One of the world’s most famous resorts and for many the top resort in North America, Vail is a surprisingly young resort, conceived in 1962 by a gentleman called Peter Seibert. In being wholly purpose-built rather than claiming some tenuous link to the ‘Old West’ it differs from many other famous Colorado ski resorts.
It’s different again from the other Colorado resorts that have been started from scratch in that Mr Seibert did a rather nice job – creating a US resort with an Alpine village feel and an ambience that the majority of North American ski centres sadly lack. He was helped on his way by the first business owners in the area – many of them from Austria and Germany, anxious to recreate a little of what they missed from home. The centre of what is now a town has been pedestrianised, further enhancing the holiday atmosphere.
Due to its incredible success the resort has inevitably spread out along the sides of the I 70 valley in both directions, with modern developments linked by an efficient shuttle bus to the central Vail Village. More than 4000 staff are now employed by Vail Resorts alone. The resort has also spawned new resorts such as up-market Beaver Creek and the developments at Arrowhead and Bachelor Gulch, as well as buying up near neighbours in recent years, including Breckenridge and Keystone – creating a very appealing group resort lift ticket in the process.
Indeed Vail is marketed very much as a ‘Valley’. Apart from the resort’s own developments they include revitalised original settlements such as the former rail centre at Minturn, home of quaint art galleries and a winery and the tiny community of Redcliff, an 1890s gold-mining centre in a picturesque canyon over Battle Mountain Pass.
Avon, between Vail and Beaver Creek (10 miles/16km apart) has developed from a ranching community into the administrative and commercial heart of Vail Valley. Beaver Creek, still marketed alongside Vail, has very much established itself as a unique resort in its own right whilst the newer-still Arrowhead, closest to the local Eagle County Airport, is centred around a Jack Nicklaus-designed Country Club of the Rockies. Because of Vail’s phenomenal success, building in the area shows no sign of slowing, to the alarm of some locals and environmentalists from outside the area who are becoming increasingly vocal in their concerns of ‘over development’.
In common with other Western North American resorts Vail gets huge powder snow falls each season.