Forget skiing as it used to be. Vail is charging into the future. Look no further than its No. 1 ranking in Digital Presence. In two seasons, the Epic Pass and its digital extensions, EpicMix and EpicPhoto, have single-handedly changed the ski-vacation experience—from how guests navigate the mountain to how they share their day with friends and family. Vail’s warp-speed ethos extends beyond its virtual platforms. This season—Vail’s 50th—will kick off with the opening of the world’s fastest gondola (1,200 vertical feet per minute, wi-fi-equipped), just one more in a series of high-dollar projects on-mountain and in the villages that some visitors love and others scorn. On one hand, near-compulsive spit-shining has a way of degrading a place’s charm and might have something to do with the resort’s low Character ranking (No. 28); on the other hand, as one reader reasons, “By investing in its employees and consistently upgrading its lifts, dining, and ski school, Vail is leading the industry.” In fact, the only place the investments and upgrades haven’t reached, it seems, is the parking, and readers are not pleased: “Pay for parking?! Come on.” But when it comes to the skiing, Vail still does more than satisfy: “Great terrain; great variety [No. 4]. Vail is the gold standard.” No doubt other resorts are following Vail’s lead. —Deborah Williams
FAMILY TRAIL >> Two kids adventure zones, added last season, feature gentle glades, banked turns, and ski-through tepees. They’re marked with wooden archways and carved animal greeters.
APRES SPOT >> The Tavern on the square was made for sunny spring days. Kick back on the patio with a signature bacon-infused Bloody Mary and watch the late-day riders close the mountain.
DON’T MISS >> The Ski Girls Rock program, for girls age five to 15, puts young ladies in groups of no more than four for focused instruction—plus some quality bonding and team-work skills—in a clinic designed by Lindsey Vonn.