20 Tips for Planning a Vail Ski Trip

1. Check both Eagle-Vail (EGE) and Denver (DEN) airports for the best airfares if you plan on flying. Eagle is closer and it can save you time, but fares to Denver can be cheaper (even including the cost of a rental car/airport transportation) or may have more availability if you are using frequent flier awards.

2. Reserve a rental car well in advance, if desired. Especially at Eagle Vail, which is a smaller airport, peak times can be extremely busy and cars can sell out months in advance.

3. Buy your lift tickets online, at least 7 days before your first planned ski day to get the best rate. Lift tickets are one of the most expensive parts of a ski trip, so it pays to plan. Make sure you purchase at least one week prior to your first ski day and select a multiple-day option to save money.

Vail ski trip - lift tickets
You will save money and avoid lines at the ticket windows by pre-purchasing your lift tickets online for your Vail ski trip. For best deals, make sure to book at least 7 days in advance!

4. Sign up for the PEAKS loyalty program. To open an account, simply go to Snow.com and follow the instructions. Trust me, it’s worth it as you can start accumulating peaks points for lift ticket purchases, ski school as well as certain dining and lodging immediately. It’s a great way to save money over the long term, and those points do add up to meaningful rewards quickly. We earned two FREE adult lift tickets to use this year because of the points we collected during our ski trip last year.

5. Consider an EPIC Pass if you plan on skiing for longer periods of time, multiple times a season or at multiple Vail resort locations. The EPIC pass pays for itself in just over four days of skiing or snowboarding and allows you to ski unlimited and unrestricted from opening day to closing day at 13 resorts across the world: several in Colorado, Park City, Utah, Lake Tahoe, California and a few more in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. Just this past season, Vail Resorts added Whistler in Canada to its impressive roster. In addition, your EPIC pass also allows you to ski at several resorts in Europe and one in Australia. Epic indeed!

6. Visit during off-peak periods for shorter lines and to save money. It’s harder with school age kids, of course, but if you have flexibility, this is a good strategy. You’ll feel as if you have the place to yourself, and you can save money on lodging and lift tickets.

7. Shop around for ski and snowboard rental prices and reserve online. Our family’s favorite ski and snowboard rental place is Vail Ski Base. They offer a great range of equipment from beginner to pro with some of the best prices in the valley. They are located at the base of Lionshead so it is very convenient to pick up and drop off your equipment every day for your day on the slopes. Tip: Make sure to reserve your equipment online before you arrive. Not only will this expedite the process, but you will also be able to take advantage of the 20% online-only discount.

8. Check the weather forecast before your trip. Temperatures and conditions can vary widely depending on what time of the year you decide to ski. Spring skiing is very different from earlier in the season. Freezing on the mountain can kill all the fun, and being way overdressed is not good either. The name of the game is always layers, but it is helpful to know what the weight of your clothing should be to help you pack. Tip #1: Check all your ski clothes and equipment before you leave home, especially those of your kids who outgrow things quickly. It’s no fun to find out your kids’ pants have somehow transformed into ski capris on the morning you are ready to hit the slopes. Tip #2: Keep in mind, there are lockers at several locations on the mountain where you can easily store your stuff should you realize you brought too much.

9. Don’t forget about the elevation! Vail Village sits at 8,022 feet and the Vail mountain summit is 11,500. It is not unusual to suffer from mild altitude sickness (think headache) when you get there. Tip: We always try to arrive a full day ahead of our first ski day, drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep. Over-the-counter pain medicines can help, too.

Vail ski trip - Lionshead part of Vail Village as seen from the Vista Bahn Gondola
A view down to Lionshead in Vail Village as seen from the Vista Bahn Gondola. The village sits 8,022 feet above sea level, so mild altitude sickness is not uncommon.

10. Don’t worry if you’re not an accomplished skier, Vail has fantastic terrain for all levels of skiers. Steep, not so steep, short runs, long runs, groomed, less-groomed, moguls…the choice is yours. Seriously, the variety of terrain is incredible and one of the main reasons our family loves Vail so much.

Vail ski trip
There is a great run for everybody in Vail! Here are the legendary Back Bowls, best suited for intermediate to advance skiers, and one of my personal favorite places on the mountain.

