Skiing and Snowboarding at Vail, Vail
Concierge.com's insider take:
With 5,289 skiable acres and 31 lifts, Vail is enormous. Getting your bearings on the slopes can take days, but you'll never be bored. Even better, the resort averages 350 inches of pristine Rocky Mountain powder per year, so you can forget about those ice chutes they call runs on the East Coast. Vail's Front Side, which rises up from the village, offers a good mix of terrain, including Double Black Diamonds off the old Highline chair to the west (Roger's Run and Blue Ox are two favorites) and easygoing groomers off the Avanti Express to the east. There are four terrain parks for snowboarders who go for tricks, including a 400-foot-long superpipe (picture a half-pipe on steroids). But to get the full value from your lift ticket (more expensive every year), frolic in Vail's incomparable Back Bowls. Sparsely groomed, beautiful, and wide open, the bowls are perfect for advanced skiers (to access them, take the Mountaintop Express or Northwoods Express lifts and follow the signs to Sun Up Bowl or China Bowl). Just past the bowls (take the catwalk trail off Sun Up Bowl), you'll find epic Blue Sky Basin: 645 acres of ungroomed powdery bliss for quite advanced skiers and boarders. Tip: Head there first thing in the morning, because it takes 45 minutes to reach from the village, and Blue Sky starts shutting down in the early afternoon.
Prefer a slower, lung-filling pace? Vail has two Nordic centers for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. At Vail Golden Peak, daily group tours include equipment rentals (970-754-3200). The Vail Nordic Center, meanwhile, has 17 kilometers of groomed trails, along with rentals, lessons, and clinics (970-476-8366).
The American Ski Exchange, next to the Vista Bahn Express, demos Salomon, K2, Rossignol, Völkl, Volant, and Head skis (225 Wall St.; 800-327-1137).
Double Diamond, in Lionshead Village, demos all the skis and boots it sells (no snowboards), so opt for a Demo Package; you can also choose nondemo rentals of skis and snowboards (877-433-7547).
One Track Mind, in Lionshead Village, specializes in snowboards (970-476-1397).Ski Butlers delivers skis and boards to your hotel room (970-845-2268).
For all rentals, aim to make reservations at least two weeks in advance for holiday periods.—Updated by Sarah Tuff