Consistently ranked as one of the country's most popular ski resorts, Vail is the big one, the largest single-mountain ski resort in the U.S., covering 5,500 acres of wide-open and forested terrain. Vail has been a celebrated super-resort since the 1970s, when it was propelled to stardom by President Gerald Ford, whose family vacationed here. Off the slopes, Vail is a compact replica of a Tyrolean village, full of restaurants, hotels, and shops. But it's the size of the mountain and the difficulty of its trails that draw the faithful.
Ski-area boundaries stretch 7 miles from east to west along the ridge top, from Outer Mongolia to Game Creek Bowl, and the skiable terrain is measured at 5,289 acres. Also owned by Vail Resorts, Beaver Creek is an outstanding resort in its own right, with a more secluded atmosphere and maybe even more luxury than its better-known neighbor. Cross-country skiers won't feel left out here, with trails at both resorts as well as a system of trails through the surrounding mountains.
Things to Do
Vail is not limited to skiing. In warm weather, you can trade your skis for mountain bikes and hiking boots, and hit the trails again. The streams and lakes nearby are rich with rainbow, brook, brown, and cutthroat trout. Horseback riding is a one of the best ways to explore the rugged terrain. Finally, for white-knuckle adventure, try river rafting. The Eagle River, just a few miles west of Vail, offers thrilling white water.
Eating and Drinking
Vail is stocked with excellent restaurants, although many are pricey. Kelly Liken is a Colorado standout serving up fantastic food featuring locally grown ingredients for signature dishes such as potato-crusted trout filets and elk carpaccio with bulgur tabbouleh salad and mustard aioli. Go to Blu's for its blueberry pancakes and killer creekside patio, and Larkburger for sublime patties made of beef, turkey, and portabello mushroom, as well as salads and shakes.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Vail's greatest concentration of après-ski haunts crowd Bridge Street. The pickings are varied -- from extensive beer collections to world-class DJs to hangouts preferred by ski patrollers. In nearby Minturn, the happy hour at the historic Minturn Saloon attracts a party-hearty horde for Vail Valley's best margaritas. In summer, the place to be on Friday night is the Wolcott Yacht Club and its unbeatable back patio, complete with band shell and live band.