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

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on March 13, 2024.

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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.

Why Stay Inside the Villages in Vail

Vail Village

When it comes to staying at a hotel inside Vail, particularly near the gondolas at Vail Village or Lionshead Village, there are many obvious perks.

First, you can walk from your room to a gondola in moments. There is no better feeling than hitting the slopes whenever you want, and the proximity to the resort's gondolas is one of the major selling points here. No messing around with shuttles, no hauling your stuff across the village from the shuttle dropoff area, no paying for lockers for shoes- just quick and immediate access to the slopes.

Second, there is the other tangential benefit of accessing your room during the day. Due to shuttle schedules and timing, we never took breaks skiing apart from resting at a lodge on the mountain (where we subsequently spent a lot of money on food and/or beer). But had we stayed within walking distance, we would've considered it sometimes- particularly our friends who took turns taking care of their child at our hotel and switched off skiing during our visit. The logistics of dealing with a shuttle in this case was somewhat tricky for them.

Vail Gondolas

Finally, there is accessibility to all of the dining and restaurant options in the villages. We also enjoyed these by driving over in the evening (parking is typically free after 3 pm apart from overnight stays). Still, there is some convenience about simply walking over at your leisure. Being unable to change until we were finished skiing for the day meant we ate inside some restaurants in our ski boots and clothes, and yes, it was as awkward as it sounds, even if everyone was doing it.

The downside to all of this? The price.

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We won't sugar coat it- staying inside the villages proper is terribly expensive. We saw conventional hotel rooms for $500, $750, $1,000+ per night, and some adding on even another zero from there. These Vail hotels will then also nickel and dime you for things like resort fees for use of pools, ski storage, day lockers, and, of course, parking too.

Confirm any hotel's policy on all of these things before booking to avoid even more sticker shock.

Is it worth staying in Vail Village when cheaper options are just across the highway? Well, that is up to you to decide, but for us, it was a firm no. As alluring as all of those perks are, we really couldn't justify it. 

Why Stay Outside of the Villages

Sandstone Creek Club

Thankfully, there are many accommodation options outside the villages while still being able to access shuttles or bus lines to reach the gondolas. These hotels may offer similar levels of comfort and amenities to those in Vail Village and Lionshead Village but are often far more reasonable simply because of their distance.

The price point is by far the clearest advantage here, and while we won't say that properties in the furthest reaches of Vail are cheap, they are typically a lot lower in price than their counterparts closer to the gondolas.

For us, we stayed at Sandstone Creek Club (just across the highway from Lionshead Village) and were able to take a shuttle over in just about five to ten minutes. Although this meant hauling our gear with us, the nominal amount of extra effort we had to go through was worth it all the same- it was a minor inconvenience at best.

  • Another benefit we found at that property? Our condo had a kitchenette! Cooking a few nights helped us decrease our spending at the village restaurants by hundreds of dollars.

Sandstone Creek Club

That said, those who stay further away will also have other considerations to remember. For example, will you take street shoes with you to change into, or will you deal with walking around in your boots all day? Day-use lockers are few and far between in the villages, and the prices at various spots ranged from $5 to $50+ depending on their setup (with the latter being more for ski locker rentals). After being frustrated with completely full lockers, we simply dealt with wearing our boots all the time in subsequent days- even for apres ski drinks in the village.

Other minor issues like this will be present, but they all stem from the fact that you won't have easy access to your room, even if the shuttle and bus schedules are relatively frequent. I could never justify how long it would take to go to the room and back during ski hours.

Finally, for those who have a much more limited budget, don't overlook the options to stay outside of Vail entirely. The town of Avon is located just 10 minutes to the west of Vail on I-70, is the gateway to Beaver Creek resort (also operated by Vail), and winter hotel rates regularly are 50%, 75%, or 80%+ cheaper than those in Vail- in the villages or otherwise. Other accommodation options exist within a 10-15 minute drive of Vail as well at much more attractive price points.

Those staying in Avon can either take a free bus that connects Avon and Vail (available in winter only and with a bit more limited schedule) or, with the cost savings from the lower hotel prices, simply pay for parking when heading into Vail for the day. Of course, the further you stay away from the villages, the more you are at the mercy of the weather, and a bad snowstorm could make traveling on the highway difficult, even if it is only about eight miles in total.

But therein lies the risk you will take if you trade proximity for cost savings.

Transportation Options are Key

Although we can always argue that price is the most important part of any decision of where to stay in Vail, purely because the city is quite expensive, transportation is likely the next most important concern for visitors.

The first element of note here is that Vail operates free buses for visitors. This includes the In Town loop that transfers guests between Vail Village and Lionshead Village and numerous other shuttles to West Vail, East Vail, Sandstone, and many more places. Although we cannot say with absolute certainty, it felt like almost every corner of Vail proper was serviced by a free bus in some capacity, giving a lot of flexibility to get around without paying for parking. 

In fact, many resorts outside the villages offer free shuttles (some with free parking, too), such that you have numerous options to get around Vail without using your personal vehicle. Sandstone Creek Club, where we stayed, for example, operated a shuttle every 30 minutes, and the free Vail bus followed a few minutes later at a stop just feet away. So within the span of one hour, we had at least four opportunities to catch a free shuttle service into town at most all hours of the day.

Why is this so important? Parking in the villages is incredibly expensive and limited.

During our 2024 visit, prices ranged from as low as $5 for 1-2 hours during non-peak time to upwards of $40 for 4+ hours at peak and $60 overnight. Many hotels in the villages also charged these nightly parking fees, which for our seven-night stay would've added a minimum of $420 onto our total to leave our car unused 90% of the time. By staying at a hotel that offered free parking and utilizing the shuttles and city buses, we cut our bill dramatically.

Of course, this is a consideration for those who have a car to begin with. An alternative here would be for those who fly into Vail directly or take the Vail shuttles from Denver and do not have a car. In this instance, the cash savings you may have staying outside the villages could change your thinking a bit; however, the same thought process applies. Yes, walking from your hotel to the slopes and/or restaurants is a great perk, but if you are also looking for a better deal, check the shuttle schedules to see if any price differences are attractive to you.

Overall, the real perk of Vail, as a town at least, is that it is incredibly small. No matter where you are, you are still close to the resort even if you have to jump through another hurdle, like a periodic shuttle, to reach the slopes. You really can't go wrong staying in the resort village or off-site, but when you do, keep in mind some of the tangents like the price, parking, and logistics of getting around.

These really will be the biggest factors when visiting Vail!

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About Jeremy

Jeremy from Living the Dream

About the Author: Jeremy is a full-time travel writer based in Pittsburgh and primary author of this site. He has been to 70+ countries on five continents and seeks out new food, adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences wherever he travels.

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