Think of Vail, think of skiing, right? Well of course – it’s one of the largest single-mountain ski resorts in the US, with 195 trails on more than 5,000 acres, a vertical drop of 3,450 feet and 31 lifts to take you up, up, up so that you can ride the adrenaline rush right back down. Vail was actually made for skiing – it was founded in 1962 by Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton and modelled on the ski resorts they saw in Europe during their time in the US Army in World War II, which is why as you wander round Vail Village you might be forgiven for thinking that you’ve been transported to a mountain town somewhere in Austria. But there is plenty to do here besides strapping on your skis – biking, hiking, white-water rafting, snowshoeing, skating, zip lining and more, all with the benefit of around 300 days of sunshine a year. So whether you visit during the depths of winter or at the height of summer, you’re gonna have a good time on this mountain.
President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty fell for Vail’s charms and were frequent visitors – Betty even became known by locals as the ‘First Lady of the Vail Valley’ thanks to her efforts to help the community flourish. In return, the town decided to create something rather special in her name, and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens were born. The gardens are located along the main walkways of Vail Valley Drive and South Frontage Road in Vail Village and are open from dawn till dusk 365 days a year so they’re very accessible. At more than 8,200 feet above sea level, these are the highest botanical gardens in the United States, and wandering past the summer beds full of mountain meadow plants and wild roses, the streams, waterfalls and ponds, all with gasp-worthy Rocky Mountains views, is a winning way to spend an afternoon. There are a number of gardens to explore, including a Himalayan garden, a peony collection, a Rocky Mountain Alpine garden and an Alps of Western Europe garden, plus meditation areas with benches for that back-to-nature zone-out moment. It’s a good place to bring the kids too – there’s a Children’s Garden, and you can pick up treasure-hunt cards at the Education Center for a self-guided scavenger hunt that will lead you around six knowledge-filled boxes hidden throughout the garden.
So it’s summer and the snow’s all gone – at Vail this basically just means it’s time to get your mountain kicks at one of the resort’s other thoughtfully provided attractions. So head to the Epic Discovery park, at the top of Vail mountain, and take your pick: ropes courses, bungee trampolines, warm-weather tubing, and zip lines galore. Start things of slowly with a sedate but ridiculously scenic ride up to the park on the Eagle Bahn gondola, then consider how many thrills you want to load up with. There are free guided hikes, observatories with viewfinders so you can take a better look at the peaks, and story poles with information about the flora and fauna of the surrounding White River National Forest. But if you’re keen to get your heart pumping, then consider one of the park’s more active options. The main event is the Game Creek Zipline Tour – this 3-hour tour covers nearly 2 miles of ziplining, with an aerial bridge and 7 lines, one sending you soaring for 2,700 feet, another 300 feet up and reaching speeds of up to 60mph. The grown-ups’ zip line is out of bounds for the kids, but there’s plenty for them too – There's no age restriction for the Little Eagle zip line, and the Forest Flyer alpine coaster (for ages 3 and above with adult driver) whizzes you and the rugrats 3,400 feet down the mountain, with brakes available for those who want to take it easy.
We’d recommend you pack your walking boots – one of the best ways to experience Vail is to hit its hiking trails. The Eagle Bahn gondola is also your route to the Nature Discovery Center, where you can sign up for a number of free guided hikes or pick up maps for routes ranging from shorter 1-mile walks (Eagle's Loop, Fireweed) to something more intermediate (Berrypicker, Ridge Route). Your efforts will be rewarded with soul-soaring views of the snow-capped Gore Range and rainbow drifts of wildflowers in summer. Don’t forget the trail mix and plenty of water, and you might need a pole or stick for some of the steeper trails – there are places in town that will rent you gear or your Luxury Retreats can organize it for you in advance.
From Arrowhead in the west to Vail Village in the east, we have a huge selection of lodges in Vail Valley, whether you’re looking for a romantic vacation for two at one of the area’s luxury resorts, or a chalet to bring the whole family.
Beaver Creek lies to the west of Vail and has its own network of stunning slopes to ski or hike. Choose one of our Beaver Creek rentals and return after a day in the fresh mountain air to a cozy home from home. Slip into your hot tub to soak those well-used muscles then cuddle up in front of a stone fireplace with a nice glass of red. If you’re taking advantage of Vail’s summer attractions, then you might want to go for a property with a pool or a barbecue for a sunny splash or an alfresco dinner.
Close to Beaver Creek, our Bachelor Gulch rentals offer the ideal ski-in, ski-out experience, so you can be on the slopes in minutes. Ski from village to village or take the shuttle across to the base of Vail Ski Resort. Some of your properties have amenities such as a sauna, a home theatre or a games room, and all provide an elegant, comfortable retreat at the end of an active day.