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Kessler Canyon • Near De Beque, Colorado / $$$ (For the Outdoorsman)
Just 45 minutes east of Grand Junction, hidden within the yawning canyons of Colorado’s Western Slope, lies one of the state’s best-kept secrets. An outdoorsman’s paradise, the Kessler Canyon ranch spans 23,000 acres of rugged terrain that supports adventures in fly-fishing, hiking, ATV-ing, mountain biking, clay shooting, and, most popular in the fall and early winter, big game and upland bird hunting. The resort itself—an amalgamation of red-roofed buildings nestled next to a small lake at the base of soaring mesas—is an exercise in wood-heavy, masculine design tempered by elegant decor, attention to detail, and, almost everywhere you look, dedication to the fine art that hangs on the walls and the bronze statues that dot the property. The ranch was built by the Kessler family as a private escape in 2006; the personal touches and exclusive vibe remained even after they opened it to the public in 2007.
Who It’s For: In the fall and winter, the ranch is crawling with hunters looking to bag elk, mule deer, or a mountain lion.
Get A Room: There are three lodging options—guest rooms in the Guesthouse or the Homestead or hunting cabins that are scattered throughout the property. We’d choose a suite in the Guesthouse for the mountain and stream views.
The Best Part: The staff’s intensely consistent yet understated manner of serving its guests; you won’t encounter a sour face, a service misstep, or a faux pas from anyone.
Bonus: Chef Leonard McNab’s “cowboy cuisine” is anything but. Chef Lenny, as everyone calls him, was a true chuck wagon cook—but these days he rustles up dishes like acorn squash–eggnog bisque with nutmeg cream and coffee-crusted rack of lamb with homemade red jalapeño–mint jelly.
Book It: Rates in November and through December 15 (the ranch is closed from December 16 through April) start at $295 for room only and begin at $470 for the all-inclusive option; kesslercanyon.com; 970-283-1145
Avalanche Ranch • Near redstone, Colorado / $ (For Couples)
Nestled into the shadow of 12,953-foot Mt. Sopris, the 36-acre Avalanche Ranch Cabins and Hot Springs serves as a lovely home base for all the wintertime activities you might seek: snowshoeing, ice skating, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, ice climbing, sledding, sleigh rides, and dog sled tours. What you might not expect is that Avalanche Ranch brings a bit of warmth to the snowy season with its three beautifully terraced hot springs pools, which were completed less than two years ago.
Who It’s For: Couples looking for a reasonably priced, easy-rustic escape from the city.
Get A Room: If you’re planning to enjoy the hot springs, cabins 1, 2, 12, and 14 are closest to the pools.
The Best Part: The views of Mt. Sopris, Elephant Mountain, and Avalanche Creek Valley are postcard worthy.
Book It: Cabins run from $85 to $189 per night in the winter; avalancheranch.com; 970-963-2846
The Gant Aspen • Aspen, Colorado / $$ (For Families)
There are many fine hotels in this jewel of a town tucked into the Elk Mountains—the Little Nell, the Hotel Jerome, the Sky Hotel. But sometimes, especially if you have kids in tow, a low-key (and often lower-priced) condo feels more comfortable. The Gant, a 140-condo-unit resort, offers nearly anything you might want for a lovely yet practical ski weekend: fully equipped kitchens, wood-burning fireplaces, swimming pools and three hot tubs, saunas, shuttle services, daily housekeeping, ski storage, overnight tuning services, and a helpful concierge.
Who It’s For: Families wanting to experience the beauty of Aspen and its three ski mountains without staying in a ritzy hotel.
Get A Room: The Gant has one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom condos.
The Best Part: A superb location. Just three blocks from the ski lifts and the heart of downtown Aspen, this unassuming ski condo enclave is a compelling—and different—way to stay near the famous slopes at Ajax.
