The Ultimate Mountain Guide

Where to ski, board, stay, eat, drink, shop, play, and buy real estate in Colorado's best mountain towns.

November 2010


The biggest knock against Vail is the crowds—people swarm this resort in the winter. And with more than 3,450 vertical feet and 5,200 acres of some of the best skiing in North America, who’s to blame them? Our best advice is to try to keep your skiing at Vail confined to the weekdays; if you simply must go there on the weekend, avoid mid-mountain like the plague. In town, prepare thy pocketbook—Vail hasn’t gotten a reputation for luxury for nothing.

SKI The north facing Champagne Glade in Blue Sky Basin is a haven for strong intermediate skiers—the trees are tricky enough to be a challenge, but you’re not eating branches at every turn. If you’re not brave enough to jump off the Lover’s Leap cornice, grab a spot at a safe distance below to watch daredevils throwing flips and spins. Finally, if you want to flee the crowds, head to the Siberia Bowl, which is difficult to get to, but worth it for the empty, expert-only runs.

STAY In a town loaded with lodging options, the Vail Cascade stands apart: The ski-in/ski-out hotel doesn’t have a bad room in the place (1300 Westhaven Dr., vailcascade.com, starting at $109). We also dig the Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa, a boutique hotel with top-notch spa treatments (352 E. Meadow Dr., vailmountainlodge.com, rooms starting at $225).

EAT If you’re looking for a big slice of New York–style pizza, head to Vendetta’s; after midnight, you’ll have to fight your way through hungry crowds (291 Bridge St., vendettasvail.com). Ristorante Ti Amo is a low-key, old-school Italian restaurant. Head there early or late, or be ready to wait (40928 U.S. Hwy. 6, tiamovail.com). Diners looking for a more elegant option should book a table at Restaurant Kelly Liken—the eponymous restaurant of the Top Chef contestant—for a seasonal meal featuring Colorado’s finest ingredients (12 Vail Road, kellyliken.com).

DRINK The George pulls loads of happy hour enthusiasts for $4 you-call-its and $8.50 apps (232 E. Meadow Dr., entrance on Bridge St.). One of the most famous après-ski joints in the state is the rollicking Red Lion (304 Bridge St., theredlion.com).

SHOP Aficionados of European-style skiwear—think cashmere sweaters, shiny parkas, and fur-collared women’s jackets—will fall in love with the Gorsuch (263 E. Gore Creek Dr., gorsuch.com). Roxy is the spot for casual fashionistas, carrying a well-curated selection of brands from Hudson to Michael Stars (172 E. Gore Creek Dr., roxyvail.com). If you’re in need of makeup or skin products, head to Cos Bar (188 Gore Creek Dr., cosbar.com).

BUY IN Two-bedroom, two-bath condos in the middle of Vail Village start at a cool $1.3 million and put you in walking distance of the lifts. If you’re looking for brand-new luxury, check out the Ritz-Carlton Residences for both fractional and whole ownership options—a two-bedroom condo will set you back $1.8 million, while a six-bedroom Master of The Universe condo rings up at $9.2 million (theresidencesvail.com).

DON'T MISS When snow is blanketing the ground and falling softly from the sky, not much beats a horse-drawn sleigh ride at 4 Eagle Ranch (4098 Highway 131, Wolcott, 4eagleranch.com, reservations required). If you tire of the après-ski and dining scene, head down the road to Beaver Creek to catch a dance or classical music show at the Vilar Performing Arts Center (68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek, vilarpac.org).