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Vail, Colorado
Vail front side.jpg
Buildings in Vail, Colorado 1.jpg
Gore Creek Drive - Vail, CO (cropped).jpg
Top to bottom: Vail Ski Resort, Lionshead district, Vail village
Flag of Vail, Colorado
Location of Vail in Eagle County, Colorado
Location of Vail in Eagle County, Colorado
Country United States
State Colorado
County Eagle
Incorporated 1966
 • Type Home rule municipality
 • Total 4.72 sq mi (12.23 km2)
 • Land 4.71 sq mi (12.19 km2)
 • Water 0.01 sq mi (0.04 km2)
8,150 ft (2,484 m)
 • Total 4,835
 • Density 1,024.4/sq mi (395.34/km2)
Time zone UTC−7 (MST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−6 (MDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 970
FIPS code 08-80040
GNIS feature ID 0202339
Website Town of Vail

Vail is a home rule municipality in Eagle County, Colorado, United States. The population of the town was 4,835 in 2020. The town, home to Vail Ski Resort, the largest ski mountain in Colorado, is known for its hotels, dining, and for the numerous events the city hosts annually, such as the Vail Film Festival, Burton US Open, Vail Resorts Snow Days, and Bravo! Vail.


10th Mountain Division in Vail
The "Ski Trooper" bronze sculpture by Scott Stearman in Slifer Plaza honors soldiers of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division, which trained in the area during World War II.

Vail was incorporated in 1966, four years after the opening of Vail Ski Resort. The ski area was founded by Pete Seibert and local rancher Earl Eaton in 1962, at the base of Vail Pass. The pass was named after Charles Vail, the highway engineer who routed U.S. Highway 6 through the Eagle Valley in 1940, which eventually became Interstate 70. Seibert, a New England native, served in the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division during World War II, which trained at Camp Hale, 14 miles south of Vail between Red Cliff and Leadville. He was wounded in Italy at the Battle of Riva Ridge but went on to become a professional skier after he recovered.

Seibert, with other former members of the 10th Mountain Division, returned to Colorado after World War II with the intention of opening a ski resort. During training for ski troopers at Camp Hale, he bivouacked on Vail Mountain and identified it as an ideal ski mountain. In the early 1960s, Seibert raised funds from a group of Denver investors, including Jack Tweedy, and with Earl Eaton bought a ranch at the base of the mountain and eventually incorporated as Vail Associates. As plans continued for a new ski resort, Seibert hired Morrie Shepard as Vail's first ski school director. Shortly after, Shepard recruited Rod Slifer from Aspen to be assistant ski school director. Slifer also became the only real estate broker in the early years of Vail and would later be the broker in the transaction that allowed Vail to buy a ranch, now known as the world-famous Beaver Creek.

In December 1962 Vail officially opened for its first season. It operated a gondola lift and two ski lifts on the mountain owned by the United States Forest Service. The village was established at the base of the mountain for local residents and offered lodging for visitors. It quickly grew throughout the valley with housing added first in East Vail and then West Vail, and additional lodging added in Lionshead in the late 1960s. Within the first years the village had a ski shop operated by John Houserman, a hotel and restaurant operated by Pepi Gramshammer, and the mountain had a manager. By 1969 Vail was the most popular ski resort in the state. In 1988 Vail opened China Bowl, making Vail the largest ski area in North America.


Vail's average elevation is 8,150 feet (2484 m) above sea level. The town has a total area of 4.5 square miles (12 km2), with no lakes (there is, however, at least one pond). Gore Creek flows from east to west through the center of town.

The town is surrounded by the White River National Forest and the Vail Ski Resort is leased from the United States Forest Service. Mount of the Holy Cross is visible from Vail Mountain.

Vail Mountain

See also: Vail Ski Resort

Vail Mountain rises from 8,120 feet (2,476 m) to 11,570 feet (3,527 m), giving a vertical rise of 3,450 feet (1,052 m). It has a 5,289 acres (2,140 ha) skiable area, 33 ski lifts, 193 marked skiing trails on three faces: the front side, the back bowls, and Blue Sky Basin. The seven back bowls are Sun Down Bowl, Sun Up Bowl, Teacup Bowl, China Bowl, Siberia Bowl, Inner Mongolia Bowl, and Outer Mongolia Bowl. Blue Sky Basin includes Pete's Bowl and Earl's Bowl—to commemorate Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton.


Climate data for Vail, Colorado
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 51
Average high °F (°C) 29.0
Average low °F (°C) 5.7
Record low °F (°C) −21
Precipitation inches (mm) 1.87
Snowfall inches (cm) 33.8
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 inch) 12 12 9 10 9 8 10 12 10 7 10 10 119
Source: Western Regional Climate Center

Vail has warm summers and cold winters because of its elevation. Depending on the classification used, it is either an alpine or subarctic climate transitional with humid continental due to the mild daytime temperatures in September bringing the daily mean to around 50 °F (10 °C). Minimum temperatures rarely rise above freezing point from late September to late May. The town receives an average of 200 inches of snowfall per season, with even more in the surrounding mountains. Roads may close occasionally during heavy snowfall. Summer temperatures can reach the 80s, but are more often in the mid to high 70s. Combined with mountain breezes, this makes summers refreshing and cool. For being a borderline subarctic climate daytime temperatures are very mild, indicating high diurnal temperature variation due to the altitude.


