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 Resort||Best Resort|
|For Beginner Skiers||Vail|
|For Advanced Skiers||Telluride|
|Ski Season Length||Vail|
|Things to Do Off the Slopes||Vail|
|Least Busy and Most Relaxing||Telluride|
|On Mountain Dining Options||Telluride|
|Best Value for Money||Telluride|
|Easiest to Travel To||Vail|
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.
|Skiable Terrain||5,289 acres||2000 acres|
|Vertical Drop||3,450 ft||3,845 ft|
|Base Elevation||8,120 ft||8,725 ft|
|Summit Elevation||11,570 ft||12,570 ft|
|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 Run||6.4 km||7.4 km|
|Lift Operating Hours||9:00 – 3:30||9:00 – 4:00|
|Night Skiing Available||No||No|
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.
|Month||Temperature in Vail||Temperature in Telluride||Snowfall in Vail||Snowfall 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″|
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.
|Season||Vail Opened||Telluride Opened||Vail Closed||Telluride Closed|
|22/23*||11th Nov||24th Nov||24th Apr||2nd Apr|
|21/22||12th Nov||3rd Dec||1st May||3rd Apr|
|20/21||20th Nov||26th Nov||18th Apr||4th Apr|
|19/20||15th Nov||28th Nov||14th Mar||14th Mar|
|18/19||14th Nov||22nd Nov||21st Apr||7th Apr|
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.
|Activity||Available at Vail Resort||Available at Telluride Resort|
|Dog Sled Tours||Yes||Yes|
|Ice Fishing (Guided)||Yes||Yes|
|Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides||Yes||Yes|
Here are some YouTube video tours of each village so you can get a feel for them.
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
|The Coop||Self-Service||Casual American||$-$$|
|Talon’s Deck Outdoor Grill||Self-Service||Classic American||$$|
Telluride On-Mountain Dining
|High Camp Warming Hut||Self-Service||Casual American||$-$$|
|Big Billie’s||Self-Service||Classic American||$-$$|
|Gorrono Ranch||Self-Service||Classic American||$-$$|
|Bon Vivant||Table Service||French||$$$|
|Alpino Vino||Tale Service||European||$$$|
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
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.
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.
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.
|Location||Drive Time to Vail||Drive Time to Telluride|
|Beaver Creek Ski Resort||20 mins||4 hours 30 mins|
|Keystone Ski Resort||45 mins||5 hours 10 mins|
|Breckenridge Ski Resort||45 mins||5 hours 15 mins|
|Denver||1 hour 50 mins||6 hours 30 mins|
|Steamboat Ski Resort||1 hour 50 mins||5 hours 30 mins|
|Aspen/ Snowmass Ski Resort||2 hours||4 hours 30 mins|
|Boulder||2 hours||7 hours|
|Colorado Springs||2 hours 35 mins||5 hours 45 mins|
|Albuquerque||6 hours 30 mins||5 hours 30 mins|
|Utah||6 hours 15 mins||6 hours 15 mins|
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 Type||Vail Price||Telluride Price|
|Child Group (Half Day)||$210||N/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)|
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||Vail||Telluride|
|Equipment Rental (Daily)||Vail||Telluride|
|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|
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.
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