A popular summer destination for both road bikers and mountain bikers, Vail has a variety of paved bike paths (including one that leads up to Vail Pass), plus dozens of miles of dirt mountain-bike trails. You can take bikes on lifts heading uphill, then head downhill on an array of routes.

Vail Bike Tech. Known as Vail Ski Tech in the winter, this shop rents and repairs bikes the rest of the year. Best of all, they are only steps from the Eagle Bahn Gondola, a summer gateway to the ski-slope trails. They also offer shuttle service to Vail Pass for downhill mountain biking. 555 E. Lionshead Circle, Vail, Colorado, 81657. 800/525–5995;

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

Vail. Year after year, Vail logs more than a million "skier days" (the ski industry's measure of ticket sales), perpetuating its ranking as one of the top two or three most popular resorts in North America. From the top of China Bowl to the base of the Eagle Bahn Gondola at Lionshead, the resort is more than 7 miles across. The vast acreage is roughly divided into three sections: the Front Side, the Back Bowls, and Blue Sky Basin. Snowboarders will find plenty of steeps on the Front Side, and technical challenges at the Golden Peak or Bwana terrain parks, but they should avoid the Back Bowls, where long catwalks can get slow in the afternoon sun.

In 2013, Vail introduced Gondola One, one of the fastest 10-passenger gondolas in the world, clocking in at 1,200 feet per minute. The heated gondola with Wi-Fi and cushioned seats replaced the Vista Bahn. From Mid-Vail, the Mountain Express Lift (No. 4) has also been upgraded from a high-speed quad to a high-speed six-passenger chairlift.

Vail is perhaps best known for its legendary Back Bowls, more than 3,000 acres of wide-open spaces that are sensational on sunny days. Standing in any one of them, it's difficult to get a visual perspective, as skiers on the far side resemble Lilliputians. These bowls stretch from the original Sun Up and Sun Down to Game Creek on one side and Teacup, China, Siberia, and Outer Mongolia bowls on the far side. The terrain ranges from wide, groomed swatches for intermediate skiers to seemingly endless bump fields to glades so tight that only an expert boarder can slither between the trees. When there's fresh powder, these bowls beckon skiers intermediate and above. But after the fresh snow has been tracked up by skiers and pummeled by wind and sun, it may be wise for less-than-expert skiers to stay in the groomed sections of the bowls.

The Front Side of Vail Mountain delivers a markedly different experience. Here there's lots of wide-trail skiing, heavily skewed toward groomed intermediate runs, especially off the Northwood Express, Mountaintop Express, and Avanti Express lifts, as well as the slopes reachable via the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Pockets of advanced and expert terrain are tucked in and around the blue-marked slopes. The upper parts of Riva and the top of Look Ma are just a few of the places you'll find skilled skiers. The best show in town is on Highline (you can see it while riding Chair 10), where the experts groove through the moguls and those with a bit less experience careen around the bumps. The other two extremely difficult double-black-diamond trails off this slow lift are the best cruisers on the mountain for skilled skiers.

It takes time (as long as 45 minutes) to reach Blue Sky Basin, made up of three more bowls, but it's worth the effort. Tucked away in a secluded corner of Vail, this 645-acre area has been left in a wilder state, and the majority of the terrain is never groomed. Intermediate skiers will find a few open trails with spectacular views of rugged mountain peaks. For advanced and expert skiers, the real fun is playing in glades and terrain with names such as Heavy Metal, Lovers Leap, the Divide, and Champagne Glade. Facilities: 195 trails; 5,289 acres; 3,450-foot vertical drop; 31 lifts. Vail, Colorado, 81657. 970/476–5601; Lift ticket $129. Late Nov.–mid-Apr., daily 8:30–4.

Lessons and Programs

Vail Ski & Snowboard School. This respected operation runs classes, workshops, and clinics for skiers of all levels. The more than 1,000 instructors teach in 22 languages. Beginners can take three-day courses that include equipment rental and lift passes. Workshops for women, teen sessions, and telemark courses are among the programs targeting specific groups. Vail, Colorado, 81657. 970/754–8245; From $150. Closed in summer.


Vail Sports. Within steps of the lifts and with 10 locations along the mountainside in Vail Village and Lionshead, this shop rents a wide range of ski gear, including high-end equipment. Prices for skis range from $47 to $67 a day. Book online for discounts. 151 Vail La., Vail, Colorado, 81657. 970/477–5740;


Golfers who love to play mountain courses know that some of the best are in Vail Valley. These courses meander through the valleys dividing the area's soaring peaks. The region is home to more than a dozen courses, and there are another half dozen within easy driving distance. It's all just a matter of where you're staying and how much you want to spend. Some courses are only open to members and to guests at certain lodges.

