Vail winter is sure to be as beautiful as ever

2020 has been a year like no other. This will certainly have impacts on Vail’s 2020-2021 ski season. You may be wondering if Vail is open this winter. The answer is yes. And, some of these changes coming this Vail winter may actually be for the better. With skier capacity being better managed, the wide open spaces of the slopes may be more open that ever.

This ski season I am actually celebrating my 20th ski season here in Vail, Colorado. I am as excited as ever to be here. The snow is off to a good start. We are crossing our fingers for that to continue. While 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.

Vail Mountain Winter 2020-2021

Vail Resorts CEO, Rob Katz, announced several operational changes to the winter 2020-2021 ski season for all of their resorts. Reservations are required to access the mountain. To make advance reservations you must purchase an Epic Pass or Epic Day Pass. This is great news in one way. The numbers on the mountain will be much better managed than in past years. You are likely to have those wide open spaces even more to yourself.

Face coverings are required. No one is permitted on the mountain without a face covering. 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.

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

Physical distancing will be managed on lifts by only seating related parties together, or two singles or two doubles on opposite sides of larger lifts or gondola cabins.

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. Food options may be limited. And, guests will be encouraged to bring their own food and water on the mountain with them.

Guests would be wise to reserve ski and snowboard rentals in advance to avoid having to make appointments. The class size of all of group and private lessons will be limited to a maximum six people. Lessons will need to be booked in advance and may not be as available for younger aged children.

Town of Vail Winter 2020-2021

In November the Town of Vail implemented a mask mandate throughout town, even when outdoors.

The town also 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.

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 doing 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 ski days, ski rental and restaurant reservations in advance.

Restaurants will be offering 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. You are likely to travel with fewer people, giving you more quality time with your immediate family. 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

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 look very different this winter. 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. The Vilar Center has been offering shows with reduced capacity. But the headlining events like the Burton Open will have to skip a year.

Crowded Apres bars will be a thing of the past. But, 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. You’ll likely see more of this.

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.

This will be the year of residential style accommodations. 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 2020-2021: What to Know!

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