Colorado’s largest ski area doesn’t look like much when you’re staring at it from this compact town that straddles Interstate 70. But start riding the chairlifts up and over, and you find yourself at Blue Sky Basin, a full seven miles from where you parked the car. Vail Resort is an endless winter wonderland that you could spend a lifetime exploring. Needless to say, most visitors come to Vail in winter to ski or snowboard. The town also offers world-class dining and shopping, and the après ski party doesn’t stop until last call at the many bars and clubs.
If downhill resort skiing doesn’t do it for you, then visit the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area, at the top of Vail Pass east of town. Here you can snowshoe, ski tour, or go snowmobiling. Or combine skiing and snowmobiling by using the machines to access the deep, untracked powder in the backcountry.
There are plenty of reasons to visit in summer and fall as well, and most of those reasons can be found in the Eagles Nest Wilderness. This vast wilderness begins at the edge of town and quickly morphs into the wild canyons and cirques of the Gore Range. Gore Creek Trail to Gore Lake, Pitkin Creek Trail to Pitkin Lake, and the Berrypicker Trail are a few of our favorites.
For a more civilized mountain experience, you can take a gondola to the top of the mountain, have a beer or lunch and then hike or bike down the hill. Or you can just take the gondola down.
An hour’s drive west and south of Vail takes hikers to the Holy Cross Wilderness, named for Mount of the Holy Cross. This 14,005-foot peak was once a National Monument, but today is simply a gorgeous mountain that offers beautiful hiking and camping.