The Vail Valley proudly hosts two World-renowned ski resorts within a 10 minute drive of one another: Vail Resort and Beaver Creek Resort.
Even if you haven’t spent time researching the area, you may recognize the Vail Valley as home to an impressive list of professional ski and snowboard athletes and Olympic medal winners including:
- Mikaela Shiffrin, Women’s Alpine Skiing
- Lindsey Vonn, Women’s Alpine Skiing
- River Radamus, Men’s Alpine Skiing
- Tess Johnson, Women’s Moguls
- Kai Owens, Women’s Moguls
- Meghan Tierney, Women’s Snowboardcross Racing
- Jake Pates, Men’s Halfpipe Snowboarding
You don’t have to be a professional athlete to enjoy skiing at Vail and Beaver Creek, though. These mountains have a little bit of everything. Since they are so extensive, terrain ranges from beginner trails and bunny slopes to expert routes with all the jumps, bumps, and speed anyone could ask for.
5,317 skiable acres
18% beginner terrain
29% intermediate terrain
53% advanced/expert terrain
1,832 skiable acres
19% beginner terrain
43% intermediate terrain
38% advanced/expert terrain
VILLAGES AND SKI AREAS EXPLAINED
Vail and Beaver Creek each have distinctly different villages throughout the mountains that can be enjoyed based upon your preference for terrain and amenities. We’re going to break things down from a local’s perspective so you can spend more time hitting the slopes and less time researching.
Vail Resort has come a long way since it was opened in 1962 by two World War II veterans turned Aspen ski bums. Back then, it was barely a blip on the ski industry’s radar. Now, it is one of the most recognizable ski resorts in the northern hemisphere, attracting over 1 million visitors yearly. Vail is an epicenter for cuisine, culture, and year-round activities for outdoor lovers. Both its town and terrain are ever-expanding, resulting in distinctly different areas to consider enjoying throughout your visit.
Each village has its own personality and they are all within walking distance of one another! There is also a free in-town shuttle service connecting the areas. Each village has lift access and ski trails connecting them to the rest of the mountain, so you can switch locations with ease.
Vail Village is the stuff every winter vacationer’s dreams are made of. Access all of Vail Mountain via Gondola 1. At the base of the gondola, you’ll find a lift ticket office and lodge with dining options. The village itself is large and most areas are for pedestrians only. The Eagle River runs through the center of town and is flanked by streets hosting restaurants serving every category of cuisine you can imagine, plus shopping, concert venues, an ice rink, and more. The architecture is European-inspired and visitors may just forget they’re in the middle of the United States. Solaris is located in the center of the village and is the location for an impressive number of free outdoor concerts and festivals. Vail Village is the most popular of the villages, as it is where much of the action and vacation rentals are located.
Golden Peak Village
One of two ski school locations, this village hosts bunny slopes and lessons. A bit further up the mountain are Ski Club Vail’s practice area and a public terrain park. Golden Peak is home to a number of concerts, competitions and ski races throughout the winter season. There is one main lodge with a ticket office, ski school, and restaurant.
This pedestrian village is sometimes overlooked by visitors but it shouldn’t be. Lionshead offers the same amenities as Vail Village, on a slightly smaller scale. There is a lift ticket office, ski school, great shopping, an ice rink, over a dozen dining options, and high end hotels and rental properties. Its Bavarian style architecture makes for a pleasant ski town feel. The terrain accessed directly from Eagle Bahn gondola in the center of the village is perfect for those seeking beginner and immediate terrain. The rest of the mountain and higher-level terrain can easily be accessed as well.
On-Mountain: The Back Bowls
What is a bowl? It is a bowl-shaped area with trails funneling down to the bottom. Think about taking a scoop of ice cream out of a fresh pint, then envision a little skier dropping in from the edge and skiing down to the bottom of the curve.
Vail’s Back Bowls, also known as the “Back Side”, include Sun Down, Sun up, Tea Cup, China, Siberia, Inner Mongolia, Outer Mongolia and the very farthest trip, Blue Sky Basin. We’ll give Game Creek Bowl an honorable mention but it’s technically not on the “Back Side”. Skiers and snowboarders know this area to be the stuff of legends. The majority of terrain is advanced to expert, ranging from steep drops to tree runs, although there are enough intermediate trails interspersed to ensure everyone has fun.
The sweeping views of the Holy Cross Wilderness and White River are second to none. The Back Bowls have very few services, meaning it can take 30+ minutes to reach the nearest lodge. This in combination with the sheer size of this area often means crowds are smaller, although you can expect the exact opposite after a fresh snowfall. The Back Bowls will be the most sought after destination on powder days.
Three main access points will get you to the Back Bowls. They are Chair 3/Wildwood Express (east side) over to Chair 7 (Game Creek Express), Chair 4/Mountaintop Express (center mountain), and Chair 14/Sourdough Express (west).
Beaver Creek Resort
Although investors considered developing this area as a ski resort for years prior, Beaver Creek almost got its start when Denver was granted the bid for the 1976 Winter Olympics. In the end, Denver voters declined the bid and Beaver Creek wouldn’t host the Olympics that year, after all. However, a persistent team from Vail Resorts prevailed and Beaver Creek Resort opened on December 5, 1980 with 6 lifts.
Now, Beaver Creek and its 31 lifts give access to the beloved terrain spread over 3 villages. Beaver Creek is known as a quieter alternative to Vail since its villages are smaller but don’t let that fool you. The terrain is incredible and so are the shopping, dining, and entertainment.
Beaver Creek Village
The majority of skiers will begin in Beaver Creek Village and Centennial Chondola (part gondola, part chair lift). All levels of terrain and the entire mountain, including Larskpur Bowl, Rose Bowl, and Grouse Mountain, can be accessed from this main area. This is also the home of most dining, shopping and entertainment. An incredible 500 seat venue, the Vilar Performing Arts Center, is located in the center of the village.
Bachelor Gulch Village
Home to the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch and a handful of high-end homes and condos, Bachelor Gulch is a small village with a lot to offer. There is a ski shop, lift ticket office, outdoor bar, and a handful of restaurants, all hosted within the Ritz Carlton. Terrain in this area is largely intermediate with some beginner and advanced terrain.
The smallest of Beaver Creek’s villages, Arrowhead should still be on your list. There is just one restaurant, Broken Arrow, one ski lift, a ski rental shop and lift office. Visitors will find this to be quiet and usually crowd-free with great beginner and some intermediate trails. Ski over to the neighboring Bachelor Gulch in under a minute, or take the free 5 minute shuttle ride to Beaver Creek Village.
With so many enticing options for where to stay and ski, we can confidently say, you can’t go wrong!