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Can You Fly a Drone in Vail?

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If you’re visiting Colorado, few can pass up a trip to Vail. This mountainous town features the Vail Ski Resort, where you can ride down Vail Mountain via snowboard or skis.

White River National Forest surrounds the area. It’s an enchanting place for certain, but can you fly a drone in Vail?

You can fly a drone in Vail, but the town has many off-limits places you must avoid. They include the Vail Ski Resort, Ford Park, Lionshead Village, Vail Village, and more. Use a drone map to discern restricted areas and follow local drone rules when you’re permitted to fly.

If you have more questions about flying a drone in Vail, don’t worry, as we’ve got answers.

Ahead, we’ll outline every place in the town where you’re prohibited from using your drone and share Vail drone laws, so don’t miss it!

Can you fly a drone in Vail? #

The FAA allows drone usage throughout Colorado, although cities, towns, counties, and villages can create their own local ordinances. No such ordinance exists in Vail.

According to the Town of Vail website, the town permits recreational drone use. However, pilots must agree to avoid restricted areas throughout Vail and must follow the town’s rules, which we’ll discuss later.

Since Vail has so many off-limits areas, using a drone map that updates in real-time will help you avoid places where you and your drone shouldn’t be.  

Where can’t you fly in Vail? A rundown of all the off-limits places #

Vail is only 8.3 square miles, making it a nestled, cozy little town.

While its size creates that exclusive atmosphere, unfortunately, it also makes it difficult to plan a drone flight, especially once you see all the places you cannot operate.

Here’s a complete list.

Vail Valley Medical Center Heliport and surrounding areas #

Today known as Vail Health Hospital, Vail Valley Medical Center is an area regional hospital that opened in 1965. Offering 56 beds, this Eagle County hospital also features a heliport.

Hospitals are usually restricted airspace anyway, considering they’re critical infrastructure where manned aircraft sometimes lift off from and land.

The inclusion of the heliport means pilots must give this building a wide berth.

To ensure you keep your distance with your drone, the town of Vail also forbids pilots from operating in “the area immediately surrounding” the hospital and heliport.

That goes all the way to West Meadow Drive.

Ford Park #

Drone pilots always clamber for greenspace, and usually, public parks are a safe bet.

However, cities, towns, and counties can always choose to forbid drone access in individual public parks, as is the case at Ford Park.

The park is the home of a custom play area, a tennis center, the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. For those reasons, drones aren’t allowed access.

Lionshead Village #

A part of Vail Mountain, Lionshead Village encapsulates the old-world charm of Bavaria. A quaint, elegant part of Vail, the village does not allow buses or cars.

Considering the closely packed bars, restaurants, shops, and ice rinks, there’s just no room for drones.

Vail Village #

The second village on Vail Mountain is Vail Village. Interconnected to Lionshead Village via bus or on foot, Vail Village features luxury hotels and vacation rentals.

It also has skiing and hiking amenities, shopping, nightlife, and restaurants.

The quiet, charming atmosphere this village exudes could be easily disrupted by the presence of a drone, so they’re forbidden.

Vail Ski Resort #

The crown jewel of Vail is undoubtedly the Vail Ski Resort, where most of its visitors and inhabitants gather to enjoy the majesty and beauty of the snowy slopes.

The resort’s policy on drone use is as follows: “Recreational drone use by any guest or member of the public, for any reason, is not permitted on or over any Vail Resorts property.” 

Eagle Regional Airport #

If flying directly into Vail, you’ll travel via Eagle Regional Airport. This smaller area airport still requires the same adherence to the rules as any larger, international airport.

That is, you cannot fly within five nautical miles of Eagle Regional Airport with your drone.

Town-owned parking lots and structures #

The town of Vail prohibits drone use around any town-owned parking structures, which include Red Sandstone, Lionshead, and Vail Village.

State parks #

Vail itself does not have any state parks, but if you’re contemplating hitting up any in the vicinity, think twice.

Colorado State Parks Regulation #100-c.24, a 2018 state law, prohibits drone use across all state parks unless they have a designated drone usage area.

That’s the case at Cherry Creek State Park and Chatfield State Park. However, you cannot use your drone throughout the entire park in either state park, only in those designated airspaces.

Cherry Creek State Park is an hour and 45 minutes from Vail, and Chatfield State Park is an hour and a half away.

Neither park might be on your radar during your trip to Vail, but if you’re eager to fly in a park, they may have to be.

Vail drone laws to help you plan your trip #

The town of Vail requires pilots to follow these FAA drone laws when operating in allowable areas.

Do not fly over people not involved in your drone operation #

The FAA’s Operations over People law prohibits pilots from flying their drones over others unless their drone weighs under 0.55 pounds or the parties involved permit the drone to fly over them.

Vail requires pilots to adhere to this law and avoid flying over the heads of anyone who’s not partaking.

Even though you’re technically allowed to do so if you have a drone that’s under 0.55 pounds, we’d recommend you reconsider.

Keep the drone in your visual line of sight #

The town of Vail also insists that pilots operating a drone always be able to see it.

The rules don’t mention anything about a spotter in this case, so watch which drone functions you use so yours doesn’t begin to drift.

Remember that VLOS only accounts for your natural sight (including contacts or glasses if you need them), not any device that augments your vision like binoculars.

Do not exceed a drone weight of 55 pounds #

Vail has the same drone weight limit as the FAA institutes, which is 55 pounds. That includes the weight of the fuel, payload, and equipment.

Most recreational drones are nowhere near this weight limit, so you should be in the clear.

Do not fly higher than 400 feet #

You also cannot fly your drone over 400 feet from the ground. If you do, you could risk manned operations in the area.

Besides those Vail drone laws, we also encourage you to remember these FAA laws when flying your drone in this part of Colorado:

  • You must have a current drone license. Recreational pilots need a valid copy of their TRUST certificate, and commercial pilots must carry a valid Remote Pilot Certificate.The license must have been administered by the FAA. Since the Remote Pilot Certificate can expire, check that yours is still current before flying all the way out to Vail.

  • If your drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds, register it with the FAA. The registration is valid for three years.

  • If blustery, snowy weather is on the horizon, do not use your drone. You also can’t fly in any other inclement weather like hail, rain, or fog.

  • Do not use your drone over moving vehicles per the FAA’s Operations over Moving Vehicles law. You can fly a drone over stationary vehicles if the people in the vehicle grant their permission.

Vail is a mystical, modern home to all things alpine activities.

While you can generally fly a drone here, the town has so many off-limits places that you’ll have to be very strategic when planning your flights. Best of luck!


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