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Vail

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Northwestern Colorado : Vail
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Two emblems of the Vail Valley -- the Clock Tower with the Gore Range in the background

Vail [1] is a U.S. ski resort town set in the Rocky Mountains. Vail is located in the Northwestern region of the state of Colorado. It is 100 miles west of Denver and 35 miles (56 km) east of Eagle.

Understand

Roughly Vail is divided into four zones; West Vail, Vail Village, Lionshead, and East Vail.

Get in

By car

I-70 is a direct route into Vail. It's exactly 100 miles from Denver, and about 130 miles from Denver International Airport.

During peak times, I-70 can get very congested and it is not unheard of for a trip from Vail to Denver to take 3 hours or more. Peak times are weekend afternoons (2pm-6pm) both in the summer and winter. Plan accordingly and either leave in the morning, or leave Vail after 5pm in the winter. If you do leave after dusk, however, be warned that road conditions can get icy. If you are from a major metropolitan area, the drive may also seem very dark to you with virtually no highway lighting and no reflectors on the roadway. Due to the darkness, high beam laws are often ignored. You can get a snapshot of travel conditions on the Colorado Highway Patrol web site [2].

If you are not experienced with winter driving conditions, you may want to think twice about travelling to Vail by rental car. Although most of the time you'll find the highway dry and perfectly fine, when it snows the road can get nasty. The ride from Denver takes you from 5,280' to the Eisenhower pass/tunnel at over 11,000'. After a steep drop to Silverthorne at 8,750' I-70 winds through Officer's Gulch which is notorious for black ice conditions, high winds and white out conditions when the weather is severe. I-70 then climbs over Vail Pass at 10,650' before the drop to the Vail Valley floor at 8,120'. If you are uncomfortable driving in the severe conditions that may occur on this drive, it is recommended that you spend a little extra money and employ one of the private charter services available in the Vail Valley. Note that although some Denver based companies also offered chartered service to Vail, their drivers often have limited experience in severe weather. Many Denver charter companies also use all season tires in the winter. If you do a little research, you should be able to find a reputable Vail based company that uses studded snow tires during the winter.

Champagne Powder Day on Vail Mountain

By plane

Fly into Vail/Eagle County Airport or Denver International Airport. Note: Vail/Eagle County Airport is still about 35 miles from Vail, a shared ride in a Van from there to Vail will cost you about $50 per person once you tip the driver. If you are travelling with your family or in a group, there are a number of private charter services that are also available. These are often more convienent than a shared ride service since they transport you door to door. Although you might think about renting a car, parking is expensive in Vail and most everything is in walking distance or a short ride away on the town's extensive free bus system. If you fly into Denver, you might think about renting a car, but you should be warned that the 100+ mile trip from Denver takes you over 2 mountain passes at elevations of 11,000 and 10,600 feet. The safest way to get from Denver Airport to Vail is to take a private chartered service such as All Mountain Transportation that employs experienced drivers that are familiar with the drive and road conditions.

By bus

Several carriers offer limo, van, or bus service to and from Aspen, Denver, and other cities in Colorado ($300 one-way), or the Eagle Vail airport ($100 one-way). Greyhound will be the cheapest at $12-30 one-way with advance purchase.

Get around

If you are staying in Vail or Lionshead, having a car will be more hindrance (parking fees) than a value. The town is set up so you can walk between most places and the slopes. There is also a free shuttle that will take you to the immediate surroundings as well as up to Beaver Creek.

By car

A Cassin's Finch clings to a feeder at the Vail Nature Center in Ford Park.

If you are coming from somewhere else and skiing, you can park on site. It will cost about $25 (2010) per day. Best advice arrive early (before 9am) on busy days and you won't have problems. There are two parking garages, one in Vail and one in Lionshead. The Lionshead garage is the shortest walk to the slopes.

If the garages do fill up, you may to park on the road. The problem being that they don't let you park on the road until BOTH garages are filled. So say you drop your friends off at Golden Peak (so they can put their kids in child care) then go back to the Vail parking lot, its full, so you then have to go park in Lionshead and take a bus back to catch your friends.

