At 5,317 acres, Vail Mountain it is the third largest ski resort in America, only Big Sky and Park City are larger. It features seven spectacular bowls and the newest area, Blue Sky Basin. Vail opened in 1962 and has been offering incredible skiing since day one. Here is a taste of some of the best ski runs on Vail Mountain. So gear up, put in some earbuds, dial in the tunes and get ready to jam down these awesome runs.
Click the run’s name to view it on the Vail ski trail map
See Also: Best Ski Pass Holders
Access via Northwoods Express (#11)
Northwoods is a popular area of Vail Mountain and for good reason. This is a wide open, groomed trail, with moderate pitch, varied terrain, lots of space for turns, secluded glades, large open fields and varying degrees of steepness makes this run a joy for all ability levels.
This wide-open groomer never feels crowded, even on the busiest weekends. It is perfect carving turns, going straight and fast, ducking into trees or even finding a jump or two along the way. It also offers easy access to other amazing terrain including the Northstar and Snag Park.
After a huge dump, when the powder is deep, Northwoods is the only place to be. And because of its placement on the mountain, Northwoods has a tendency to receive more than its fair share of snow in any given storm However, even if there is no fresh snow in sight, Northwoods is frequently groomed and well maintained, so it’s a great run, no matter the conditions.
Access via Game Creek Express #7
Lost Boy is a fun, fantastic run that follows the ridge line of iconic Game Creek Bowl. Perfect for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities, this is an amazing cruiser run. This long, wide ski trail offers stunning views of Mount of the Holy Cross and the Gore Range. Perfect for families and large groups as everyone can ski the corduroy at their own speed and meet back up at the base of Game Creek Express Lift (#7).
Access via Avanti Express #2
Running right down the middle of the frontside of Vail Mountain between Eagle’s Nest and Mid Vail is Avanti. This classic, intermediate, blue run is a long-time local’s favorite. Offering a wide open trail with big, natural rollers, and then turns to a steep face where the trail changes from blue to black but becomes a blue again as you near the base of the Avanti lift.
Perfect for those who love to cruise and want to challenge themselves at the same time. On a snow day, the skier’s right side of Avanti is normally left ungroomed. It is so fun to hit the series of fast rollers and catch air or wipe out big time and the entire run swoops over a series of rollers, offering a serious opportunity to catch air (or yard sale) if you’re going fast enough.
The Avanti terrain park is located over here as well so you can take advantage of jumps, hits, ramps, banks, fun boxes, jibs, rails, slides, snowcross, bump terrain, and other constructed or natural terrain features. This park is geared to beginners and kids but it’s still A LOT of fun!
Access via High Noon Express #5
On a powder day, the very best place to be in Vail’s legendary Back Bowls. The classic ski run of Forever, is a thrilling trail that hugs the ridge line between Sun Up and Sun Down Bowls. It runs right under the High Noon Express and goes right through the trees before opening onto a steep, often powder-filled area that is perfect for cranking out high speed turns. Forever is STEEP, it descends a thigh burning 1,850 feet and is truly only for experts. This trail inspires a feeling of vastness and gives you the idea that it goes on forever and ever. Which is wonderful when you want the run to go on and on forever. It is a fun run that can be lapped with just one chairlift, so it is easy to fill your EPIC vertical for the day with this run. Point your skis and have fun on this leg burner!
Access via Wildwood Express Lift #3
Ok, as a snowboarder, Look Ma is not my favorite ski trail but it is an original and infamous ski trail that should not be overlooked. This short ski run is the former site of the World Cup Mogul Tour and offers a great opportunity to display your bump skills to all of Mid-Vail. This run is for mogul lovers only and can become icy and hard in no time. It is NOT for the faint of heart. If your dream is ripping through hard core moguls than Look Ma is the run for you. At the bottom of this run is Lindsey Vonn’s favorite on-mountain lunch spot; The 10th. A great place to fuel up with a tasty burger and fries.
Access via Gondola One
One of Vail’s original frontside trails, at 4 miles it is still the longest single run on Vail Mountain. This steep run varies between blue and black pitches and provides gorgeous views. On a powder day or when its groomed (usually Mondays and Fridays) this favorite trail of Lindsey Vonn’s rocks! When it snows, you will enjoy a 4-mile sustained pitch which gives you LOTS of time to float in powder.
When the trail is groomed it offers a fast, long, leg-burning Nirvana that makes you feel like an Olympic gold medalist. Everyone loves a good groomed run to cruise down. Riva is one of the best groomers on the mountain, and a must-ski when it’s corduroy.
However on days when it is NOT groomed, watch out, about 2/3 thirds of the way down lies the infamous “Tourist Trap” so named as it lulls intermediates into thinking its easy all the way down, when instead, the slope gives way to a much steeper, and usually much icier, advanced section of trail. Trail levels out at the base of Gondola One.
Riva is not the easiest run to access, it takes two chairlift rides to get back to the top from the bottom — either Chair 6 to Chair 11 from Golden Peak or Gondola One to Chair 4 from Vail.
