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. To help plan your next trip, we asked Matt Wilson, Concierge at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail, to share tips for experiencing the very best of Vail.
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.
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 chicken instead of popcorn. Bōl Vail, a cutting-edge bowling alley, offers a menu of shared plates and a 400-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 since 1963, with live music nightly. In Lionshead, spacious Garfinkel’s has an ideal location right off the gondola, with a huge outdoor deck and incredible mountain views.
Go to the mountain
With 31 lifts, numerous back bowls and more than 5,000 acres (2,023 hectares) of terrain, Vail is the third largest single mountain ski resort in the United States. State-of-the-art heated gondolas and two 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.
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.
Unwind at the Spa
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 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 rejuvenating retreat in the privacy of a couples suite captures the essence of mountain living. It begins with a foot ritual to cleanse and re-energise active feet, followed by a clay and crushed corn flour face and body mask to draw impurities from the skin. After a refreshing rain shower rinse, you both relax even more as warmed river stones, drenched in the natural scent of evergreens, glide over muscles with nourishing oils to melt tension. Finally, you finish with a soothing mineral soak together to allow time for your bodies to drink in the benefits of nature’s healing essences.
A perfect day in Vail
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 scrambled egg, chorizo and rancher bean 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 them 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. Acclaimed chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Matsuhisa offers one of the best dinners in the village. 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.