Vail, Colorado, is primarily known as a winter ski destination with an annual average snowfall of 360 inches. However, it’s a year-round outdoor recreation destination to those in the know. During winter, visitors can take advantage of this ski and snowboard hot spot on Vail Mountain and its idyllic Bavarian-style mountain village. During the rest of the year, Vail is a perfect outdoor getaway for the whole family with river rafting, zip lining, spelunking, fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing.
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1.Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
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In a destination that averages over 300 inches of snow a year, visitors probably wouldn’t expect to be able to visit gardens year-round, but that’s exactly what travelers to Vail can do. Betty Ford Alpine Gardens has five distinctive gardens to peruse – Children’s Garden, Schoolhouse Garden, Mountain Perennial Garden, Meditation Garden, and Alpine Rock Garden. There is also an amphitheater, museum and gift shop, and education center. There are public and private tours of the gardens during summer and guided and self-guided winter snowshoe tours during winter. The education center has a state-of-the-art alpine house, a pollinator garden, and a rooftop terrace.
522 South Frontage Road E, Vail, CO, Phone: 970-476-0103
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2.Booth Falls Trail
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Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate Booth Falls Trail, an out-and-back trail that’s roughly 10 miles round trip. Because the trail has a 3,000-foot gain in elevation from trailhead to summit, it’s categorized as an intermediate trail, though hikers who aren’t acclimated to the elevation may find it more difficult. Those who only want to hike to the 60-foot waterfall will find it two miles up the trail. The picturesque waterfall and stream present the perfect spot for a picnic or a place to rest. Those wanting to climb to the top and experience Booth Lake will be rewarded with conifer trees, wildflowers, and wildlife along the way. At the top, hikers enjoy both the feeding lake trout and the panoramic views of the Gore Mountain Range.
Vail Village Welcome Center, 241 South Frontage Road, Suite 8150, Vail, CO, Phone: 970-477-3522
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3.Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum
© Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum
Visiting one of the premier ski and snowboard towns in the country almost begs a visit to the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum. The wealth of information presented by the museum is displayed in nine exhibits. The Colorado Skiing Timeline exhibit represents 140 years of Colorado’s skiing evolution, and there are several exhibits dedicated to the 10th Mountain Division World War II ski troopers, Vail Valley local history, and US Ski Team history dating back to the first Winter Olympics. Visitors will also find exhibits showcasing snowboards, skis, ski bindings, history of the National Ski Patrol, and the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame.
231 South Frontage Road E, Vail, CO, Phone: 970-476-1876
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4.Deluge Lake Trail
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Deluge Lake Trail is the most difficult of three trails that lead to Deluge Lake because of its steep, rocky incline. It begins at Gore Creek Campground and goes left at the first fork (Gore Creek Trail is to the right.) The trail travels though soaring aspens, then fir and lodgepole pine trees. Naturally, this makes for a colorful fall hike. A little over 2.5 miles up the trail, hikers will begin to see magnificent views of Gore Creek Valley. The last couple miles to the lake level out for a bit and the trail offers meadow views of wildflowers and wildlife, including deer and marmots. Hikers can spend some time appreciating the lake and panoramic views above the tree line before returning to the campground.
Gore Creek Campground, Big Horn Road, Vail, CO, Phone: 877-444-6777
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5.Shrine Ridge Trail
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Located in the White River National Forest, the Shrine Ridge Trail is one of the most spectacular wildflower viewing areas in Colorado. The mountainsides are blanketed with beautifully colorful flowers and incredible views of the Mount of the Holy Cross. Originally created by the Ute Native Americans, this pass winds through pine forests, rocky outcroppings, marshy meadows, trickling streams, and a few unique red sandstone rock formations. It is roughly a two-mile hike from the parking area to Shrine Pass with an elevation gain of roughly 750 feet, making it a beginner to intermediate level trail. Shrine Ridge is open each summer with wildflowers peaking in late July to early August.
900 Grand Avenue, Glenwood Springs, CO, Phone: 970-945-2521
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6.Upper Piney Lake Trail
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The Upper Piney Lake Trail is located in White River National Forest. It’s an easy to moderate level trail with an elevation gain of roughly 350 feet. Situated in a remote area, this scenic alpine hike is a little over six miles roundtrip and features open meadows covered in wildflowers, rivers, lakes, and even a waterfall. The trail can be traveled by foot or on horseback, and camping and picnicking are allowed as long as visitors are at least 100 feet away from any water spots. Upper Piney is also an access point for those who want to continue on to Mt. Powell or spend a few hours fishing at Piney River.
