Vail winter is sure to be as beautiful as ever

2021 has continued to be a year that you can’t predict. This will likely have impacts on Vail’s 2021-2022 ski season. The good news is that the reservations system to ski Vail Mountain is no more and Epic Pass prices dropped by 20 percent making skiing possibly less expensive this year.

This ski season I am actually celebrating my 21st ski season here in Vail, Colorado. I am as excited as ever to be here. You may be coming for skiing. But wondering what there is to do during a Vail winter other than just ski. While most people come to Vail for the skiing, there are plenty of other exciting things to do in Vail in the winter.

Vail winter should include building snowmen
Enjoying Vail winter can be as simple as building snowmen, or having a snowball fight.

Vail Resorts has made some announcements of things that will change on the slopes this winter. And, we have some guesses as to other changes. Read on for our best predictions of what to expect in Vail this winter.

Insider Tip: For our predictions of what ski trips will look like throughout the U.S. for the 2021-2022 ski season check out our TravelingMom article.

Vail Mountain Winter 2021-2022

Vail Resorts announced opening dates for Vail, and its other North American resorts. This will be the first year that Vail Mountain plans to gear up its new snow making investments to full capacity. They are planning for a November 12th opening, one of the earliest, if not the earliest on record. Low temperatures will be required to make this happen. And, the Farmers Almanac seems to think that Mother Nature may cooperate,

According to the Farmers Almanac, “Above-average snowfall is also in the forecast along a track from eastern Montana southward through the western halves of the Dakotas and into northeastern Colorado. While temperatures in this midcountry strip will be relatively normal, snowfall will be abundant, with several storms predicted throughout the winter.”

So, do you have to wear face casks in Vail? Face coverings may be required indoors this winter. As of Sept. 7th, 2021  Vail Resorts is implementing an indoor face covering requirement for employees and guests at their resorts. No telling if this will continue into winter. But it is possible. As per federal regulations, masks are required on public transportation such as the convenient free in-town bus system. Other government entities like the Town of Vail have also begun requiring them in their buildings.

Fortunately, skiers already typically wear face coverings. I always make sure that our kids have a neck Gaiter around their neck before heading out to ski. And, our youngest actually prefers a Balaclava when it is extra cold out. It adds extra warmth rather than really being an inconvenience at least while on the mountain.

Skiing may look a little different for Vail winter 2020-2021
Skiing Vail Mountain. Photo courtesy Vail Resorts/ Jack Affleck.

In restaurants, physical distancing will be managed in accordance with public health requirements and the resort will monitor guests coming in and out of restaurants at the entrances. I’d expect food operations to be back to almost full operations possibly with some of the past winter’s innovations still in place.

Visitors should still plan on making reservation for almost everything other than skiing far in advance.

Guests would still be wise to reserve ski and snowboard rentals in advance to avoid having to make appointments. Lessons will need to be booked in advance and may not be as available for younger aged children.

Town of Vail Winter 2021-2022

It remains to be seen whether there will be any mask mandates ordered by government entities. Rather I think we’ll see individual businesses determining policy as Vail Resorts has done.

The town last winter installed state-of-the-art microbial reduction filters in all their town owned buildings and the entire fleet of buses. Buses will likely be running at reduced capacity, just as restaurants. Masks will be required on buses and windows must remain closed for the microbial system to work.

All of these changes will help keep both guests and employees safe. Again, more space to yourself. And, safety as a top priority.

What Do These Changes Mean?

Both the town and the resort are continuing to do all that they can to keep guests and employees safe this winter. Planning ahead will be key to being able to enjoy all that you want to while on your Vail vacation this winter. Book your lodging, ski rental and restaurant far reservations in advance.

Restaurants will likely continue to offer to-go food options. For in-room dining, a space with a dining room table or kitchen for reheating is key.

If you don’t want to take public transportation, you may want to splurge on staying close to the slopes.

But, there will be plenty of upsides. A ski vacation does mean getting out into the fresh mountain air. Doing so also lifts spirits and moods. This winter is an opportunity to make new family memories.