For those doing child care there is also a ($25/day) valet parking at Golden Peak, cheaper to park at the main Vail garage and walk (5 mins). Most Hotels in Vail, (see: upscale) will provide you with a free shuttle, just ask before you arrive.

Most major car-rental firms are located in Denver and Vail airports.

By bus and shuttle and Limo

There a many free buses going throughout the Vail valley. For current schedules see: [3] .

Scheduled and chartered services are available from Denver International Airport and Eagle County Regional Airport:

  • MPG-EXPRESS,24/7 Affordable and luxury SUV's, VAN's private service:Toll Free:888-674-0397,970-390-1235. [4]
  • Black Diamond, Eagle-Vail Airport (EGE) and Denver Airport (DEN) Transportation. 24/7: Car Service | Limo | Vail Taxi | Call: (970) 261-6509 Visit:[5]
  • Eagle Vail Express, Vail Transportation, Shuttle and Limo Call +1 970-376-6284. [6]
  • B-LineXpress, Toll Free: 1-800-423-0729 or Phone +1 970-390-2641. [7]
  • Colorado Mountain Express, Toll Free: 800-525-6363 or Phone: +1 970 926-9800.
  • Powderhound Transportation offers a shuttle service and transportation from Denver to Vail[8] .
  • All Mountain Transportation, 41199 US Highway 6, 970-949-9255, [9]. 24/7. A leading chartered ground transportation company offering private charters from 5 passenger SUV's to 28 passenger mini coaches. moderate.

See

  • Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum, [10] - Might be interesting.

Do

The Eagle Bahn Gondola transports people to the top of Vail Mountain summer and winter.

Winter Sports

Ski/Snowboard

  • Tickets $97 (2010 prices) a day too steep? Want to save some money? Well there ARE a couple of ways, but they are not easy:
    • The SkE Card - This used to be called the Colorado Card. Basically it is targeted at Colorado residents, but as far as I know residency is not a requirement. Rather they just make this available in October and early November at local Denver sporting goods stores (REI for example). You have to be present to get it. But it does get you some nice discounts on lift tickets (try $55 in 2005).
    • Colorado Pass - The Colorado Pass provides unlimited slope access at Breckenridge, Keystone and A-Basin, as well as 10 days' access to the lifts at Vail or Beaver Creek. The Colorado Pass costs $449 (2008). It is blocked out on certain dates. Available at the same times/places as the Ske Card.
    • Ebay - Friends swear by this. Typically for $10 you can buy a 2 for 1 coupon that was issued somewhere in the country. There have been counterfeits so your mileage may vary.
    • Peaks card - You should sign up for Vail's "frequent skier" program called Peaks. Just go to a ticket office before you do your first day of skiing to get one. You can attach a credit card, then you don't have to wait in line, just scan the card and voila your credit card is debited for a ticket. The points do add up if you have a family and you might get a day or two of free skiing out of it. A recent change where you get the points after a several month delay means that you won't be able to use them until your next trip.
    • Grocery Stores - Discounted tickets for Vail are no longer available at grocery stores on Denver as they once were.
    • Locals - If you have friends in Vail, and they have a season pass, they get 5 "Buddy Passes" that allow you to ski for 35$ a day, so make some friends, and ski for less.

Avoid the Lines If you can get on the mountain a little earlier (before 9:30 am) than everyone else you can stay ahead of the crowds and never wait in a line more than 5 minutes. Here are some suggested starting routes:

  • Favorite: Start at golden peak, and take the lift past the first drop off to the top. Get off and take lift 11 (Northwoods) to the very top of the Mt. From there drop into China Bowl or go off to Blue Sky basin. Come back to the front after noon and you'll see a lot of the mountain.
  • Staring at Vail Village. If the Vista-Bahn is really full, take the little two seater chair up. * They do not run the two seater chair, except for races.* Ski over to Golden Peak and follow along above.

Lionshead - Don't wait for the gondola, take the quad chair. Ski over to the far side (the far side can be LOTS shorter) of lift 2 and up.

