Battle of the ski resorts: Vail

Big, bold Vail battles it out for our Ski Resort of the Year

Nominated by Mary

Ease of access 4/10

Direct flights to Denver take the pain out of it, but it’s still a 10-hour slog in a tin can, followed by a 1hr 45m drive up the slightly hair-raising I-70.

Sense of scale and epicness 6/10

This is one of the few resorts in North America where you really get a sense of distance, with the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin adding scale to the mountain. But the high tree-line lacks the drama of European resorts, and the views are spoilt by the highway that runs through the valley below.

Variety and quality of the pistes 9/10

So much choice. We especially like the way large sections of the resort stay ungroomed, which can turn even gentle blues into challenging mogul runs. Then there’s the epic supply of black diamonds in the Back Bowls, and a front-side to satisfy every kind of cruiser. Queues can be full-on at peak times, though the well-organised queue system makes it bearable.

Off-piste potential 8/10

Pretty much everything in bounds is yours for the taking, with gnarly terrain in abundance. Things really kick off in the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin, especially on a powder day.

Lapability 8/10

Some of these runs are so good it’s hard not to ski them twice. Blue Sky Basin is especially lapable, with endless routes between the trees that get more fun with every visit.

Vail twinkles in the twilight |Ben Affleck
Vail twinkles in the twilight |Ben Affleck

On-hill grub 3/10

Meh. Almost every restaurant has the same selection of self-service, slightly below par grub (pizza slices, bland burritos et al). We do like the free to use BBQs at the top of Blue Sky Basin though, and the soups at Wildwood are tasty and good value.

Après scene 7/10

As lively as you want it to be. There’s a good selections of bars in the village, including a craft beer house, and live music is easy to find, but Europe this ain’t.

Base suitability 8/10

It’s on the Epic Pass, which means easy-to-reach Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone are all included in your lift pass, and all are well worth a day trip.

Family friendly? 8/10

If you can afford to bring the whole brood out here, do it. The resort has plenty of family-friendly activities (think tubing, snow biking, skating and bowling). The ski school has a great reputation, and two-month-old plus babies can be booked into the Golden Peak nursery.

RANK: Joint 18th