900 Grand Avenue, Glenwood Springs, CO, Phone: 970-945-2521
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7.Vail Adventure Ridge
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A stadium-sized winter wonderland, Vail Adventure Ridge is an outdoor playground that opens every winter and doesn’t close until mid-April. They offer a wealth of fun and exciting activities for the whole family, including snowshoeing, tubing, snowmobiling and skiing. At this all-day thrill park, guests can keep the adventures going well into the evening on gondola runs, ski bikes, and a bungee trampoline. They also feature a kid’s snowmobile track, slippery slope tubing lanes, various trails, a delectable family restaurant at Bistro 14, and the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster, a raised alpine coaster that winds its way 3,400 feet down the mountain.
600 W Lionshead Circle, Vail, CO, Phone: 800-649-9960
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8.Vail Nature Center
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Managed by the Walking Mountains Science Center, the Vail Nature Center is located in a farmhouse nestled between the forested shores of Gore Creek and a mountain meadow. This tranquil seven-acre property is the perfect place to enjoy a multitude of nature-centered activities led by knowledgeable staff. They host a variety of informative tours and backcountry hikes that focus on wildflowers, birds, and a nearby beaver pond. They also provide several classes on topics like stargazing, nature, fly-fishing, and art. The Vail Nature Center is open every year from Memorial Day weekend through the end of September. Visitors can find it on the east side of Vail Village.
601 Vail Valley Drive, Vail, CO, Phone: 970-479-2291
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9.Vail Pass Bike Tour
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Charter Sports Ski & Snowboard Rentals is a tour company that offers bicycle excursions along Vail Pass. While traveling along this 3,000-foot-high paved bike path, visitors will find themselves immersed in verdant mountain beauty, surrounded by fresh mountain air, snow-topped mountains, and majestic waterfalls. Vail Pass currently offers one trip per day that picks visitors up at noon for a trip from Vail to Beaver Creek, departing from Lionshead. This is a completely downhill tour that begins at 3,000 feet and passes through several charming towns such as Frisco, an excellent place to pull over for an ice cream break.
715 W Lionshead Circle, Vail, CO, Phone: 888-295-9797
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10.Vail Ski Resort
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Vail Ski Resort is the ultimate winter sport resort featuring over 5,000 skiable acres and a wide variety of terrain. It averages over 370 inches of snow and more than 300 days of sunshine each year, making it one of the premier destinations for snow activities. Surrounded by the Sawatch and Gore mountain ranges, visitors are treated to scenic vistas while they enjoy thrilling and adventurous activities all year long. They offer a multitude of activities during both winter and summer such as skiing, tubing, ski-biking, snowmobiling, zip-lining, hiking, and adventure courses. Vail Ski Resort also boasts three restaurants. Game Creek is a fine dining mountain chalet, casual restaurant Bistro Fourteen is a casual restaurant, and The 10th is an on-mountain restaurant.
600 W Lionshead Circle, Vail, CO, Phone: 800-649-9960
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Situated roughly a mile northwest of downtown Vail, Colorado, Vail Stables is a small, rustic outfitter that offers various activities to adventure seekers. This company is geared toward families with children at least fifteen years old, corporate retreats, and honeymooners. The seasonal outfitter does business each year from late May until winter. Specializing in cowboy life with a twist, activities include horseback riding through dense forests and along steep cliffs and one-hour goat yoga classes. The latter is both a relaxing spiritual escape and a fun and entertaining experience where baby goats lovingly assist visitors in all their poses.
915 Spraddle Creek Road, Vail, CO, Phone: 855-743-3824
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12.Vail Valley Food Tours
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Vail Valley Food Tours is a company devoted to helping people discover the unique Vail culinary scene in an informative and unique way. They offer a handful of creative and interactive gastronomy experiences that center around the valley’s delicious food, distilled spirits, and hand-crafted brews while also providing info about the area’s history, culture, and magnificent natural environment. There are three specialty tours to choose from, including Bikes & Bites; Booze, Brews, and Bites; and Vail Village Walking Food tour. The latter is perhaps the most popular as it takes visitors on a journey through the village highlighting its important history and artistic gems as they sample various local cuisines.
