Consistently ranked as one of North America's leading ski destinations, Vail has a reputation few can match. The four-letter word means Valhalla for skiers of all skill levels. Vail has plenty of open areas where novices can learn the ropes. It can also be an ego-building mountain for intermediate and advanced skiers who hit the slopes only a week or two a season. Some areas, like Blue Sky Basin,
can make you feel like a pro.
Although Vail is a long, thin town spread for several miles along the Eagle River and comprising East Vail, Vail Village, Lionshead in the center, and West Vail, the hub of activity in winter and summer revolves around Vail Village, and the recently redone Lionshead, which has shops, restaurants, a heated gondola, and even a glockenspiel tower. Vail Village is also a hub of retail and dining with direct lift access to the mountain.
Vail, along with most savvy ski resorts, actively courts families through special packages, classes for youngsters, and activities geared to people of all ages. At Vail kids can play in specially designed ski parks like Chaos Canyon and Fort Whippersnapper. After a day on the slopes, the whole family can get in on the action at Adventure Ridge, where activities range from kids' snowmobile rides to zip lining to tubing at night by headlamp.
In terms of size, Vail overwhelms nearly every other ski area in North America (only Whistler, in Canada, is larger). There are 5,289 acres popular with skiers and riders of all skill levels. Areas are clearly linked by a well-placed network of lifts and trails. The Front Side is draped with long trails; the infamous Back Bowls beckon powder skiers. A few hours of adventure skiing in Blue Sky Basin is a must for intermediate to advanced skiers and riders.
When the snows melt and two-for-one dinners are advertised in restaurant windows, you can be sure of two things—Vail is in the heart of the mud season, and the tranquillity won't last long. With the blooming of summer columbines come the culture crowds for music and culinary festivals and self-enrichment in the form of writing workshops and health-food seminars. While the valley teems with visitors, hikers and mountain bikers stream up the steep slopes on foot and via the Eagle Bahn Gondola to head into the network of trails that web the seemingly endless backcountry.
As with the majority of the area's resorts, the heart of Beaver Creek is a mountainside village. What sets Beaver Creek apart is that it's a...