Vail vs Aspen Snowmass: Which Ski Resort is Best?

Vail and Aspen Snowmass are two of the most popular ski resorts in Colorado, but which is the best for you? In this article I’ll compare these resorts directly in the following categories:

  • Skiable Terrain
  • Ski Level Suitability
  • Snow Quality and Weather
  • Villages and Bases
  • On-Mountain Dining
  • Accommodation
  • Lift Ticket and Rental Prices
  • Location and Travel Times
  • Ski School
  • Ski Season Dates
Vail ski resort

Vail vs Aspen Overview

Aspen Snowmass is a slightly larger resort which consists of four mountains compared to Vail which has a very large single mountain. Vail is better for beginners, whereas Aspen Snowmass is more challenging. Vail is more expensive, has a livelier village and is easier to get to from Denver.

ConsiderationBest Resort
Largest ResortAspen Snowmass 
For BeginnersVail
For IntermediatesVail
For ExpertsAspen Snowmass 
Least Crowded Aspen Snowmass
Liveliest Village Vail
On-Mountain Dining Aspen Snowmass
Easiest to Travel ToVail
ParkingAspen Snowmass
Least ExpensiveAspen Snowmass

Skiable Terrain

Vail is a huge ski resort with one mountain, and it’s actually the third largest single-mountain in the entire U.S. Aspen Snowmass on the other hand is made up of 4 mountains (Aspen, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk).

Snowmass is the largest mountain in the Aspen-Snowmass resort with 3332 acres of skiable terrain (60% of the total acreage), followed by Aspen Highlands with 1040 acres, Aspen with 675 acres and Buttermilk with 470 acres. Check out this article for a comparison between Aspen and Snowmass mountain.

Here is a table comparing the mountain statistics for each resort.

The Aspen Snowmass statistics are combined for all four mountains in the resort for skiable acreage, total runs, lifts and terrain parks. The highest value is given for vertical drop, base/ summit elevation which is taken from Snowmass mountain.

StatisticVailAspen Snowmass
Skiable Terrain5,289 acres5,517 acres
Vertical Drop3,450 ft4,406 ft
Base Elevation8,120 ft8104 ft
Summit Elevation11,570 ft12,510 ft
Total Runs195332
Longest Run6.4 km8.5 km
Terrain Parks23
Lift Operating Hours9:00 – 3:309:00 – 3:30
Snowboarding AllowedYesYes
Night Skiing AvailableNoYes
Vail vs Aspen Snowmass Mountain Statistics
Aspen mountain

Ski Level Suitability

For Beginners

For beginner skiers and snowboarders, Vail is a better resort compared to Aspen Snowmass.

On Vail, 18% of the total trails are “green circle”. It’s not the most beginner-friendly mountain in the USA, but it is definitely one of the better options in Colorado for those learning to ski.

Aspen mountain does not have any green circle runs at all, and only 6% of the trails are for beginners on Snowmass, and 18% on the smaller mountain Aspen Highlands. If you are a beginner and plan to go to Aspen Resort, you’ll prefer Buttermilk mountain, which although very small, has a 25% share of green circle runs.

For Intermediates

For intermediate-level skiers and snowboarders looking for plenty of “blue square” terrain, it’s really tough to split these two resorts and there’s plenty of terrain at either.

On the one hand, Aspen Snowmass has more “blue square” runs, however the lack of “green circle” runs can make things more difficult for those who are just making the transition. If you head to Snowmass though you’ll still have plenty of options. Vail is great for intermediates, although has a smaller share of blue square trails in comparison.

For Experts

Vail has a higher percentage of black diamond and double black diamond runs compared to Aspen Snowmass, however both resorts are excellent for advanced skiers and snowboarders looking for a challenge.

I’d give the slight edge to Aspen Snowmass though, as it has a larger vertical drop and if you don’t want any beginners in your way, you’ll really like Aspen mountain as it is made up entirely of intermediate and expert trails. The ability levels are more varied on Vail as it is a single-mountain resort.

Vail ski resort

Snow Quality and Weather

The snow quality is great at both Vail and Aspen, and they are both reliable. Both resorts get over 300″ of snowfall annually, and they have a lot of north-facing slopes and a high elevation which keeps the quality of the snow high throughout the season.

Here is a table showing the average snow depth (combined for base and summit) and snowfall per month for both locations.

MonthSnow Depth VailSnow Depth AspenSnowfall VailSnowfall Aspen
Average data from

The climate is pretty similar in Vail and Aspen and you can expect similar temperatures in both resorts as the elevations are almost the same at the base. Here is a table showing the average temperature by month.

MonthTemperature VailTemperature Aspen
November-7.2°C (19°F)-6.0°C (21.2°F)
December-11.9°C (10.5°F)-10.4°C (13.4°F)
January-11.1°C (12°F)-9.6°C (14.7°F)
February-9.8°C (14.4°F)-8.4°C (16.8°F)
March-5.7°C (21.8°F)-4.3°C (24.3°F)
April-1.9°C (28.5°F)-0.6°C (31°F)
Average data from
Snowmass mountain

Villages and Bases

Vail is a huge resort which has a European vibe and two main villages: Vail Village and Lionshead Village. It has a bustling atmosphere with over 80 dining locations, 3 spas and plenty of shops. You are also only around 20 minutes away from Beaver Creek resort if you’re looking for even more to do.

