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What To Do In Vail Besides Ski | Winter Guide

Vail, Colorado is known for some world class skiing in the winter. So what do you do in Vail if you don’t downhill ski? Well there are tons of other great winter activities that will keep you busy during your stay. So here is the ultimate list for what to do in Vail besides Ski.

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Cross Country Ski:

Emily Cross Country Skiing In Vail, CO

Cross Country Skiing is a little more beginner friendly than downhill skiing. And in Vail, Colorado, you get some stunning views of the Gore Range as you ski along the track at the Vail Nordic Center. So, if strapping on two large skiis and sending it down a big hill doesn’t sound fun to you, maybe cross country skiing is a better idea. And this can be a killer workout too. 

There are two different ways to cross country ski: Classic and Skating. For beginners, classic is the easiest option. Plus there are tracks you get to ride in to make it even easier. You essentially are just walking on skis. The bottom of the ski sticks to the snow and propels you forward as you move the other foot forward. You also have poles to help guide you and keep you balanced.

Skating is a different technique and takes a little more coordination. When cross country skating, you won’t be in the guided tracks, rather skating along the paved path. Push off one foot and glide while you bring the other ski back to do the same on the other foot and repeat the skating motion. 

If you are struggling with what cross country skiing style is best for you, check out this video guide to see what is the right cross country style right for you!

Also, you can book lessons with a professional, so if you want to start off right, maybe consider having a lesson first.

Book your Cross Country Skiing Adventure at the Vail Nordic Center or with Vail Resorts.

Find A Sledding Hill Nearby:

Photo by Brendan Beale on Unsplash

Sledding is a fun winter activity besides skiing that is also free. The challenging part can be finding the right hill though. Especially if you aren’t from the area. And mainly because Vail Resorts doesn’t allow sledding down their hills (and quite frankly, that’d be pretty dangerous). Therefore, I will list a few options for sledding hills in or near Vail. 

There is a great sledding hill near Booth Creek Park that can be great for sledding. Or over in East Vail along the Gore Creek Trail, you can find various pitches and hills that can suit your needs! If you don’t have a vehicle, you can get to both of these locations via the free bus. Both are on the East Vail Bus Route which is free to ride. 

Also, if you have a vehicle, in the town right next door to Vail (Minturn), there is a large hill, behind the parking lot for the Holy Cross Ranger Station. Another great option is in Eagle-Vail, near the clubhouse down to the putting green. So if you are wondering what to do in Vail besides ski, sledding is the perfect alternative! You still get to suit up and enjoy some fun in the snow!

Ride A Fat Bike:

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

A rad winter activity to do in Vail, CO instead of skiing is ride a fat bike. These bikes come equipped with extra large wheels that can handle the snow and not slip and slide everywhere like a normal bike would! You can rent a bike from the Vail Nordic Center and ride around on their recommended paths. 

The Vail Nordic Center offers 13k (8 miles) of groomed fat biking and snowshoe trails including 2.5k of fat biking only groomed trails. And not to mention, the trails offer beautiful mountain views! If you are ready to step up the game and explore different areas of Vail on a fat bike, check out Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance for other biking trails.

Eagle’s Nest Tubing: 

Photo by Amy Tran on Unsplash

Tubing at Eagle’s Nest is especially fun if you are traveling with kids. But that is not to say a group of adults can’t have just as much fun tubing! Eagle’s Nest is located on top of Lionshead in Vail. There is a complimentary gondola ride after 3:30pm up to the top of the mountain via the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Otherwise the cost for a scenic gondola ride is $50 per adult and $35 for children aged 5-12 before 3:30pm.

Participants must be 42 inches tall and over the age of 5 years old to go down the tubing hill. There are 2 different tubing option. Option 1, costs $50 and you get 3 runs down the tubing hill. Or for $80, you can get unlimited tubing. Tubing is the perfect winter activity for what to do in Vail besides ski.

Find A Snowshoeing Trail:

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

Snowshoeing is a very fun winter activity that can easily be done in Vail, CO. You can either choose an area that is tracked out and groomed for easier walking or pave your own path out on a hiking trail. 

For example, the Vail Nordic Center offers snowshoe rentals and has miles of groomed walking paths. Which also offers a stunning view of the Gore Range. 

Also, on top of Vail Mountain at the Nature Discovery Center, there is a free snowshoe walking tour. Snowshoes are provided with the tour. The tour is free, but you must have a way to get up the Eagle Bahn Gondola. You can purchase a scenic gondola pass at the ticket office at the bottom of the gondola or use a Vail Resorts Epic ski pass.

