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How to Enjoy Winter in Vail, Colorado—On and Off the Slopes

Skis aren't necessarily required for winter fun in Vail.


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Vail evokes visions of fashionably outfitted skiers gliding down snow-covered slopes or soaring to the mountain’s summit in glass-enclosed gondolas. During winter, most of the action takes place on Vail’s more than 5,000 skiable acres, with snowboarding and skiing the top activities. The area receives about 350 inches of snow each year, and its nearly 200 trails and 31 lifts attract winter sports fans from around the world.

The snow season is also ideal for snowmobiling, snowshoeing, tubing, cross-country skiing, and sleigh rides through the hills. Ski biking, for intermediate and advanced skiers, is another way to take advantage of the snowy mountain, with two-hour tours from the top of Eagle Bahn Gondola. Or take the Gondola for a scenic ride from Lionshead Village to the top for breathtaking views of Vail Valley, the Sawatch Range, and a stop at Bistro Fourteen. The Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster, an alpine-style thrill ride, winds 3400 feet down the mountain and through the forest. Guided ski and snowboard tours are available, as are private and group lessons.

Off the Slopes Fun

Vail is not just about the mountain, although it is admittedly the main attraction. Vail Mountain also serves as a stunning backdrop for Vail Valley, with villages designed like Bavarian towns, an iconic clock tower, neighborhoods linked by pedestrian-friendly walkways, and heated cobblestone streets. A day or evening away from the slopes can be spent browsing the village’s boutiques and art galleries, dining at one of the many restaurants, or simply enjoying the atmosphere and taking advantage of free transportation between the towns.

Shopping in Vail is a favorite off-slope pastime, and luxury shops offering jewelry, furs, skiwear, outdoor gear, and high quality gifts are plentiful. Lionshead’s streets are closed to cars and buses, making it a convenient and pleasant place for browsing. Upscale retailer Gorsuch, a Vail favorite, offers designer fashions, skiwear, accessories, and gifts. The Golden Bear is the place for jewelry, and their signature stylized bear shown in various pieces has become the symbol of Vail Valley. A stop for a sweet treat at Fuzziwigs or Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory might be an appropriate way to end a Vail shopping excursion. A snack at one of the village cafes or a cocktail at a cozy lounge would be another agreeable finale after shopping.

You can luxuriate at one of Vail’s spas for a day of indulgence away from the slopes. At the Arrabelle, an expansive spa with whirlpool, steam room, and full service salon welcomes men and women. The Four Seasons Resort, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, offers sauna, plunge pools, salon, and a variety of treatments. The spa at The Lodge at Vail has a full menu of massages and the unique Dream Pod Float Experience for total relaxation.

Skipping the slopes doesn’t mean you have to miss outdoor fun. Ice skating in the heart of Vail Village is one option. Dog sledding excursions through the White River National Forest and guided snowmobile tours explore Vail’s scenic backcountry. Or take a luxury Snowcat-drawn sleigh ride through meadows and forests in complete comfort. And in the evening, enjoy apres-ski socializing with a cocktail by a warm fire, where no one knows—or cares—whether you spent the day on the slopes or at the spa.

Where to Stay

The Arrabelle at Vail Square, another American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, has an opulent old-world atmosphere and convenient location at the base of Eagle Bahn Gondola. The historic Lodge at Vail, with its alpine boutique style, is just steps from Gondola One in Vail Village. The Four Seasons Resort and Residences offers a range of luxurious accommodations. The Ritz-Carlton Club’s two, three, and four-bedroom residences are ideal for families or extended stays.

Getting to Vail

Vail is 30 miles east of Eagle County Regional Airport with service by American Airlines and United Airlines. On the south side of the airport, Vail Valley Jet Center serves private planes arriving in Vail. From Denver International Airport, visitors travel 100 miles west to Vail.


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