Avoid: Chair 4 from mid-vail. Always crowded. Chair 11 can get crowded. Check the status boards for the back bowl lift and game creek bowl lifts before going into each as they can fill up and there is only one chair in each bowl.

Ski & Snowboard Equipment Rental Vail resort has a huge range of ski and snowboard rental options. Vail's village is spread over a huge area from Lionshead, Vail Village and Golden Peak, so it is best to source your ski or snowboard rental close to your hotel or even better close to the lifts.

Located at the base of the ski slopes, Pirate Ship Park has delighted generations of children in Vail.

Here are just a few of the many ski rental stores found in Vail.

  • Aalta Sports‎
  • Breeze Ski Rentals (Lionshead Vail)
  • Black Tie Ski Rentals
  • Christy Sports
  • Double Diamond Ski Shop (Lionshead)
  • Gravity Jones Ski Werks‎
  • Pepi Sports‎
  • Ski Base Inc‎
  • Troy's Ski Shop‎
  • Vail Mountain Adventure Center‎
  • Vail Sports
  • Rentskis
  • Burton - Arrabelle (snowboards)
  • One Track Mind (snowboards)

You can also book your Vail ski or snowboard rental online before you leave possibly saving you time in the rental store and even some money as most offer discounts for pre-booking. Here are the main ski rentals stores that offer online booking service;

  • Black Tie - Which also offer full delivery service to your accommodation
  • Breeze Rentals
  • Christy Sports
  • Double Diamond Ski Shop
  • Rentskis

Child Care Vail has an excellent child-care center for all ages of kids. For babies to toddlers, the nursery provides great, on mountain, care. As young as 3 years old the Ski School can really teach your kids to ski and give them a fun day too (and free you up to ski with your spouse). All this does not come cheap, but you get a good quality product and don't have to worry about your kids.

One note: book early (like a month before you get there) for the nursery. They do fill up.

Ride the Gondola The Gondola is free for foot traffic after 2pm. Before 2pm the ticket price is $24 for adults (2009). It is a good way to get the non-skiers and the kids up to the top.

Adventure Ridge A fun place to bring kids or friends who don't like to ski! Activities include: ski-biking, kid's snowmobile track and tubing.

Vail Snowmobiling Tours & Rentals [11] Take a guided snowmobiling tour in Vail's Backcountry or set out atop Vail Pass on an unguided snowmobile rental.

Summer

Condos and shops in Lionshead. Designers work hard to maintain a European aesthetic to the resort

Mountain Bike In the off season, Mountain Bike rentals and lift tickets are available for a reasonable cost. Ride the lift up to the top and bike your way down, taking in thrills, scenery, and encounters with wildlife. Trails are rated by difficulty and are well-maintained. It is certainly easy and fun to ride the gondola up and ride the bike down.

  • Vail Bike Tech [12] is located on the Lionshead Mall and offers mountain bike (and ski) rentals.
  • Venture Sports [13] Located in Avon, Full service bike 970-949-1318
  • Mountain Pedaler of Vail [14] is a great bike pro shop.
  • Trail Action Group, [15]. is a great trail (for biking and hiking] maintenance group. A great way to help build trails and meet local folks.

Gondola Ride As of summer of 2005 it was $17 to ride the Gondola to the top of the mountain. At the top there is an outside bar with the worlds greatest view, and a pretty pricey grill (check times).

Hint: If you want a work out and want to save the $17 walk up to the top. The Gondola is always a free ride down! The hike will take you about 1-2 hours (depending on fitness). Take the Berry Picker trail from Lionshead. Piney Lake A gorgeous view awaits you if you brave the 12 mile dirt road up to the Piney Lake. You can also grab some grub or rent a boat at the Piney River Ranch [16].

Rafting

Vail is a great location to plan some rafting adventures. The Eagle River runs through the Vail Valley -- it offers outstanding rafting during its short season (typically May & June, sometimes into July). The Colorado River is just downvalley and offers ample opportunity, especially during summer months, because it has such a reliable water source. The stretch above and through Glenwood Springs is a favorite hot-weather summer family ride. The Arkansas River is about an hour away, and offers several famous whitewater stretches as well.

