Vail, Colorado – The Guide to Skiing in Style

Colorado – land of the free. Particularly as of late, since the implementation of their own set of laws around certain….substances….But my trip this weekend had nothing to do with politics. It had to do with skiing! And my oh my did I choose a good place to do it.

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Vail is one of the best known ski resorts in Colorado and rightly so because it’s awesome.  Despite being there on one of the busiest weekends of the Winter, because of the size of the mountain and the number of slopes, it never felt crowded.  Actually, in some places (particularly the backside of the mountain), you are left feeling almost alone.

It’s pretty tough to do Vail wrong – there’s loads of nice hotels and fun restaurants and bars.  However, I had a really really great time, so I figured I’d give you a run down of how I did it…really really right.  Most importantly, I was with five of my very favorite people –  friends I’ve known for years and all, conveniently, different level skiers.

Some of my favorite couples (me included in the middle!)

Some of my favorite couples (me included in the middle!) out to dinner in Vail

First, and most importantly, if you’re not a good skier or confident skier, or even just a rusty skier – go to Ski School! Vail’s school is pretty good – in particular, I’d recommend ski instructor extraordinaire, Mindy B!

Being a beginner, I thought one full day lesson would be plenty to prep me for the big leagues (…green slopes…), but I was definitely being overconfident. Luckily, my Bunny Slopes Buddy convinced me after the first lesson to book a second day.  Thank God for her! By the time I reached the real slopes on the third day of the trip, no longer shielded by my ski school confidence, I realized just how tough the Rocky Mountains can be. Note: Take ski school until you can at least ski in parallel on what you would consider a very steep hill (it’s not that steep really–the black diamonds are like vertical drops). I’m so glad I didn’t learn this lesson the hard way.

My ski school partner in crime - Whit!

My ski school partner in crime – Whit!

Skiing is also a perfect group vacation, and Vail has a lot of great deals for condos where you can all stay together. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to stay in one of the condos at the Four Seasons Resort. Now, I love the Four Seasons for all the obvious reasons, but I particularly love the Four Seasons because it’s a hotel built around the mantra of “luxury for anyone.”  When Isadore Sharp, a Canadian businessman, opened the Four Seasons in the 1960’s, his goal was to compete with the old-world, elite hotels of the time that he felt treated guests based on their social class. Even today, you can feel the community-esque environment that he developed at the Four Seasons.  It’s luxury with all the amenities you can imagine, but it’s welcoming and friendly, rather than stiff and snooty like other luxury hotels can sometimes be.  Given the opportunity to stay at a luxury hotel, I’d go with the Four Seasons every time, just based on that.

The heated pool area at the Four Seasons Vail

The heated pool area at the Four Seasons Vail

J relaxing in the condo after a day on the slopes

J relaxing in the condo after a day on the slopes

View from the Four Seasons Vail lobby balcony

View from the Four Seasons Vail lobby balcony

The Four Seasons Vail is also serves a famous hot chocolate.  It is the most decadent thing I’ve ever experienced and to top it off, it comes with a dark chocolate lattice, a giant marshmallow, whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.  It’s a steep $15 but you’ll appreciate it sitting in front of the fire after a long day of skiing.  Even if you don’t stay at the Four Seasons, stop by their lobby bar for this chocolate sugar high.

Chocolate Heaven in a cup

Chocolate Heaven in a cup

What I know of the black diamond slopes and lesser skied “back bowls” at Vail Mountain is secondhand from the more adventurous foursome in our group.  Two days in Ski School unfortunately did not prepare me for anything more than a slight decline.  However, Vail has great areas where Black Diamonds run almost parallel to green and blue slopes, so on my last day, when I went out with J, we were able to ski together without having me flailing my way down a black diamond slope or him napping his way down a green.  Also, during my Ski School days, our instructor was very welcoming to our group joining us for lunch at one of the lodges.  She even gave pro bono advice to our token snow boarder in the group on how to handle the moguls (my advice: avoid, but apparently there is somewhat of a strategy).

The group in ski heaven

The group at Mid Vail Lodge. Me in a horribly unflattering helmet…and jacket….and pants. C’est la vie de ski.

Last but certainly not least, is Vail Village. Vail is pretty small, but there are some areas that are a bit tougher to get to.  Conveniently, there is a free bus service running through the whole town, and most hotels have shuttles that run. So, nowhere is out of reach.

Not only does the town have a very necessary set of ski shops, it’s got loads of high end shopping and even a Lululemon that does apres-ski yoga!

Vail Village (courtesy of dowdledaily.com)

Vail Village (courtesy of dowdledaily.com)

Vail Village has many cute restaurants and most importantly, great apres-ski bars. I’m not going to lie, my group was most often tempted by the hot tubs at the Four Seasons which allowed us to bring our own wine stash, but when we did venture out, we were pretty impressed.

The first night we celebrated our arrival at an adorable restaurant called Terra Bistro.  I actually tried Boar there! …in the form of a pasta sauce, but still rather daring for me.  They have a very Colorado feeling menu with gamey meats and fish on hand.  Also, a…ahem…growth operation…underneath the restaurant.  They would only admit to growing vegetables like Kale and Spinach though, but we were all suspicious.

The girls at Terra Bistro

The girls at Terra Bistro

Other recommendations we got from some Vail frequenters were:

And for lower key eats:

  • Pazzo’s Pizza (great pizza for delivery or eating in, gets crowded because it’s so popular)
  • Joe’s Deli (great for a hearty pre-ski breakfast – we took advantage of this place everyday)
After skiing day one

After skiing day one

Once you get the hang of it, which I did (sort of) after my two days in ski school, skiing is amazing! So fun and a great work out.  I can honestly say I’m officially hooked! I made it down a few blue slopes at the end of my third day, so I’m feeling pretty accomplished. Next time, it’s the big leagues for me….or perhaps back to ski school…You up for it, Whit?

Last day of skiing at the top of Vail Mountain

Last day of skiing at the top of Vail Mountain

Also, check out this adorable video my friend Paul made of our trip! Great memories….

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