Vail is unlike anywhere else in the world. Think Aspen meets Courchevel then add a dash of Verbier for good measure. Starting to build up a picture? Well, it’s unlikely to even come close to the reality of what is widely considered the world’s ultimate ski resort. With over 5,000 acres of perfectly manicured slopes, it’s the largest of its kind in the US, and is home to seven truly legendary back bowls, revered across the planet.
Attracting over one and a half million visitors a year, a large part of Vail’s popularity has to be down to its ability to effortlessly accommodate skiers of all abilities, meaning families, individuals and groups are all generously catered for. Advanced skiers find paradise in the endless steeps and bowls that make up over fifty percent of the skiable resort, whilst Blue Sky Basin contains some of the most shrewdly conceived and exciting intermediate runs in the US. Top that off with an internationally acclaimed ski school, superb entry level off-piste, liberally wide runs, a skipark and super-pipe, and it soon becomes clear that not only have every level of skiers’ wants and needs been considered, but snowboarders have similarly had their deepest desires unsparingly indulged.
Vail’s seduction, however, lies not only in its incredible skiing. By design its chic streets, infamous nightclubs, eminent restaurants and vast boutiques lure society’s unabashed elite in their masses. It’s what you might call an ‘adults playground’, where Budgets and Restraint drop off the kids and take a long uninterrupted vacation. Obviously not everyone who visits Vail has pockets deeper than the Atlantic Ocean, but the sheer size of the resort allows for a number of reasonably priced accommodation options in the Lionshead area. Vail Village is where you’ll find the most opulent and exclusive hotels and condos, with everything in between in both East and West Vail. Even though it’s huge, the size of the resort need not deter even the most impatient, for high-speed lift systems and a highly efficient shuttle service mean navigating the resort and slopes is satisfyingly simple.
All of this combined makes Vail magnificently subsuming, with every aspect of the resort harmonised to symphonic perfection. It’s certainly no mistake either; multi-ski-resort giants, Vail Resorts (who own Vail), are the world’s second largest ski resort operator. Expanding exponentially, the American powerhouse (on top of owning more than ten ski areas in the US) have recently purchased Perisher (Australia’s largest ski area), the iconic Whistler, and have Japanese territory locked firmly in their sights. Whatever the formula is, it’s working, and, of course, it doesn’t end there. Vail Resorts have recently introduced the ‘Epic Pass’. Sounds dull right? Wrong. Season ticket holders used to gain unlimited access to all of their resorts, but they decided that wasn’t enough. In a game changing manoeuvre, a significant number of Europe’s best loved resorts have been added to what was already the world’s most popular ski pass. Let us break that down a little:
Starting at just £623 per person (until 9th October 2016), Epic Pass holders unearth unrestricted access to not only all eleven of Vail Resort’s US division (Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Park City, Heavenly etc.), but also all of Les 3 Vallees, Paradiski and Tignes-Val d’Isere in France, Skirama Dolomiti Adamello Brenta in Italy, 4 Vallees in Switzerland, and Arlberg in Austria. Marinade in that for a moment. Les 3 Vallees, Paradiski and Tignes-Val d’Isere alone provides access to five glaciers, 391 ski lifts and over 1200 km of marked runs within a 50 km radius. Verbier, part of the 4 Vallees in Switzerland, is widely regarded one of the top ‘off-piste’ resorts in the world, and its highly celebrated nightlife is no less legendary. La Plagne, part of Paradiski, is one of France’s most popular family resorts and home to Bellecôte’s infamous North Face. Everyone and everything has been covered by the Epic Pass. Literally. It. Is. EPIC. It’s not even the main focus of this piece, and yet it deserves all the attention it gets and unquestionably cements Vail Resorts position as one of the industry’s biggest and most innovative players.
Back in Vail, activities such as ice-skating, sleigh rides, snowmobiling, tubing and ski-biking make for a great alternative use of (on average) 348 inches of snow and 300 days of sunshine a year. Of course, no expense has been spared when it comes to the children’s play areas either. Set up around the mountains, these include a formidable fort and stellar tepee village, providing hours of endless entertainment to tens of thousands of children each year.
As has been previously touched upon, Vail is also home to more than a hundred shops and boutiques, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The quality of hospitality is absolutely unrivaled, and when it comes to fine dining, La Tour’s exquisite food, atmosphere and attentive service ensure it’s ever the topic of Vail goers culinary conversations. Whilst the village is lavish, its sympathetic design maintains an elegant Alpine charm, and the pubs offer good, hearty, reasonably priced food in a traditionally rustic atmosphere. On top of that, weekly street concerts are a welcome addition to the already extensive nightlife, with numerous exclusive clubs, relaxed lounges and live music venues dotted around the resort.
To end on an analogy, one might say people both takeoff and land in Vail’s tree lined runs and streets, mimicking jets on commercial runways. A sensational ski paradise that has become a literal interpretation of what is commonly known as ‘The High Life’. Whoever, whatever, wherever you are, you’re not living until you’ve taken flight in the phenomenon that is Vail.