11. Consider taking a lesson or two. Vail’s ski school is not cheap, but it is a great investment. Their skilled and fun instructors will have you enjoying the slopes in no time even if you are a total novice. If you have some skiing experience, it is still a great idea to spend a day in ski school at the beginning of your vacation to get your ski legs back or improve your technique, especially if you only ski once a season. Tip: Group lessons are usually much cheaper than private, plus it’s always fun to meet fellow skiers.

12. Enroll your kids in ski school. The Vail Kids Ski School philosophy is for kids to have so much fun with the drills that they don’t even notice they are learning. Seriously, the program is fantastic and the instructors are cherry-picked for their abilities to connect with kids. We still keep in touch with one of our daughter’s instructors from a trip we took a few years ago! Have I mentioned that enrolling your kids in a ski school also allows you to spend a day on your own on the mountain? Tip: If you would like your family to stay together, inquire about Family Private Lessons.

Vail ski trip - Ski school
Vail ski school instructors are top notch and like to have fun.

13. Download the FREE EpicMix app. Check on latest ski conditions, grooming status and lift wait times. Have all the trail maps handy at all times. Track your vertical feet. Earn pins. Compete at the EpicMix race course. Track your ski or snowboard school progress. Social media devotees can also join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. This is one app that can take your fun on the mountain to another level.

Vail ski trip - EpicMix Ap
EpicMix App will come in very handy as you plan your day on the mountain.

14. Take advantage of the on-the-mountain photographers. This is another great benefit of activating an EpicMix account. I know iPhone photos are convenient, easy and free, but sometimes it’s nice to have professional quality photos. (It is not unusual for phones to run out of battery life in no time given the temperatures on the mountain.) EpicMix photographers are scattered all over the slopes, ready to capture your special moments which you can access and download for $40. All images. All season. All Vail resorts (should you decide to ski at more than one).

Vail ski trip - Epic Mix Photo Service
The on-the-mountain photographers will take beautiful shots of your family enjoying the slopes on your Vail ski trip, all you have to do is smile!

15. Make dinner reservations in advance. There are many great dining options for every palate and budget, but Vail restaurants can get very busy, especially at peak times such as during the holidays or spring break. It’s no fun finding out that there is a two-hour wait when you show up at a restaurant with your family in tow, tired from a busy day on the slopes. (Those little skiers are often ready to crash early after a full day of skiing or boarding.) Many restaurants can be found on OpenTable, so it’s easy to make reservations, and you can always cancel if you change your mind.

16. Don’t think skiing only. It’s easy to be completely focused on skiing or boarding in a place like Vail, but consider taking a day off, especially if you are visiting for more than a few days. Vail offers so much more than skiing, on or off the mountain! There is Adventure Ridge with a snow tubing track, or consider renting Nordic or snow shoe equipment. In the village, there is ice skating, bowling, movie theaters, art galleries and a wide range of shopping options. I also simply enjoy strolling around the picturesque town, which makes me feel like I am somewhere in Europe, and taking a break at one of the ice cream or cupcake shops.

Vail ski trip - Ice Skating Rink at Lionshead Village
The ice skating rink in Lionshead is just one of the many options when you feel like taking a break from the slopes on your Vail ski trip.

17. Keep in mind Vail is super kid friendly. Sometimes “serious ski resorts” can be intimidating for families, especially when younger kids are involved, but you don’t need to worry about this in Vail. On or off the mountain, Vail will show you in numerous ways that they cherish their youngest guests.

Vail ski trip - Kid friendly
Vail caters to their youngest guests in many ways, big and small. This was a fun surprise distraction for our kids while we waited for our lunch to arrive at The 10th, the on-mountain restaurant.

18. Use the FREE and super convenient Vail bus service. You really don’t need a car while staying in Vail village. The free bus in the town services East Vail, Vail Village, West Vail and Lionshead and runs every few minutes, depending on the season. No problem bringing your skis and snowboards on board with you.

19. Check out the resort’s event calendar. Vail is known for regularly hosting elite world class ski races and snowboard competitions, but there are also a number of festivals and celebrations focused around various themes, music or food year round. Basically, there is always a lot going on in the village, and many events are free and definitely worth checking out.

20. Get seriously stoked about your vacation. You are about to visit one of the best ski resorts in the world!

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Know Before You Go

  • The Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre is a must-visit attraction that features hiking, yoga, and concerts.
  • On the first Friday of the month, all of the contemporary art galleries in the RiNo (River North Art District) are open until 9 PM.
  • The Denver Zoo is home to over 4,300 animals and is home to five rare Asian elephants.

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Vera H. Are you interested in traveling to Vail? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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