Vail and Breckenridge are ski resorts located in Colorado, a state where you can enjoy vibrant cities, dry desert, refreshing rivers, and snowy mountains all in close proximity! The skiing in this lively state goes unmatched and the options between resorts can sometimes leave you indecisive. It certainly has with us in the past.
Both Vail and Breckenridge offer great bars and restaurants, vast ski terrain and a wide variety of activities for those white out days. But there’s definitely notable differences between the two.
We know and love both destinations, so we’re going to help you make the tough decision between both with our honest comparison of each. By the time you’ve finished reading, all that’s left for you to do is book that ticket and start counting down the days!
Vail vs Breckenridge: What are the Slopes Like?
Likely the most significant factor in your decision making process – the terrain. Not only how many runs each resort offers, but also the variety of beginner and advanced slopes and amount of skiable area.
Vail is one of the largest ski resorts. It has 5,289 acres of area which you can ski. It boasts 195 runs, over half of which are advanced, and less than 20% are beginner. The longest run is 4 miles, and it has 31 lifts.
On the other hand, Breckenridge has 40 fewer runs (155 total), 2,908 acres of skiable area, 33 lifts and it’s longest run is 3.5 miles. Here the runs are almost 40% expert skiing with less than 15% for beginners. It’s known as one of the hardest ski resorts in the US too.
So Breckenridge has slightly less opportunities to ski as a whole. However if you are an advanced skier who wants to challenge their skills, then you’ll have a lot more to play with on this resort. Though Vail is still for confident skiers, if you are not looking for a demanding week of difficult descents and a huge choice of runs, then this resort will undoubtably serve you better, and may be better for beginners too.
Vail vs Breckenridge: Ease of Getting Around
We can all appreciate that trudging around in ski boots for a week can make even the shortest journeys slow. So an easy transport system is a must for any resort.
Both Vail and Breckenridge come out fairly evenly for this factor. Both are easy to navigate by foot, however if you’d like a more leisurely journey they also both offer a free shuttle bus which picks up regularly to transport you around the town.
A transit is also on offer to take you to nearby towns. But if your prefer to go private, Uber and taxis services are also available at both destinations.
Vail vs Breckenridge: What About Other Activities?
You certainly don’t need a passion for skiing to enjoy either of these dream-like resorts. There’s plenty of weird and wonderful activities to keep you busy until après-ski calls.
In Breckenridge, you can explore the old town, which still encompasses characteristics of its Wild West descent. It is resident to over 200 shops where you can purchase food, handmade items, and souvenirs.
If you want to enjoy the snow without skiing, then book into a dog sledding experience or try snowmobiling. That way you can soak up the scenery as you jet through the icy peaks. For a slower pace, join a guided snowshoeing tour or have a go at cross-country skiing.
Impress those at home with the perfect photo op backdrop by skiing down to Sawmill Reservoir for some picturesque shots. Breckenridge also has a recreation center complete with slides, sports facilities, gym, sauna, spas, and swimming pools for the whole family to enjoy. Watch your kids wind down the waterslides as you wind down at the spa for the perfect family day trip.
Much like Breckenridge, Vail is by no means short of ski-free activities. Visit the village, filled with alpine-style architecture and cobbled streets that somewhat resemble a European fairytale. Here you can enjoy shopping for jewelry, trinkets, and toys, or dine gourmet during your break from the slopes. In general though, Vail is probably more expensive than Breckenridge.
If you’re feeling competitive hit up Bol, where you can play against your friends and family at possibly the most sophisticated ten-pin bowling alley out there.
Ride the gondola to catch the best views of this whimsical mountain paradise. Then grab a bite to eat while soaking up the spectacular scenery! If you have time for a day trip, then head out half an hour to explore the magical Ice Castles, which tower to enormous heights like winter palaces. You will discover slides, sculptures, tunnels and fountains, made tirelessly by ice artists carefully hand placing and fusing new icicles to the natural structures.
In Vail you can also switch the slopes for the spa to melt away the ski soreness by enjoying CBD massages alongside eco-friendly luxury treatments. You can even float in an Epson salt bath pod if you really want your mind to disappear into a cloud of ease and relaxation.
There are plenty of other activities if you somehow run out. You can spot street art in Lionshead and Vail Village, venture on a snowshoeing hike or practice your pirouettes as you spin across the ice rink. Just make sure you’re back in time for post-ski pints!
Vail vs Breckenridge: What Are Their Restaurants Like?
It’s hard to separate Breckenridge and Vail when it comes to restaurants, as both have a wide array of options that span a variety of budgets.
