They say that people come to Vail for the winters but stay for the summers.
Now that I’ve been after (most of) the snow has melted twice in 10 months, once on our own and last month as guests of Vail, I am a bit surprised to say that I enjoy the mountain more in the summer. There is just so much more to do.
And, this is coming from someone who loves snowboarding and is desperate for her 9-year-old to embrace the sport, too.
If you haven’t enjoyed a Vail summer, it’s time to book a trip.
Thanks to recent legislation that allows the mountain to be used in between ski seasons, Vail Mountain is now a summer playground full of awesome outdoor activities including Epic Discovery where all ages can zip line, go tubing, ride an alpine coaster and much more.
Many of the accommodations, like Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail (where we stayed), are within walking distance to your ride up to Epic Discovery, the Eagle-Bahn gondola.
Even after two recent visits, we really haven’t scratched the surface of everything Vail has to offer during the sunny season, but one must-do is Epic Discovery. Adults and kids alike will love the activities below.
1. The Speedy Alpine Coaster
Ask me what my favorite thing to do at Epic Discovery is and the Forest Flyer alpine coaster would be it. While my daughter is tall enough to operate her own coaster, we rode tandem with me in control of the speed. I admit to being a little wimpy during our first go around as these coasters are quite fast! Confidence built, I let it rip at full speed the second time around. We even saw deer and marmots along the way. It’s so fun!
2. Local Animal Education and Sightings, Too!
Near the Forest Flyer, a new Wildlife Exploration Trail was installed as an interactive way for kids (and adults) to learn more about the animals native to the area. My daughter enjoyed the Animal Abilities boards and hands-on activities that showcase what wildlife is capable of as well as the various viewfinders along the way.
I actually suggest doing this near the beginning of your visit just in case you happen to see one of these animals during your adventures here and elsewhere.
3. Bungee Trampoline
My daughter never passes up a chance to bungee trampoline. A staff member stands near each sky high kid to make sure they’re jumping safely and will make adjustments if need be.
4. Rock Climbing Wall
It’s amazing how little kids, with some guidance from staff and parents below, can tackle a 25-foot-tall rock climbing wall. But, they do!
5. Summer Tubing
My daughter’s favorite ride is definitely hurling down the 550-foot Eagle’s Nest tubing hill. While it looks a bit short and not-very-steep in photos, I assure you that my stomach was basically in my throat as I sped down the mountain. Over the course of two visits, I’ve probably ridden this thing 20+ times.
Tip: Don’t offer to race your kids. Adults will be pushed off first and because we’re heavier, we glide further once we hit the bottom.
6. Ropes Course
Test skill and coordination at the Holy Cross Adventure Course while traversing ropes, bridges, logs and balance elements. The view from up top is stunning.
7. Zip Line
Epic Discovery has a 1200-ft zip line, facing downhill for pretty views. You’ll need to gear up before riding the magic carpet up to the launch point. Try to wear (no sticks allowed) a GoPro to capture mountains (often still snowcapped), blue skies, trees and gorgeous scenery along the way.
Want a longer zip line experience? No problem. There is a new half-mile-long one to catch here but it does require several hours as well as a separate ticket and reservation. This is next on our Vail to-do list.
8. Ropes Course, Zip Line and Tubing for Younger Kids
Vail Mountain wanted to make sure that everyone in the family who is able to can enjoy the offerings. So, they dialed down some of the activities this year to suit smaller kids. I think this is brilliant.
9. Epic Discovery Dining
Feeling full from a huge breakfast buffet, we opted for a light lunch of salads at Bistro Fourteen. However, the quick-serve burgers served on the patio in front of the restaurant at Talon’s Deck are pretty tasty, too. Beer and wine are available as are plenty of other tables should you BYO lunch.
10. New, All-Inclusive Ticketing
New this year is the Ultimate Adventure Pass ($89), which allows unlimited rides and experiences for bigger kids and adults. To me, this is a fantastic convenience (and for me, less cost) over the prior system which required purchasing individual tickets for each activity. Smaller kids will benefit from the Little Explorer Pass ($49). Check the website for height, weight and ability details to decide which pass is best for your kids.
Good To Know
The video below uses GoPro footage from each of my visits to highlight the major fun to be had at Epic Discovery.
While it wasn’t crowded during our visit, I’d still recommend timing your gondola ride up to coincide with when the rides open. This is the best chance you’ll have to ride and re-ride a few things quickly before more people arrive. In my experience, if it’s going to rain in Vail, it’s more likely to happen in the late afternoon anyway.
Note that some activities have age and height restrictions. It helps to study these in advance in order to decide which pass to buy for younger kids.
Wear sunscreen and bring a hat! Elevation is over 10,000 feet and the sun will likely be shining. If you’re carrying a backpack or purse, there are hooks or places to leave belongings while you enjoy the rides so don’t worry about going minimal.
Need a rest? No problem. There are tables and chairs in the central area for anyone to take advantage of (though not many are in the shade).
Even if you only have a half-day, Epic Discovery is still a must-do. I was shocked by how much we’d accomplished between 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. A full day might be a bit long for younger kids anyway.
No selfie sticks are allowed, period. If taking a GoPro or other camera on rides, be sure to have a wrist or chest strap. They will not let you on otherwise nor will they (or should they) go on a hunt for lost equipment.
If you’d like a snack at the bottom of the gondola, I’d highly suggest a delicious gelato from Rimini Gelato. It totally hit the spot as we took the scenic walk back to the Four Seasons.