Stop me if you’ve done this before: Wake up at some ungodly hour, throw your gear in the trunk while simultaneously dragging a sleepy loved one to the car and start driving west to get to Vail before the parking lots overflow and the gondola line backs up into Lionshead. We all know Vail is a great place to ski. It’s just a colossal pain in the behind to daytrip there on the weekend.
That’s why, once a year, I do Vail in style.
Wine, skiing, hot tubs, gourmet dinners, and, of course, the requisite hefty credit card tab. When you rent a Village condo for the weekend, it changes your perspective. On my most recent jaunt, I took advantage of a friend’s offer to share her three-bedroom condo at Mountain Haus, a luxury hotel right at the entrance to Vail Village. We arrived for a President’s Day weekend worth of skiing and pampering on a Friday afternoon after ducking away from the office a few hours early. Our robes hung neatly in the closet of our suite and the outdoor hot tub was the perfect antidote for a week’s worth of city stress.
Now, Vail’s legendary bowls live up to their hype. On this uncrowded weekend (on President’s Day weekend, local ski passes are blacked out), we had Blue Sky Basin’s gladed runs to ourselves, enjoyed whisper-soft turns in China Bowl, and perfectly powdery moguls on Highline. This is nothing new; I indulge in day trips to Vail most every weekend.
Getting to enjoy Vail before and after skiing is to know a ski town with which only few others compare (Aspen, Telluride, Whistler). Sophisticated tastes visit Vail, and sophisticated restaurateurs continue to tempt the palates while bar owners offer nightlife befitting of a city. We dined in style, making reservations at the posh Sweet Basil. Melding modern American flavors, Sweet Basil has consistently been one of the best restaurants in town since the late 70s. Terra Bistro, Montauk and La Tour are also favorites if you have more time.
Sufficiently plump from a four-course lesson in gourmet, we walked down the spirited streets of the European-style Vail Village. To our left, wealthy empty-nesters window shopping some of the priciest retailers in the state. To our right, 20-something lift operators shuffling to the next bar. We settled in for live music at Red Lion, an après ski hot spot that stays lively until midnight. We didn’t stay out too late though, because if there is something you don’t want to waste, it’s the ability to walk to the lift, well rested while the weekend warriors battle gridlock.
So the next morning, we rolled out of our pillow top and did just that. With a quick breakfast at Covered Bridge Coffee, we arrived at the base ready to tackle nearly 6,000 skiable acres on a full night’s sleep, well before Front Rangers could clog up the lift mazes.
That’s how you do Vail.
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Pictured: Be the most stylish at the most chic resort. Obermeyer Method pant ($170) and Dolly Tex jacket ($290), Swany Artic mitts ($60) available at Christy Sports. Spy Optic Bianca sunglasses ($110) available at Outdoor Divas.