There’s a reason U.S. and European travelers flock to Vail each winter: The region’s world-renowned skiing is complemented by a stellar fine dining scene, designer shopping, and luxury hotels. Journalist and avid skier Stacey Lastoe has the scoop.
One of Vail’s newest properties (the luxury boutique hotel opened in November 2021) is also one of its most sought-after, thanks to serene and elegant accommodations helmed by gracious staff. The 344-room hotel embodies a Swiss mentality regarding hospitality and the spirit of aprés ski. Its ski-in, ski-out location means easy access to Well & Being, the on-site spa, after a rigorous day on the mountain.
The best rooms at this Bavarian-style ski lodge have fireplaces and spectacular mountain views, but all 127 guest rooms ooze charm and are well-appointed to boot. Be sure to make time for dinner at the Swiss Chalet, where fondue and schnitzel do their part to maintain the European ski vibes. If altitude is a problem, rest assured that Sonnenalp’s Spa Cafe & Oxygen Bar will have you feeling fresh in no time.
While you can’t go wrong starting with a cocktail here when doors open at 5 p.m., this aprés ski gem specializes in distinct wine offerings, with 50 by-the-glass options to satisfy even the pickiest oenophiles in the group. Added luxury comes in the form of lobster deviled eggs; a stellar cheese and charcuterie selection are always on the menu.
Considering Vail’s reputation among European ski enthusiasts, it’s no wonder the French restaurant dishing up classics such as escargot and smoked duck alongside more eclectic dishes like hibachi BBQ oysters and black-truffle miso halibut is perpetually buzzing.
By virtue of its prime location in the Four Seasons, you know you can expect excellent service and carefully crafted cocktails in cool digs. Sip the mezcal-based drink Smoke & Flowers by the fire and contemplate which wings to order: buffalo, sesame gochujang, or barbeque.
Vail overflows with aprés ski options, but for after-hours shenanigans, head to this live music venue where the party starts at 9 p.m. and goes until the wee hours of the morning. Conveniently located in Vail Village, this bar serves booze and beers in an intimate setting and is a fine contrast to many of the village’s more upscale watering holes.
Ski and snowboard the slopes at Vail Ski Resort, which has a plethora of ski runs for all levels.
Sure, the architecture pales in comparison to say, Aspen or Telluride, but what this cookie-cutter hub lacks in exterior aesthetics, it more than makes up for beyond the surface. Fuel up at Westside Café & Market with the dirty biscuits and gravy, and grab any last-minute ski accessories from Helly Hansen or Patagonia. After you’ve had your fill of Vail’s back bowls (impossible but there’s always tomorrow), refuel with a $3 draft beer (between 2-5:30 p.m.) and burger at Southside Benderz before meandering over to home goods store Hygge Life.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the museum’s artifacts tell a story of Colorado’s love affair with skiing and snowboarding. On display now: Tom Sims snowboard featured in the James Bond film “A View to Kill.”
Entrance to the highest elevation botanic garden in North America is free ($5 is the suggested donation) and possibly 365 days a year. Unsurprisingly alpine and mountain plants are on prominent display, and both public and private tours are offered.
Located in Eagle, Colorado, where visitors looking for a more direct route to Vail fly into, this bowling alley is a worthwhile detour from the main Vail scene. Billiards, an arcade, and quintessential gaming snacks like nachos and jalapeno poppers will keep you occupied and sated for the duration.