What Else to Do in the Winter in Vail

Don’t worry. There are plenty of things to do in Vail other than skiing. Maybe this winter you will try out some new activities and expand your comfort zone.

Ice Skating

Alderhof Ice skating rink in Vail
Alderhof Ice Rink in the heart of Lionshead Village is one of our favorite Vail Ice skating rinks for families. Photo: Jack Affleck/ Vail Resorts

There are two charming outdoor ice skating rinks in Vail. Strap on a pair of skates and glide around the ice. Or, laugh at your parents trying to skate. Either way it will be fun.

Sledding Fun

Either purchase an inexpensive sled, or get a loaner from your hotel. Head out to a local Vail sledding hill for some fast fun. This is a great way to wear the kids out. Wrap up with hot cocoa to warm back up afterwards.

Pools & Hot Tubs

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Vail hotels offer warm pools and hot tubs perfect for relaxing after a day of chilly winter adventure. You may not think of swimming in the snow as fun. But it is. Especially if there is a great hot tub to wrap up in.

Nordic Skiing

Get your heart pumping and take in the majestic views of the Gore Range with a snowshoe or nordic ski outing at the Vail Nordic Center. Then enjoy a light lunch (or take out lunch) after at the recently renovated Vail Golf & Nordic Clubhouse.

Dog Sledding

Dog sledding at Snow Mountain Ranch. Photo courtesy YMCA of the Rockies.

Go dog sledding. This will require a short drive out of Vail. But it is a one of a kind winter experience. There is an outfitter in Leadville, and a couple of others in Grand County.


There are several guide companies based in Vail who offer snowmobiling tours through snowy White River National Forest. This is an adventurous way to explore the beautiful nature around Vail. Be sure to dress warm, and listen to your guide so you don’t get stuck.

Day Trip to Glenwood Springs

Here you will find relaxing hot springs. These are a unique experience on a snowy day. Or, head up to the Glenwood Caverns and Adventure Park. While not as many rides are open in the winter they do decorate for the holidays. We always find this a fun activity for the entire family.

Vail Restaurant Service

I could go on and on. There really are so many things to do that you can easily enjoy Vail without skiing. There’s snow shoeing. Great restaurants with take-out options. Roast S’mores. Or, just enjoy hot cocoa from your balcony.

Vail Events & Apres

Vail’s line-up of epic events will be back in full force. As will the Apres scene. This summer Vail did a great job of continuing to have live music on a much smaller scale. I hope this is able to continue.

Apres bars will likely be back open. But, they may have restrictions if there is an outbreak. I think people will find creative ways to celebrate the end of the ski day. Last year Vail created a new tradition of bell ringing. Likely that will continue. And, my favorite spot for Apres is a hot tub with just my party.

Free Things to Do in Vail

Believe it or not, there are actually free things to do in Vail. Stay at a hotel with free sled loaners and go sledding. After 3:30 p.m. the gondola is free. Take an evening ride up to the top of the mountain to watch the sun set. Have a snowball fight. Play at a local park. Bring your own ice skates and visit one of the free open air ice skating rinks just down the road in Avon, Edwards and Eagle.

Vail Hotels: Where to Stay

Mountain and streamside hot tubs and heated pool at the Antlers at Vail.
Winter view of the Antlers at Vail pool and hot tubs from a condo above. Photo courtesy Antlers at Vail.

Residential style accommodations will continue to be popular. Private entryways, full kitchens, dining areas and private balconies will all be important amenities. While you can find a home on VRBO or AirBnb, there are several condominium or residential-style hotels near the base of the mountain with more services than a rental home.

Antlers at Vail, Manor Vail, Vail Spa, Lodge at Lionshead and LionsSquare Lodge are all condo-style hotels. But even the 5 star hotels have residential offerings, if that is more your style. Four Seasons, Sebastian, Arrabelle and the Ritz Residences are ones that come to mind.

Vail Winter 2021-2022: What to Know!

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