Vail vs. Beaver Creek, Colorado – What’s the Difference?
If you’re craving a ski or snowboarding escape, there’s no doubt that Colorado is the creme de la creme when it comes to resorts and mountain terrain. But where are the best areas to go skiing in Colorado? It may seem like a bit of a daunting task to determine which resort or area will be the best fit, solely due to the sheer number of options! But, if you’re at all like me and enjoy a bit of aprés with a side of your skiing, Vail and Beaver Creek are two destinations that should be at the top of your list. Both resorts offer everything you could want in an alpine winter getaway: world class skiing, stunning natural beauty, adorable European-inspired towns, and uber-luxe accommodations. You’ll find the chicest travelers flaunting the year’s trendiest “ski-tire“, fine dining options and of course, SHOPPING! They both sound great, you say, but how do we choose? Well, thats what I’m here for.
There are a few quick things that will help make this decision a bit easier. Firstly, if you are a snowboarder, Beaver Creek might be your better option because Vail is catwalks all day long (long flat sections to get from one ski area to the next). Secondly, if you’re planning a trip that will be 3 days or less on the mountain, opt for Beaver Creek. Vail is so massive that you’ll need at least 2-3 days just to get your bearings to navigate it. Thirdly, if you’re traveling with small children, Beaver Creek is your best bet, but if your kids are capable teenagers who like to cover a lot of ground, go with Vail.
Vail vs. Beaver Creek: The Location
Both of these world class resorts are located in the Vail Valley, just a 2-hour drive from Denver. Beaver Creek is located 30 minutes from Vail, just a bit further away from Denver. If you’re planning a multi day trip it is possible to ski both resorts, but I’d recommend choosing only one for trips 4 days or shorter.
Vail vs. Beaver Creek: Who Has Better Skiing?
Colorado has a well-deserved reputation for having some of the best snow in the world and conditions are usually outstanding by the standards of any other ski area. Vail is the largest ski area in the United States, so acre for acre you’re going to have more runs in Vail. Beaver Creek is slightly smaller with 150 total ski slopes, to Vail’s 193, but being smaller means there will be fewer crowds and typically shorter lift lines. Beaver Creek is also the farthest resort from Denver, so it is unlikely you’ll have to deal with long lift lines unless it’s a holiday weekend.
The “front side” of Vail offers plenty of beginner and intermediate runs, whereas more experienced skiers will want to head straight for the legendary “backbowls”. The only thing Vail is short of is truly extreme terrain, but even the very best skiers will be impressed by the backcountry tree skiing of Blue Sky Basin.
Beginners and intermediates will enjoy the run’s in Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead. Advanced skiers will be entertained in the Larkspur and Rose Bowl, meanwhile can go hunting for powder in the glades off Grouse Mountain and the Stone Creek chutes.
Vail vs. Beaver Creek: The Downtown Scene
European inspired village with interesting shops, restaurants and a bit of nightlife! Vail definitely has a larger downtown area with a wider variety of dining options! See my Vail Guide for more nightlife and dining options!
Chic but small “downtown” with a coffee shop, ski rentals, scattered bars and restaurants. This private resort is a bit more family oriented but still has it’s diamond in the rough apres bars where people get rowdy in the classiest ways possible-aka sipping top shelf only. But if you’re traveling with adults only and are looking for a bit of a nightlife scene, choose Vail.
Vail vs. Beaver Creek : The Accommodation Options
Both Vail and Beaver Creek have top of the line accommodation geared towards luxury travelers. Both resorts have well touted spas to boot. If you’d like to ski these amazing mountains without the top shelf price tag, find an Airbnb or VRBO in the small towns right outside the major ski areas, like Avon near Beaver Creek or Eagle Vail and drive 5 or so minutes to the mountain.
A Vacation Club resort with two-, three-, and four-bedroom suites, rates in February start at over $1,000 a night.
Located in the heart of Vail Village, the Four Seasons features 121 rooms and suites, each with its own fireplace. The hotel offers an outdoor pool that is heated year-round, as well as fitness facilities and a complete spa center. Guests will enjoy their ski concierge service at the base of the mountain which features lockers that dry their boots and gear overnight. There’s also a fabulous bar for hanging post slopes. Rates in February start at $995/night.
Located near the Eagle Bahn Gondola, this property offers a convenient ski in/ski out experience. They also offer high-end condominiums if you’re staying a while and would like a full kitchen. They have a heated rooftop pool as well as a full fitness center. Rates in February start at $699 a night.
The Best Houses to rent for Groups in Vail
Modern Chalet in Vail Village, walking distance to it all.
Creekside Mountain home, sleeps 16.
Ultra-Luxurious Chalet, sleeps 16
This 180-guestroom hotel is at a prime location, right next to a chairlift at Beaver Creek. While it is a bit more secluded from town, it offers the quality you’re craving like a ski concierge, s’mores happy hour every evening and the dreamiest spa in the area! Starting at $600/night peak season.
A stunning mountain lodge that boasts luxury private properties. Located steps from the Centennial Lift, you’ll be centrally located to all the best apres and dinner spots! The concierge will take care of everything from setting up rides to dinner to drying off and storing your skis each day. Starting at $450/night.
Located right at the base of Gore mountain, in the heart of Beaver Creek Village the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa is a great ski in/ski out option. You can easily grab a drink at 8100 Mountainside Bar & Grill’s bar, but it’s Antler Hall that will become your favorite for après-ski indulgences. Starting at $450/night.
Vail vs. Beaver Creek: Other Things To Do Besides Skiing
A day of shopping and brunching? Check. Facials? Check. Snowshoeing? Duh. Maybe even try dog sledding!
In the summer months you can still take the ski lifts up to incredible hiking/biking trails as well as their Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster! Once you’ve worked up an appetite, sit outside and have a local flight at the Vail Brewing Company.
There isn’t as much shopping to be done in this small village, but a spa day is equally as accessible at either the Hyatt or the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch!
Take a sleigh ride up the mountain for a 5-course meal at Beano’s Cabin or head to the Chateau for one of the best meal’s you’ll ever have at Splendido (you can even reserve an outdoor yurt, so fun!).
If you’re looking to get outdoors, snowshoeing in the winter and hiking or mountain biking in the summer is a great way to take in the beautiful surroundings.
Check out these other blog posts:
The ultimate Beaver Creek travel guide
What to pack for a ski trip to Aspen – or any ski trip!