties.
More ideas for things to do in Vail:
● Find more family-fun activities during your winter vacation in Vail.
● Discover Vail’s nightlife opportunities to get the party started.
● Check out our beginner’s guide to winter excitement in Vail.
● Grab all your gear essentials for an awesome trip to the slopes.