I've been traveling to Vail/Beaver Creek & Aspen for a LONG time and first started out with the shuttle service, crammed into a Van with lots of other people for the 2 plus hours to Vail and 4 hours to Aspen - Never in a million years did I think I could afford a "chartered car service", but I found a company that for 2 or more people has VERY reasonable rates and, here's the great part, discounted my rentals (snowboard and skis) and discounted my lift tickets. So, with what we saved in the perks, my transportation was less than what it would have been for the CME shuttle. This coming February (2014), I'll be flying into Denver with a group of friends (10 in all) and we're using the same company (Vail Coach) in their Mercedes Sprinter Vans - we can bring our own DVD's if we want an play them on the way - the woman who took my reservation said their Mercedes have 32 inch flat screens! This will be my 5th year using this company so you may want to check them out.
Vail has its own small airport 40 minutes west of the resort. Although this airport has connections to major cities in the US, the flights tend to be less frequent and quite expensive, especially when one adds the expensive taxi from the airport to town. The easiest and most economical way to get to Vail is to fly into Denver's international airport, where flights are frequent and much cheaper. From Denver's airport, the Colorado Mountain Express (CME) offers frequent shuttles to Vail and back. The cost is about $90 per person and the trip takes just over 2 hours. Private cars are also available by various services, but cost anything from $325 to $440 (as of March 2010) in total, so if you are 3 or more people, it might be the better way to travel. Below, I've included the CME contact info, but if you're planning a trip to Vail, I suggest you google other services to compare prices.
Take heed of the strong "suggestion" to take a bus. It runs form one end of VAil to the other and many stops in between. More than just a recommendation, the use of the bus for locals and visitors is mandatory at some times and in some areas. Read the attached to get the flavor for what is in store. Violators have heavy penalties to pay.
If you are like most people, you will have a car and therefore can drive yourself up to (or back from) the mountain resorts. However, if you find yourself in the situation where you either do not need a car once you arrive, or do not have access to one, you can still arrive to Vail, Frisco, Dillon, Snowmass... just about anywhere in between.
Prices range from $40 to $400 depending on if you go in the common shuttle bus or if you charter your own ride for a group.
Pick ups are about every hour. You can book and check rates/times on the internet.
Colorado Mountain Express. You can have door-to-door service on CMR for $59 per person (tip not included)
Obviously you can rent cars in Denver or COS or anywhere in Colorado (or any state) to get to Vail. If you have a car, you're pretty well set as far as getting to Beaver Creek, Avon and other places.
Keep in mind, however, that if you have a car, you have to park it. The parking garage in Vail fills up quickly, especially on weekends when the Denverites come up to play. If you are staying in Vail Village, you can park in the garage or maybe at the hotel. If you have a vacation rental, you might leave the car at home and take a bus in. Parking is not permitted along Frontage Road, however, after the parking garage fills up, they let people park along the road. This line of cars can extend almost a mile. SO GET THERE EARLY! The slopes open at 8. If you want to park, get there maybe before or by 7:30. I don't know when the garage opens... I think it's 24 hours. The garage is free after 3:00 pm, I believe.
There is also a garage at Lionshead if the Vail garage is full. This one also fills up, but it may be worth a try.
In short, if you hit the slopes when they open, you shouldn't have a probem parking, especially during the week. If you want to sleep in, you're better off taking a bus in. If not, you might be walking. I'll wave to you from the bus.
There are ECO buses that run along I-70, and local buses that run all over the Vail area. They are free, and to one without much money, very convenient. You can also walk. There is a trail, paved all the way from the Copper Mountain ski area, up to and maybe past Beaver Creek, which passes right in front of Vail Village. It's a long trip by foot or bike, up some long hills... coming from Copper...
To get to town from East or West Vail, there are buses that run on schedule (every fifteen minutes or so) to and from the VTC. You'll have to descend and ascend to and from Vail Village to get to the buses, which is tiring with all your stuff after a day of skiing. If you are staying in Vail Village, you can use the In-town buses that run from Lionshead to Golden Peak, free. At the VTC, you'll note that the buses are lined up by color and destination (only about six slots). Find where your bus stops and that's where you'll pick it up.
You could take a Greyhound from Denver to Vail. The bus stops at the Vail Transportation Center (VTC). It's nicer to take a CME, Colorado Mountain Express. Their vans runs fairly often throughout the day and they have facilities to accomodate skis and snowboards. It's a much nicer ride with fewer people. They also stop at the VTC. See the Around Vail tip if you don't drive yourself to Vail. Visit www.ridecme.com for schedules and tickets. They leave from the airport, so you don't have to go downtown to the Greyhound station.
The best way to get to Vail is through Denver (about 1.5-2 hours). I often fly to Denver (DIA/DEN). If you desire a more refined method of travel, The Eagle County Airport (code EGE) is a short distance (40 minutes or so) from Vail proper.
The free Vail shuttle stops at the pedestrian areas, Lyonshead village and several of the major resorts. It operates about every 10 minutes and is your best bet for getting around. Vail Village is closed to automobile traffic so the only other way to see it is by walking, which is recommended.
From Denver: Take I 70 westbound. It will take about 1,5 hrs. when the traffic is not too bad. Otherwise it might take several hours. And your car should be in good shape because I 70 winds up two long mountain passes. For skiers and visitors Vail has huge parking garages close to the Interstate.