Let’s be clear: No ski resort can be everything to everyone. Some are specialists—focusing on, say, customer service that’s a squeeze shy of suffocating or terrain challenge that requires the legs and lungs of a 22-year-old. They endear themselves to the fringes but marginalize the masses. Other resorts are generalists. They satisfy the middle but leave passionate outliers unimpressed.
Vail doesn’t fall neatly into either category. It pampers its guests, but it doesn’t smother them. It serves up “everything a serious skier would look for,” along with “outstanding” grooming (No. 5) for the more casual participant.
The recent Vail Renaissance and the new Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton add sparkle, but they haven’t whitewashed any of Vail’s well-seasoned charm. (“Thank god Bart and Yeti’s wasn’t ousted. It’s the essence of why I keep returning.”)
Vail gives almost everyone almost everything. And it’s not just because it’s humongous. Sure, Vail has more terrain in its back bowls (2,600 acres) than most mountains have within their permit areas. (“Seems like each time I ski terrain that I didn’t notice before.”) But quantity is of no consequence without quality or, for that matter, equality.
At Vail, every guest is valued; none is favored. That goes for the ones who ski and the ones who don’t. On the mountain, hardcores appreciate 31 lifts (No. 6) that make quick work of Vail’s seven-mile wingspan. Families and cruisers are pleased to find every type of terrain imaginable (Terrain Variety, No. 4). And everyone loves the back bowls: “Nothing compares.”
Nonskiers can find plenty to do, too, from spas to shopping to snow tubing. Even if you ski bell to bell, you still have 18 hours to fill. No worries. Vail ranks No. 4 in Après, No. 5 in Dining and Off-Hill Activities and No. 6 in Lodging.
Even Vail’s biggest fans will admit it can be pricey—a common complaint—but expensive and overpriced are very different beefs “Considering its size, terrain, snow and weather, you get the most bang for your buck,” says one reader. Still, the resort responds to the gripes with value-based programs such as the Epic Pass—which more than a few readers praised—and Lunch for Less (get an entrée, side dish and drink at any on-hill restaurant for $10 every day). Vail, like any resort, will always have its Grinches: “It has a Disneyland feel.” But then, there are worse comparisons than a fun park dubbed the happiest place on earth. —Deborah Williams
/ What’s New / Chair 5 has been upgraded to a high-speed quad, cutting the ride in half to six minutes; additional lanes added to the Adventure Ridge tubing hill, along with a new enclosed lift.
/ Mandatory Run / Forerun the 2015 World Championship technical courses.
/ Don’t Miss / Too cool for ski school? Adventure Sessions protect your rep. Set up a full-day guided tour of the hill with a Vail pro, line-jumping privileges included.