Access via Pride Express Lift #26 or Eagle Bahn Gondola #19
Located high above Lionshead, on looker’s right side of the mountain is the wide open intermediate runs of Born Free, Bwana and Simba that span from the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola to the base of Lionshead. Simba is a long, rolling ski trail that that is overlooked by most skier’s in a hurry to hit the Back Bowls. This trail offers GREAT terrain and is fantastic for big, sweeping, carving turns. You will also love this on a snowboard, as both sides of the run enjoy lots of natural, banking jumps. Simba weaves along the western boundary line of the resort. On the right days, you can enjoy a long run of corduroy from top to bottom, which is just about magical. Perfect for lower intermediate to advanced skiers and riders.
Access via Skyline Express Lift #37
Steep & Deep is surprisingly steep for Blue Sky Basin and it is one of the steeper runs in the entire resort. It is also offers challenging tree skiing that runs out into a gentler glade with lots of trails leading back to the lift. Steep & Deep is flanked by Lover’s Leap which offers some incredible cornice jumping. On a powder day, this area is like heaven but it can get tracked out and you may find big moguls with deep troughs if its been some time since the last snow. Steep & Deep is to looker’s left of Skyline Express in the Back Bowls
Keep in mind when skiing or riding through trees to bring a friend, and don’t go it alone.
Access via Orient Express Lift #21
Poppy Fields (East & West) in China Bowl is the only groomed blue run in the Back Bowls. Vail will groom wide swaths around this run using ten or more groomers, creating a beautiful European-style trail through the middle of the otherwise back-country terrain. China Bowl is the gentlest of all the Bowls and has the fewest trees so it is WIDE Open with incredible 360 degree views. Enjoy this perfect introduction to Vail Back Bowl skiing and riding. For a more advanced ski run look to Dragon’s teeth to looker’s left of Poppy Fields West.
Access via Avanti Express Lift #2
Located on the frontside in Game Creek Bowl is Ouzo and Ouzo Glade and they can be INCREDIBLE! Start on the wide open, fairly steep run of Ouzo and enjoy big, linking, carving turns but make a right into the challenging pine forest for some real fun! Tons of fresh stashes can be found here so enjoy. This run is better taken in the morning, as this area is a little more south facing, so snow softens up here quicker than the rest of the mountain. Faro and Ouzo ski trails offer advance pitch but run out into the gentle, safer terrain of Showboat ski run. Ouzo is almost always groomed and with or without fresh snow you will enjoy smooth, corduroy rollers, so much fun.
A word to the wise for first-time Vail resort skiers and riders, at 5,317 acres, Vail mountain is gigantic, so be sure to take advantage of Vail’s FREE Mountain Welcome Tours. This is a great way to be introduced to the vast terrain and amenities of Vail. Meet at the top of Eagle Bahn Gondola at 10:30 am., the tours last about two hours.
See also: Vail Slopeside Lodging
What do you think are the Best Ski Runs in Vail? Do you like blue or black runs better? Moguls or corduroy? What is your favorite run on Vail Mountain and why? We would love to hear your thoughts and comments.
I have forever wanted to go skiing in Colorado, and Vail has been on the TOP of my list. When I do finally make the trek, I cannot wait to try out some of these ski runs! What is your favorite ski run of all the ones you listed? Where is the closest place to fly into if I wanted to take a trip to Vail?
Hi Angie, thanks for your comment. That is a great question, and I was asking myself the same question as I was writing the article. In the end, I couldn't answer it because I just don't have one favorite run in Vail. Some runs I love on a powder day, some I love when they are groomed, some I love because of the jumps or the trees or because it's never crowded. There are just so many good trails that I can't choose just one. To answer your other question, the nearest airport to fly into is the Eagle County Regional Airport located in Gypsum just 30 miles to the west of Vail.
Aside from the terrain park, what are some of the best runs for jumping? I'm going to Vail for 8 days with people of various ski experience, so I'd love to find a few green runs where I can practice freestyle while my beginner friends work on the basics. I'd also love suggestions for any trees or blue/black groomers with cornices or hidden kickers that I can hit while skiing with my more experienced friends. Ideally, anything that isn't usually hard packed and where I can comfortably take a splash (not a wind blown cornice). I really want to improve my jumping/dropping this trip, so any advice on terrain aside from the terrain park is greatly appreciated!!! Thanks a million in advance!
Hi Jordan I hope you have a wonderful time while you're here skiing in Vail. To answer your question, for green runs where you can practice, I recommend the Eagle's Nest Practice Parkway including Ledges and Minnie Ha Ha, this is a great place for beginners to learn the basics or for better skiers or snowboarders to practice freestyle moves.
When you're ready to hit something more challenging, hit the black runs of North Rim and South Rim under the Northwoods Express Lift, it has everything; jumps, cliffs, moguls, groomed runs and great tree runs. The area also includes Northwoods, Gandy Dancer and Prima Cornice This area's like a naturally occurring terrain park, with lots of forests and glades that you can duck in and out of and it's ton of fun. Another good area is Blue Sky Basin especially Steep and Deep and Heavy Metal they are steep with an incredible amount of fun glades to explore.
Lastly, if your looking to practice dropping cliffs check out Northwoods and Rasputin in Siberia Bowl or Ptarmigan Ridge to O.S in Sun Down Bowl. But remember, only drop cliffs if there is A LOT of fresh snow or it will be too hard (teeth-jarring hard) and tracked out, no fun. I hope these suggestions helps, but really it's difficult to go wrong, there is something fun on every run and you will find lots of awesome runs that are perfect for taking laps! Have fun!