352 E Meadow Drive, Vail, CO, Phone: 970-390-3157
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13.Walking Mountains Science Center
© Walking Mountains Science Center
The Walking Mountains Science Center (WMSC) is a non-profit science-focused learning center that offers numerous seminars, programs, and camps focused on educating visitors from pre-k age to senior citizens on the wonders of nature. They explore the mountainous environment, sustainability, and natural science. WMSC features nearly two dozen experiences, including Girls in Science, Ski With Smokey, STEM Curiosity Lab, and Recycling and Waste Reduction. They conduct various outdoor sport activities that include backcountry snowshoe hikes, free recycling facility tours, winter nature walks, and guided daytime or evening snowshoe tours. There are also several presentations given each year centered on what it means to be healthy in high country.
601 Vail Valley Drive, Vail, CO, Phone: 970-479-2291
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© Yeti’s Grind
Yeti’s Grind is a quaint, local coffee shop located in the heart of the Vail Valley serving up incredible craft coffee, delectable teas, pastries, sandwiches, and burritos. Designed with mountain life in mind, this is a cozy and rustic place where the only aspect of “city-style” is seen through their perfectly poured lattes boasting artistic foam designs. Owned and operated by husband and wife duo Nate and Tara, Yeti’s Grind is a “hangout” coffee shop created to bring the coffee-loving Vail community together. As an added bonus, they created a Vail mountain bike team that encourages all visitors to join in the fun and explore the rich, verdant mountainous region.
141 E Meadow Drive #108, Vail, CO, Phone: 970-476-1515
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15.Vail Brewing Company
© Vail Brewing Company
Vail Brewing Company, situated in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, is dedicated to providing their mountain adventuring communities with a consistent assortment of quality hand-crafted brews. They feature two separate locations, one in Vail Village and one in Eagle. Each boasts a rustic, hipster vibe with beautifully designed outdoor patios where leashed dogs are more than welcome to hang out. Each location is equipped with its own tasting room so visitors can try samplings of a few of their favorite brews, including the Tourist Trap, Pete’s Stash Pale, Hot Mess Blonde, and Rum Barrel Aged Coconut Porter, as well as simple yet delicious snack menus.
141 East Meadow Drive #209, Vail, CO, Phone: 970-470-4351
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16.AVA Rafting & Zipline
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AVA Rafting & Zipline, located about 50 minutes away from Vail in Breckinridge, Colorado, offers whitewater rafting excursions on four local rivers, the most popular of which take place on the Arkansas River. Adventurers meet at their Granite Outpost where rafting trips range from family-friendly to Class V extreme trips. The Blue River trip is geared toward families with Class III rapids and meets close to Vail. The other two trips are Upper Colorado, which is a scenic float trip, and Shoshone Rapids, a family whitewater trip. The zip line is located on their 44-acre Breckenridge property. AVA offers discount packages for combined rafting and zip lining.
116 Huron Road, Breckinridge, CO, Phone: 970-423-7031
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Camelot Balloons offers guests unmatched views of the Eagle River Valley, including Beaver Creek, Vail, and Bachelor Gulch. This high flying excursion begins just after sunrise. Although passengers will want to allot 3.5 hours for the excursion, the actual air time is approximately an hour depending on weather conditions. Flights include hot beverages as you wait for the balloon to inflate and a post-flight champagne brunch. Guests will also receive a flight certificate personalized with their names. There are few ways to experience Rocky Mountain vistas that are more enchanting than a hot air balloon flight. Private flights are available. Check the website for what to wear and what to bring.
Blackhawk Road, Vail, CO, Phone: 970-328-2290
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18.Pedego Electric Bike Rental
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Visitors to Vail who have difficulties adjusting to the elevation may be interested in Pedego Electric Bike Rentals to enhance local exploration. Bikers can choose when to pedal and when not to, or they can opt to not pedal at all. Electric bikes can help riders cover more area at a greater speed than pedaling alone, plus make those hilly inclines easier to maneuver. Visitors can rent one of three styles – Inceptor, Trail Tracker, or Ridge Rider. Rentals are a minimum of two hours with an added fee for each additional hour, or you can get them for a set all-day fee. A 2.5-hour guided electric bike tour showcasing the history of Vail is also available.
