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Vail December Skiing

Vail in December: Overview


  • Vail averages 83% open at Christmas, an excellent mark and a product of Vail's superior snow profile, one of the strongest in Colorado
  • Less than 15% of seasons pass with Vail less than 50% open at Christmas and during the week between Dec. 25 an Jan. 1
  • Those metrics make Vail a strong play for skiers who are seeking good snow conditions and lots of terrain above all else
  • Vail's 5,317 acres make it the largest ski resort in Colorado, which gives skiers a great deal of space to spread out upon, even if the resort is only 75% open
  • Vail's back bowls are usually open by Christmas, which is one of the major draws for skiers


  • The best lodging at Vail during the holidays books out early. So get on it
  • Vail can be expensive during peak dates, and the week at the end of December is the sharpest of peaks. Expect to pay up if you're visiting during this week
  • Vail can see crowds. The ski resort has continued to build more uphill capacity to push lines down and keep the traffic flowing across the mountain. For the winter of 2023, the new Sun Down Express No. 17 lift will offer skiers on the backside relief from lines that can built up at Chair No. 5. And the Game Creek Chair, a place where skiers can find early-season stashes, has been changed from a four-person to a six-person, increasing capacity 50%

Vail snow in December

Data show December is the fifth best month Vail for overall snow quality when considering the following factors:

  • Snow quantity at Vail
  • Snow quality at Vail
  • How much snow is required for proper terrain coverage at Vail—steeper resorts require more snow to get 100% open.
  • Vail's snow frequency (standard deviation)
  • Vail's elevation
  • Vail's latitude
  • Vail's slope aspects - more north-facing slopes protect snow later into winter

Vail has excellent fall lines throughout at pitches that are ideal for long powder runs. Being positioned west of Vail Pass means that the resort catches more snow than mountains on the other side in Summit County. Early on in the season in December that can make a big difference as an extra 18 inches can open up a lot of terrain.

More than 40% of Vail's slopes face north, which helps further protect the snow that is on the ground. Even the snow in the back bowls, which have lots of sun exposure, will stay chalky in December as the cold temperatures and low sun angles further preserve the snow.

Vail snow score by month, December in focus

What matters when it comes to snow for December skiing:

Finding good snow early in the season is often a game of chance. But there are mountains and regions that historically perform better than others. We take these factors into account when grading out our scores for resorts and the given season. That said, it's almost always a better bet, in terms of snow and open terrain, to ski in January or Feburary compared with December.

But skiing during the December holidays is a great tradition and it's also one of the only times many families can get away for extended periods.

Those skiing December should look for ski resorts with high average annual snowfalls and low standard deviations. In addition, steep and rocky ski resorts need more snow to get terrain open compared with ski resorts with more modest terrain.

This is also the time of year when slope aspects—north, east, south, west—matter the least. The sun is at it lowest angles in North America in December and has less effect on the snowpack at this time of year than at any other. So ski resorts that possess lots of south-facing and east-facing terrain will generally ski better—assuming there is enough snow—during these darkest times of winter rather than the spring. More explanation on this topic can be found on our snow rankings page.

Vail skiing by month:
By Month
Data show that February is the best month Vail for overall snow quality.