The Perfect Long Weekend in Vail, Colorado
Heading to Vail for a ski break? Our guide tells you everything you need to know to have a fabulous weekend.
Vail is one of the most popular ski destinations in the US, and it’s perfect for a weekend ski trip. Vail Mountain has nearly 5,300 acres of skiable terrain, including 3,000 on its legendary Back Bowls. The mountain has slopes for all skiing abilities, from absolute beginner to Olympic level, and it has plenty of amenities for snowboarding, too. In addition, there’s a fabulous selection of luxury hotels and restaurants with elevated cuisine. It’s more approachable than Aspen, which has a difficult mountain and quite the scene in town, but Vail isn’t as casual as some other ski resorts.
It’s the perfect blend of incredible skiing, refined cuisine, and fantastic hotels. In addition, several airlines operate direct flights into the nearby Eagle airport, making the journey to Vail short enough for a weekend trip from pretty much anywhere in the US. (Other, more difficult-to-get-to ski destinations require nearly a full day of travel, so they’re better suited for longer trips.) Read on for a perfectly curated itinerary for a long weekend in Vail.
How to Get to Vail
Fly in on Thursday, in the morning, if you can. If you’re flying directly into Eagle airport, be sure to book a car far in advance. Uber and Lyft don’t operate at the airport, and the taxis are frequently all reserved. Your hotel can arrange one for you, or you can contact one of the several local providers such as High Mountain Taxi and Ride Taxi. If you’re flying into Denver, you can rent a car, book a car service, or take a mountain shuttle (they’re really not bad and are quite efficient).
American, Delta, and United operate nonstop flights to Eagle County Regional Airport from several major cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Newark. Of course, there are plenty of connecting flights through Denver, as well. Check the airport’s website for a full listing of flights. The number of flights is rather limited, which makes Vail a perfect destination for a private-jet trip into Vail Valley Jet Center.
Preventing Altitude Sickness in Vail
Vail is located high in the Colorado Rockies at 8,150 ft above sea level. This high altitude can cause altitude sickness. To avoid altitude sickness, experts recommend drinking a lot of water to stay hydrated and having canned oxygen on hand as needed. Most people are fine with canisters you can purchase locally at drugstores or gift shops, but there are also more serious oxygen concentrators you can rent. I also bring chlorophyll drops with me that I put into my water. I’ve heard that chlorophyll can help with altitude sickness, and on a recent trip to Vail, it worked for me. High altitude can also affect your body’s ability to process alcohol, which means you feel the effects more quickly, so limit your alcohol consumption if you choose to indulge.
Day One in Vail
The best resort for a weekend in Vail is my favorite luxury hotel in town, Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail. Vail has only one true ski-in/ski-out hotel, and the Four Seasons is far more luxurious. It also has a great ski concierge with lockers and helpful attendants at the base of the mountain, so you don’t have to lug around your skis and boots. The resort operates a shuttle service to the mountain, but I prefer to walk. It’s about 10 minutes, and it’s a great way to stretch your legs before a day on the slopes.
If your room isn’t ready yet, store your bags with the valet and enjoy lunch at The Remedy Bar. It has great salads, delicious elk chili, and burgers. You’ll also want to pick up or purchase your lift tickets this afternoon if you don’t have the Epic Pass. The lines to collect tickets can be long in the morning, so it’s highly recommended to pick them up that afternoon.
Next, rent your gear if you didn’t bring your own. You don’t need to head into town to do it — there’s a small Gorsuch boutique in the hotel. Here, they fit you for boots, skis, and poles. Then, they send your measurements down to the main Gorsuch boutique in Vail Village. The team there preps your gear so it will be ready for you the next morning. If you brought your own skis and equipment, the hotel will transfer it to the Ski Concierge and set up your locker for you. It’s extremely easy.
You will also want to download the EpicMix app. Not only does it track your runs through the days, but it has a convenient map that shows which slopes are open and which are groomed, as well as the level of difficulty.
That night, have an early dinner so you’ll wake up refreshed and ready for a day on the slopes. Flame, the hotel’s steakhouse, is a great choice, as is Matsuhisa in town.
