Vail vs Breckenridge: Which Ski Resort is the Best?


Vail and Breckenridge are two hugely popular ski resorts near Denver, Colorado but they both offer pretty different experiences and will suit different skiers and snowboarders.

In this article I’ll directly compare them in the following categories:

  • Skiable Terrain and Experience
  • Snow Quality and Weather
  • Ski Season Dates
  • Village and Bases
  • On-Mountain Dining
  • Accommodation
  • Location and Getting There
  • Ski Schools
  • Lift Ticket and Equipment Rental Prices

Vail vs Breckenridge Ski Resorts

Vail is a much larger ski resort compared to Breckenridge with 5289 acres of skiable terrain compared to 2908 acres. Vail is better for beginners and is usually less crowded. However, Breckenridge is excellent for advanced skiers and is significantly cheaper than Vail.

Aspect of the ResortBest Resort
Largest Ski AreaVail
For Beginner SkiersVail
For Intermediate SkiersVail
For Advanced SkiersBreckenridge
Least CrowdedVail
Best Snow QualityBreckenridge
Best VillageVail
Best On-Mountain DiningBreckenridge
Cheapest AccommodationBreckenridge
Easiest to Travel ToVail
Cheapest Lift TicketsBreckenridge
Vail vs Breckenridge for skiing
Breckenridge mountain

Skiing Terrain and Experience

Vail has a much larger ski area compared to Breckenridge with 5,289 acres of skiable terrain compared to 2,908 acres. The runs are longer in Vail so both mountains have a similar amount of trails with Vail having 195 and Breckenridge having 187.

In terms of the difficulty, both mountains have a fairly similar split of beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert terrain, with the focus being on the more difficult terrain on both mountains.

  • For Beginners: Vail has more easy terrain and is more suitable for beginners compared to Breckenridge which is really geared towards skiers with more experience.
  • For Intermediates: again Vail is considerably larger compared to Breckenridge, and hence will provide more skiable terrain for intermediate level riders.
  • For Experts: Breckenridge is the best resort if you’re an advanced skier or snowboarder looking for a challenge. It has excellent black diamond trails and typically attracts more experienced riders.

If park skiing or snowboarding is your thing then you’ll prefer Breckenridge. It has 5 award-winning terrain parks whereas vail only has 2 parks.

Breckenridge and Vail will both get very busy on the weekends and during the holiday season, however Breck usually has the worst queues and feels the most crowded since it has a lot of skiers and far less space and fewer lifts.

Unfortunately, neither Breckenridge nor Vail offer any night skiing.

Please see the table below for a full comparison of the Vail and Telluride mountain statistics.

StatisticsVailBreckenridge
Skiable Terrain5,289 acres2,908 acres
Vertical Drop3,450 ft3,398 ft
Base Elevation8,120 ft9,600 ft
Summit Elevation11,570 ft12,998 ft
Total Runs195187
Green Circle Trails (Beginner)18%14%
Blue Square Trails (Intermediate) 29%31%
Black/ Double Black Diamond Trails (Expert)53%55%
Longest Run6.4 km5.6 km
Terrain Parks25
Lifts3118
Lift Operating Hours9:00 – 3:309:00 – 4:00
Night Skiing AvailableNoNo
Vail vs Breckenridge Mountain Statistics
Vail ski resort

Snow Quality and Weather

Both Breckenridge and Vail have excellent snow reliability.

Roughly 40% of Vail’s terrain faces north which means the snow is well preserved into spring. Breck only has about 20% north-facing terrain, however its higher elevation means the snow quality still remains high.

The snow quality is fairly comparable for both resorts throughout the ski season, but Breckenridge has the edge towards the very end of the season in April.

MonthTemperature in VailTemperature in BreckenridgeSnowfall in VailSnowfall in Breckenridge
November-7.2°C (19°F)-7.9°C (17.7°F)24″30″
December-11.9°C (10.5°F)-12.9°C (9°F)56″60″
January-11.1°C (12°F)-12.1°C (10.1°F)50″57″
February-9.8°C (14.4°F)-11.1°C (12°F)49″57″
March-5.7°C (21.8°F)-7.0°C (19.3°F)45″60″
April-1.9°C (28.5°F)-3.2°C (26.3°F)24″36″
Average data from en.climate-data.org and onthesnow.com
Vail Ski Resort

Ski Season Length and Dates

Breckenridge has a significantly longer ski season compared to Vail. Vail and Breckenridge usually open in mid-November, with Breckenridge sometimes opening a week or so earlier. Breck also stays until late-May whereas Vail typically closes in mid-late April.

Check out the table below for the previous ski season dates.

SeasonVail OpenedBreckenridge OpenedVail ClosedBreckenridge Closed
22/23*11th Nov11th Nov24th Apr30th May
21/2212th Nov12th Nov1st May15th May
20/2120th Nov13th Nov18th Apr23rd May
19/2015th Nov5th Nov14th Mar14th Mar
18/1914th Nov7th Nov21st Apr27th May
Ski season length and date comparison of Breckenridge and Vail. 2022/23 dates are predicted

Village and Base Areas

Vail and Breckenridge offer quite different experiences off the slopes.

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.

On the other hand, Breckenridge doesn’t have a village but is instead located in Breckenridge town (roughly a 15 minute drive away) which has plenty of history and charm. It also feels quite busy and has lots of restaurants, nightlife and shops on offer. You’ll still get plenty of restaurants at the Breckenridge mountain base too.

Which you’ll prefer really depends on what vibe you’re after.

If you want a fully fledged resort with everything at your fingertips, you’ll love Vail. However, if you prefer to stay in a historical town and don’t mind the short travel to the slopes, you’ll enjoy Breckenridge.

