Outdoors

Know Before You Snow: A Guide to Tackling Vail’s Slopes for Every Type of Skier

With more than 5,000 skiable acres, a vertical rise of 3,450 feet and 31 lifts, Vail Mountain is humongous. The slopes literally have something for everyone, but it’s so expansive that if you’ve never been here, you may have a hard time figuring out where to start.

Whether you’re a first-timer or a lifelong skier, out for a run with your crew or have your kids in tow, this is your guide to getting the most out of the mountain from first chair to après-ski.

For Families

If you’ve got a gaggle of little rippers in tow, they’ll love the tree trails in the kids’ adventure zones concentrated on the Lionshead side of Vail Mountain. Future U.S. Ski Team members will have a blast in the EpicMix Racing, located just below Mid-Vail.

After racing you can head to Lindsey’s, a black diamond run named for Vail’s own Lindsey Vonn. Look Ma at Mid-Vail is good for grabbing a burger and fries with the kids.

If you’ve got little ones you want to get started on skis or even littler ones that are too small for skis, head to the Golden Peak Children’s Center, where you’ll find a nursery and ski school accommodating kids ages 2 months to 14 years and of all skiing abilities.

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Expert skier? Vail’s got you covered. (Photo: Getty Images)

For Friends That Shred

The trail map says otherwise, but locals know the fastest way to get to Vail’s famous Back Bowls is via Chair 6 from Golden Peak — especially once the ski-school groups line up at Vail Village and Lionshead. Get off at the mid-station and head to Chair 10.

If the double black bumps on Highline are calling to you, by all means take a lap, and then take Flap Jack over to Chair 14. From the top it’s straight into the Dragon’s Teeth of China Bowl. Cruise Poppyfields to Skyline Express to access Blue Sky Basin.

After you spend the morning tearing up the sunny south- and east-facing aspects, refuel on homemade pizza, burgers, soups or salad at Two Elk Lodge, where you can enjoy arguably one of the most spectacular views in skiing. Then head back to the front side of the mountain where the north-facing aspect keeps the snow in the trees colder and drier longer. If you’re having too much fun on the backside, the Dawg Haus is a great place for a grab-and-go lunch.

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Learn the ropes before you go. (Photo: Getty Images)

For First-Timers

You’ve never skied a day in your life, and somehow you find yourself standing in the center of Vail Village looking up, up, up to the top of the mountain and thinking, “What the heck did I get myself into?”

Sure, someone probably promised to teach you how to ski to get you to sign on to this trip, but you and that someone will both have a lot more fun if you check yourself into ski school.

The world-class skiers that make up Vail Ski & Snowboard School also know the mountain like the backs of their hands, which means you’ll get an insider’s tour of the best slopes for your ability. And don’t worry — you won’t be stuck at the bottom of the mountain.

Vail’s beginner terrain is at the top, so even never-ever skiers get to experience a high-alpine adventure. Vail offers a three-day group lesson for never-ever skiers, including a lift ticket and optional equipment rental.

For a Girlfriends Getaway

Sometimes you’ve just got to ski with the girls. In Vail you can ski with the girl, that is, Kim Reichhelm, one of the most influential skiers of all time. There’s also the annual Skadi Women’s Ski & Board Fest, complete with morning yoga, ski demos and VIP events. The 10th, located just above Mid-Vail, is an elegant spot for a sit-down lunch.

Après-Ski

Regardless of how you spent your day, an hour or two of après-ski is a must. In Vail Village, head to Los Amigos, right across from Gondola One and a long-time staple of the Vail après scene, for great views and a $6 margarita, or head just across the way to the Red Lion. In Lionshead, Garfinkel’s is the place to be.