Vail and Beaver Creek resort guide
Vail, the largest ski area in the US is, in our opinion, a “must” visit for any skier. Beaver Creek, only 15 minutes away, is a superb family destination.
Vail, the largest ski area in the US is, in our opinion, a “must” visit for any skier. Beaver Creek, only 15 minutes away, is a superb family destination in its own right which also works well as the other half of a twin –center ski trip. These sister resorts share many of the same attractions – easy access to wonderful skiing for all standards, Colorado’s renowned powder and blue skies, a wide choice of first class accommodation and a sense of service that pervades every aspect of a skiing vacation here.
Resort facts and figures
|Resort altitude:||2476m (8120 feet)||2469m (8100 feet)|
|Highest point:||3527m (11570 feet)||3488 (11440 feet)|
|Vertical drop:||1052m (3450 feet)||1231 (4040 feet)|
|Ski areas:||Front Side, Back Bowls||Beaver Creek & Bachelor Gulch|
|Skiable areas (acres):||5289||1815|
|Best for: Everyone! Vail has more advanced terrain and Beaver Creek has endless blue groomed runs that intermediates will love but both have a wide range for all standards.|
Skiing in Vail and Beaver Creek
The most extensive resort in the US, Vail offers everything from perfectly groomed trails for carving turns, powder skiing in the open Alpine terrain of the back bowls and superb tree skiing.
The “Front Side” offers a wide range of green, blue and black diamond runs for all standards and the treeline ensures visibility all the way to the top. Many runs are groomed daily into perfect “corduroy” while moguls are allowed to build up on others to challenge stronger skiers. Beginners are well catered for a Golden Peak and, for advanced skiers, Vail’s “Back Bowls” offer huge open terrain and some wonderful powder skiing. The only thing Vail is short of is truly extreme terrain, but even the very best skiers will be impressed by the backcountry tree skiing of Blue Sky Basin.
While Beaver Creek is smaller, the variety of terrain belies its size. Beginners and intermediates can spend days on end finding different ways down Strawberry Express and to Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead. Advanced skiers will be entertained in the Larkspur Bowl, on Centennial and in the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile experts can pit themselves against the fearsome Birds of Prey World Cup downhill course before hunting for powder in the glades off Grouse Mountain and the Stone Creek chutes.
Vail and Beaver Creek each have multiple world class terrain parks that are perfectly maintained and uncrowded and freestyle lessons offer a great introduction to these for teenagers (and young at heart grown-ups!).
Colorado has a well-deserved reputation for some of the best snow in the world and conditions are usually outstanding by the standards of any other ski area. What is less well known is that Colorado benefits from over 300 days of sun per year. The result is that an average Colorado day is likely to be the skiing of your dreams.
Both Vail and Beaver Creek boast state of the art express lift systems which are well thought out and allow you to make the most of one of the world’s foremost ski areas. The Vail Village and Lion’s Head gondolas are the most recent additions to significantly improve the skiing experience.
Well over a billion dollars has been invested in Vail’s accommodation, lift system and other facilities over the past five years The transformation is such that any impressions of Vail you may have from before 2010 are likely to be outdated and this investment places Vail firmly on any shortlist of the world’s best resorts. Vail resort has centers along the valley floor of which the places to stay are Vail Village and Lion’s Head.
Vail Village is the main center with a multitude of excellent hotels, restaurants, bars and shops. As the name would suggest, there is a real “village” feel and the pedestrianized center combines atmosphere with proximity to the ski slopes and the gondola which opens in December 2012. While Vail is clearly a “premier” ski resort, there are plenty of reasonable and down-to-earth bars and restaurants which we find hugely refreshing (and in marked contrast to some of skiing’s other “premier” destinations).
Lion’s Head is smaller than Vail Village. Recently re-developed, the focal point of Vail Square is attractive and full of charm with plenty of shops, sunny terraces, restaurants and the outdoor ice rink. Even better, the Eagle Bahn Gondola departs right from the foot of Vail Square.
Service pervades the Vail experience and those accustomed to Europe’s somewhat sporadic approach to service cannot fail to be made to feel genuinely welcome by the friendly and courteous approach that is taken by everyone from lift operators to hoteliers.
Adventure Ridge, at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola is easy to overlook but should not be missed by families. Open until late, it offers tubing (tobogganing on inflatable tubes), kids’ snowmobiles and much more for kids, small and large.
Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch
Beaver Creek is one of the most family-friendly ski resorts in the world. Accommodation is of a high standard whether you choose a hotel or a beautiful private lodge. The hotels we offer boast ultimate ski in / ski out convenience and at the heart of the resort the outdoor ice rink is surrounded by shops and restaurants in a pedestrian area.
Beaver Creek’s “hosts” are always on hand to help you find whatever you need, whether it be the tubing hill, a great spa, a lift on the free shuttle or somewhere to go for supper.
Bachelor Gulch is a short drive from Beaver Creek. Named after a group of Scandinavian ski-bums who used to live there, it is now home to the magnificent Ritz-Carlton. The Gulch itself is little more than a hamlet but the Ritz is so well appointed that you really don’t need to leave.
Vail and Beaver Creek insider tips
The epicMIX pass (free with your lift pass at both resorts) allows you to track your skiing and have your photograph taken all over the mountain. This data can then be linked to Facebook and Twitter to make your friends and family green with envy in real time!
On a powder day and if you love tree skiing, head for Blue Sky Basin in Vail or the Royal Elk Glade in Beaver Creek.
Be sure to have lunch at the Tenth at mid Vail. Named after the 10th Mountain Division, this restaurant opened in December 2011. Exchange your ski boots for slippers and enjoy fine Alpine dining. The pheasant and chicken pot pie is delicious and hearty.
Keep an eye out for Olympic and World Cup star, Lindsey Vonn – she is a Vail local.
For après-ski in Vail, we recommend Garfinkels at Lion’s Head or the Red Lion in Vail Village. Vendetta’s is another good bet (where you can also get great pizza) and is the locals’ favorite. In Beaver Creek, Gringo’s is the place to go.
Ask our team about Game Creek chalet (Vail) or Trapper’s Cabin (Beaver Creek). Both unforgettable and authentic mountain experiences.
At 3pm each day, chefs emerge outside Beaver Creek’s main chairlift with free warm choc chip cookies for all.
The Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek is well worth researching before you travel – it stages theatrical productions and concerts of the highest standard.