Not for the first-time skier, but for maximizing your first visit to Colorado’s largest ski resort.
Vail is, without a doubt, one of the best ski resorts in America. Its expansive and varied terrain, frequent powder days, and on-mountain conveniences are hard to beat. Not surprisingly, it’s also one of the most expensive resorts in America. When you’re spending upwards of $200 on a lift ticket, you definitely want to get the most out of your day, but looking at the huge trail map can be overwhelming. Forget about trying to ski it all in one trip. Instead, use this guide to identify the areas you’ll enjoy best, and spend your day lapping just a handful of lifts. Otherwise, you’ll waste time traversing and waiting in line when you could be skiing or riding to your heart’s content.
If you’re happy skiing green and blue groomers, you really can’t go wrong anywhere on Vail’s Frontside. Every lift has at least one easy route down, so don’t hesitate to explore if you get the urge. If you want a lot of laps in one place, though, head to Sourdough Express. It has a good concentration of greens and tends to stay uncrowded because a minimum of two other lift rides is required to reach it. You’ll be glad you made the journey, however, once you’re carving wide groomers near the top of the mountain.
Vail is an intermediate skiers paradise, with enough blue terrain to keep you satisfied for an entire season. That, of course, means there’s far more than you can cover in one trip. If you have just one day, spend it on Northwoods Express and Mountaintop Express, where there’s plenty of great blues, both groomed and ungroomed, and a variety of terrain to sharpen your skills. Don’t expect short lift lines in these areas, though.
To step it up a notch in difficulty and contend with fewer people, head over to Game Creek Express. There you’ll find harder blues and easier blacks in a classic high-mountain bowl. If you just can’t resist getting to the famous Back Bowls, start on the blues in the ever-popular China Bowl. If you want to feel like you’re really “out there” in the mountains, make your way to Blue Sky Basin, which takes some time to reach but pays off with shorter lines and long runs.
For Advanced and Experts
Advanced skiers should make a bee-line for the Back Bowls. Game Creek Express and Wildwood Express will each get you to the top of Sun Down and Sun Up Bowls, which are full of excellently-varied black diamonds. You could lap these two bowls all day, but you should definitely check out China Bowl as well, and if you manage to ski everything there, make the trip to Blue Sky Basin. If you catch a fresh storm and want the best chance at untouched powder, head to Siberia and Mongolia Bowls. Fewer people go because it takes some work to get there, and the terrain is big. The Frontside has some classic black diamonds that you won’t want to miss either, but you can save them for the afternoon when cruising back to the base.