Call it the price of popularity, but winter holidays and spring break means a crowded Vail, even though the resort is enormous and has the capacity to haul some 50,000 skiers up the hill per hour. It can still get so crowded that the line for Chair 5 in the back bowls is excruciating and you have to throw elbows to find a seat at Two Elk, a ridge-top lodge.
Weekends, in general, are packed with season-pass holders and ski-schoolers from Denver, so if possible, play hooky and come midweek. December and January are, obviously, cold (an average of 26 degrees), and it’s usually either bluebird or snowing furiously. March gets the most snow but also has warmer weather and spring conditions. No matter the weather, Snow Daze (December) and Spring Back to Vail (April) are must-dos, both are annual free concerts packed with appearances by national headliners.
In July, it’s usually a pretty perfect 75, with nights that can drop way down into the 40s and bracing breezes during the day. Summers bring some of Colorado’s best high-mountain cultural festivals to Vail: The Bravo Vail Valley Music Festival (June–August) has hosted the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, and the Vail International Dance Festival (July) showcases companies from as far away as China and Mexico. If you’re looking for something more hardcore, watch pro kayakers, mountain bikers, and trail runners compete in the Teva Mountain Games (June) or sign up to ride the notorious Triple Bypass Bicycle Tour (July), a 120-mile road ride that gains some 10,000 feet in elevation.
The end of April and all of May are consumed by the dreaded, albeit relaxed and inexpensive, mud season. There’s usually not any skiing, and it’s too muddy to hike or bike. Autumn before ski season is a quiet, off-the-beaten-path time for couples to enjoy discount spa days and majestic views without the hustle and bustle of ski lifts.