Sonnenalp Golf Course. This Robert Cupp–Jay Morrish design threads through an upscale neighborhood 13 miles west of Vail. There are some serious elevation changes. Guests at the Sonnenalp Resort get preferred tee times. 1265 Berry Creek Dr., Edwards, Colorado, 81657. 970/477–5372; $170, $140 for hotel guests. Reservations essential.

Vail Golf Club. The area's municipal course rolls along between homes and condominiums in East Vail. 1778 Vail Valley Dr., Vail, Colorado, 81657. 970/479–2260; $109. Reservations essential.


If you aren't used to it, high altitude can catch you off guard. Drink plenty of water to help stave off the effects of altitude sickness—dizziness, shortness of breath, headache, and nausea. Slather on the sunscreen—it's easy to get sunburned up here. And in summer an early-morning start is best, as afternoon thunderstorms are frequent and a danger above the tree line.

Booth Lake. This is one of Vail's most popular hikes, so get on the trail early or pick a weekday during the summer high season. It's a sustained 6-mile one-way climb from 8,400 feet to Booth Lake at 11,500 feet, right above the tree line. Fit hikers can do this in about seven hours. En route, you can cool off at the 60-foot Booth Creek Falls; at only 2 miles in, this is also a great spot to turn around if you're feeling winded (this should take about two to three hours round-trip, and is a great option for an easier hike). The reward for pushing on is a nice view of Booth Lake cradled among the alpine tundra. Trailhead: Take Exit 180 from I–70 to end of Booth Falls Rd, Vail, Colorado, 81658.

Eagle's Loop. This trail starts from atop the Eagle Bahn Gondola at 10,350 feet, but it's a mellow, 1-mile stroll along the mountaintop ridge with panoramic views of the Mount of the Holy Cross. Allow about half an hour. A one-day lift ticket for the 14-minute gondola ride is $30 for adults. Adventurous types may prefer to skip the gondola (and the $30 fee) and hike the intermediate, often steep, 4½-mile trail through aspen trees and wildflowers to the beginning of the Eagle Loop trail. Trailhead: Top of Eagle Bahn Gondola, Vail, Colorado, 81657.

Outfitters and Expeditions

Paragon Guides. In summer, this backcountry adventure company offers rock climbing, mountain biking, and day and overnight llama treks in and around Vail Valley. In winter the company runs daylong ski trips through the backcountry, and three- to six-day trips along the 10th Mountain Division Hut System. 210 Edwards Village Blvd. , Edwards, Colorado, 81632. 970/926–5299;

Nature Centers

Vail Nature Center. This nature center occupies an old homestead just across from the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. In summer, you can sign up for half-day and full-day backcountry hikes, wildflower walks, morning birding expeditions, and evening beaver-pond tours. Kids can sign up for art and fly-fishing classes, and families can join the "S'mores and More" family campfire program. Adjacent to Ford Park, 601 Vail Valley Dr., Vail, Colorado, 81657. 970/479–2291; Mid-June–late Sept., daily 9–5 .

Nordic Skiing

Backcountry Skiing

Paragon Guides. It's a good idea to hire a guide if you're unfamiliar with the area's backcountry trails. Paragon's capable guides can lead you along 100 different trails on foot or by bike, snowshoes, skis, and more. 210 Edwards Village Blvd., Edwards, Colorado, 81632. 970/926–5299;

10th Mountain Division Hut and Trail System. This famed network is one of Colorado's outdoor gems. Its 34 huts are in the mountains near Camp Hale, where the decorated namesake World War II division trained. Skiers and snowshoers in winter (snowmobiles are not permitted to approach the huts) and hikers and mountain bikers in summer tackle sections of the more than 350 miles of trails linking new and rustic cabins on day trips or weeklong expeditions. Apart from the joy of a self-reliant adventure among rugged mountains, travelers enjoy the camaraderie of communal living (there are very few private rooms in the huts), and evenings spent swapping stories by the glow of a wood-burning stove or the twinkle of summer stars. Hut reservations should be made at least a month in advance.

Vail, Colorado, 81657. 925–5775;

Track Skiing

Vail Nordic Center. The cross-country skiing at the Vail Nordic Center is on a golf course. It's not the most beautiful terrain, but it's only $8 for a daily pass. 1778 Vail Valley Dr., Vail, Colorado, 81657. 970/476–8366; $8. Open during ski season.

