Tips and Advice for Driving to Vail in Winter

When it comes to driving in the United States, the vast majority of the time we simply don't think about it because getting around is incredibly easy. Rent a car, pick it up, and go without hesitation.

On the surface, driving to Vail in the winter seems a lot like that. If you fly into Denver, you pick up a car, drive west on I-70 for an indeterminate period of time (for reasons we'll talk about later), get off the highway, and you are, quite literally, there. You are driving in the mountains, but it is on a multi-lane highway the entire way.

But throw in potentially hazardous snow conditions, the limited (and expensive) parking in Vail proper, the laws for driving in the mountains during the winter, and, of course, opportunistic rental car companies hoping you're not the wiser, and there is a lot to consider when driving to Vail in the winter indeed.

So, let's break down some of the important things to know for what should otherwise be an easy drive!

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Where to Stay in Vail – In the Villages or Not?

If you are planning a Vail ski trip and are looking for accommodations, your first reaction is likely going to be a huge sticker shock at the price of hotels.

During the ski season, Vail is astronomical

But there are ways to get around this when planning where to stay in Vail, and it all stems from around whether you want to stay in the resort villages or are willing to make a little extra effort to stay in the further stretches of town.

So let's break down why you may want to stay inside the villages in Vail (particularly Vail Village and Lionshead Villages right by the slopes), why you may want to stay outside of these (such as in Sandstone or nearby), and touch on why transportation options are important to keep in mind!

Note: I received a media Epic Pass through an outside partnership that allowed this trip to happen. 100% of all costs associated with traveling to Vail outside of this were my own.

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Sandstone Creek Club Review – A Great Stay in Vail

I have to admit, our trip to ski in Vail fell into our laps rather unexpectedly.

Part of this was because I was working with a local resort in the Vail brand (for another website of ours) that allowed me to utilize an Epic Pass for a season. Then we found out that our home contractor had a timeshare in Vail during the winter that they were looking to sublet for a discount.

Although I am a novice skier at best and had never skied out west prior to this trip, I took them up on the opportunity of a lifetime and booked a week at Sandstone Creek Club just across I-70 from the resort villages.

It turned out to be quite a good experience- so much so that if we had to do it all over again (discount or not), we would certainly look at Sandstone Creek Club as a potential option when visiting for winter.

So let's share a bit more why we liked this property so much!

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The Best Trails for Beginners at Vail – Where to Go Next?

Before taking a trip out west to ski at Vail, I have to admit I was a little worried. I am a beginner skier, and the entirety of my skiing experience has been on slopes in western Pennsylvania which is known for being compacted and, dare I say, icy. 

Everyone I spoke to said if I could ski to any basic degree on the East Coast, the slopes in the West would be a breeze. It only took a few runs at Vail for my concerns to go away, as every single person who told me this was 100% right. Even with poor, “dust on crust” conditions at Vail during my visit, I was having the time of my life.

Still, as Vail is one of the largest ski resorts in the USA, there are dozens of dozens of trails to consider which, as a beginner, was incredibly daunting for my first time. Where do you go next? How do you avoid getting on a trail that is too hard for your skill level? I had few reference points on where to start and was only lucky that I was with friends who could scope out runs for me in advance. 

So in this article, I want to share the progression of trails that I would recommend taking if you are skiing in Vail for the first time. This guide will start at the absolute easiest trails and then recommend others that could be the next logical leap as you advance.

  • Notes: All named trails in this guide are marked in bold for easy reference. Other elements like park sections (Front Side, Game Creek Bowl, China Bowl) or lifts (Sourdough Express, Wildwood Express) are not. Likewise, we recommend opening up the trail maps in a separate tab to reference when reading this guide. 
  • Likewise, for full disclosure, I had received an Epic Pass as media through an outside partnership from this website. All costs for my time in Vail were my own. I was not required nor requested to produce any content from this trip in any capacity.

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