Breckenridge vs Vail: Resort Comparison

Colorado is well-known for great skiing and snowboarding and every year guests experience traffic jams of people trying to get to the best slopes to try out the fresh powder. While each winter sports enthusiast may have their own good reasons for choosing his or her own favorite resort, there are some basic criteria that can help visitors decide which resort to try. Both Breckenridge and Vail are popular winter sports resorts and their ski resorts share passes, so if you only have time to hit one, which one should you go to?

Breckenridge vs Vail

The Breckenridge Ski Resort boasts about its “Breck effect”, a phrase meant to capture the unique “up-for-anything” spirit of the resort and the fact that the optimistic sense of adventure seems to be contagious.

The Vail Ski Resort encourages guests to “never settle” while they enjoy views and adventure opportunities “like nothing on earth.”

Both resorts are owned by the same parent company, Vail Resorts, so you will definitely find some similarities between the two resorts. However, each resort also has its own unique offerings and vibe, so deciding which one is right for you takes some research.

Winter Sports

Vail is one of the largest ski resorts in the world by acreage, which means it offers incredible terrain diversity and ample areas for skiing and snowboarding. With 53% of the terrain catering to advanced skiers and snowboarders, Vail is a great place for people who are looking for a challenge. The Vail resort is known for its 7 different bowls on the back of the mountain, with routes available for every level from novice to expert.

The Breckenridge resort (referred to as Breck) offers routes ranging from extremely difficult (double black diamond) to easy peasy (green). Breck’s high alpine terrain is the highest in North America that is accessible by lift service. Forty percent of the resort’s terrain is above tree line, which makes for incredible views and great skiing. Breck has an even higher percentage of terrain for advanced skiers and snowboarders than Vail at 58%. Breckenridge also has some of the best terrain parks in the world!

Both resorts are able to make more snow to help make sure there’s enough for winter sports enthusiasts to enjoy at the beginning and end of the winter season, but Breckenridge can cover more acreage with their snow guns and pipes. However, Vail is dramatically expanding their snow-making capacity in the next few years so only time will tell who will end up the winner in this category.

Criteria Breckenridge Vail
Total Terrain 2,908 acres 5,317 acres
Number of Trails 187 195
Lifts 34 31
Distance from Airport 112mi/2 hours 131mi/2.25 hours
Hotels/Lodging Options 72 103
Snowmaking Capacity 657 acres Over 500 acres

Summer Fun

Both Vail and Breckenridge offer a plethora of summer activities including hiking, biking, 4×4 vehicle tours, ziplining, and alpine coasters where you ride down rails on bobsled-like carts.

Vail also boasts of golfing, fishing, summer tubing, and rafting options. Breckenridge has climbing walls, an interactive arts district, and even a local troll you can visit!

Lodging

The area around the Vail resort has more lodging options available through the resort website than the Breckenridge resort website, from cozy chalets to hotels to bed and breakfasts. Divided into three main village areas containing all the restaurants and shopping you could ever hope for, Vail’s villages are connected by heated cobblestone streets for pedestrian ease and comfort. Many of Vail’s buildings were constructed in the 1960s with European alpine architectural traits, contributing to the town’s charm. Vail’s three villages (Vail Village, Lionshead, and Golden Peak) are also connected by a free transportation system that allows guests to get to everything on their trip itinerary easily.

The town of Breckenridge was established in the 1800s during the Gold Rush, which means that Breckenridge is not just a resort town but a town with history. Since Vail Resorts bought the Breckenridge resort, they have invested a lot of money into expanding the lodging options available for guests in addition to expanding and improving options on the mountain itself. According to Forbes, Breckenridge’s luxury homes and condos available for rent are unrivaled.

Restaurants

Both Breckenridge and Vail offer incredible on-mountain dining options to try while adventuring on the slopes as well as top-notch restaurants in town. Vail offers 4 fine dining options on the mountain with incredible views whereas Breckenridge has just one full-service dining establishment on the mountain. Both resorts offer multiple fast casual and quick service restaurants where guests can enjoy tasty food and quality drinks in between adventures.

Events

Breckenridge is famous for its Ullr Fest in mid-December, which involves Viking hats, a huge bonfire, a parade, an ice plunge, and more!

Vail puts on Revely Vail during the week of Thanksgiving which is a nod to European Christmas markets with tree-lighting and other fun events! Vail also hosts the Burton US Open each year, a ski day to conquer breast cancer, and a huge party to kick off each new ski season.

Après and Night Life

Breckenridge and Vail both offer plentiful options for people who want to get drinks, kick back, and enjoy the evening after a big day of skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking, or whichever activity they’ve chosen. Vail is even starting a new tradition of ringing bells to signify the beginning of the après tradition each evening! Whether you want to find a place on the mountain before you head down for the night or you’re looking for a spot where you can enjoy a drink while still in your gear, you’re sure to find the perfect location to enjoy time with your friends and family after an incredible day.

Ultimately, both Breckenridge and Vail are incredible resorts and deciding which one is better comes down to personal priorities and preferences. You really can’t go wrong!

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