By Alessandra Tortorello
What’s Safe, What’s Accessible, What’s Fun!
Welcome to Vail, Colorado! Organized into three sections: the Front Side, the Back Bowls, and Blue Sky Basin, Vail Mountain is a world famous, seven bowl, three base, ski resort in the heart of Vail Valley, Colorado. Boasting wide open terrain with all types of trails, Vail Mountain is the fourth largest skiable terrain in North America.
With all that skiable acreage, Vail is a extraordinary place for families to grow and explore alpine sports. From front side cruising runs, to wide open back bowls, to glades and chutes in Blue Sky Basin, there is terrain for every skier type and ability. With this in mind, Vail makes families feel at home with their easily navigated bases and terrain.
What to Ski
Photo: Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts
With a few trail exceptions, beginners will mainly stay on the front side of Vail Mountain. Here, there is a variety of easy to intermediate terrain off every lift. Vail comes equipped with two beginner learning areas, ideal for skill practice and confidence building before tackling the lengthy on-mountain trails.
Golden Peak, Gopher Hill
Golden Peak base area is a great place for families to start off their ski day. Considered the easiest terrain at Vail, Gopher Hill is situated right at the bottom of Golden Peak. Here you will find Lift #25 and #29, two magic carpets perfect for families needing a gentle warm-up. Next, hop on the Gopher Hill lift, where your family can practice riding a chair lift and skiing down the entirety of the learning area. Once this learning area feels accomplished, you can take the Rivah Bahn Express Lift up to its first, or final, stop to access a few lengthy green cat tracks. Such runs like Northface Catwalk, Skid Road, or Brisk Walk, traverse the mountain and return you back to Golden Peak.
Lionshead Village, Eagle’s Nest
Enjoy the Vail’s famed alpine scenery as you ascend to this learning area. Located at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola from Lionshead Village base area, Eagle’s Nest is situated at an elevation of around 10,000 feet, so make sure to stay hydrated! In this learning area, you will find Lifts #35 and #18, two magic carpets to get your family in the skiing groove. If everyone is feeling comfortable, take a few practice laps under the Little Eagle Chair lift. This space is groomed and wide open, ideal for turning and stopping practice. If the learning area is starting to stir some yawns, Practice Parkway will be your next challenge. This trail starts at the top of Little Eagle Chair, leading you down the mountain and away from the designated learning area.
As always, if your family is able to control their speed safely and comfortably, you may be ready to upgrade your terrain choices, venturing out of the learning areas and onto the expanse of Vail!
On The Mountain
If you thought Vail was impressive by their learning areas, just wait until you start exploring their green terrain. With the most groomed terrain ‘on the planet’, Vail has family friendly trails accessible from every ski lift. Whether your family is looking for long sweeping groomers, beginner bump trails, or even a steady catwalk to get back home, Vail really does it all.
If you hopped on the Riva Bahn Express lift from Golden Peak, as previously mentioned, traverse over to the Northwoods Express lift. You will find yourself at the top of Vail Mountain, with a variety of trails to choose from. Head skier’s left for Swingsville or Ramshorn, two popular green runs which deposit you at Mid Vail. If blue cruisers is your family’s thing, try out Christmas, Cappucino, or Expresso. Whistle Pig is a fun bump run if conditions are good. Or, use the Timberline Catwalk to traverse over to the Sourdough lift. This area is a hidden gem; uncrowded green trails such as Tin Pants, Boomer, and Flap Jack deliver on views and slope space.
If your family started at Eagle’s Nest and enjoyed Practice Parkway, Minnie Ha Ha and Cub’s Way are fun, easy runs in the area. Ready for your first bowl experience? From the top of Eagle’s Nest you can access the Game Creek Bowl via the green Game Creek Trail. Take the Game Creek Express lift up and try out Lost Boy, a Vail fan favorite. Lost Boy starts out by touring the top of the bowl before it opens up to a gradual pitch perfect for carving turns. Dealer’s Choice is an open, introductory blue run if the family is up for the challenge.
Are green trails a snooze for your family? Intermediate terrain is the next step up. Vail’s iconic Blue Sky Basin is a intermediate to expert section of Vail that offers groomed blues, gentle glades, and spectacular views. While most of the Back Bowls are expert trails, there are a few blue cat walks that bring you to Blue Sky Basin, such as Sleepytime Road or Poppyfields. Take the Skyline Express lift up, and the magic of Blue Sky Basin awaits. Cloud 9 and Big Rock Park are favorites from my childhood; natural tree groupings to swerve through and multiple winding paths all lead you back to Pete’s Express.
Please note, all the trails in the Back Bowls or Blue Sky Basin are for at least intermediate skill level.
Kid Adventure Zones
Banked turns, tunnels, small glades; get your adventure on in the Kid Adventure Zones. These adventure zones are built to exhilarate, boost confidence, and challenge skiing abilities. While it’s designed for kids, adults can certainly partake in their fun too. Vail has 13 adventure zones scattered across the front side of the mountain. Below are a few favorite from my childhood.
The Magic Forest is the most memorable fun run from my days as a mighty mouse. It dips and winds it way through glades, with sweeping turns and rolls. Porcupine Alley was another favorite of mine; more glade skiing with porcupine sculptures to guide you through the trees. Lastly, Chaos Canyon always stole the show. Choosing between three paths upon entering, you ducked, dipped, jumped, and swerved through various features and bank turns.
Off the Mountain
Photo: Adventure Ridge Vail | Photo: Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts
Vail delivers the adventure, whether on or off your skis! On mountain activities, sans skis, are found at the Adventure Ridge, located at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Roughly the size of a football stadium, Adventure Ridge snow park is a kid’s snowy wonderland. Ski biking, kids snowmobile tracks, tubing, and snowshoeing are all available at Adventure Ridge. Additionally, you can find the Nature Discovery Center up here too. With fun exhibits and tours on Vail’s wildlife and wilderness, this is the region’s highest altitude nature center.
Photo: Arrabelle at Vail Ice Rink | Photo: Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts
Venturing off the mountain, you’ll find Vail Village or Lionshead perfect for apres shopping, snacks, and activities. With pedestrian friendly, heated streets, these villages are great for a family stroll. In and around these villages, there is both indoor and outdoor ice skating, bowling, guided walking tours, free concerts, and much more. Pirateship Park in Vail Village and Sunbird Park in Lionshead are among the top rated playgrounds in the world; these spots are great for kids to burn off even more of their limitless energy. Cold from the snow? The indoor play space, Imagination Station, offers kids and their families dynamic space for experimental play. No matter the time of day or the season, your family can always find something exciting to do in Vail!