225 Wall Street, Suite 102A, Vail, CO, Phone: 970-470-4180
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19.La Tour Restaurant & Bar
© La Tour Restaurant & Bar
Owner and Chef Paul Ferzacca of La Tour Restaurant & Bar is an award-winning chef, teacher, and mentor who is passionate about good taste. At the haute French fare of La Tour, appetizer favorites include the truffle French onion soup, oysters on the half shell in a 30 year old sherry vinegar mignonette, and an avocado lobster toast. Guests rave about the Colorado lamb chop with herbs de Provence on review sites. Another menu standout is the marinated black cod in a rich truffle butter sauce. Diners who feel overwhelmed by the selection of over 500 wines will appreciate advice from their in-house sommelier. This classy restaurant caters to the adult dinner crowd.
122 East Meadow Drive, Vail, CO, Phone: 970-476-4403
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20.Minturn Anglers Fly Fishing
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Outdoor enthusiasts who love fishing will appreciate Minturn Anglers Fly Fishing guides. They provide guided fishing trips with knowledgeable guides who know the best fishing spots in the Vail Valle to make the most of your time on the water. There are a number of experiences to choose from including walk and wade fly fishing, fly fishing float trips, and overnight float trips. Specialty guided fishing is available with a kids fly-fishing camp and several combination trips. Anglers can combine fly-fishing with horseback, helicopter, and airplane rides or a romantic gourmet dinner. During winter, visitors can choose from guided ice fishing or winter walk and wade experiences.
141 East Meadow Drive, #113, Vail, CO, Phone: 970-479-7132
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Alpenrose is a German-Austrian restaurant in Vail, serving up high-quality traditional European specialties since 1974. The restaurant, which is currently owned by the restaurateurs behind Almresi, is known for its delectable homestyle cuisine, emphasizing German, Austrian, and Swiss delicacies such as goulash, dumplings, and Kässpätzle. Hearty entree options include truffle ricotta pasta, knusprige entenkeule served with duck leg or veal knuckle slices, and foie gras bratwurst served with red cabbage and mashed potatoes. A fine selection of Alpine desserts is available at lunch and dinner, including marillenknödel, palatschinken, dampfnudeln, and classic apple strudel. Liters of imported German beer are available to complement all meals, along with imported wines, spirits, and aperitifs.
100 E Meadow Dr STE 25, Vail, CO 81657, Phone: 970-476-8899
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Colorado’s hut-to-hut system is well known all over the country, and Paragon Guides have been leading treks along the trail for years. This intimate knowledge of the system aids in leading tours with familiar routes, little known shortcuts, and the best places to stop for lunch or rest. Paragon Guides employ llamas to do the heavy lifting, so all trekkers do is, well, trek. Visitors can choose from guided summer or winter day tours, guided multi-day trips, or outfitting services. Sherpa services are also available during winter. From pre-trip orientations to recommended lodging to logistical planning, travelers can benefit from Paragon Guides’ extensive experience.
210 Edwards Village Boulevard, Suite B107, Edwards, CO, Phone: 970-926-5299
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23.Montauk Seafood Grill
© Montauk Seafood Grill
Montauk Seafood Grill has been one of Vail's top fine dining destinations for more than three decades, housed within the city's beautiful Lionshead Village area. The intimate, inviting restaurant is known for its laid-back seafood classics, including wasabi-crusted Scottish salmon, steamed Alaskan crab, miso-glazed Maine sea scallops, and Jamaican jerk-style mahi mahi. A full raw bar menu offers East and West Coast oyster shooters, Alaskan Dungeness crab, and Baja jumbo white prawns served cocktail style. Fine land fare is also available, including red chili-braised beef short ribs and black Angus filet mignon prepared with warm gorgonzola butter and red wine reduction. Guests can enjoy extensive wine and whiskey menus, complemented by handcrafted cocktails and a selection of draft and bottled beers.
549 E Lionshead Cir, Vail, CO 81657, Phone: 970-476-2601
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Timberline Tours is an adventure company that focuses on whitewater rafting trips and jeep tours. They feature a dozen specialized whitewater rafting excursions in several different locations, including the Lower Eagle River, Upper Colorado River, Clear Creek, and Gore Creek. Many of the trips are also themed such as Vail Wine Tasting and Rafting, which takes guests to local winery 4 Eagle Ranch to sample handcrafted wines after an afternoon on the rapids. Timberline’s Backcountry Jeep Tours are led by experienced guides and range in level from mild to advanced. These tours offer visitors the chance to explore the area’s unique environment passing through scenic mountain vistas and historic sites while viewing unforgettable wildflowers and wildlife.