In the Vail Valley

  • Lakota Guides [17] is a world class outfit based in Vail and offers rafting on the Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas River. Door-to-door transportation from your hotel is usually included. Also offers UniMog off-road tours and night vision raft trips on the Upper Colorado. ph. 970-845-RAFT.
  • Nova Guides [18] is based between Vail and Leadville and offers trips on the Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas River. Door-to-door transportation from your hotel is usually included. Also offers jeep tours, and winter activities.
  • Timberline Tours [19] is based in the town of Eagle and offers trips on the Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas River. Door-to-door transportation from your hotel is usually included. Also offers jeep tours. Timverline Tours also offers group chartered transportation services. Since the company uses its busses during the day for rafting trips, their seats may often be wet for early evening movements.
Summer horseback riding at Piney River Ranch.

Out of Valley:

  • Whitewater Rafting, LLC [20] is located on the Colorado River down valley in Glenwood Springs.
  • Breckenridge Whitewater Rafting, ph. 800-507-7703, [21] is in the Frisco-Dillon area and runs the Arkansas, Eagle, and Colorado Rive.
  • Colorado River Runs, ph. 800-826-1081, [22] Vail area outfit.
  • Rock Gardens Rafting, [23] they specialize in family float trips down the milder waters of the Colorado or Roaring Fork Rivers. They also offer fun jeep tours on the nearby flat-tops.
  • Dvorak Expeditions, [24] Specializes in longer and multi-day trips in rivers across Colorado. They do really neat Yoga, classical music (a raft with a quartet goes along] and fly-fishing multi-day trips.

Golf

The Vail Valley has half a dozen nice golf courses.

Eagle Ranch Golf Course, [25]. Eagle Ranch Golf Course is an Arnold Palmer Signature Design. The course plays through the Brush Creek Valley and offers panoramic views of the Colorado Rockies on every hole.

Cotton Ranch Golf Club, [26]. Cotton Ranch is a golf community that welcomes the public. There is a restaurant that serves lunch every day and dinner nightly.

Buy

Vail has all your typical resort shops. The one thing that is uniquely Vail is the The Golden Bear [27], a jewelry store known for its line of jewelry featuring a (duh) Golden Bear.

Eat

Budget

  • Best value on the mountain is the Combo at the Wildwood shelter. $11 for a great barbeque beef or pork sandwich, soup and side. Plus Wildwood is much smaller than most of the other places on mountain so you can find your group. And there is a good view.
  • Two Elk - This place has beautiful architecture (a giant log structure) nice furniture, but has expensive, average food. See it once then head to Wildwood for your next meal.
  • Grill your own burgers or hot dogs at the free public bbq at Blue Sky Basin

There are also many options to eat in both Vail Village and Lionshead. Another good idea is to stop in at a place like The French Deli in Lionshead, order a sandwich to go and pack it up for lunch.

  • Vail Grocery Delivery, Inside City Market Vail, [28]. Offers pre-arrival grocery delivery for guests staying in Vail and Beaver Creek.

Mid-range

  • The Westside Cafe, [29]. a Vail Restaurants staple. Do not miss this classic local's place.
  • Bart & Yetis. a favorite and a great place to find 3rd generation locals. Bart & Yetis is located in Lionshead Village, a short intown bus ride from the covered bridge.
  • Pazzo's Pizza, [30]. A famous pizza joint in Vail.
  • The Tap Room at Bridge Street, [31]. Located on the second floor of the Vista Bahn Building, the Tap Room is a must for apres ski! Not only is it a nice place to go for a beer, but the food is worth a stop as well. Pretty inexpensive, the Tap Room typically has specials during the week such as all-you-can-eat wings--check the free local paper, The Vail Daily, for details.
  • Vendetta's Italian Restaurant, [32]. Typical Italian food for about $20 a plate. This place has been in Vail for 20+ years, so it must be doing something right.

Splurge

  • Restaurant Kelly Liken, 12 Vail Rd., Suite 100, 970.479.0175, [33]. American Cuisine featuring ingredients that are harvested locally and in season.


