Vail ski resort
Built in the 1960s as a faux Austrian village for an upmarket clientele, Vail has grown to become the third largest ski mountain resort in North America.
Despite having pandered to its early target audience, Vail, which turned 50 in 2012, has broadened its appeal in recent times and now caters to almost all categories of skiers, from well-heeled powder hounds to young budget first-timers. Its attractive traffic-free village, which meanders along the slopes, is decorated with numerous hotels, shops and restaurants.
Despite a good variety of hotel options and terrain to suit all abilities, Vail does still harbour a reputation for having some of the most expensive lift tickets in the world. However, bargains can be had by buying in advance online or, if you are fortunate enough to be a frequent skier at the company's dozen or so other world class resorts, the heavily promoted Epic Pass season ticket is good value; the company sells half a million of these worldwide each year.
Yes a whiff of upmarket elitism still wafts through Vail's streets, but the family-oriented pizza restaurants and greasy budget diners are helping to give the resort a more inclusive scent.
Vail Mountain is located on Interstate 70, 154km (96 miles) west of Denver in Colorado's Rocky Mountains.
VailResort Elevation: 2476m
Top Elevation: 3527m
Base Elevation: 2476m
On the slopes
Vail is renowned for its exciting terrain for good skiers, particularly the Blue Sky Basin. This rugged, wooded area that's 10km (6.5 miles) by skis from the village, offers the adventurous feel of out-of-bounds slopes within the safety of the resort.
The narrow, tree root-peppered Hairbag Alley and the Minturn Mile – a long off-piste section that allows skiers to thunder down a creek to the town of Minturn and its lively saloon – are also great options for the advanced skier to explore.
But experienced skiers don't have the terrain wholly to themselves. There is endless skiing for all levels in Vail, with the vast Back Bowls enabling intermediates to get to grips with powder skiing, while the pistes at the front that snake through the trees are a paradise for mid-level enthusiasts.
Vail ski resort also has excellent beginner slopes, with novice skiers able to progress on to the good variety of green runs, including the winding Flap Jack route from the top of the Highline Express lift.
Snowboarders have three terrain parks, the largest of which, Golden Peak, is below the Riva Bahn chairlift and is home to two halfpipes and a range of jibs, boxes and rails.
Beaver Creek is included on the same lift pass, but there's the chance to purchase the Epic Pass ticket offering multiple resort access – costing little more than a regular six-day pass.
With the exception of Back Bowls, the resort is relatively snowsure with a season lasting from mid-November until late April.