Tips + Trends

Vail Beyond the Slopes: 7 Ways to Experience This Rocky Mountain Respite

World-class skiing under a bluebird sky isn’t the only reason to head to Vail, Colorado. This iconic valley in the heart of the Rocky Mountains has plenty to keep you busy year-round.

Mountain Biking in Eagle

Season: April – December

Fruita and Moab have long been the go-to spots in the Rockies for mountain biking, but Eagle, just 30 minutes west of Vail, has more than 100 miles of town-owned trails open for use from April 15 to December 15 and some areal BLM (Bureau of Land Management) trails are open all year.

Beginners should check out the six-mile Haymaker trail. Riders who want a little more challenge should try the Boneyard and Eagle Ranch loops. “You can conquer 10 quality single-track miles in about an hour,” says Bob Turitz, co-author of Mountain Bike Eagle.

“West Eagle has the goods for advanced riders, with steeper and more technical terrain, amazing views and single track galore.” He suggests the Abrams Ridge, Itch, Scratch, World’s Greatest, Fire Box or Mike’s Night Out trails.

If you prefer to stay a little closer to home, try lift-served riding on Vail Mountain. Good shops for equipment rental are The Kind in Edwards, Venture Sports in Avon or any one of the many mom and pop shops in Vail.

Fly-fishing

Season: Year-round

The Vail Valley is home to some world-class fly-fishing. The 2016 World Fly Fishing Championship was hosted in Vail, and there are several guide companies that offer experiences for beginners and experts alike.

“The Eagle River runs right through the heart of the Vail Valley and is fantastic wade fishing year-round. A quick drive away you can find yourself on the iconic Colorado River — a float fisherman’s dream,” said Madeline Grande of Vail Valley Anglers.

“Trout populations are healthy, numerous and diverse. Gore Creek is even known for producing a grand slam (brown, rainbow, cutthroat and brook trouts) in one day,” Grande added.

Whether you’re an avid fly fisherman or new to the sport, your first stop should be a local fly shop. The staff will be more than happy to share their knowledge about current flies and conditions.

Pro tip: While there are plenty of public stretches available, be aware of private water.

Vail’s Adventure Ridge

Season: December 14 – April 1 and June 9 – October 1

things to do in vail
Gape at epic landscapes from a two-wheeled treasure. (Photo: Getty Images)

Winter or summer, Adventure Ridge at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola in West Vail is an absolute must-do for the whole family — as well as couples and singles and college kids on spring break. The on-mountain activity center was many years in the making, and Vail is regularly adding something new.

In the summer enjoy zip lines, adventure (high ropes) courses or the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster. In the winter there’s tubing, ski biking, riding snowmobiles and snowshoeing. Looking for something to do after skiing? Try a free evening snowshoe tour or, for the thrill-seeking, a nighttime guided tour of Vail Mountain by ski bike.

Vail Jazz Festival

Season: June – September

The Vail Jazz Festival is so much more than jazz: During this 12-week concert series, more than 70 events feature swing, salsa, blues, Latin, bebop and more. The festival attracts more than 200 artists to perform against a backdrop of the Colorado Rockies. Locals love the free Sunday afternoon concerts at the Vail Farmers’ Market & Art Show.

Stand-Up Paddle the Colorado Whitewater

Season: June – October

things to do in vail
Test your balance on a paddleboarding journey, one of the most popular things to do in Vail. (Photo: Getty Images)

There’s no more exciting way to tackle the Colorado whitewater than on a stand-up paddleboard.

“If you’re an experienced paddler, there’s an area around Rancho Del Rio on the Upper Colorado about 20 miles from Vail that has a nice stretch of Class 2 rapids, and in high flows, it’s closer to Class 3. If you’re new to river paddling, there’s an area on the Colorado near Dotsero that offers Class 2 paddling through six miles of scenic, remote river,” said Greg Kelchner, owner of Timberline Tours.

Kelchner says the best season for paddling, especially for newcomers, is during July and August when the water is warmest, but even then, he suggests wearing a wetsuit, and a helmet and life jacket are mandatory. Timberline Tours offers day trips to both areas that include door-to-door transportation, equipment, instruction and lunch.

Or grab a couple of friends for SUP water polo on Nottingham Lake in Avon.

Restaurant Week

Season: Early Fall

There are many food and wine events throughout the year in Vail, but the local’s favorite is Restaurant Week, usually held the first week of October. Participating restaurants in Vail and Beaver Creek offer prix fixe tasting menus for approximately $20.

Après ski

Season: Thanksgiving – Closing Day

vail restaurants
Unwind après ski at Bōl. (Photo: Courtesy of Bōl)

After a long day slaying pow down Vail’s Back Bowls, nothing tastes better than a cold one. Head to the Vail Brewing Company’s new Vail Village location, which features 32 beers on tap and live music for après ski.

VBC is barely out of infancy as businesses go, but it’s already the go-to spot for locals and long-time visitors alike, thanks to its award-winning handcrafted brews. Be sure to try the Tourist Trap Double IPA, the Hot Mess Blonde or one of their rotating seasonal flavors.

If you’ve still got energy to spare, head to Bōl for drinks, appetizers and bowling — also a great place for après with kids.