Aspen vs Vail: Which Destination Is Best For You?

If you’re planning a ski trip for your next vacation, two of the absolute best destinations are Aspen and Vail. Set amid the Colorado Rockies, these two towns are known for their world-class ski slopes. You’d be hard-pressed to find a downside to visiting either place, so choosing between the two may be a difficult exercise.

There are, however, many unique aspects to both Aspen and Vail, which may aid you in making your decision. To help you hone in on the right choice for you, this article contains the key elements of each town, such as accommodations and attractions, that you can use to plan your ultimate ski trip. Read on to find out just what these two amazing places have waiting in store for you.

Aspen vs Vail: The Overall feel

The towns of Aspen and Vail have very different feels to them, stemming mostly from their individual histories. Aspen has its history rooted in the Colorado silver rush of the 1870s when it became one of the biggest boomtowns in the state. As such, it has many historical buildings, in addition to the wide variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

Vail has a much shorter history, having only been established in the 1960s, and therefore has much fewer places to explore when not on the slopes. However, this does mean that the atmosphere of Vail is much more subdued. If you’re only interested in skiing and prefer a quiet town feel during the off-hours, Vail might be more your speed.

Aspen vs Vail: The Cost

There’s no two ways about it, a trip to either Aspen or Vail is going to cost you a pretty penny. Both of these ski towns are quite pricey, from accommodations to food and skiing options. For those on a budget, you might find slightly better deals in Vail.

Aspen sports numerous storied hotels, such as the Jerome, and even a single night at one of them will be an expensive venture. It is well worth the money, however, as both Vail and Aspen have some of the most luxurious and beautiful accommodations around.

Aspen vs Vail: The Food

When it comes to dining options, you really can’t go wrong with either Vail or Aspen. Throughout the town (and even on the mountains themselves), you’ll find a huge variety in gourmet restaurants and multicultural dishes, with everything from burgers to Japanese fusion food. In addition, a number of celebrity chefs have restaurants (and even make appearances) in both towns. Ajax Tavern and Pyramid Bistro are popular spots in Aspen, and if you’re in Vail, definitely check out Swiss Chalet.

Aspen vs Vail: Accommodations

If there’s one thing to look forward to when planning a trip to Aspen or Vail (aside from the skiing, of course), it’s the spectacular accommodations available. With a plethora of luxury lodgings at your disposal, a visit to either destination will be a truly memorable experience. Aspen has a number of historic hotels that come with their own particular flairs, such as the Jerome and The Little Nell. Both also have modern, high-class accommodations, such as Ritz-Carlton, and even some condo options.

Aspen vs Vail: The Slopes

The big question when comparing Aspen and Vail is, of course, how the skiing opportunities match up. While both offer fantastic slopes to tackle, each has its own unique aspects that you should take into consideration. The biggest difference between Aspen and Vail is the number of mountains themselves. Where Aspen consists of four mountains (Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass), Vail has only one. The four peaks of Aspen are accessible via shuttle, so getting to each one is not an issue. However, Vail’s solitary mountain is in fact even larger than Aspen’s four mountains combined. While you have a greater diversity of options in Aspen, with each mountain having its own distinct feel, Vail provides every style and level of slope in a single package.

Aspen vs Vail: Nightlife

After you’re finished on the slopes and ready to unwind, you’ll no doubt want for find somewhere for a little post-skiing entertainment. If you’re looking for something posh and elegant, there are plenty of places to choose from in Aspen. Dress your best and grab a cocktail or hit the dance floor. Vail exudes a slightly more laid-back atmosphere, though you’ll still be able to indulge in the amenities of many classy establishments.

Aspen vs Vail: Things to do

When you think of Aspen or Vail, the first thing that comes to mind is almost certainly the ski scene. Both are famous for their well-loved slopes, making them some of the most enviable destinations for skiers across the country. You could certainly spend an entire vacation on the mountains, but there are other activities to partake in, should you be interested. Try out some other winter sports, such as skating and snowboarding, sight-seeing, music festivals, hot air balloon rides and so much more. 

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