Or you can find a hiking trail nearby and break trail. Trails are often packed down from other hikers, but if there is fresh snow, you might have to guide your own way. It is super important to make sure you are on the right trail and don’t veer too far away from the trail. We suggest having a GPS tracker, so you don’t get lost. 

Ice Skating In Vail Village: 

Vail Square Ice Rink in Lionshead Village
Photo by muhammaM Abdul-Malik on Unsplash

There are a few great spots to go ice skating in Vail. One of the ice rinks is outside the Solaris Center and you can rent ice skates from Deca + Bol

Or you can head over to the Vail Square Ice Rink located in the Lionshead Village in Vail. And if you want a bigger rink, or prefer ice skating indoors, the Dobson Area is also located in the Lionshead Village. 

All of these ice rinks do have set hours that are open to the public and change throughout the season. 

Dog Sledding: 

Dog Sledding Is One Of The Funnest Things To Do In Vail Besides Ski – Photo by Alain Bonnardeaux on Unsplash

One of the funnest activities besides skiing in the winter is dog sledding. While dog sledding is not located directly in Vail, it can be just a short drive to these locations for an epic experience. But none of the businesses offer transportation, so this activity will require a vehicle or shuttle at your own expense. 

There are 3 different companies that offer dog sledding near the Vail Valley. 

Alpine Adventures:

Alpine Adventures is located in Leadville which is about a 50 minute drive from Vail. They provide a hands-on experience where you get to drive the dog sled. There are two different tours they offer: Tagsled & Group tours. Each tour is 6 miles long and lasts about 1 hour.

Children must be 3 years old to ride and there is a 600 lbs weight limit per sled.

Mountain Mushers Dog Sled Rides: 

Mountain Mushers Dog Sled Rides is located in Wolcott which is about a 20 minute drive from Vail. They run on a private trail and offer two tours daily. Each tour is 5 miles long and lasts about 1 ½ hours long. 

Kids must be 4 years old and each sled has a weight limit of 400 lbs. There is a break halfway, where they offer homemade pumpkin bread and hot cocoa. 

Winterhawk Dogsled Adventures:

Winterhawk Dogsled Adventures is located in Leadville and about a 45 minute drive from Vail. There are 3 different tour times offered daily. Each tour is 5 miles long and lasts about 1 ½ hours long. At the end of the tour, you are provided with refreshments in the office and can look over photos taken along your journey. Do note, photos do cost extra. 

Children must be 4 years of age or older to ride. There is also a 350 lbs weight limit on the sled. 

Go On An Epic Snowmobiling Adventure In Vail:

Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash

Wondering what to do in Vail besides ski that will give you the same epic views? Snowmobiling can be an extreme winter adventure in Vail besides skiing that will be a blast! This is a great way to get epic views of the mountains effortlessly. There are a few different companies you can rent from and/or book a tour with. If you are new to snowmobiling, we suggest having a tour guide.

Vail Backcountry Tours:

Vail Backcountry Tours is located in Vail and offers a few different tours. There is a 2 hour tour, half day tour (3 hours) or private backcountry tour. Each tour provides transportation, boots, suits, helmets and a professional Vail Backcountry guide. Both the 2 hour and half day tour bring you to the Vail Backcountry’s private yurt for a hot beverage and snacks. 

Children must be 6 years old to ride and 15/16 years old to drive the snowmobile. 

Vail Snowmobiling Tours & Rentals:

Vail Snowmobiling Tours & Rentals is a snowmobiling company where you can either just rent snowmobiles for the day and go on your own adventure or book a tour. There are three different guided options to choose from that best fits your desired riding style and level of adventure. Tours range from 2 hours long to a full-day adventure.

Transportation is included in all tours. Children must be 2 years old to ride and 14 years old to drive. A helmet is provided, but you must come prepared in your winter gear.

Buzz’s Backcountry Adventures:

If you’ve snowmobiled before and don’t want a tour guide, then you can rent snowmobiles from Buzz’s Backcountry Adventures. They offer half day or full day packages, with the option for multi-day rentals. Although, you will need to tow the snowmobiles yourself. Trailers, helmets and maps are included in the rental packages. 

Drivers must be 16 years of age. 

