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Finding your way around the Vail Valley is relatively easy; the valley runs east and west, and everything you need is less than a mile off the I–70 corridor (and the constant drone of traffic), which parallels the Eagle River. The Gore Range to the north and east is one of the most rugged wilderness areas in Colorado—the peaks are jagged and broken, and any hiking here immediately involves a steep and sustained climb. To the south, the tabled heights of the Sawatch Mountain Range are gentler, and give Vail her superb skiing, particularly in the famed Back Bowls. Beaver Creek feels more isolated, being set off the highway behind a series of gates that control access to the posh communities within.
Vail. European-style cafés and beautifully cobbled streets lined with boutiques are more than just window dressing—Vail is no longer just known for its serious skiing. The nearby town of Minturn is a much more modest burg.
Beaver Creek. As the entrance gates will remind you, Beaver Creek is the most exclusive skiing community in Colorado. This is resort-to-resort skiing set among gorgeous glades of aspens; it never seems to get crowded. The smaller and more prosaic town of Edwards, which has a growing batch of shops and restaurants, lies just 4 miles west.