Vail Mountain Resort – Navigating Vail Mountain

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Welcome to ThinkVail – we hope you find this article about navigating Vail mountain resort helpful.

With 5,317 skiable acres, Vail Mountain is a skier’s paradise. This in-depth detail of Back Bowls, Blue Sky Basin & the frontside tells you exactly where to go. Boasting 350 annual inches of average snowfall and 300 days of sunshine, it makes for perfect skiing and snowboarding conditions. Vail mountain is the third largest single mountain ski resort in the United States. Use this guide to navigate Vail mountain like a local!

Three distinct sections make up Vail Mountain; The frontside, the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin. All sections are interconnected and easy access with three  gondolas, and lots of high speed quads and cat tracks.

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Frontside of the Vail Mountain

Frontside offers lots of groomed trails and cruiser runs. About 18 percent of Vail mountain is dedicated to beginners much of it on the frontside. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the frontside is just for beginners, you will find Black Diamond (expert) runs on every frontside lift. The frontside usually offers shorter lines as everyone tries to get to the back. It is also home to Vail’s only frontside Bowl; Game Creek Bowl.

Eagles Nest

Eagles Nest is home to Adventure Ridge and is serviced by the Eagle Bahn Gondola.

The Eagle’s Nest Practice Parkway, located high on the mountain, is perfect for beginners. It is the largest mountain-top teaching area in the world. The Practice Parkway is located at an elevation of 10,000 feet, so beginners can enjoy Vail’s breathtaking alpine scenery too. Keep in mind if you have never skied or are a beginner it is highly recommended that you take a lesson with Vail Ski School. You will see immediate improvement and have a whole lot more fun if you take a lesson.

Terrain Parks:

Pride Park is located under Chair 26 just below Eagle’s Nest. Snowboarders can enjoy fun snow features including log slides. Bwana Terrain Park is very close by and is good for beginner to intermediate riders.

Restaurants:

  • Bistro Fourteen – Casual, sit-down restaurant with a full bar, incredible views and just steps away from all the family fun of Adventure Ridge.
  • Gondoly’s Pizza – Casual restaurant locate at Adventure Ridge offers grab-and-go pizzas and drinks. Be sure to try the Hand Tossed Pepperoni Pie.

Eagles Nest Mountain Welcome TourA free guided tour is offered for intermediate and advanced skiers to orient and familiarize them with Vail Mountain. Meet at 10:30am daily at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Reservations are not required. Call 970-754-4603 for more information during the winter months.

Favorite Run – Simba beautifully weaves its way down perfect corduroy to the very bottom of the mountain. This is a long, fun run that you can hit over and over again.


Mid Vail

Mid Vail is home to kid’s adventure zones like Chaos Canyon and Porcupine Alley and is serviced by Gondola One. This kid friendly zone also has something for those seeking an adrenaline-boosting experience, Mid-Vail offers awesome, rolling, wide groomers with plenty of vertical feet to add to your Epic Mix day.

Restaurants:

  • Mid-Vail Restaurant offers spectacular views of the Gore Range and is a convenient meeting place with multiple food concepts sure to please your palate. They offer a variety of foods including sandwiches, burritos & tacos, home-made soups, an extensive salad bar, Polynesian BBQ, a hand-carving station and an authentic Ramen station.
  • The 10th – Vail’s premier, fine-dining lunch restaurant with views overlooking the majestic Gore Range.
  • Express Lift Bar located at the base of Gondola One is an awesome après spot in Vail Village with a fun atmosphere, full bar, and daily food & drink specials. Featuring craft cocktails and local Colorado beers.

Mid Vail Mountain Welcome TourA free guided tour is offered for intermediate and advanced skiers to orient and familiarize them with Vail Mountain. Meet at 10:30am daily at Mid Vail at the Mid Vail Restaurant. Reservations are not required. Call 970-754-4603 for more information during the winter months.

Favorite Run – Lodge Pole is a local’s favorite. It is often groomed and offers perfect terrain for intermediate skiers to link turns on a steeper grade, build up some speed, and enjoy lots of vertical feet for their Epic Mix.


Golden Peak

Golden Peak is the easternmost base area on Vail Mountain and is home to the main children’s ski school, and offers a great beginner’s learning hill. It is also home to the Golden Peak race course, a training ground for ski racers, ranging from the local Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, to full-blown professionals training for competition. Golden Peak is serviced by Riva Bahn Express

Terrain Parks:

Golden Peak offers the largest terrain park on Vail mountain and it is located under the Riva Bahn chairlift. There are two half pipes, a 13’ to get you warmed up and an new 22’ once you have mastered the mini pipe. The Super Pipe is cut and groomed every Friday through Sunday and as conditions warrant. There is a total of 9 jumps are ranging in sizes from 10’ to 50’. There are over 30 jibs, boxes, and rails to really test your skills. This is an advanced rider and skier area only.

Restaurants:

  • Golden Peak Restaurant located at the base of Riva Bahn Express, on the lower floor of the Golden Peak building offers a great breakfast and lunch and beer.

Favorite Run – Ruder’s Run is a wide-open, intermediate trail that parallels a gorgeous grove of aspen trees. Hit the trail or hit the trees, both are great.


Game Creek Bowl

Game Creek Bowl is the only frontside Bowl on Vail Mountain and is the easiest to access. There is 200+ acres of terrain for all ability levels! From wide-open, sweeping green trails, to advanced glade terrain, Game Creek Bowl has a run (or two or three) for everyone. Game Creek Bowl is serviced by Game Creek Express.

Restaurants

  • Wildwood Smokehouse is an authentic BBQ Restaurant, serving award-winning BBQ pork, beef brisket, ribs, and smoked chicken.