Nova Guides: 

Nova Guides is another snowmobiling tour guide company in Vail, CO. They offer 3 different tours: Full Day with Lunch, Half Day with Lunch or Half Day without Lunch. All tours include transportation, boots, and a helmet.

Drivers must be 14 years or older to drive and riders must be 9 years old to ride. 

Sage Outdoor Adventures:

Sage Outdoors Adventures is also a great snowmobiling company you can book a tour with. They have 3 different packages: Adventure Tour, Performance Tour, and Private Trips. Helmets are included in every package. And there is the option to rent gear if needed but stock is limited. Transportation can be provided at an additional rate. 

Drivers must be 14 years of age or older. And riders must be at least 5 years of age or older. 

Scenic Gondola Ride:

You don’t have to strap on the skis in order to get to the top of the mountain for the stunning views. You can get a scenic gondola ride to the top via Gondola One in the Vail Village or the Eagle Bahn in Lionshead Village. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket booth at the bottom of the gondola. Both have restaurants at the top where you can either grab a cocktail, bite to eat (more info below), or simply just take in the picturesque views! 

The Eagle Bahn gondola is complimentary after 3:30pm. Otherwise you will have to purchase a scenic gondola ticket from the ticket booth (which is less expensive than a ski lift ticket).

Explore The Vail Village Shops:

Vail Village has tons of different shops, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, etc. Whether you are looking for the trendiest new fur coat or simply just looking for a Vail T-shirt as a souvenir, Vail Village has a wide range of shops to suit your needs! If you are looking for a specific store, check out Vail Resorts Shopping Guide.

Dine On Vail Mountain:

There are a few different restaurants on the mountain where you can dine for lunch. But there are only a few you can get to without skis. So if you are just getting a scenic gondola ride up the mountain: Mid Vail, The 10th, Bistro 14 and Eagle’s Nest Market Place are your best options. Here is a list of easy grab & go style restaurants and sit down restaurants on Vail Mountain.

Vail’s Grab & Go Restaurants On Mountain

  • Buffalo’s/ Rocky’s Roadhouse – 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM (Top of chair 4)
  • Waffle Way – 10AM – 2:30 PM (Wed – Sun) (Bottom of Chair 2)
  • Mid Vail – 10:30 AM – 3 PM (Top of Gondola 1)
  • Eagle’s Nest Market Place – 10:30 AM – 3 PM (Top of Gondola 19/ Eagle Bahn Gondola)
  • Two Elk – 10:30 AM – 2:30 PM (Top of Chair 14)
  • Wildwood – 10:30 AM – 2:30 PM (Fri, Sat& Sun beginning in April) (Top of Chair 3)

Vail’s Sit Down Restaurants On Mountain

  • Bistro 14 – 11 AM- 3 PM Daily (Grab and Go Menu Only) (Top of Gondola 19/ Eagle Bahn Gondola)
  • The 10th – 11 AM – 3 PM (Closed M, Tu) (Top of Gondola 1)
  • Game Creek Club – members lunch only

Après Ski At One of Vail’s Local Bars or Restaurants: 

Après Skiing at Larkspur Restaurant at the bottom of Golden Peak – Vail, CO

I’m not gonna lie, before I moved out to Vail, Colorado, I had no idea what après ski meant. It is essentially when everyone gets off the mountain after skiing and heads to the local restaurants and bars. There tends to be deals and discounts on food and drink at many of the local spots. But also remember you are in Vail, CO, so a deal might just be a $1 off a heavily overpriced draft beer or maybe a small discount on select food items. It’s more about the experience, than saving a few bucks!

Some of our favorite après skiing spots in the Vail Village are: Red Lion, Vail Brewing Company, and Vendetta’s. 

Our favorite après skiing spots in Lionshead Village: Garfinkles, Bart & Yeti’s and El Sabor. 

Bowl at Bol

Another fun winter activity for what to do in Vail besides ski is bowl. Bol is combined with a fine dining restaurant called Deca. So you could head here for dinner and bowl off that delicious meal. Or vice versa! Lanes are suggested to be reserved in advance, as they often sell out every night during the winter season.

Grab A Delicious Latte From Yeti’s Grind Coffee Shop:

Emily holding a latte at a coffee shop.
Yeti’s Grind Coffee Shop In Vail, CO

We might be biased, but Yeti’s Grind has the best coffee in town! But, there tends to always be a line out the door, so I think some other people tend to agree! And the shop is very adorable and rustic inside! Jake and I have worked for Yeti’s Grind when we stop through in Colorado for some extra cash and we just love the vibe of this coffee shop.