Breckenridge has a wide range of restaurants (over 70) so is perfect for whichever cuisine you’re in the mood for. If you fancy Italian, head to Giampietro, which serves delicious New York-style pizzas made with fresh ingredients. This is the perfect dining place where you can enjoy an array of pizza, pasta dishes, sandwiches, cheeses, and bakes. Great for those comfort food cravings after a high-intensity day of carving slopes and burning calories.
Another favourite is Breckenridge Brewery which opened in 1990 and remains the only brewpub in the resort. It offers an impressive range of craft beers and a space to enjoy stunning mountain views while sipping on an ice-cold pint. Dine on a menu featuring sandwiches, wings, burgers, mac n cheese, or fish n chips! And if you have the time, why not stay for one of the brewery tours?
Vail on the other hand, has around 100 restaurant options so you need not worry about going hungry here either.
Situated in West Lionshead Circle, The Little Diner is the perfect ski resort brunch spot you didn’t know you needed. It serves breakfast all day, offering a wide variety from sweet or savory crepes, breakfast burritos, omelets, sandwiches, and eggs benedict. Of course, they don’t slack on the beverages either. Serving fresh juices, cozy hot chocolates, a range of teas and coffees, and obviously cocktails, because why not?!
If you’re craving sushi, then sleek and urban Matsuhisa sets the mood for a perfect evening dining experience. Expect crackling fireplaces, custom interior, floor-to-ceiling windows, and an outdoor patio. Chef Nobu serves Japanese cuisine, drawing influences from his experiences worldwide with key contributions from South American dishes.
Vail vs Breckenridge: Which Has the Better Nightlife?
Both destinations have similar nightlife scenes, where you can find places to get sloshed after hours, or relax and listen to live music.
Vail enjoys a buzzing nightlife complete with bars, live music, and extensive happy hours. Head to Shakedown Bar for live rock n roll, or visit Root & Flower for an extensive wine menu, eclectic cocktails, and American snacks.
Breckenridge also flaunts its fair share of intimate bars, classic cocktail clubs, and party palaces. Standing high on the list is Cecilia’s, where you can sip on craft cocktails and get down on the dance floor. Cici’s is the place to go if you want a big night out and have no intention of catching the first lift in the morning!
If you’re still aching from a day of slicing slopes and would prefer a sit-down, then head to Burk and Riley’s Irish Pub, where you can enjoy Irish-American fusion food and a weekday 3-6 pm happy hour. Throw in their blazing firepit and sunny patio, and you know you’ve got a winner!
Keep an eye out for local band ‘The Pine Beatles’ – photo below – if staying in Breckenridge. They’re fantastic!
Transit and Arrivals
The dreaded airport transfers. They become particularly pertinent when planning shorter trips as the journeys from airports up the mountains can be quite hefty.
Vail’s closest airports are Eagle County Airport (EGE) (30 miles away) and Denver International Airport (100 miles away). Breckenridge, on the other hand, is situated 90 miles from Denver Airport and 70 miles from Eagle-Vail Airport.
Therefore, if you are looking for the shortest transfer time, whether you want a hassle-free holiday or are taking a weekend trip, Vail could be your best option by flying into EGE. However if you need to fly into Denver you will find Breckenridge is slightly quicker.
So Which is Better: Vail or Breckenridge?
It’s clear that both resorts are amazing. Both provide dazzling views, packed itineraries and more food and drink than you can reasonably handle. More importantly you’ll make unforgettable memories which you can always look back on with a smile.
Both resorts have great restaurants, bars and nightlife so you can be confident you will be saturated with social gatherings. There are plenty of activities throughout both resorts so non-skiers would appreciate either option. Similarly, getting around within either town is easy whichever you choose, as you can get anywhere on foot.
That said, if you choose Vail you will enjoy much larger ski terrain and have more choice of runs. However, with the amount of slopes either destination offers it would be near impossible to run out! Breckenridge is probably the better choice than Vail if you are an expert skier, and it’s known as one of the hardest ski resorts in the US. In Vail however, you will still have plenty of advanced slopes to enjoy, and your options won’t be limited by difficulty. Vail is also a better option if you have beginners coming with you as it offers more slopes for them to practice on.
Finally, Vail is more suited for shorter trips as the airport transfer will be quicker. Yet it is also considered more expensive than Breckenridge so it really depends on the your priorities. Whichever resort you decide to go with, be reassured that they do share certain lift passes. So if your lost for choice you could just enjoy both!