  • Game Creek Restaurant. Typically, at a place with great views and the requirement to take a snow cat (winter) or (Suburban) to get there you would dismiss it as a tourist-trap, pay for the view type of place. Well the Game Creek Restaurant is not, it actually has the food and service to back it up. It is a great dinner, in a very nice (if you like modern-Bavarian style) setting, with a great view.


  • La Tour, 122 East Meadow Dr., 970-476-4403, [34]. Great French food, consistently excellent.
  • Larkspur Restaurant, [35]. Contemporary American cuisine, potato croutons highly recommended
  • The Savory Inn, 2405 Elliott Ranch Road, 970-476-1304, [36]. For a great time, eat amazing food and learn some new culinary techniques. (And drink some vino!) Vail's best kept secret!
  • Sweet Basil, 193 Gore Creek Dr, (970) 476-0125, [37]. Consistent quality. Service is impeccable. Great food.

Near Vail

If you want to avoid the hustle and bustle of the town of Vail (well sort of, you'll still have to wait but at least you see something a little more local) then try some of these spots:

Eagle-Vail

  • Route 6 Cafe, 41290 US HWY 6, Avon, CO 81620, United States (Eagle-Vail area, after the west Vail exit, take exit 171 off 1-70, turn left on route 6 for 1 mile, this is between Beaver Creek and Vail), [38]. reat local breakfast and lunch place, also a gas station. On weekends the place fills up by 9AM, weekdays are usually no problem.

Minturn

  • Minturn Saloon, 146 Main Street, Minturn, CO 81645, United States, [39]. Tremendous atmosphere Mexican restaurant in a town called Minturn about 15 minutes drive from Vail. Prepare to wait for dinner, but thats OK cause the bar has a fireplace and serves margaritas (of course).
  • Chili Willys, 101 Main Street, Minturn, CO 81645, United States, [40]. Another Mexican restaurant in Minturn. Right across the street from the Saloon. More kid and family friendly. Not quite the atmosphere of the Saloon. But with kids go here!

Edwards

  • Gas House, 34129 Highway 6, Edwards, Phone: (970) 926-3613. In Edwards Colorado, another 10 minutes west of Minturn. Want meat, go here! Lots of animal heads on the wall.
  • Gore Range Brewery, [41]. Gore Range is a fun place to eat-- lively atmosphere, excellent beer and food to match.
  • Larkburger, [42]. Larkburger has a very limited menu, but they are good at what they do. A very casual, order-at-the-counter burger joint, kids as well as adults will be happy with the food. Fries are highly recommended!

Drink

  • The Club, (top of Bridge St.), +1-970-479-0556. Think fraternity party, that's the club.
  • Garfinkle's, (at the base of the gondola in Lionshead). Great deck to enjoy the afternoon sun.
  • The George, (at the Covered Bridge, Vail Village). Good Irish style pub.
  • The Red Lion, [43]. THE place for apres ski in Vail. Get there early for an outside table.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

  • Manor Vail Lodge, 595 East Vail Valley Drive, +1-800-950-8245, [44]. Offers ski lodging accommodations including rooms, suites and condos, plus venues for weddings & meetings, dining facilities & vacation packages.
  • Lion Square Lodge at The Gondola, 660 West Lionshead Place, +1-800-525-1943, [45]. Property has hotel rooms, 1, 2, 3 and 5 bedroom condominiums. Many choose Lion Square Lodge because of its convenient ski-in/ski-out accommodations. It offers a pool, hot tubs, a sauna, fitness center and free high-speed Internet.
  • Montaneros Condominiums, 641 West Lionshead Circle, +1-800-525-1891, [46]. Property has 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom condominiums with full kitchens, a living room, a private balcony and a fireplace.
  • Antlers Condominiums and Conference Center, 680 West Lionshead Place, +1-800-843-8245, [47]. 150 yards from lifts. Pets accepted in some units, free high-speed internet.
  • Evergreen Lodge, 250 S. Frontage Road, +1-800-284-VAIL, [48]. Between Lionshead and Vail Village. Free high speed internet.
  • Gore Creek Properties Vail, 3971 Bighorn Road, +1-800-967-3500, [49]. Condominium, private home, and townhouse rentals in Vail. Variety of price ranges.
  • Lodge at Lionshead, [50]. Luxury condominiums near gondola and ski school. Features heated outdoor pools, hot tub, saunas, fitness center, concierge services & free Wi-Fi.
  • The Savory Inn & Cooking School of Vail, [51]. Gourmet breakfasts, hot tub, romantic rooms.
  • Vail Cascade Resort & Spa, 1300 Westhaven Drive, (toll free: +1-800-282-4183), [52]. A luxury, AAA Four-Diamond ski resort at the base of Vail Mountain along the banks of Gore Creek that features ski-in/ski-out accommodations, private condos, and vacation rentals. Other amenities and services include a luxury spa, meeting facilities, and fine dining options.