Stop in the morning for a delicious latte or in the afternoon for a hot chocolate to warm up! Hours differ throughout the season, but they are usually open from 7am-6pm daily.

Go On A Winter Hiking Adventure:

Matador Freefly 16 Ultralight Daypack on a snowy mountain trail
Winter Hiking Up Gore Creek Trail Is A Great Winter Activity In Vail Besides Ski

Hiking in the winter is a bit more challenging than in the summer and can be more dangerous. You need to have the appropriate winter hiking attire and footwear. And you need to make sure you aren’t hiking anywhere with high avalanche danger.

Depending on the depth of snow, you might be able to get away with just good traction shoes or boots. But you also might want to carry some Yaktrax. If the snow is deep, you might need snowshoes along to help keep you above the snow to avoid postholing.

Postholing is when there is deep snow and you can fall through up to your knees, waist or even higher. This can be very dangerous, and you will want to make sure the snow is hard packed so you have the proper footwear to float above the snow. 

Some Awesome Winter Hikes In Vail:

wondering waht to do in Vail besides ski in winter? Hiking to the Fang is one of the best winter activites to do in Vail besides ski
Hiking to The Fang in Vail, CO

The Fang: The Fang is an awesome hike in East Vail that leads you to a huge 120′ free hanging icicle. It’s a bit of a challenge to find as it’s not exactly an established trail, but there will definitely be hikers or ice climbers there all winter long that will most likely have blazed the trail for you.

Our best advice is to follow Gore Valley Trail until The Fang (via Google Maps) is directly to the left (South) uphill. There will often be a packed snow trail leading you to The Fang unless it has freshly snowed. You will need to climb up some steep and slippery rock sections. There are ropes set up from other hikers/climbers to help assist you in these areas. The hike is roughly 2.5 miles roundtrip.

Booth Falls: Booth Falls is another popular hike no matter the season. The first portion of the hike tends to be packed down in the winter. But as you get closer to the falls, you might need micro-spikes or snowshoes. The hike is 4.2 miles with 1358ft elevation change. I will admit, the waterfall is somewhat hard to see, so the hike is more about the journey than the grand finale.

During the summer months, there is an option to continue the hike to Booth Lake, but I wouldn’t advise that route during the winter.

Gore Creek Trail: Gore Creek Trail is a beautiful hike in East Vail. It offers beautiful mountain views. During the summer, you can hike to Gore Lake or Deluge Lake via this trail. But we suggest just hiking along the trail for some winter views and heading back when you are tired. Many people walk their dogs along this trail in the winter, so it is often a packed trail for the first mile or so.

For other great great hiking options in Vail, check out our post –> Top 5 Best Hikes in Vail, Colorado (do note, many of these hikes are best in summer)

Ice Climbing:

Ice climbing is another rad outdoor activity you can do in Vail besides skiing in the winter. Cascading waterfalls and trickling flow from snow melt forms awesome ice climbing opportunities in Vail.

But I wouldn’t suggest doing this activity if you aren’t up for a challenge. And if you have no experience with ice climbing, you most definitely need a guide. 

Apex Mountain School is a great start for hiring a guide and getting the right gear you need to go ice climbing. They teach all ability levels, so even if you do have experience, they can bring your ice climbing abilities to the next level. They will make sure they plan the right route dependent on your ability level. 

Ice Bumper Cars: 

ice bumper cars is one of the best winter activitiy alternatives when looking for what to do in Vail Besides Ski
Photo by Nikola Đuza on Unsplash

A fun activity to do with the whole family in Vail during winter is ice bumper cars at the Dobson Ice Arena. Participants must be at least 48 inches tall to drive and costs $10 per person. Each session includes a 15-minute bumper car ride experience.

Pre-registration is required on their online registration portal where you can sign up for the ice bumper cars. 

Relax in Some Hot Springs: 

Radium Hot Springs During Summer

There aren’t hot springs directly in Vail, but if you are looking for a unique adventure near Vail, hot springs are a great way to relax! The nearest hot springs are located in Glenwood Springs. There is the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, Yampah Vapor Caves and the Iron Mountain Hot Springs

And if you are looking for more primitive hot springs, you will find Radium Hot Springs North of Vail. They are free, but do require hiking in. But these hot springs can be a challenge to get to in the winter and might not be warm enough for the freezing temperatures. They are a little harder to find on your own, so it’s best to go with someone who has been there before. Or follow this GPS map via Alltrails to Radium Hot Springs

Watch A Yeti’s Hockey Game:

Vail, CO is also home to the Vail Yeti’s, which is a Black Diamond, Semi-Pro Hockey League. There are many games throughout the winter that attract many of the locals and provides a fun atmosphere. The cost is $10 to get in, or free for children under 5. Most games are on Friday or Saturday throughout the season.