Favorite Run – Lost Boy is popular, this gloriously long and serene trail sweeps you gently down the Game Creek ridge line.  From this run enjoy breathtaking views of Mount of the Holy Cross.

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The Back Bowls

The legendary Back Bowls of Vail. The incredible seven Back Bowls of Vail certainly live up to the hype. In size and scale they are unparalleled in North America. The sheer vastness of these bowls is impossible to convey, they are extraordinary. For the most part, the Back Bowls are rated as single black diamonds, with a few steeper double black but strong intermediates comfortable skiing on ungroomed snow should have little difficulty skiing the Back Bowls. So get out there and have some fun!

Sun Down Bowl & Sun Up Bowl

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Sun Up and Sun Down Bowl are nothing short of amazing. They offer the perfect mix of wide open, sprawling terrain and gladed runs, the ride down is amazing and panoramic views abound. These Bowls boast challenging terrain, with tons of vertical feet to be racked up in EpicMix.

Favorite Run  – Forever is one of the most iconic trails on Vail Mountain. This thrilling run takes you along the ridge line between these two bowls. Then you go right through the trees before opening down a steep, often powder-filled face of Sun Down Bowl. This run goes on and on and on, hence the name forever.

China Bowl & Tea Cup Bowl

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China Bowl and Tea Cup Bowl offers intermediate and advanced ski trails with wide open fields, sprawling terrain, steep skiing and gladed runs. This is a wonderful bowl to ski or snowboard. China Bowl is home to Genghis Khan one of the most Epic runs on all of Vail Mountain.

Favorite Run – Poppyfields West: is the perfect introduction to back bowl skiing in Vail. It is usually groomed and you just can’t beat the 360 degree view.


Siberia Bowl and Inner & Outer Mongolia Bowls

Get ready for some adventure! This area is only for advanced skiers, the terrain is ungroomed, very challenging, highly variable and provide some of the best powder stashes on the mountain—especially on busy holidays. Be sure to keep your speed at the bottom, you will need all the speed you can get to exit on the catwalk .

Favorite Run – Rasputin’s Revenge is a locals’ favorite, especially on powder days, when deep snow makes the typically forbidding steepness and cliff bands less frightening.

Blue Sky Basin

Blue Sky Basin is the newest area added to Vail Mountain. The bowls, named after Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton, two of Vail’s primary founders, are a joy to ski. It is made up of two individual peaks that boasts a combined 645 skiable acres and offer a true back-country ski experience. The steepest terrain is located right under the lift and consists of long, narrow mogul runs. The Skyline Lift services terrain in both Pete and Earl’s bowls

Pete’s Bowl

Located to the East, Pete’s Bowl offers intermediate and advanced terrain. It is serviced by Pete’s Express. The signature run in Pete’s Bowl is the Grand Review, a long, open groomed trail that is perfect to cruise. Other must-hit trails here are; Big Rock Park and Star and Resolution.

Favorite Run – Lover’s Leap is an advanced run that is short but super steep. Fresh snow tends to collect on this run that leads into narrow glades, making it awesome on a powder day.

Earl’s Bowl

Located to the West, Earl’s Bowl offers a backcounty-like feel with open, gentle slopes and glades. Earl’s Express Lift services all runs in Earl’s Glade.

Favorite Run – Champagne Glade is a signature run that offers the best tree skiing on mountain. The trees are well-spaced, making it easy to get into a rhythm that a skier or snowboarder can hold for the entire run.

Restaurants:

  • Belle’s Camp is located on top of Blue Sky Basin, Belle’s Camp is the perfect place to warm up and enjoy a snack or lunch. They offer a wide variety sandwiches, snacks, and sweets. Outdoor grills and tables are also available if you’d like to bring your own food and grill and have a picnic on the deck.

Blue Sky Free Mountain Tour:

Every Tuesday and Friday, enjoy a complimentary tour of Blue Sky Basin. Meet at Henry’s Hut right across from Patrol Headquarters at 10:45 am. Must be an intermediate to advanced skier. Call 970-754-8245 if you have a large group of eight or more and want to do the tour.

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Lift Information:

Most lifts open at 8:30 am and close at 3:30 pm except for the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin which close at 3pm.

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See also: Search for Vail Lodging


Comments

Please leave a comment about navigating Vail Ski Mountain or your experiences skiing or snowboarding on Vail Mountain, we’d love to hear about your favorite run.


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  • Oh wow! My husband used to ski race and would love it here! We have mountains near to us (Whistler) but this looks like a whole new set of adventures that we would enjoy! Thanks for sharing!

    • Whistler is a really great mountain but there is nothing like Colorado champagne powder so, I would absolutely recommend a visit to Vail Mountain for a ski vacation if you get a chance.

  • Really good article and so much to do on this ski trip.
    I especially liked that there are free welcome ski tours that help you get familiar with the mountain, really good for first-timers to Vail Mountain.

    • Hi Vicki,
      I am so glad you liked the article and yes, the Welcome Mountain Tours are a wonderful way to learn where to go on Vail Mountain with a knowledgeable guide and a group of other skiers and snowboarders who want to get familiar with the lay of the land. Vail Resorts also offer other ski/snowboard tours, one for just women and one for seniors 60+.

  • Vail Mountain sounds absolutely amazing!!! The way you write about it, I feel I am there
    You covered everything from lessons, slopes, food, activities and much more.
    Thank you for sharing Vail mountain with us. It is so beautiful :)

    • Hello Diane,
      Thank you for your comment, yes Vail Mountain is wonderful! It is a REALLY big mountain so it's good to have a little insight into the mountain before you go. Great skiing and snowboarding everywhere on its 5,289 acres of ski trails!

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