A vast, mainly traffic-free resort based on Bavarian villages, Vail is Colorado’s big name in skiing, with plenty to offer when it comes to family holidays, not least Adventure Ridge, a mountain-top centre with skating, hire of contraptions such as snowbikes, and a restaurant for warming up after a snowmobile adventure. Meanwhile, down the valley, Vail’s posh sister resort Beaver Creek boasts The Ranch, a children’s ski and snowboard school set amid easy slopes.
In summer, Vail is popular with mountain-bikers and white-water rafters, with specialist family trips available.
Things to do with kids in Vail
Ski and snowboard in the USA’s biggest single-mountain ski resort, covering more than 5,000 acres (20 km2) and boasting 7 bowls and the Blue Sky Basin with its intermediate wooded terrain. Most is wide-open terrain with 193 trails, much than half advanced/ expert, about a third intermediate, and the rest beginner. A Colorado Pass gives 10 days' access to the lifts at Vail plus unlimited slope access at nearby Breckenridge, Keystone and A-Basin.
Head for Adventure Ridge, with plenty of activities for younger visitors including ski-biking, a junior snowmobile track and tubing.
Book ahead (a month if possible) for the childcare centre or the ski school (from age 3).
With young kids and non-skiers, ride the gondola after 2pm, when it’s free.
Take to the river – with families it’s best on the stretch above and through Glenwood Springs. Rock Gardens Rafting is a specialist in gentler family float trips, as well as offering zipline adventures in the Glenwood Canyon. Or try Dvorak Expeditions, with whitewater-rafting from age 4. See our white-water rafting tips page.
In summer, make for Vail’s imaginative Pirateship Park at the base of the slopes.
There’s a good range of eateries in Vail for all budgets, including locals’ favourite the Westside Café and the renowned Paozo’s Pizza.
A bench in Vail
When to go to Vail
The ski season in Vail generally lasts mid-Nov to mid-April. The white-water rafting season lasts mid-April to mid- to late-Sept, but the best time is mid-June to August.
Watching a kayaker navigate Gore Creek near Vail
Vail isn’t a destination for low-budget family ski holidays, given the expense involved in getting there. Accommodation tends to be upper-end, too.
Flying time10hrs All flight times are based on flights from UK London airports, to the capital or nearest destination airport.
Carbon footprint CO2 Estimated tonnes of CO2 produced for return flights for a family of four.
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