With nearly 200 runs to choose from, you could ski Vail for two solid weeks (or more) and still not see it all. The easiest way to figure out where to start and how to plan your time is by asking a lift operator. They spend day after day (year after year) on the mountain, so they’ll know a thing or two about which trails to try.
Most lift operators at Vail will typically gear their top picks toward the runs that have received the most snow on any given day, but there are a handful of trails consistently recommended by every liftie we’ve ever asked, no matter the conditions or the day.
Many of the connecting trails on Vail Mountain are beginner ski runs, meaning that with the exception of the expert-only back bowls, there is always an easy way down the mountain. Here are a few fantastic green-rated options.
Vail’s oasis of beginner trails is tucked into the top of the eastern front side of the resort off of the Sourdough Express Lift (#14). Sourdough, Boomer, and Tin Pants form a trifecta of wide, gentle trails that remain uncrowded even on busy weekends. Take Gondola One (#1) from Vail Village to the Mountaintop Express (#4) and then ski the green Timberline Catwalk over to Sourdough.
The lower portion of this long, mild trail is in the same area as Sourdough and can be accessed from the Highline Express Lift (#10). Starting in the trees and opening into a vast expanse of groomed terrain, Flap Jack is a good one for the end of the day since it’s on the longer side for beginners. Go directly to the beginning of the trail from the Highline Express or connect to it from Tin Pants.
On the other side of the resort, hugging the boundary line in Game Creek Bowl, this gloriously long and serene trail is named after a 14-year-old Eagle Scout who got lost in the area in 1964 when it was undeveloped. (Somehow he found his way out the next day after spending the night in a tree well.) There is nothing scary about the run itself, though, as it sweeps you peacefully down the Game Creek ridgeline, conveniently rejoining civilization at the base of Game Creek Express Lift (#7).
Expertly-groomed trails perfect for cruising make up nearly one-third of the terrain at Vail. The lifties’ picks take you from the far western reaches of the resort’s front side to the most remote trails in Blue Sky Basin.
Many skiers are so busy making their way to the Back Bowls that they completely forget about this quiet corner of Vail’s front side. Running along the western boundary of the resort and accessed by taking skier’s far left from Eagle’s Nest at the top of Eagle Bahn Gondola (#19), Simba weaves its way down perfect corduroy to the very bottom of the mountain. You can also hit it over and over again without having to wait from the Pride Express Lift (#26).
Seasoned lifties and long-time locals always name Avanti among their favorite ski runs. Accessed from the top of the lift bearing the same name (#2), this vast, wide open run takes you down a series of natural rollers to a steep face where the trail’s rating moves from blue to back before mellowing back into a mild angle as it approaches the base of the lift.
Located in China Bowl in the Back Bowls of Vail, the seemingly endless blankets of white of each the East and West versions of Poppyfields will make you wonder where the name comes from. (Every summer, this entire bowl is covered in a rainbow of wildflowers, including vibrant orange and red poppies.) Poppyfields West can be accessed just under Two Elk Lodge while you’ll reach Poppyfields East by taking an immediate right off of Orient Express Lift (#21).
These trails are where you’re likely to spot the lifties themselves during their lunch breaks.
Considering this one is Lindsey Vonn’s all-time favorite ski run, you know it must be good. It’s also one of the original trails and the longest run on the mountain, measuring four miles from the ridge at Mountain Top to the Catwalk. It’s a combination of blues and black diamonds, passing through the steeps of Tourist Trap on your way back to the base of Gondola One. When groomed, it can truly give you the swooping turning sensation of an Olympic downhill star.
This thrilling run takes you along the ridgeline between Sun Up and Sun Down Bowls under the High Noon Express (#5). It then takes a right through the trees before opening down a steep, often powder-filled face of Sun Down Bowl, truly giving you the idea that it goes on forever (in a good way).
Accessed at the very end of Silk Road off of the Orient Express Lift, this lightly-gladed field of powder is worth the trip. You’ll almost always find your own fresh line to dance on all the way down, and then you just take the Silk Road back to the lift.
You won’t want to hold hands with your lover as you leap off the cornice that leads to this short but super steep run in Blue Sky Basin. Fresh snow tends to collect on this run that leads into narrow glades, so your leap almost always results in a soft landing.
Want even more of Vail’s best runs? Check out this list of the most historic and locally loved blues and blacks at one of the largest ski resorts in the world.