Colorado United States

Vail, Colorado (in winter)

By David

I first wrote this post in 2016 when I was experimenting with blogging on our fledgling site. It was, in a word, not good. Ok, that’s two words. So, after spending a considerable amount of time in Vail during the 2022-2023 ski season, I’ve decided it’s time for an update and an upgrade.

While it is a destination for many, Vail, CO is a home away from home for us.  We were lucky enough to buy a condo in East Vail many years ago (a purchase we both agree may have been the best we’ve ever made). And while it is true that Vail is best known for it’s winter sports options, winter is only a small part of why we love Vail.  That said, let’s focus on winter.

Vail offers some of the best skiing in the US.  Vail Mountain Resort offers so much terrain and variety that skiers of all experience levels will love it.  Having been a skier for the past forty or so years, these recommendations are mostly for those who can handle bumps, steeps and glades. However, my advice to a visitor to Vail is to pick an area, focus on it for the morning and maybe move to an adjacent one for the afternoon.

My favorite places to ski in Vail.

  1. Skiing under Earl’s and Pete’s lifts way back in Blue Ski Basin before the crowds arrive. I used to always head straight there and work my way back to the front side as the masses descended. I still use that strategy when I decide to ski there, but I don’t exclusively ski there anymore. It is probably still my favorite place on the mountain.
  2. The “legendary” back bowls when there’s powder and there isn’t a layer of ice underneath. It’s hard to go wrong with the bowls on a good bluebird day. I personally like China Bowl and for those who don’t mind a long skate or tuck out on a catwalk at the bottom Mongolia bowl is pretty epic.
  3. Game Creek Bowl is probably my second favorite part of the mountain. There’s lots of bumps to both the left and right off the Game Creek lift and Lost Boy is a great cruiser with some of the best views on the mountain.
  4. When it’s crowded and busy, I often stick to Northwoods. Usually lots of snow, great variety and shorter lines.
  5. You like bumps?  Bring your legs and try Highline on the front side. Blue Ox to its right (as you descend) is a great steep cruiser and Roger’s to the right (also as you descend) is challenging but not as tough on the legs as Highline. It requires a traverse to get here, but it’s rarely crowded and I often take one of these as my last run for home.
  6. Finally, with the addition of lift 17 this season, Sun Down Bowl and Ricky’s Ridge, Seldom and Never are some of my new favorites on powder days. I’d never really explored this section of the mountain as it was harder to access but 17 has opened up my world.

While alpine skiing is a winter favorite of mine, the nordic skiing and snowshoeing options in and around Vail also offer a great way to release your mid-winter endorphins.  One of our favorites (winter, summer or fall) is a hike up the bike path up towards the summit of Vail Pass.

And finally, what are our favorite spots for eating/drinking?  A short list follows:

  1. For a splurge, we love Flame in the Four Seasons.  Yep, its a splurge but we love it.  They bring these great dipping sauces for your steak.  
  2. On the other end of the spectrum – you absolutely cannot beat the sandwiches at Big Bear Bistro (try the Lumberjack if you eat cow or the Phoenix if turkey is more your speed.  Sorry vegans I haven’t tried anything sans meat).
  3. Also on the Big Bear end of the spectrum, the pizza at Pazzo’s is hard to beat.  Get ready to wait in line though, especially on the weekends.
  4. Mountain Standard is probably our favorite spot in Vail.  The menu rotates and is great.
  5. The only really good breakfast joint in town, that we’ve found, is The Little Diner in Lionshead village.  Not diet food, but yum.
  6. A final, moderately priced option is Up the Creek.  Good for lunch, brunch or dinner.


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