And best of all? It's on Epic Pass.
Advertisement

Welcome to Mountain Monday, our winter-long series introducing you to some of the coolest mountains in America. Stay tuned each week for a new mountain for you to explore.

Standing in front of The Red Lion, an iconic bar in the heart of Vail Village, it may seem like Vail, Colorado is a fairly small town with just a few short blocks of posh eateries, après-ski haunts, and mountainside hotels. But strap on your ski (or snowboard) boots, walk a few steps from The Red Lion to Gondola One, and in 10 minutes, you'll stand amid no fewer than 5,317 skiable acres across Vail Ski Resort. And that's when you'll realize it: This town isn't so small after all.

Alpine downhill skiers in the snow covered Rocky Mountains of Vail
Credit: Getty Images

With 195 trails and 31 chairlifts, Vail is, quite frankly, enormous. That's what you get when you ski the West; while Killington, Vermont has 1,509 skiable acres, and (the gorgeous mountain where I learned to ski,) Quebec's Mont Tremblant has 754 acres of terrain, Vail has more than 3,000 just on the back bowls of the mountain. The Western ski mountains, above all else, are known for sheer expanse (think: Park City, which boasts 7,300 acres of ski). And for shredders who crave trail variety and alpine views, (mountain) size matters. 

I spent the last few days of 2021 at Vail Ski Resort and was met with more powder than I've ever seen in my life. While, admittedly, the constant snowfall in Vail makes it a harder destination to get to — my flight was indeed delayed on the way in and out of town because of weather conditions — it coats the mountain in blankets of fluff that draws powder chasers from all over the world. The 189 inches of average annual snowfall makes the primarily intermediate and advanced trails exceptionally inviting.

That said, the most compelling reason to visit Vail this ski season is not the powder or the terrain, although both are spectacular. It's not even the new hotels (The Hythe, a Luxury Collection Resort just debuted in November 2021) or incredible après-ski fare (I went to Root & Flower twice in four days). It's this: Vail is perhaps the closest you can get to a true European ski experience without flying across the Atlantic. Vail Village feels like your quintessential luxe Alps ski village, so much so that most of the people I met — around The Lodge at Vail fire pit or the Gravity Haus bar — weren't from the U.S. and had, in fact, sought Vail out as an alternative to European ski enclaves like Courchevel, France.

Keeping reading to find a quick guide to visiting Vail this year for powder-covered ski runs, craft après-ski cocktails, a brand-new hotel, and a European-style ski village all in one go.

How to Ride:

Vail Ski Resort, part of Vail Resorts, is on the Epic Pass. Epic Pass holders don't need to make mountain reservations this year — all they have to do is show up to the lifts with their pass and start riding. For those who do not have an Epic Pass, a daily adult lift ticket at Vail Ski Resort starts at $179, though you can save by booking a seven-day ticket bundle from $910.

Where to Stay:

There are two RockResorts properties in Vail Village: The Lodge at Vail and The Arrabelle. I stayed at The Lodge at Vail and can vouch for the fact that it's a true ski-in, ski-out property. The hotel is stumbling distance from Gondola One, and the in-house ski concierge will prep your skis and boots each day, bringing them to a tent right next to Gondola One for you. The Lodge at Vail is also home to two restaurants, the higher-end one being Elway's, serving steaks and dirty martinis that hit different after a day on the slopes. The second RockResorts hotel, The Arrabelle at Vail Square, is in the adjacent Lionshead Village. Also in Lionshead Village is The Hythe, a Luxury Collection Resort, which just debuted in November 2021. The rooms and interiors are beautifully curated, but for skiers and snowboarders, The Hythe's spa steals the show, with a post-ski recovery room and a Himalayan salt therapy room.

Where to Dine:

When it comes to dining options, Vail isn't your average ski town. In lieu of overcooked burgers and beers, venture to Root & Flower, where you can savor braised pork cheeks and duck fat potatoes (alongside an impressive cocktail program) while lounging on their blue leather banquettes. Head to The Slope Room at Gravity Haus Vail for elevated comfort food (and great bloody marys for anyone who wants to skip the slopes and go straight to brunch). And, of course, don't miss the ever-lauded Matsuhisa by chef Nobu Matsuhisa, because you simply can't go wrong with a luxe Japanese meal.

Where to Après-ski:

While Root & Flower and Gravity Haus have terrific post-ski cocktails, as does Revel Lounge at The Hythe, there are a few tried-and-true bars in Vail you should hit after a day on the slopes. The Red Lion has great ("world-famous," per their menu) nachos, a good selection of micro-brews, and live music nightly. The George is your classic ski town dive bar, on the edge of Vail Village — if you're walking there from Gondola One, you'll leave the main shopping drag behind as you cross the picturesque covered bridge and then pop into The George, in Mountain Haus's basement.