Vail vs Telluride Ski Resort: Which Should You Visit?


Vail and Telluride ski resorts are both located in Colorado, but they’re pretty far away from each other and offer different experiences.

I’ll be comparing these two resorts in depth in terms of their terrain, villages, accessibility, value for money and more in this complete guide so you can decide which to spend your ski season at.

Vail vs Telluride Ski Resorts

Vail is a much larger resort compared to Telluride, but it is also more expensive. Telluride is quieter and more relaxed with amazing scenery, whereas Vail is typically better for beginners and is the easiest resort to travel to for most people.

Aspect of the ResortBest Resort
For Beginner SkiersVail
For Advanced SkiersTelluride
SceneryTelluride
Snow QualityVail
Ski Season LengthVail
Things to Do Off the SlopesVail
Least Busy and Most RelaxingTelluride
On Mountain Dining OptionsTelluride
Accommodation OptionsVail
Best Value for MoneyTelluride
Easiest to Travel ToVail
Vail vs Telluride for skiing
Telluride Ski Resort

Skiing Terrain and Experience

Vail is a much larger mountain compared to Telluride with 5289 skiable acres compared to 2000 acres. Vail has 195 runs whereas Telluride has 127 runs. However, Telluride has a steeper vertical drop of 3,845 ft compared to Vail’s vertical drop of 3,450 ft.

Vail and Telluride have a pretty even split of beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert skiing terrain so they’re both good resorts for mixed abilities. However, for novices, Vail is better than Telluride as it has more beginner-friendly slopes and isn’t as steep.

Telluride is a great resort for more experienced skiers looking for a challenge as it is pretty steep, but there’s terrain for advanced and expert level skiers at both resorts.

One notable advantage of Telluride over Vail is that it is not as crowded. This can really affect the experience especially if you’re visiting on weekends or during the holiday season. Telluride also has nicer scenery in most people’s opinion which is big draw of the resort.

Both Vail and Telluride allow snowboarders and have terrain parks, although Telluride has three parks compared to Vail’s two parks. Unfortunately, neither Vail or Telluride offer night skiing. One small advantage of Telluride is that the lifts are open 30 minutes later than in Vail.

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

StatisticsVailTelluride
Skiable Terrain5,289 acres2000 acres
Vertical Drop3,450 ft3,845 ft
Base Elevation8,120 ft8,725 ft
Summit Elevation11,570 ft12,570 ft
Total Runs195127
Green Circle Trails (Beginner)35 (18%)29 (23%)
Blue Square Trails (Intermediate) 57 (29%)46 (36%)
Black/ Double Black Diamond Trails (Expert)103 (53%)52 (41%)
Longest Run6.4 km7.4 km
Terrain Parks23
Lifts3118
Lift Operating Hours9:00 – 3:309:00 – 4:00
Night Skiing AvailableNoNo
Vail vs Telluride Mountain Statistics

Snow Quality and Weather

The snow quality in Vail and Telluride is quite comparable but I’d give the edge to Vail.

Vail ski resort has a lot of north-facing terrain which means the snow is well preserved in the latter stages of the ski season, hence it stays open for longer compared to Telluride. It also gets more snow at the start of the season too.

Telluride doesn’t receive as much snowfall per season as Vail, however the snow quality is still good as the elevation is greater and at least 50% of the terrain faces north.

MonthTemperature in VailTemperature in TellurideSnowfall in VailSnowfall in Telluride
November-7.2°C (19°F)-6°C (21.2°F)24″17″
December-11.9°C (10.5°F)-10.3°C (13.5°F)56″52″
January-11.1°C (12°F)-9.7°C (14.5°F)50″45″
February-9.8°C (14.4°F)-9.3°C (15.2°F)49″53″
March-5.7°C (21.8°F)-6.1°C (21.1°F)45″50″
April-1.9°C (28.5°F)-2.9°C (26.8°F)24″5″
Average data from en.climate-data.org and onthesnow.com
Vail Ski Resort

Ski Season Length and Dates

Vail has a longer ski season compared to Telluride. Vail typically opens in mid-November, whereas Telluride only opens in late-November or early-December. Vail also stays open later into the year as the ski season typically ends in late-April whereas Telluride usually closes in early-April.

SeasonVail OpenedTelluride OpenedVail ClosedTelluride Closed
22/23*11th Nov24th Nov24th Apr2nd Apr
21/2212th Nov3rd Dec1st May3rd Apr
20/2120th Nov26th Nov18th Apr4th Apr
19/2015th Nov28th Nov14th Mar14th Mar
18/1914th Nov22nd Nov21st Apr7th Apr
Ski season length and date comparison of Telluride and Vail. 2022/23 dates are predicted

Village, Restaurants and Activities

Vail ski resort is designed to look more like a European resort and has two main villages: Vail Village and Lionshead Village. The resort is always busy and is massive with over 80 dining locations, 14 shops, and 3 spas. It is also very close to other major resorts such as Beaver’s Creek so you won’t be short of things to do.

Telluride is a very picturesque and it has a more relaxed vibe compared to Vail. It has 18 dining/ drinking locations in the village, a spa and some local shops. It’s certainly not as big or exciting as Vail, but many people prefer its rustic charm.

Here’s a list of the winter activities available at both resorts.

