The slopes

  • Extent 4 out of 5
  • Fast lifts 5 out of 5
  • Snow 5 out of 5
  • Queues 2 out of 5
  • Terrain p'ks 5 out of 5
  • Expert 4 out of 5
  • Intermediate 5 out of 5
  • Beginner 3 out of 5
  • Boarder 3 out of 5
  • X-country 3 out of 5
  • Restaurants 2 out of 5
  • Schools 4 out of 5
  • Families 4 out of 5

The resort

  • Resort charm 3 out of 5
  • Convenience 3 out of 5
  • Scenery 3 out of 5
  • Eating out 5 out of 5
  • Apres ski 3 out of 5
  • Off-slope 3 out of 5

Key facts

Resort2500 m
Slopes2475-3525 m
Lifts31
Pistes5289 acres
Price index215

Vail

USA

Vail

The upside

  • One of the biggest areas in the US – especially great for confident intermediates
  • The Back Bowls are big areas of treeless terrain – unusual in the US
  • Fabulous area of ungroomed, wooded slopes at Blue Sky Basin
  • Largely traffic-free resort centres, very pleasant in parts – but …

The downside

  • Resort is a vast sprawl
  • Slopes can be crowded by American standards, with serious lift queues
  • Inadequate mountain restaurants
  • Blue Sky Basin and Back Bowls may not be open in early season; warm weather can close much of Bowls
  • Expensive, with lots of luxury lodgings but few budget options
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    News – 2017/18

    The Northwoods Express quad chair, which serves runs on the upper part of the front side of Vail mountain and gives access to the back bowls, has been replaced by a six-pack. The new lift will reduce wait times and increase capacity by 25% to 3,000 people an hour.

    News – 2016/17

    The slow Sun Up triple chair in the back bowls was replaced by a high-speed quad. That means that all major chairlifts on Vail mountain are now high-speed. The new Sun Up chair increased capacity by 65% to 2,400 people an hour and cut the ride time in half to make it four minutes.

    The Arabelle at Vail Square hotel at Lionshead ‘transformed its look and feel with a healthy refresh’, the resort PR people tell us.

    Summary

    We always enjoy skiing Vail; it’s a big mountain with a decent vertical, and Blue Sky Basin’s ‘adventure’ skiing is a key attraction. But it is far from being our favourite American mountain. In an American resort you expect the runs to be pretty much crowd-free – and in any resort you expect 20-minute lift queues to be a thing of the past. In these respects, Vail disappoints.
    When the budget runs to a swanky billet in Vail Village or the Lionshead area, we’re happy enough with the resort, too; it is a pleasant place to wander around. But we’re not enthusiastic about Vail Village’s pseudo-Tirolean style, and the rest of the huge resort lacks character. In the end, Vail can’t compete with more distinctively American resorts based on old mining towns.

    Blogs, features and news

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    The slopes

    • Extent 4 out of 5
    • Fast lifts 5 out of 5
    • Snow 5 out of 5
    • Queues 2 out of 5
    • Terrain p'ks 5 out of 5
    • Expert 4 out of 5
    • Intermediate 5 out of 5
    • Beginner 3 out of 5
    • Boarder 3 out of 5
    • X-country 3 out of 5
    • Restaurants 2 out of 5
    • Schools 4 out of 5
    • Families 4 out of 5

    The resort

    • Resort charm 3 out of 5
    • Convenience 3 out of 5
    • Scenery 3 out of 5
    • Eating out 5 out of 5
    • Apres ski 3 out of 5
    • Off-slope 3 out of 5

    Key facts

    Resort2500 m
    Slopes2475-3525 m
    Lifts31
    Pistes5289 acres
    Price index215