Other Sports and the Outdoors

Adventure Ridge. In summer, Adventure Ridge, at Eagle's Nest high above Lionshead, is the hub of Vail Mountain activities. It's cool and high, and it has the views, especially from the zip-line and ropes course. It also has tons of activities like Friday Afternoon Club live bands, beer, sunset watching, the Dino Dig (a large sandbox with buried plastic dinosaur bones for kids), horseshoe pits, Frisbee golf, a climbing wall, tubing, and free guided nature hikes through the Gore Range Natural Science School's Discovery Center. Winter activities include tubing, snowmobiling, zip-lining, or ski-bike and (free) snowshoe tours. Atop Front Side of Vail Mountain, Eagle's Nest, Vail, Colorado, 81657. 970/476–9090; .

Mountain Information Center. Look here for the lowdown on events in the area. Vail, Colorado. 800/503–8748;


Adventure Ridge. This outfitter at the top of Lionshead leads snowmobile excursions for kids, as well as snowshoeing, ski biking, zip-lining, and tubing for adventure-seekers of all ages. Atop Front Side of Vail Mountain, Vail, Colorado, 81657. 970/476–9090.

Nova Guides. This is a good source for snowmobile rentals and guided "snowcoach" tours on a 13-passenger snowcat. 7088 U.S. Hwy. 24, Vail, Colorado, 81649. 719/486–2656;

Vail Valley Tours. This snowmobiling outfit offers complimentary pickup in Vail, Avon, and Beaver Creek for two-hour, half-day, and custom guided tours into the White River National Forest. 2111 N. Frontage Rd. W, Vail, Colorado, 81657. 970/476–7749; From $99.


Colorado Bike Service. This is a great bike shop where you can get more information about the trails around Beaver Creek. 41149 U.S. 6 and U.S. 24, Beaver Creek, Colorado, 81620. 970/949–4641;

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

Beaver Creek. Beaver Creek is a piece of nirvana, partly because of its system of trails and partly because of its enviable location two hours from Denver. Although only a third the size of Vail, Beaver Creek is seldom crowded. The skiable terrain extends from the runs down Beaver Creek to the slopes around Bachelor Gulch to the network of trails at Arrowhead. You can easily ski from one village to another. The omnipresent and helpful ambassadors are always willing to point you in the right direction, and carry your skis to the liftside.

Beaver Creek has a little of everything, from smoother slopes for beginners to difficult trails used for international competitions. Grouse Mountain, in particular, is famed for its thigh-burning bump runs. Beginners have an entire peak, at the summit of Beaver Creek Mountain, where they can learn to ski or practice on novice trails. And newcomers can return to the village on one of the lifts if they are too tired to take the long trail all the way to the bottom. Intermediate-level skiers have several long cruising trails on the lower half of Beaver Creek Mountain and in Larkspur Bowl. Both locations also have black-diamond trails, so groups of skiers and snowboarders of varying abilities can ride uphill together. The Birds of Prey runs, like Peregrine and Golden Eagle, are aptly named, because the steepness of the trails can be a surprise for skiers who mistakenly think they are skilled enough to take on this challenging terrain. The days of snowboarders getting snubbed in Beaver Creek are long gone, and shredders can tackle a series of terrain parks with increasing difficulty from Park 101 to the Zoom Room and on to the Moonshine half-pipe.

The slopes of neighboring Bachelor Gulch are a mix of beginner and intermediate trails. Here you can often find fresh powder hours after it's gone elsewhere. Many of the open slopes weave past multimillion-dollar homes; cost of real estate is even higher than in Beaver Creek. The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, which sits at the base of the Bachelor Gulch Express Lift, is one of the region's most beautiful hotels. A stop here is a must for any architecture buff. Many skiers plan to arrive in time for a hearty lunch at Buffalos or an après-ski cocktail in the Buffalo Bar or the Bachelors Lounge. There are shuttles handy to take you back to Beaver Creek.

The third village in the area, Arrowhead, has the best and usually the least crowded intermediate terrain. Locals take advantage of sunny days by sitting on the spacious deck at the Broken Arrow restaurant. It's not much more than a shack, but the burgers can't be beat. The European concept of skiing from village to village was introduced here in 1996, when Vail Associates decided to connect Arrowhead, Beaver Creek, and Bachelor Gulch via lifts and ski trails. Facilities: 150 trails; 1,832 acres; 3,340-foot vertical drop; 24 lifts. Beaver Creek, Colorado, 81620. 800/404–3535; Lift ticket $159. Late Nov.–mid-Apr., daily 9–4.