ActivityAvailable at Vail ResortAvailable at Telluride Resort
Cross-Country SkiingYesYes
Snowshoe ToursYesYes
Gondola RidesYesYes
Dog Sled ToursYesYes
Fat BikingYesYes
Ice Fishing (Guided)YesYes
Horse Drawn Sleigh RidesYesYes
Ice SkatingYesYes
Helicopter SkiingYesYes
Hot SpringsYesYes
Snowmobile ToursYesYes
Winter activities available at Vail and Telluride ski resorts

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

Vail Village

Telluride Village

On Mountain Dining

Telluride has 7 on-mountain dining locations whereas Vail only has 2 on-mountain restaurants and 1 bar. The restaurants on Telluride mountain are also open in the evening unlike on Vail mountain. Here are some summary tables of the options at each resort.

Vail On-Mountain Dining

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

Telluride On-Mountain Dining

LocationTypeCuisinePrice
High Camp Warming HutSelf-ServiceCasual American$-$$
Big Billie’sSelf-ServiceClassic American$-$$
Giuseppe’sSelf-ServiceCasual American$-$$
Gorrono RanchSelf-ServiceClassic American$-$$
Bon VivantTable ServiceFrench$$$
Alpino VinoTale ServiceEuropean$$$
Allred’sTable ServiceContemporary$$$
On-mountain dining locations in Telluride

Accommodation

Both resorts offer lodges and hotel rooms, however there are far more accommodation options available in Vail resort compared to Telluride. However, the accommodation in Telluride is typically less expensive in comparison to Vail.

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

  • Telluride: $175-$600
  • Vail: $275-$1000
Vail Ski Resort

Locations and Getting There

Telluride and Vail ski resorts are both located in Colorado but are a 4.5 hour drive away from one another. Vail is further North East and closer to Denver and Colorado Springs. Telluride is a bit more isolated but closer to Utah and Albuquerque.

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

By Plane

Vail is a much easier resort to get to by plane compared to Telluride. Vail can be accessed via shuttle bus from Denver International Airport, but Telluride which require a connecting flight to the closest regional airport.

  • The closest airport to Vail is Eagle Regional Airport which is a 40 minute drive away. The closest major airport to Vail is Denver International Airport which is a 2 hour drive away.
  • Excluding Telluride Regional Airport which is very small, the closest airport to Telluride is Montrose Regional Airport which is a 1.5 hour drive away. The nearest major airport to Telluride is Denver International Airport which is a 7 hour drive so a connecting flight to Montrose which takes 1 hour is the best option.

By Car

There is free all-day parking available in Telluride but not in Vail. However, parking spaces are more abundant in Vail so it’s usually easier to find a spot simply due to the amount of space available.

Vail is more accessible by car from most major locations compared to Telluride. Vail is also much closer to Aspen/ Snowmass ski area, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Steamboat ski resorts if you want to visit other areas during your trip. Telluride is not close enough to the other resorts to visit there as part of your stay.

LocationDrive Time to VailDrive Time to Telluride
Beaver Creek Ski Resort20 mins4 hours 30 mins
Keystone Ski Resort45 mins5 hours 10 mins
Breckenridge Ski Resort45 mins5 hours 15 mins
Denver1 hour 50 mins6 hours 30 mins
Steamboat Ski Resort1 hour 50 mins5 hours 30 mins
Aspen/ Snowmass Ski Resort2 hours4 hours 30 mins
Boulder2 hours7 hours
Colorado Springs2 hours 35 mins5 hours 45 mins
Albuquerque6 hours 30 mins5 hours 30 mins
Utah6 hours 15 mins6 hours 15 mins
Drive times from key locations to Vail and Telluride ski resorts
Telluride

Ski Schools

Vail and Telluride both have excellent ski schools and offer group and private lessons for all ages.

Telluride ski school lessons are typically cheaper in comparison to Vail’s ski school lessons, with the only exception being the full-day adult group lesson. However, Vail does offer a half-day children’s group lesson unlike Telluride, which is of course cheaper than the full-day session.

The price for each lesson can vary as some may be taken in either the morning or afternoon, with afternoon sessions being the cheaper option.

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

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.

Lesson TypeVail PriceTelluride Price
Child Group (Half Day)$210N/A
Child Group (Full Day)$315-$408$275-$335
Adult Group (Half Day)$185$150-$185
Adult Group (Full Day)$248$295
Private All Ages (Half Day)$855 (for 1-6 people)$605-$750 (for 1-5 people)
Private All Ages (Full Day)$1180 (for 1-6 people)$1075 (for 1-5 people)
Vail vs Telluride ski school lessons and prices

Tickets and Rentals

Day lift ticket prices are cheaper at Telluride compared to Vail. On average, a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) will save $158 when visiting for a single day at Telluride compared to Vail. Equipment rental prices at Telluride and Vail are very similar, but Vail is ever so slightly cheaper.

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

Ticket Price Day Lift VailTelluride
Adult (Weekday)$208$209
Child (Weekday)$144$106
Senior (Weekday)$198$160
Adult (Weekend)$247$219
Child (Weekend)$170$119
Senior (Weekend)$237$179
Comparison of the day lift ticket prices between Vail and Telluride ski resorts
Equipment Rental (Daily)VailTelluride
Demo Package (Skis, Poles, Boots)$66$70
Performance Package (Skis, Poles, Boots)$58$61
Sport Package (Skis, Poles, Boots)$50$52
Junior Package (Skis, Poles, Boots)$37$39
Helmet$10$10
Vail vs Telluride 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 comes down to what kind of ski trip you’re looking for.

If you want to visit a massive village and mountain with loads of skiable terrain then Vail is the best option. However, if you’re looking for a less busy resort with more rustic charm and a relaxing vibe then Telluride will suit you best.

Other things to keep in mind are that Telluride is cheaper overall, but Vail is easier to get to from most locations.

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.

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