There's No Place Like Vail

Another local favorite is the Piney Creek Trail that you can reach from Red Sandstone Road just off the Vail exit from I-70. This hike is over 5 miles and can take anywhere from two to four hours depending on your pace and leisure.

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The key feature on this hike is the rock formations of red sandstone, cliff walls and rugged spires carved by the forces of nature over thousands of years. The hike includes a great payoff view of the valley and Gore Range. Another 10 minutes out and you'll reach Piney Creek Falls, as well.

If you travel 35 minutes outside of Vail you'll find Hanging Lake, a magnificent hike that is shorter, and a bit more touristy. The trail is steep and rocky, but only about 1 mile long following along Dead Horse Creek. The scenery is stunning and the last stretch includes a railing, as you reach the top.

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Mountain Biking

For those interested in high speeds, Vail has a full range of mountain biking trails, which can be accessed from the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Buy a day pass for $31 and they'll include a bike haul, too. Riders can choose trails of all levels from winding gravel traverses for beginners to the old World Cup racing trail called '94 Downhill meant only for experts with full pads and proper mountain biking equipment.

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But of course, skiing is still king in Vail. Recently, the wonderful folks at Vail Resorts introduced the new EpicMix online and mobile application that allows skiers with a Peaks card to track their individual runs and total vertical over the course of the day to earn badges and share information with friends on facebook.

Perhaps the best feature is a mobile application that lets your facebook friends know when you are on the mountain – unless of course, you're hoping to be incognito on this particular trip. I found it entertaining to check my ski day stats each evening.

It was also nice to start my ski trip early with Vail's Fly-In, Ski Free program. Bring an ID and your airline boarding pass to the ticket office on the day that you arrive and you get a free lift ticket for the rest of that day. A lot of big ski mountains actually have this feature, but it seems that it's only publicized through word of mouth.

More: Ski Like a Pro

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