Splurge

  • The Lodge at Vail, 174 East Gore Creek Dr, +1-970-476-5011, [53]. If you have more money then you know what to do with, this is the place. Located at the base of Vail Mountain, The Lodge at Vail combines the elegance and Old World charm of an alpine inn with the superb amenities and impeccable service found at the world’s finest hotels. The AAA Four Diamond Award-winning lodge features two restaurants, a 7,725-square-foot spa, exercise room, outdoor pool, piano bar, ski rental and ski storage.
  • The Sebastian - Vail, 16 Vail Road (Exit 176 from Interstate 70, Take Vail Road from the round-a-bout. The hotel is the first building on the left), 970-477-8000, [54]. checkin: 4PM; checkout: 11AM. A recently built hotel and private residence club. Formerly the Vail Plaza Hotel, this hotel's amenities include flat screen HDLCD TV with Premium Channels, iPod/iPad docking station, DVD/Blu-Ray players,a mini refrigerator, individually controlled HVAC and high speed wireless Internet access. On-site is a spa and three restaurants. $605+ (winter rates). (39.642718357021394,-106.37815296649933)
  • Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa, 352 E. Meadow Dr, +1-970-476-0700, [55]. A cozy, beautiful boutique hotel near the Covered Bridge. With 20 lodge rooms and seven two and three bedroom condominiums, it's easy to feel like a VIP, as the hotel staff makes an outstanding effort to learn names, interests, and inclinations every guest. Each lodge room features free wifi, a feather king bed or two feather queen beds, iPod docking station, a gas fireplace, heated stone tile floor in the bathroom, a large soaking tub and separate glass shower, and vanity with free AVEDA products. Condominiums are equipped with washer/dryer, sleeper sofa, spacious kitchens with premium appliances, and balconies for mountain-view units. Enjoy free access to the Vail Athletic Club [56], an 18,000 square foot state-of-the-art private facility within the hotel that includes a yoga studio, a pilates studio, cardio equipment, weights, Vail's only indoor climbing wall, steam room, sauna, and jacuzzi. Also available are two co-ed outdoor jacuzzis overlooking Gore Creek and the ski mountain. Also on property is the Spa at Vail Mountain Lodge [57], a full-service, world-class facility offering facials, massages, unique signature treatments, natural nail services and other scrubs and wraps. Make sure to ask about The Vitality Center [58], a new wellness center with renowned medical experts. One of Vail's top restaurants, Terra Bistro [59], is also located in the hotel and provides a large free breakfast to hotel guests during peak seasons (winter and summer).

Get out

  • See above in the EATS section for some towns near Vail.
  • Beaver Creek Beaver Creek is right down the valley.
  • Glenwood Springs - A beautiful 1 hour drive from Vail and you can enjoy their famous Hot Springs when you arrive.
  • Aspen - A 1.25 hour drive away.
  • Colorado's Wine Country - Colorado is home to over 70 wineries and its own indigenous vineyards. Wine lovers can enjoy several scenic day trips from Vail to many of the small towns that grow their own grapes. These lovely little communities include Montrose, Palisade, Paonia and Hotchkiss, as well as the city of Grand Junction.


Routes through Vail
Grand JunctionEagle  W noframe E  FriscoDenver


This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!




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