Lessons and Programs

Beaver Creek Ski & Snowboard School. At Beaver Creek's excellent ski and snowboard school there are about 600 instructors; lessons are available in more than 20 languages. Special clinics run throughout the year, like workshops for women, teen sessions, and telemark courses. The school boasts numerous beginner through advanced ski and snowboard lessons for all ages, with a focus on small class sizes. Beaver Creek, Colorado. 970/754–8245;


Beaver Creek Sports. Adult ski rentals range from $68 to $83 a day, depending on the package. Find six Beaver Creek Sports locations in Vail Valley. 1 Beaver Creek Pl., Avon, Colorado, 81620. 970/754–5430;


Gypsum Creek Golf Course. This Pete Dye–designed course climbs around a rocky mesa. There are plenty of blind holes and precipitous drop-offs, especially on the eighth hole. 530 Cotton Ranch Dr., Gypsum, Colorado, 81637. 970/524–6200; $59–$68, $54–$61 for residents . Reservations essential.

Eagle Ranch Golf Club. This 6,600-foot-high course was landscaped in the lush wetlands of the Brush Creek Valley. Caddies like to joke that the perfect club might actually be a fly rod. Arnold Palmer, who designed the 18-hole course, said, "The fairways are very playable and the roughs are not extremely rough." 0050 Lime Park Dr., Eagle, Colorado, 81631. 970/328–2882; 866/328–3232; $99. Reservations essential.

Red Sky Ranch & Golf Club. At this tony private course a few miles west of Beaver Creek members alternate with guests on two courses designed by Tom Fazio and Greg Norman. The Tom Fazio Course's front nine are laid out on sagebrush-covered hills, but the back nine flows up and down a mountainside covered with groves of junipers and aspens. The Greg Norman Course sprawls through a broad valley. Some shots require carries across jagged ravines. Norman's signature bunkers abound, guarding slippery greens. In order to play at Red Sky Golf Club you must be staying in the Lodge at Vail, the Pines Lodge in Beaver Creek, the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, other hotels owned by Vail Resorts, or other partner properties. Nonmembers must book caddies a day in advance. 376 Red Sky Rd., Wolcott, Colorado, 81655. 970/754–8377; $250. Reservations essential.


Beaver Creek Hiking Center. The staff here arranges everything from easy walks to difficult hikes and mountain-bike tours. If you're traveling with kids, ask about educational programs. Beaver Creek Village, Beaver Creek, Colorado, 81620. 970/754–5373;

Holy Cross Wilderness Area. This wilderness region southwest of Beaver Creek offers plenty of outdoor adventures. One great hike is the 4½-mile Missouri Lakes trail. It's easy to access and provides a fun loop and moderate hike through the wilderness. See high alpine lakes and great views at the mouth of a mini canyon. Take the switchbacks to Fancy Pass and Cross Creek trails for a bird's-eye view of the area. Holy Cross Ranger District, White River National Forest, Beaver Creek, Colorado, 81631. 970/827–5715;

Horseback Riding

Beaver Creek Stables. Here you can book outings ranging from one-hour rides to all-day excursions. Many trips include a tasty picnic lunch. In the evening, ride your horse to Beano's Cabin for dinner. Horseback-riding lessons are also available. 93 Elk Track Rd., Avon, Colorado, 81620. 970/845–7770;

Nordic Skiing

Track Skiing

Beaver Creek Nordic Sports Center. Lessons, equipment rentals, and guided tours are available here. Strawberry Park Condo Bldg., at the bottom of Chair 12, Beaver Creek, Colorado, 81620. 970/745–5313; Closed mid-Apr.–mid-Dec..

McCoy Park. The prettiest place for cross-country skiing is this park with more than 19 miles of trails groomed for traditional cross-country skiing, skate skiing, and snowshoeing, all laid out around a mountain peak. To get here, take the Strawberry Park chairlift—a plus because it gets you far enough from the village that you're in a pristine environment. The groomed tracks have a fair amount of ups and downs (or perhaps because the elevation begins at 9,840 feet, it just seems that way). Beaver Creek, Colorado, 81620. 970/754–5313; Closed mid-Apr.–mid-Dec..

Other Sports and the Outdoors

Activities Desk of Vail. Here you can get the lowdown on many of the activities in the region, summer or winter. Beaver Creek, Colorado, 81620. 970/476–9090.