Vail – Colorado, U.S.A.
America’s Big Ski
With 193 exhilarating trails crisscrossing 10 square miles (5,289 skiable acres) of majestic, snow-draped landscape, Vail is America’s largest single-mountain ski resort and one of its favorites, perfect for all levels. You can ski for a week here and never repeat a run, nor tire of the remarkable variety of terrain, which includes the legendary Back Bowls, an immense, wide-open span of snow on the mountain’s south side, stretching 7 miles across at its widest. Its open space astounds most first-time arrivals, and offers varying levels of difficulty (but mostly intermediate).
There’s big money, top-notch technology, and plenty of action and activity here, including the world’s largest network of high-speed quad lifts on a single mountain, the world’s largest ski school (with more than 850 instructors), and more than 100 restaurants and twice as many stores in its pseudo-Tyrolean pedestrian-only village, set at a base altitude of 8,120 feet.
Vail’s newest addition, and the first of its kind on the American ski scene, is the Blue Sky Basin, which was designed to give the intermediate and advanced skier a backcountry experience. There are no conventional trails per se, just 645 acres of gorgeous territory and virgin powder. Not enough? A comprehensive user-friendly ski ticket is also valid at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone, all located within a 40-mile radius and linked by shuttle service.
When Vail opened in 1962, The Lodge at Vail was built as a dormitory for resort workers, and since it was the only game in town at that point, it had first dibs on the best location: slope-side and in the heart of Vail Village. Vail now boasts some of skidom’s most elegant hostelries, but top-of- the-list luxury-seekers still go to The Lodge, which long ago retooled itself as a deluxe ski-in/ski-out property, possibly one of America’s ultimate ski lodges, with the old-world charm of an alpine chalet.