Day Two in Vail
Have breakfast in your room or at Flame and be sure to fuel up — you’ll need it. Walk down to town and gear up. The ski concierge will carry your skis to the gondola entrance for you, and you’ll be ready to go.
Vail’s Back Bowls are legendary, so explore them if you can. The trails can be confusing — there are so many options — so it’s best to plan out your runs in advance to avoid getting lost or ending up at a run that’s beyond your skill level.
While there are plenty of lunch options on the mountain, the only one I recommend is The 10th. The other options are quite casual and crowded, so it’s difficult to find a table and isn’t that enjoyable. The 10th is reservations only, and you should make them far in advance in order to secure a prime time. The elegant restaurant serves hearty fare and has fabulous hot cocktails to warm you up. Be sure to start with an order of truffle fries. They are divine. The 10th is located right by the gondola, so non-skiers can easily join too. If this is your first time skiing in a while, you might want to call it a day and head down the slopes to save your legs for tomorrow. You can hit the spa, relax in the hot tub, explore the town, or go shopping. Or, start your après-ski early.
You’ll probably be tired after your first day of skiing, so have a casual après-ski at The Remedy Bar or head back to your room to relax. After a quick rest, bundle up for an unforgettable night dining at one of the region’s famous mountain cabins. There are three cabins open for dinner, and you can only get there by snowcat or a sleigh ride. Zach’s Cabin or Allie’s Cabin are my top picks. First, head to The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch in nearby Beaver Creek. (You’ll need to book a car in advance or drive here.) Grab a drink at the bar or join the outdoor après-ski party while you wait for your sleigh to arrive.
To get to the cabin, you’ll clamber into an open-air sleigh pulled by a snowcat. While there are blankets in the sleigh, it’s still quite chilly, so be sure to dress warmly. The sleigh ride is a magical experience — you’ll see the bright lights of the town fade in the distance and the stars twinkling above you. Zach’s Cabin has an Alsatian-inspired menu. You can order regional specialties, such as fondue, but it also has delicious local steaks and vegetarian options, including risotto. The wine list is incredible, as is the sommelier, so don’t be afraid to try something new or indulge in a special bottle. An evening at Zach’s Cabin is sure to be memorable and a highlight of your weekend in Vail.
Day Three in Vail
Spend the morning skiing, being sure to explore new areas of the mountain and test your skills. Then have lunch at The 10th. The menu has plenty of options, so I promise you won’t get bored of it on a weekend trip to Vail.
After you’ve changed out of your boots at the ski concierge, switch up your après-ski by visiting a local spot in town. Root & Flower has an elevated wine list with some unusual selections. The staff is extremely knowledgeable and friendly. They’ll help you navigate the list and find the perfect drink for you. The cocktail and mocktail menu is wonderful too. Root & Flower serves snacks that are great for sharing, but they’re not your typical mountain fare. Instead, you’ll find lobster deviled eggs, fresh oysters, potatoes roasted in duck fat, and an Ossetra caviar service, alongside charcuterie, cheese, and inspired small plates.
If you’re in the mood for a more casual après-ski, head to The Red Lion. This laid-back tavern has great nachos, quesadillas, chicken wings, burgers, and barbecue. It also offers a superb selection of microbrews from Colorado.
That evening, head to dinner at one of the town’s best restaurants. Sweet Basil, Mountain Standard, La Nonna, La Tour, and Alpenrose are Vail institutions that are well worth checking out if you haven’t been. I also love Fall Line, which serves contemporary cuisine with elegant plating. If you’re with a group, order the 38 oz Wagyu Tomahawk steak. It’s really incredible.
Day Four in Vail
If you’re flying out in the afternoon, you can squeeze in a couple of hours of skiing in the morning. Or, you can sleep in, have a leisurely brunch, then head to the airport. Guests of Four Seasons don’t need to worry about returning their gear — the ski concierge handles that for you. All you need to do is pack your bags, and get ready to plan your next weekend in Vail.