Aspen vs Vail

Aspen and Vail, Colorado are two of the most upscale destinations in the country when it comes to luxury mountain towns and world-class skiing and snowboarding and mountain adventure. You can’t go wrong when planning a vacation, both winter and summer at either of these top resorts, but there are several differences that will make one or the other a better fit for you and your group. The Travel Whisperer’s team of personal travel designers outlined the pros and cons of each to help guide your Rocky Mountain getaway.

Vail vs Beaver Creek

Why The Travel Whisperer should be the top choice for your next vacation?

What our clients have to say about us

We loved this place!

Easy check in, rent skis downstairs, buy lift tickets and jump on the lift. There is a run that takes you right back there at the end of the day as well. Very clean, soft towels and beds. Awesome place!

Manne W

Extremely positive.

Great management staff, wonderful housekeeping, generous amenities and well-appointed spaces. Decorating was beautiful, bedding comfortable and attractive.

Meredith B

Our stay was amazing!

Basically to sum it up the staff, location, and condo were under-promised and over-delivered. Great stay thank you so much for an outstanding vacation!

Freddie W

Aspen

With four ski resorts accessible from the towns of Aspen and Snowmass it’s no wonder this small mountain community is famous for its skiing and snowboarding. The cost of lift tickets are steep (this season’s day pass is expected to top $200 for the first time ever) but there aren’t many other places where a single ticket will unlock access to four different mountains spanning 5,527 acres. With endless terrain options between each of the mountains, any experience-level skier or rider is sure to find something well-suited to their ambition level. The problem? Planning a long enough vacation to explore them all.

Aspen Highlands: Great for experts looking to push their limits, the Aspen Highlands offer a ton of steep terrain including backcountry and in-bounds access to the legendary Highland Bowl. This mountain is home to the world-famous Cloud Nine bar and restaurant which is known for its bottle service of Veuve Clicquot (champagne shower included). Fun fact: Cloud Nine is the largest buyer of Veuve Clicquot in the United States and it’s only open four months of the year. If you’re visiting over closing weekend which is typically mid-end of April, we highly recommend the Highlands for its closing weekend party where staff and visitors alike cruise around celebrating the season in costume–anything goes.

Buttermilk: This ski area is perfect for beginners and families offering lots of green trails for learning the basics. Uphill access is also available for skinning or snowshoeing to the top. Buttermilk is Aspen’s terrain park mountain and is home to the X-Games, an annual extreme sports event where you can catch the world’s best freestylers in action.

Snowmass: Larger than the three other mountains combined, Snowmass has it all. From rugged steeps and tree runs to bumps, jumps, and groomers, anyone in your group can find something to be challenged by at Snowmass. It’s also got some great ski-in-ski-out lodging options.

While Aspen is known for its skiing, there is certainly no shortage of things to do and see for those planning a summer mountain vacation. Meadows of wildflowers take over the mountains and activities shift from skiing and snowboarding to mountain biking, hiking, ziplines, ropes courses, sightseeing, and the alpine coaster at Snowmass. One of our favorite hikes and sights to see is the Maroon Bells, which is one of the most photographed mountains in all of North America. For advanced hikers, the Conundrum Hot Springs are a local gem in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

Pros: 

  • Because Aspen is a further trek from Denver than Vail is, this mountain won’t have the weekend warrior crowds that Vail is typically flooded with. 
  • Aspen/Pitkin County regional airport makes it easy to access for out-of-state visitors. 
  • A larger variety of shops, restaurants, nightlife, and lodging options than Vail offers. The town itself has a charming historic feel with a classiness that’s hard to top. 
  • Terrain for any age and ability level in the group. 
  • Free shuttles are available at all mountains making them highly accessible if you don’t want to pay for parking. 
  • A great variety of on-mountain activities in the summer as well as hiking trails and wilderness areas to be explored. 

Cons:

  • Aspen and Vail are two of Colorado’s priciest ski resorts, but Aspen is slightly more expensive for most things than Vail, with less budget friendly options. The town of Aspen has a high-end, luxurious reputation to live up to after all. 
  • While an advantage because of the lesser crowds, the longer distance from Denver does make Aspen more difficult to get to for those flying into DIA. With bad roads and traffic in the winter, it could take anywhere from 4-6 hours. The less time you can spend on I70, the better.

Where to stay in Aspen

We have an extended portfolio of luxury residences, catering to all tastes and preferences for your perfect Aspen vacation.

Our slope-side, ski-in/ ski-out residences offer unrivaled access to the runs and ski schools in Aspen.

The Travel Whisperer has a number of Aspen luxury condo rentals on offer.

Aspen is home to some of the most stylish luxury cabin rentals in Colorado.

Vail

Although Vail is only comprised of one mountain compared to Aspen’s four, it spans just as much gound. With 5,317 acres of skiable terrain, Vail is one of the largest ski resorts in the world and it also has something for everyone.

Mid Mountain is great for families and intermediates with family-friendly adventure zones, moguls and a great selection of groomers. Golden Peak is home to Vail’s ski and snowboard school, signature events, race course and terrain park, making it a great home base for larger groups.

One of the best things about Vail and what most avid skiers and riders come for are its legendary back bowls. Most locals would tell you that these vast powder fields are what make Vail, Vail. With seven bowls waiting to be explored, this terrain is a dream for both advanced and intermediate guests. There are also backcountry options for those looking to push themselves. With ungroomed, highly variable terrain it’s crucial to have avalanche education and gear. The golden rule? If you don’t know, don’t go.

Hiking in Vail

When it comes to the town itself, Vail was constructed to emulate a dreamy European ski town in the Alps. Vail is connected with pedestrian streets following the Gore Creek from Vail Village to Lionshead. A variety of accommodations are available throughout Vail Village and Lionshead including hotels, condos, shops, restaurants and bars. Beyond the core villages, East and West Vail both offer more budget-friendly lodging and dining, just a short drive or free bus ride away. While both Vail and Aspen are considered family-friendly destinations, Vail might be slightly more so as the town is still bustling but a bit more laid-back compared to Aspen.

No matter the season, there is always something going on in Vail. Lodging in the summer is typically less expensive than in the winter months making it a more budget-friendly resort destination. Take a gondola ride between villages, go horseback riding at Eagle Valley Ranch and stroll the weekend farmers markets in town. For families with kids, Vail is home to one of the most scenic zipline courses in the Rockies as well as mini golf, a ropes course, climbing wall, and mountain coaster.

Pros: 

  • More budget-friendly options when it comes to accommodations and restaurants. In addition to East and West Vail villages, Minturn is located less than fifteen minutes away for those looking to stay outside of Vail and save a pretty penny. 
  • If you’re coming in from Denver you could do a Vail trip without a car as there are several shuttle options to get up to the mountains. Once you’re in the village there are plenty of shuttles to get around locally. Ubers and Lyfts are also available. 
  • Vail’s back bowls are legendary for a reason and hard to beat on a good powder day. 
  • Lots of ski-in-ski-out accommodations. 
  • Prices drop significantly in the summer months for hotels and lodging.

Cons:

  • On a good storm weekend, Vail is typically one of Colorado’s most crowded resorts. The back bowls are especially so and it can take quite a while to get to and from in the mornings. To access them from Lionshead it takes several chairlifts and catwalks.  
  • With more Epic passes sold during the 2021-22 season than ever before, Vail experienced a staffing problem with not enough workforce to run all the lifts. This caused lift lines to be exceptionally long on busy days and holiday weekends, which can be frustrating when you spend as much time standing in line than you do skiing.

Where to stay in Vail

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