Vail is served by Eagle County Airport near Gypsum, 30 miles (48 km) to the west. Native Americans used to call the area near the airport the "hole in the sky" because storms seemed to avoid it. Vail is modeled on European ski towns, many of which are car-free, and the town is partially pedestrianized. The town operates the largest free shuttle bus system in the United States and has ten hybrid-electric buses. At each bus stop, a sign reports when the next two buses will arrive.

The in-Town Shuttle provides service every five minutes during peak winter times, and every 15 minutes off-peak, between Golden Peak, Vail Village, the business district, and Lionshead, with live schedule information provided at bus stops by Global Positioning System technology, which tracks buses. Other routes centering on the Transportation Center service the East and West Vail districts on a scheduled, but less frequent basis.

Eagle County provides bus service from the Transportation Center with service to Vail, Leadville, Minturn, Eagle-Vail, Avon, Beaver Creek, Edwards, Eagle, Gypsum and Dotsero.

The Colorado Department of Transportation, though its Bustang program, provides intercity transportation to Vail along its West Line. The West Line goes from Denver to Grand Junction and back.


Interstate 70 runs east–west through the middle of Vail and is the only road to or from Vail, with exits at East Vail, at the base of Vail Pass, the town of Vail, and West Vail. From the east, the highway comes from Denver, 97 miles (156 km) away, passes through Eisenhower Tunnel and over the Continental Divide, by-passing Loveland Pass, and over Vail Pass, dropping down into Vail Valley. To the west, it meets U.S. Highway 24 at Dowd Junction, passes through Avon, Edwards, Colorado, and Eagle, through Glenwood Canyon traveling and on to Grand Junction, and reaches Utah, where it ends at the intersection with Interstate 15.

In West Vail, U.S. Highway 6 (which still exists as a service road between East Vail, Vail, and West Vail) merges with I-70 at Dowd Junction. I-70 roughly follows the original Highway 6 route until the two highways diverge again in Silverthorne, 31 miles (50 km) to the east.


The view from Vail Pass (2588659728)
Vail Pass is one of Colorado's mountain passes located in the Rocky Mountains, and carries I-70 between Copper Mountain (pictured) and Vail.
Historical population
Census Pop.
1970 484
1980 2,261 367.1%
1990 3,659 61.8%
2000 4,531 23.8%
2010 5,305 17.1%
2020 4,835 −8.9%
U.S. Decennial Census 2020

The 2000 census found 4,531 people, 2,165 households, and 762 families living in the town. The population density was 999.0 people per square mile (385.3/km2). There were 5,389 housing units at an average density of 1,188.1 per square mile (458.3/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 94.13% White, 0.29% African American, 0.49% Native American, 1.66% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 1.43% from other races, and 1.92% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 6.20% of the population.

There were 2,165 households in which 11.8% had children under the age of 18, 30.0% were married couples, 3.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 64.8% were non-families. 33.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 2.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.09 people and the average family size was 2.62 people.

The population age distribution was 9.9% people under the age of 18, 14.8% from 18 to 24, 47.9% from 25 to 44, 22.6% from 45 to 64, and 4.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. There were 140.1 males for every 100 females, and 143.0 males for every 100 females age 18 and over.

The median household income was $56,680, and the median family income was $66,389. Men had a median income of $33,534 versus $32,065 for women. The per capita income for the town was $42,390. About 1.8% of families and 6.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 0.9% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those aged 65 or over.

Arts and culture

Notable cultural events

Taste of Vail, First week of April: The iconic food and wine event of Vail

Museums and other points of interest

  • Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
  • Colorado Ski Museum
  • Steadman-Hawkins clinic — World-renowned clinic for knee injuries
  • Vail Ski Resort
  • Vail Nature Center

Pop Culture

Vail, Colorado is featured in the music video "Walk This Way" by MØ. In the video, MØ can be seen wearing a crew cut sweatshirt with "Vail, Colorado" written across the front.


The Vail economy relies heavily on tourism. The main attraction in Vail is winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding on the mountain, in addition to snowmobiling and snowshoeing, among many other winter sports. Vail is also a summer resort and golfing center. Summer activities include guided hikes, mountain biking, horseback riding, carriage rides and fishing. Vail is also developing as a cultural center, with various art and music venues active throughout the summer. The town has a developed culinary center, with a variety of restaurants.


Vail's public schools are part of Eagle County School District RE-50, with high school students attending the nearby Battle Mountain High School in Edwards. Eagle County Schools also offers the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, a joint program with area ski programs for students in grades 5–12 who are involved in competitive skiing and snowboarding. Private schools in the Vail area include Vail Mountain School (K-12), Vail Christian High School (9–12), St. Clare of Assisi Catholic School (K-8), and the Vail Academy (PK-8). Higher education is available at the Vail Eagle Valley campus of Colorado Mountain College.

Notable people

  • Joanna Cameron, actress
  • Toby Dawson, Olympic skier
  • Rob Eaton, musician
  • Laurence D. Fink, businessman
  • Betty Ford, Former First Lady of the United States (1974–1977)
  • Gerald Ford, Former President of the United States (1974–1977)
  • John Glenn, astronaut and politician
  • James Hetfield, musician
  • Buddy Lazier, auto racing driver
  • Brad Ludden, kayaker
  • Seth Morrison, skier
  • Sarah Schleper, Olympic skier
  • Mikaela Shiffrin, Olympic skier
  • Richard Steadman, surgeon
  • Ryan Sutter, fireman, reality show star
  • Trista Sutter, reality show star
  • Oscar Tang, financier
  • Katie Uhlaender, Olympic skeleton racer
  • Lindsey Vonn, Olympic skier

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