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

Vail Village

Breckenridge Village

On Mountain Dining

Breckenridge has much better on-mountain dining compared to Vail. Vail only has two locations which are both self-service, and most of the dining is located at the base. Breckenridge has 4 self-service options and a table service restaurant on the mountain and plenty of other locations at the base.

Here are summaries of the on-mountain dining available at each location.

Vail On-Mountain Dining

LocationTypeCuisinePrice
The CoopSelf-ServiceCasual American$-$$
Talon’s Deck Outdoor GrillSelf-ServiceClassic American$$
On-mountain dining locations in Vail

Breckenridge On-Mountain Dining

Dining LocationTypeCuisinePrice
Pioneer CrossingSelf-ServiceGrill and Latin American$$
Broken Spoke BarSelf-ServiceDrinks Only$
Vista HausSelf-ServiceBBQ$-$$
TenMileSelf-ServiceAmerican$-$$
The OverlookTable ServiceGrill and Asian$$-$$$
On-mountain dining options in Breckenridge

Accommodation

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.

In Breckenridge you can either stay in one of the ski-in-ski-out lodges/ hotels or if you’re looking for a less expensive option you can stay in the local town which is about a 15-minute drive away.

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

  • Vail: $275-$1000
  • Breckenridge: $200-$750

Locations and Getting There

Vail and Breckenridge are both located in Colorado, near Denver and are roughly an hour away from each other by car. Breckenridge is south-east of Vail.

Here’s some information regarding the location of each resort and how to get there.

By Plane

The closest regional airport to Vail and Breckenridge is Eagle County Regional Airport. However, the closest international airport is Denver.

Transfer Time from Eagle Regional Airport:

  • Vail: 40 minutes
  • Breckenridge: 1 hour 30 minutes

Transfer Time from Denver International Airport:

  • Vail: 2 hours
  • Breckenridge: 2 hours

By Car

Breckenridge base offers free parking, unlike Vail which charges $30 per day. However, it is usually easier to find a nearby parking space in Vail compared to Breckenridge. Overnight parking costs $5-$10 in Breckenridge and $25-$50 in Vail (depending on how close you need to be to the village).

Breckenridge and Vail both take a similar amount of time to get to by car from major locations in Colorado.

 LocationDrive Time to VailDrive Time to Breckenridge
Denver1 hour 30 mins1 hour 45 mins
 Colorado Springs2 hours 30 mins2 hours 15 mins
Boulder2 hours2 hours
Fort Collins2 hours 45 mins2 hours 45 mins
Drive time to Vail and Breckenridge ski resorts

Proximity to Other Ski Resorts

Vail is closer to most major ski resorts in Colorado compared to Breckenridge such as Beaver Creek, Steamboat, Aspen Snowmass and Copper Mountain. The only resort Breckenridge is closer to is Keystone.

LocationDrive Time to VailDrive Time to Breckenridge
Beaver Creek Ski Resort20 mins1 hour 10 mins
Keystone Ski Resort45 mins35 mins
Steamboat Ski Resort1 hour 50 mins2 hours 20 mins
Aspen/ Snowmass Ski Resort2 hours2 hours 30 mins
Copper Mountain25 mins35 mins
Drive times from key locations to Vail and Breckenridge ski resorts

Ski Schools

Vail and Breckenridge both offer private and group lessons for all ages and abilities. The ski school lessons are slightly cheaper on average in Breckenridge compared to Vail, except of the half-day children’s group lessons.

Here’s a table summarising the types and prices of lessons on offer.

Lesson TypeVailBreckenridge
Child Group (Half Day)$210$230
Child Group (Full Day)$315-$408$285-$360
Adult Group (Half Day)$185$160
Adult Group (Full Day)$248$195-$210
Private All Ages (Half Day)$855 (for 1-6 people)$805 (1-6 people)
Private All Ages (Full Day)$1180 (for 1-6 people)$1065 (1-6 people)
Vail vs Breckenridge ski school lessons and prices. Price variation is due to age group or ability level.

Costs are based on the most recent ski season at the time of writing and are subject to change. Please check the resort websites for up to date prices. Prices are in US dollars.

Tickets and Rentals

Lift tickets are significantly cheaper at Breckenridge compared to Vail.

Example cost for 2 x adults and 2 x children (weekend)
Vail = $834
Breckenridge = $558

Skiing and snowboarding equipment prices are fairly similar but marginally cheaper at Breckenridge for certain equipment.

Please see the tables below for more information to help you plan your trip.

Ticket Price Day Lift VailBreckenridge
Adult (Weekday)$208$169
Child (Weekday)$144$110
Senior (Weekday)$198$159
Adult (Weekend)$247$169
Child (Weekend)$170$110
Senior (Weekend)$237$159
Comparison of the day lift ticket prices between Vail and Breckenridge ski resorts
Equipment Rental (Daily)VailBreckenridge
Premium Package (Skis, Poles, Boots)$66$66
Basic Package (Skis, Poles, Boots)$50$46
Junior Package (Skis, Poles, Boots)$37$37
Helmet$10$11
Vail vs Breckenridge ski equipment rental price comparison

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.

Which Resort is Best?

It really depends what kind of atmosphere you’re looking for.

If you want to visit a huge ski resort with a bustling village then you’ll love Vail. It also does a better job at handling the crowds and is better for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders.

However, if you want the best value for money in terms of tickets, lessons and accommodation and have more skiing experience then Breckenridge is an excellent choice. It’s also great if you prefer to stay in a more authentic, historical town rather than a more commercialised village.

Here are some more articles you might find useful:

Rosie

I have been a keen skier for a number of years, skiing in different locations around the world, and have a real passion for snow sports. My favourite ski resorts are Lake Louise in Canada and Obergurgl-Hochgurgl in Austria.

Recent Posts