Check For Events Happening In Town: 

When looking for what to do in vail besides ski, look for events going on in town, such as the U.S. Burton Open
Emily and a friend at the Burton U.S. Open

One of the best things for what to do in Vail besides ski is go to a local event. There are various events that happen throughout the winter in the town of Vail. For example, Snow Daze, Powabunga, Vail Mountain Games, Burton U.S. Open, etc. These events can be a fun time and sometimes you can catch a free concert too. Or many of the local vendors set up shop for you to explore their local goods.

Enjoy A Spa Day At One of Vail’s Luxury Resorts:

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Vail is definitely known for it’s luxury amenities. And a spa day definitely falls under the luxurious winter activities in Vail besides skiing. So if you are looking for what to do in Vail besides ski that will help keep you relaxed on your trip, then a spa day is exactly what you need!

If you are staying at a resort in Vail Village, then chances are the resort offers spa packages. But if you are staying in a vacation rental off the resort then you might be wondering where is a good place to have a spa day in Vail?

Sonnenalp is probably one of the most luxurious spas in the Vail Village. They offer everything you could possibly need to have one of the best spa days. Whether you are looking for a massage or facial, to enjoy their indoor/outdoor pool & whirlpools, or enjoy their cafe/Oxygen bar, it’s one of the most luxurious spa resorts in Vail.

The Four Seasons obviously offers some spa services. From massages, body treatments, nails, hair, facials and more. And of course they have a slumber room, plunge pools, a co-ed lounge and a relaxation garden. I think if budget isn’t an issue, the Four Seasons offers one of the most relaxing settings for a spa day.

The Manor is the only certified Green Spa in Vail. Which means they only use organic and environmentally sustainable products to create an environment of health and wellness. They offer services from different massages, facials, nails, waxing, and recovery.

The list simply doesn’t end here for tops spas in Vail. There are many other spas to choose from in Vail that might better suit your needs or availability.

Over 21 Winter Activities In Vail, CO

If you are wondering what to do in Vail besides ski for adults, then there are a few great breweries and distilleries to visit in town.

Self-Guided Brewery Tour:

7 Hermits Brewery At The Bottom Of Gondola One in Vail Village

There are a couple breweries in town, where you could go on a self-guided brewery tour. Near gondola One in Vail Village you will find the 7 Hermits Brewery. This personally isn’t Jake’s and my favorite brewery, because they don’t really have our favorite style of beer, but maybe it will be yours! They also have a great location at the bottom of the gondola!

Then, you can head over to Vail Brewing Company which is located in the Solaris Center about a 5 minute walk from Gondola One. We love many of Vail Brewing Companies beers, so we highly suggest checking them out. They also have a location in Eagle-Vail where you will find Rocky Mountain Taco’s. Which is definitely some of the best taco’s you will find in Colorado!

Also, check out some of these other local breweries near Vail.

Whiskey Tasting:

And if you enjoy spirits, head to the 10th Mountain for locally made spirits. You can either get a flight tasting of the different whiskey’s and/or spirits. Or you can get a specialty cocktail. 

Where To Stay In Vail?

Now that you know what to do in Vail besides ski, it’s time to book your vacation! There are many different hotels, vacation homes, etc in the Vail Valley. Our best suggestion is to use Kayak if you are looking for a great deal on a hotel.

Or if you prefer a vacation rental home, use VRBO to find some of the most luxurious rental homes in the Vail Valley.


If you are looking for How To Do Vail On A Budget, check out our post that breaks it all down. Where to stay, where to eat, how to get budget lift ticket, etc.

Takeaway | What To Do In Vail Besides Ski:

Vail, CO is one of Jake’s and my favorite mountain towns. This is where we met, so it holds a special place in our hearts. And after reading this post, you can see that there is so much to do in this little ski town besides ski. From many family friendly activities to adult activities, you can easily fill a week up with these fun activities! So we hope you find this guide for what to do in Vail besides ski helpful and you have a great time exploring the area!

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