Guidebook

The Essential First-Time Guide to Skiing Vail

Not for the first-time skier, but for maximizing your first visit to Colorado’s largest ski resort.

Description

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.

For Beginners

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.

For Intermediates

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.

Flapjack

Flapjack

Vail
2.7 km
447 m
21 °
This starts off very flat and goes for a long time.
Green (Easy)
Private
Boomer

Boomer

Vail
0.9 km
151 m
16 °
A super wide open green run.
Green (Easy)
Private
Sourdough

Sourdough

Vail
0.8 km
155 m
23 °
Sourdough is a great beginner trail high up the mountain that has a nice and easy pitch to it.
Green (Easy)
Private
Ramshorn

Ramshorn

Vail
1.1 km
238 m
25 °
Ramshorn is a fun middle of the road green that is usually groomed and quite fun for intermediates and below.
Blue (Intermediate)
Private
Northwoods

Northwoods

Vail
1.5 km
388 m
26 °
Northwoods is one of Vail's all time greats.
Blue (Intermediate)
Private
Whistle Pig

Whistle Pig

Vail
0.7 km
213 m
26 °
Whistle Pig is a bumper's paradise off of the Mountain Top Express Lift (Chair 4) that will shorten your day if you're not ready to do battle with the moguls.
Blue (Intermediate)
Private
Lost Boy

Lost Boy

Vail
2.2 km
349 m
19 °
Wide open and has a pretty consistent pitch with great views towards Beaver Creek and beyond.
Green (Easy)
Private
Showboat

Showboat

Vail
1.3 km
356 m
27 °
Showboat is the main run in the Game Creek Bowl and goes right under the chairlift.
Blue (Intermediate)
Private
Deuces Wild

Deuces Wild

Vail
0.5 km
166 m
25 °
Deuces Wild is a fun steeper mogul run in the Game Creek Bowl area.
Black Diamond (Difficult)
Private
Poppyfields West

Poppyfields West

Vail
0.9 km
154 m
20 °
Poppyfields West is the harder of the three Poppyfields but is still a middle of the road blue in China Bowl.
Blue (Intermediate)
Private
Grand Review

Grand Review

Vail
2.0 km
463 m
29 °
One of our favourites as it's one of the least travelled of the Vail trails.
Blue (Intermediate)
Private
In The Wuides

In The Wuides

Vail
1.5 km
418 m
28 °
This has a pretty consistent blue pitch to it and has lots of personality.
Blue (Intermediate)
Private
Ricky's Ridge

Ricky's Ridge

Vail
0.8 km
277 m
27 °
Off from the Ptarmigan Ridge in to the Sun Down Bowl. Ricky's Ridge is an open, steep and usually moguled area that is great on a powder day and is usually nicer than many other areas in this bowl.
Black Diamond (Difficult)
Private
Forever

Forever

Vail
1.3 km
455 m
28 °
We only have a small paragraph to describe one of the best pitches or areas of Vail.
Black Diamond (Difficult)
Private
Milt's Face

Milt's Face

Vail
0.7 km
265 m
31 °
Milt's Face is a short and steep run in the Sun Up Bowl that is fun and challenging for many.
Black Diamond (Difficult)
Private
Yonder Gully

Yonder Gully

Vail
1.1 km
322 m
27 °
Yonder Gully is a very large open area of skiing and riding that is off the Sleepytime Road in the Sun Up Bowl.
Black Diamond (Difficult)
Private
Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan

Vail
0.5 km
243 m
33 °
A wide open run starting with a massive cornice drop.
Black Diamond (Difficult)
Private
Jade Glade

Jade Glade

Vail
0.6 km
223 m
29 °
Offers a consistently steeper pitch with lots of moguls and a few tree islands.
Black Diamond (Difficult)
Private
Inner Mongolia Bowl

Inner Mongolia Bowl

Vail
1.1 km
348 m
27 °
Worth it on a powder day or even on the days after as few make the effort to get here.
Black Diamond (Difficult)
Private
Steep and Deep

Steep and Deep

Vail
0.7 km
216 m
32 °
Steep & Deep should be called Steep & Short as after 15 turns at the most you are down at the flat part.
Black Diamond (Difficult)
Private
Lover's Leap

Lover's Leap

Vail
1.1 km
285 m
39 °
The terrain itself is some of the steepest at Vail and if you make a mistake you may slide all the way down to the bottom.
Black Diamond (Difficult)
Private
Avanti (Upper)

Avanti (Upper)

Vail
0.9 km
187 m
24 °
One of the best groomed runs in the resort.
Blue (Intermediate)
Private
Look Ma

Look Ma

Vail
0.4 km
113 m
32 °
A great bump run with a consistent pitch and usually nice rhythmic moguls.
Black Diamond (Difficult)
Private
Riva Ridge (Black)

Riva Ridge (Black)

Vail
0.8 km
258 m
28 °
Riva Ridge is one of the most famous runs in Vail and is also one of the longest.
Black Diamond (Difficult)
Private
Highline

Highline

Vail
1.5 km
441 m
31 °
This is one of the places to come if you are a mogul specialist.
Double Black Diamond (Very Difficult)
Private