Vail’s Opportunities for the Beginning Skier
My first time skiing was nearly 12 years ago. I spent the better part of my day falling on my bum, losing my skis, and crashing into other people. This experience left me bruised, sore and rather reluctant to ever give skiing a second try.
Twelve years later and we’re living in Colorado. Many of the biggest and best ski resorts are within a 2 hour drive of our home. How could we not learn to ski?
After some research for a surprise 10 year anniversary getaway, I found that:
1.) I don’t have to avoid skiing for the rest of my life
2.) I don’t have to make a fool of myself trying to ski (again)
3.) Vail offers a number of opportunities that cater specifically to first timers and beginners to learn how to ski.
I might as well call it my first time skiing since it had been so long.
There were many different options for us to learn to ski, so I did some research on Vail’s website to find what class registration would be the best fit for our budget, level, and schedule.
Vail Ski Lesson Options
At 5,500 acres Vail has room for all levels of skiing, and they don’t skimp when it comes to their ski school.
Ski school in an excellent resource for first time or beginning skiers who want to learn to ski or simply improve their abilities and Vail offers a variety of opportunities to suit those purposes.
Private Lessons – A good option if you have a group of family or friends that want to learn to ski with you. For $775 your group can receive a full day private lesson for up to 6 people with one of Vail’s ski instructors. These lessons are tailored to your individual skill levels and styles. Price does not include lift ticket ($109/day) or equipment rental (starting at $43/day).
3 Day First Timer Package – This option gets you 3 days of group lessons, lift ticket, and equipment rental for $435. This option is a superb value if you plan to ski more than one day. You’re getting 3 group lessons/lift/rental for slightly less than what the cost for 2 would be.
Adult Group Ski Lessons (beginner through advanced) – 1 day of beginner group lessons/lift ticket/rental for $225. Class size is capped at 8 students per instructor.
My first preference was the 3 Day First Timer Package due to the value of getting 3 days of lessons/lift/rental for the price of 2, but unfortunately it didn’t fit my schedule.
I chose 1 day of adult group beginner ski lessons on Saturday. This gave plenty of time for relaxing in Vail with no stressing about arriving at a certain time.
In hindsight I would have life to have found a way to arrange for the kids to get to school so I could make it to Vail in time to arrive for the 9:45 lesson on Friday and take advantage of the value that the 3 Day First Timer Package offered.
Learning to Ski at Vail – Our Ski School Experience
The class met at the top of the Lionshead Gondola. The location of our ski school lesson offered a mountain experience – no learning how to ski on bunny hills at the base of the mountain – and incredible views even on our overcast snowy day.
Our ski instructor, Mladen from Bulgaria, was wonderful. He was knowledgeable about skiing and Vail mountain, but most importantly he was friendly and personable.
He was the kind of teacher that you felt you were friends with even though you were the student and they were the instructor. Everyone in the class learned so much and had fun at the same time!
Additionally, we were lucky to have a member of our group, Augustine from Argentina, who was training to become a ski instructor at Vail which afforded us the opportunity of a 4:1 student to teacher ratio.
The first half of the day was spent learning the basics – how to get in and out of our skis (without doing anything embarrassing), walking in our skis, gliding in our skis, walking down hill, using our poles, and turning.
Nothing exciting, but we still had fun and you can’t ski without doing those things anyway.
After a break for lunch we spent the next few hours going down the bunny hills. I highly recommend learning how to do all of the above before the hills as I was much more successful with the actual skiing once I knew the basics (unlike my first experience heading cold turkey onto the slopes).
Because of my first experience with “skiing,” I was seriously worried that I was going to be the absolute worst in the class. That isn’t a good feeling for anyone and it is hard for the rest of the class to have one participant who is holding everyone else back.
Thankfully, I was not that person.
With Mladen’s excellent instruction, I didn’t fall, crash into anyone, or manage to lose my skis or drop my poles in the process.
It was great to see a ski school of such a world renowned ski resort in action. Vail doesn’t leave the beginning skier hanging and they cater so all ages, not just adults.
There was a class of three 3-5 year olds on the mountain with us. I was so impressed with the patience and skill with which the instructor taught her little skiers. By the end of the day they were doing just as good as most of the adults and having so much fun.
Traveling to and from Vail
For out of towners, Vail is located approximately 120 miles from Denver International Airport. If you fly direct to Eagle Airport, Vail offers a Fly In Ski Free program.
With a boarding pass into Eagle Airport you ski free that very same day. Just present your boarding pass from Eagle Airport at any of several Vail ticket offices.
As Colorado residents located near Boulder, our travel time to Vail was approximately 2 hours.
Close enough that a full day trip of skiing could be had by departing home around 6:30 or 7 and skiing from lift open to lift close. The 115 mile trip, however, was also long enough that I certainly wouldn’t mind making another weekend trip of it.
We primarily traveled I-70 to get there and the roads were smooth sailing on the way in, with very little traffic and no delays through the tunnel.
The way home was marked with snowy roads and snowfall during the first half of the trip.
We’ve done our fair share of driving through the winding snow covered passes of Price Canyon in Utah, where at times I felt my life was in mortal danger.
Getting home from Vail under less than ideal circumstances included none of that “thrill,” thank goodness.
Where to Stay while Skiing Vail
Vail has many options from Condos to luxury hotel resorts. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Four Seasons Resort in Vail (more details to come).
The staff’s kindness and attention to detail, food quality, and room comfort were second to none. I would definitely stay there again and highly recommend the splurge.
Don’t forget to monitor the Four Season’s available offers where they offer a range of deals from 15% off for a 30+ day booking in advance to receiving a complimentary second night stay as well as many vacation package opportunities, such as free three-day lift tickets and ski or snowboard rentals during a 4 night stay.
Disclosure: I received a media rate at the Four Seasons Resort in Vail and one complimentary lesson/lift/rental pass from Vail Mountain.