We asked Matt Wilson, Concierge at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail, to gather the savviest sight-seeing suggestions he could find—not just his own, but also those of other local connoisseurs, including some he works with every day at the Hotel. With seemingly endless mountain activities, family-friendly entertainment options and gourmet dining, this world-renowned ski destination has much to offer both on and off the slopes.
Chef Kelly Liken is a former Top Chef finalist, and her namesake restaurant, just down the street from the Hotel, is Vail’s top fine-dining destination. Kelly Liken’s modern American cuisine focuses heavily on ultra-fresh, ultra-local seasonal ingredients for specialties like elk carpaccio. The restaurant’s wine list contains more than 250 selections, including more than five dozen available by the glass.
Pedestrian-friendly Vail has long had the best and most varied shopping of any Colorado ski resort. Upscale Italian clothier Luca Bruno carries Italian designers and its own line of dress shirts for men at its two Vail locations. In Vail Village, local favourites are The Golden Bear for jewellery, Gorsuch for high-end ski gear and designer clothes for men and women, Pepi Sports for top-of-the-line ski wear and equipment, and Kemo Sabe for Western wear and boots. In Lionshead, Avalon offers stylish apparel for men and women. Double Diamond ski shop, known for its custom boot fitting, has the biggest local following for sportswear.
Stars and Strikes
Warm up with the indoor entertainment options at the Solaris complex. Catch a flick at CineBistro, a movie theatre that serves gourmet snacks such as popcorn shrimp instead of popcorn. Bōl Vail, a cutting-edge bowling alley, offers a menu of shared plates and a 100-bottle wine list.
With four interconnected base villages, Vail offers après-ski for every taste. Vail Village’s slope-side Los Amigos is where locals snack on chips and salsa while watching unwary skiers make their way down the black-diamond slope of Pepi’s Face. Also in Vail Village, The Red Lion has been the go-to pub choice for more than 30 years, with live music nightly. In Lionshead, spacious Garfinkel’s has an ideal location right above the gondola, with a huge outdoor deck and incredible mountain views.
Make the Most of the Mountain
With 31 lifts, numerous back bowls, and more than 5,000 acres (202 hectares) of terrain, Vail is the largest single mountain ski resort in the United States. State-of-the-art heated gondolas and two new high-speed chairlifts give skiers of all levels easy and convenient access to the mountain’s renowned trails and best conditions.
Advanced skiers and families should consider Adventure Sessions, an offering unique to Vail. Focused more on touring than instruction, these private or small-group sessions led by certified instructors are a bargain-priced way to skip lift lines and find the best snow.
In addition to skiing and snowboarding, Vail offers plenty to do for visitors of all ages. Adventure Ridge is a unique mountain-top activity centre that comes alive after dark, with lift-served snow tubing, kid-sized snowmobiles, bungee trampolines and ski biking. Dogsledding and hot-air ballooning are both popular Vail Valley family excursions, and the on-mountain Walking Mountains Science Center offers numerous free activities, including moonlight family snowshoe tours and nocturnal wildlife viewing sessions. You can also take to the ice together at public skating rinks in both Vail Village and Lionshead.
Vail’s Summer Breezes
There are so many things to do year-round in Vail that locals often say, “I came for the winter but stayed for the summer.” With several of Colorado’s “Fourteeners”—peaks at 14,000 feet (4,267 metres) and higher—located nearby, some of the most popular warm-weather activities are road and mountain biking, hiking, and water sports such as whitewater rafting, kayaking, scenic floats and fly-fishing. Timberline Tours is Vail’s leading river rafting outfitter, while Trailwise Guides leads hikes and mountain bike tours, Vail Sports rents quality road and mountain bikes, and Gore Creek Fly Fisherman, the valley’s oldest fly-fishing shop, has been guiding anglers for more than three decades.
There are several great golf courses in the Vail Valley, but Red Sky Ranch and Golf Club is simply the best mountain golf facility in the United States, with two courses—one by Tom Fazio, one by Greg Norman—that have been lauded by Golf Digest and Travel + Leisure. Each offers a completely unique experience, but both promise breathtaking views at every turn and are certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries. Red Sky Ranch is a private club, but guests of Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail are given access to each course on alternating days.
After a leg-burning day on the slopes or an energetic summer hike, there is no better way to relax than with a treatment in the Alpine Spa at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail. His and hers locker rooms boast whirlpool, steam and sauna, and romantics can relax together during the the Spirit of the Rockies couple’s treatment. This package begins with a soothing foot soak, infused with natural remedies to relax joints. Next, nurse altitude ailments with a super-oxygenated spa cocktail while relaxing in a warm bath. A face and body mask will draw impurities from the skin and after rinsing off in a cleansing rain shower, warmed river stones drenched in nourishing oils are used to massage muscles and melt tension.
A Perfect Day
Indulge in the best breakfast in Vail at the Hotel’s Flame restaurant, where a gourmet buffet includes everything from house-cured salmon to a chorizo burrito. Let the Hotel’s Ski Concierge procure equipment, buy tickets or book lessons so you can ski the beautiful mountains of Vail carefree. Once you return from the slopes, the Concierge will store your boots on warm driers to prepare for the next day. Treat yourself to a therapeutic massage in the Spa before heading out to the lively après-ski scene. Enjoy a margarita at Los Amigos or a glass of wine and some antipasti at La Bottega. The best dinners in the village can be found at Kelly Liken or acclaimed chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Matsuhisa. For a more dramatic dining experience, try the Game Creek Restaurant at Game Creek Club—reach the restaurant by gondola and private luxury Sno-Cat, then enjoy a gourmet dinner and unmatched mountain views.