If you go to Aspen Snowmass, you have the choice of basing yourself at either Aspen or Snowmass. Aspen is a lively town with great nightlife, more shops, activities restaurants so it is usually the best choice for those looking for plenty to do. Snowmass on the other hand is much quieter and more charismatic.

Aspen Snowmass tends to be less crowded compared to Vail, with it being farther from Denver, so if you prefer a quieter atmosphere, head to Aspen. With that said, both resorts are very popular so don’t expect either of them to be empty!

Aspen is a bit more upmarket and you’ll probably feel the need to get a bit more dressed up for an evening in the village compared to Vail which has a little bit more a casual feel.

Here are some YouTube video tours of each resort so you can get a feel for them.

Vail Village

Aspen Snowmass Village

On-Mountain Dining

When it comes to on-mountain dining, Aspen Snowmass offers a better experience. The main Snowmass mountain has 5 dining locations which vary from casual grab-and-go salads and pizzas, you table service restaurants. Aspen also has 3 on-mountain dining locations. Vail does have some on-mountain dining, but it’s limited to two self-service casual American-style dining locations.

Vail On-Mountain Dining

The CoopSelf Service$-$$Casual American
Talon’s Deck Outdoor GrillSelf Service$Classic American

Aspen Snowmass On-Mountain Dining

High AlpineSelf Service$-$$Grab-and-Go
Elk CampSelf Service$-$$$Grab-and-Go
Up 4 PizzaSelf Service$-$$Pizza
Sam’sTable Service$$-$$$Italian
Lynn Britt CabinTable Service$$$Modern American
Bonnie’sSelf/ Table Service$-$$American
SundeckSelf/ Table Service$-$$American, Mediterranean, Asian
Ajax TavernTable Service$$-$$$French, American
Vail ski resort


In Vail you can stay in either of the two villages or in the ski-in-ski-out accommodation. There’s plenty of choice but it is all fairly expensive (similarly to Aspen Snowmass).

Many visitors prefer to stay in Aspen rather than Snowmass because it has more dining, shopping and nightlife in comparison to Snowmass. It’s typical to ski at either mountain during the day and then spend the evening in Aspen as there is more going on.

Average cost of accommodation for 2 adults in January per night:

  • Vail: $275-$1000
  • Snowmass: $275-$1000
  • Aspen: $250-$1800 per night

Lift Ticket and Rental Prices

Lift tickets are cheaper at Aspen compared to Vail. Please see the table below for info.

Note: the lift ticket prices vary throughout the season. I’ve picked the same dates for a comparison (Jan-Feb) but make sure you check the resort website for exact prices for your stay. The Aspen tickets include access to all four mountains.

Ticket Price Day LiftVailAspen
Adult (Weekday)$229$219
Child (Weekday)$158$154
Senior (Weekday)$219$154
Adult (Weekend)$260$234
Child (Weekend)$179$169
Senior (Weekend)$250$169
Equipment Rental (Daily)VailAspen
Demo Ski Package$87$79
Sport Ski Package$67$63

Costs are based on the most recent ski season at the time of writing and are subject to change. Based on daily rates when buying in-advance online (better value for money offers are available when booking for multiple days). Please check the resort websites for up to date prices. Prices are in US dollars.

Location and Travel Times

Aspen and Vail are both located in Colorado, with the closest major city being Denver. The resorts are roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes away from each other (drive time), with Aspen being the farthest from Denver.

If you’re travelling internationally, Vail is much easier to get to than Aspen, as it is a lot closer to Denver International Airport. If you’re taking a local flight, both are very convenient and have transfer times of less than one hour.

There is free all-day parking available in Aspen Snowmass and overnight parking costs $30/ night. Vail charges $30/ day for parking and overnight parking costs $25-$50 (depending on how close you need to be to the village).

AirportDrive Time to VailDrive Time to Aspen
Denver2 hours3 hours 45 mins
Colorado Springs2 hours 50 mins3 hours 40 mins
Eagle County40 mins1 hours 15 mins
Aspen-Piktin1 hour 45 mins10 mins
Snowmass ski resort

Ski School

Ski school lessons are cheaper at Aspen Snowmass ski resort compared to Vail. Here is a table comparing the prices for the latest ski season (23/24) during mid-season.

Lesson TypeVailAspen
Child Group (Half Day)$223N/A
Child Group (Full Day)$334$284
Adult Group (Half Day)$207N/A
Adult Group (Full Day)$278$284
Private All Ages (Half Day)$906$806
Private All Ages (Full Day)$1251$1041

Please check the resort websites for up to date prices. Prices are in US dollars.

Ski Season Dates

Vail typically has a longer ski season compared to Aspen, as it opens 1-2 weeks earlier and usually closes a week later. Here are the ski season dates for the last 5 years.

SeasonVail OpenAspen OpenVail CloseAspen Close
22/2311th Nov19th Nov23rd Apr23rd Apr
21/2212th Nov25th Nov1st May17th Apr
20/2120th Nov25th Nov18th Apr25th Apr
19/2015th Nov23rd Nov14th Mar*14th Mar*
18/1914th Nov22nd Nov21st Apr21st Apr

Which Resort is Best for You?

You can’t really go wrong with either option here, unless you’re a total beginner in which case Vail is your best bet.

Vail is good if you are looking for:

  • More beginner terrain
  • A more bustling village atmosphere
  • Short travel time from Denver

Aspen Snowmass is best if you want:

  • Less crowded slopes
  • More challenging terrain
  • Cheaper lift, rental and lesson prices

Make sure you check out my other Colorado ski resort comparisons:

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