Uphill at Vail: Touring Colorado’s Largest Resort

Hack the prices and the crowds at Vail by skinning uphill and taking your pick of runs down.

Jesse Weber




Vail can boast many claims to fame, including the superlative as the largest resort in Colorado. That means this prestigious resort gets hit hard by crowds all season long, and especially on powder days. It also means very expensive lift tickets! There is a way to avoid all of that, however, by skinning uphill under your own power either before or after the resort is open. Vail allows uphill travel on two designated routes, and you can have your pick of Frontside descents from there. That means guaranteed fresh tracks on a powder day or unlimited solitary fitness laps into the night.

The best of the two uphill routes is Riva Ridge, which starts from Vail Village base area. This blue-to-black groomed track aims for the top of the resort, opening lots of intermediate and advanced descents from there. The easier uphill route is Simba, which is a blue ascent from Lionshead/Vail Square to the Eagle’s Nest. An assortment of green and blue runs drop from there, with tougher variations as well. This guidebook shows both of the uphill routes plus some of the best downhills, but you’ll have the freedom to link your own favorite runs on the way down.

As with any resort, it’s important to know the uphill policies before you go. Vail is actually one of the few Colorado mountains that doesn’t require an uphill pass, at least not as of the 2021/22 season. But you still need to stick to the rules in order to preserve this generous access for everyone. You can read their uphill policy online, and also call their trails hotline (970) 754-1023 for updated info.



Northwoods is one of Vail's all time greats.


Prima is a super-wide trail that is long and challenging with a steep pitch.

Riva Ridge

Riva Ridge is one of the most famous runs in Vail and is also one of the longest.

Gandy Dancer

This is a roller coaster of a ride with lots of different pitches that roll around right and left, up and down.

Riva Glade

Riva Glade is a great and difficult tree area to the left of Riva Ridge.


Ramshorn is a fun middle of the road green that is usually groomed and quite fun for intermediates and below.


A busy trail in the Mountaintop Express area that is pretty easy for most.

Born Free

An awesome blue run from the top of the Eagle's Nest area that goes all the way down to near the bottom of Lionshead.


A multifaceted run off the Pride Express Lift that starts black and is steep and moguled.