1432 Chambers Avenue, Eagle, CO, Phone: 970-476-1414
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Turtle Tubing is exactly what the name implies: tubing adventures at a slower, turtle-like pace. This is an excellent activity for families who have small children who want a fun experience in a more controlled and mellow environment. These tours leave from Dotsero Landing and travel down the Colorado River at its chosen pace in large, secure, PVC made towable tubes with covered bottoms. Their heavy material make them very safe for children as young as two years old. Turtle Tubing offers various tour options such as a Shared Turtle Bus Cruise and River Float, and the Mouth of the Canyon Afternoon Float. Tours range from two to 3.5 hours.
170 at Exit 133, Dostero Landing, Cotton Lane, Gypsum, CO, Phone: 970-471-0547
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25 Best Things to Do in Vail, Colorado
- Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of Shelley - Fotolia.com
- Booth Falls Trail, Photo: Courtesy of Yarek Gora - Fotolia.com
- Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum, Photo: Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum
- Deluge Lake Trail, Photo: Courtesy of vandame - Fotolia.com
- Shrine Ridge Trail, Photo: Courtesy of zmi - Fotolia.com
- Upper Piney Lake Trail, Photo: Courtesy of bwolski - Fotolia.com
- Vail Adventure Ridge, Photo: Courtesy of braxtonimages - Fotolia.com
- Vail Nature Center, Photo: Courtesy of Katherine Kirkland - Fotolia.com
- Vail Pass Bike Tour, Photo: Courtesy of Tomasz Zajda - Fotolia.com
- Vail Ski Resort, Photo: Courtesy of Scott - Fotolia.com
- Vail Stables, Photo: Courtesy of svetlanistaya - Fotolia.com
- Vail Valley Food Tours, Photo: Courtesy of pixelaway - Fotolia.com
- Walking Mountains Science Center, Photo: Walking Mountains Science Center
- Yeti’s Grind, Photo: Yeti’s Grind
- Vail Brewing Company, Photo: Vail Brewing Company
- AVA Rafting & Zipline, Photo: Courtesy of braxtonimages - Fotolia.com
- Camelot Balloons, Photo: Courtesy of Jessi - Fotolia.com
- Pedego Electric Bike Rental, Photo: Courtesy of nullplus - Fotolia.com
- La Tour Restaurant & Bar, Photo: La Tour Restaurant & Bar
- Minturn Anglers Fly Fishing, Photo: Courtesy of Colby - Fotolia.com
- Alpenrose, Photo: Alpenrose
- Paragon Guides, Photo: Courtesy of cascoly2 - Fotolia.com
- Montauk Seafood Grill, Photo: Montauk Seafood Grill
- Timberline Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Alexey Achepovsky - Fotolia.com
- Turtle Tubing, Photo: Courtesy of 2tun - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Nelson Sirlin - Fotolia.com
Mountain Wolf Jeep Adventures
Wolf Überbacher, owner of Mountain Wolf Jeep Adventures, is Vail’s consummate naturalist, among numerous other impressive titles. This multi-talented Renaissance Man is an expert in botanicals and wild edibles, outdoor survival, and mountain guiding, just to name a few. He’s a wilderness school instructor and ski instructor certified in three countries. Who could possibly be a more skilled guide? Tours are conducted in his custom built safari-style CJ8 Jeep Scrambler where every seat has an unobstructed view. You’ll enjoy an introduction to flora, fauna, and wildlife in the high country, epic photo opportunities, healthy refreshments, and an education in local history.
P.O. Box 55, Vail, CO, Phone: 970-926-9653
Sage Outdoor Adventures
Avid snowmobilers will fall in love with the freedom of Sage Ranch, which consists of six thousand acres crisscrossed by more than 100 miles of one-way snowmobile trails that are expertly constructed and seriously maintained. Snowmobilers can expect burmed corners, singletrack routes, expansive play bowls, slow speed technical sections, and fast speed sections. Professional guides are seasoned and lead an average of five snowmobiles per tour. This is an exhilarating way to see the Continental Divide, seven mountain ranges, and a 2,400-foot chasm. Sage Outdoor Adventures also offers river rafting, horseback riding, four-wheeling, fishing, and skeet shooting. These adventure-seeking guides are also a competitive raft race team, so visitors can be sure that winter or summer, they’re in expert hands.
641 Lionshead Place, Vail, CO, Phone: 970-476-3700