Book It: Rates vary depending on dates and size of condo; gantaspen.com; 1-866-956-6317
Amangiri • Canyon Point, Utah / $$$ (For the Adventurer)
If the landscapes of the Western desert speak to you, Amangiri should be your next destination. Huddled at the base of a towering mesa, the 34-suite resort blends seamlessly into its environment. In fact, the designers of this exclusive hotel were so mindful of the scenery’s allure they built the swimming pool around a finger of rock that juts into the 600-acre property. The interior decor also takes the surrounding natural wonder into account: the clean, right angles, varied textures, and neutral color scheme mimic what guests see out the floor-to-ceiling windows in their suites. Amangiri’s maxim of peaceful relaxation is perfectly complemented by its comprehensive outdoor adventure offerings, which take advantage of the Four Corners region. Surrounded by attractions like the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Lake Powell, and Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks, guests can sign up for guided hikes, float trips, climbing, canyoneering, cycling, ballooning, boating, and horseback riding trips.
Who It’s For: Outdoor enthusiasts who want to break up their adventures with a spa massage and a day at the pool.
Get A Room: Sunset views from the Mesa View suites are unsurpassed.
The Best Part: The on-property hiking is second to none; grab a trail map when you arrive.
Book It: From November 1 through March 15, 2013, the Season of Adventure & Rejuvenation special includes all meals, two daily guided group hikes, and one daily yoga class. Package rates start at $1,050. amanresorts.com; 1-877-695-3999.
Gateway Canyons Resort • Gateway, Colorado / $$$ (For the Adventurer)
Although this Western Slope resort was initially opened by Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks in 2005, Gateway Canyons Resort finally became exactly what Hendricks originally envisioned after a $130 million expansion that began in spring 2012. Located in the mesa- and canyon-lands near the Colorado-Utah border, the adobe-walled resort reflects its stunning geographical surroundings—and takes advantage of them with a variety of winter activities like snowshoeing in Unaweep Canyon and guided trail rides through the frosty scenery. Or, if you’re jonesing to downhill ski, make a reservation with the resort’s Air Tours, which will pick you up in a helicopter and whisk you to Telluride for a powdery day of in-bounds schussing or heli-skiing. End the day in the spa or with a late meal of Colorado lamb at the resort’s Entrada restaurant.
Who It’s For: Adventure-seekers with healthy wallets and curious minds.
Get A Room: The signature rooms with hot tubs in the Kiva Lodge are near the pool, have gas fireplaces, and offer stunning views of the mesas.
The Best Part: The resort is infused with Hendricks’ love of…well…discovery and intellectual pursuits. You’ll find that educational movies are often running in the resort’s high-def theater; there are multiple resort-prepared but self-guided walking tours on the property; and Hendricks’ auto museum is worth an afternoon of wandering.
Book It: Ask about the Gateway to Romance package (starting at $399 per night), which includes a night of accommodations in the Kayenta Lodge, $100 of resort credit, a bottle of local wine, and discounts on other resort amenities; gatewaycanyons.com; 1-866-671-4733
The Saguaro • Scottsdale, Arizona / $$ (For Hipsters)
Sometimes a winter escape is more like an escape from winter. If Colorado’s cold begins to wear on your sunny outlook, book a weekend at Scottsdale, Arizona’s, newly remade, 1970s-era motel, the Saguaro. Manning a corner in the center of Old Town Scottsdale (the trendy restaurant, bar, and shopping district), this five-decade-old, 194-room building got a $10 million facelift courtesy of California-based Joie de Vivre hotel group. The bright color scheme of oranges, pinks, purples, greens, and yellows is supposed to imitate the hues of Arizona’s vibrant desert flowers. We’ll admit it takes the eyes a few minutes to adjust, but the cheerfulness of the design quickly wins you over, as will the modern Mexican menu at Distrito, the spa, and the reasonable price tag for a room.
Who It’s For: Although the Crayola-box-gone-wild look might suggest child-friendliness, the Saguaro definitely has a swank factor that might not be compatible with, say, a screaming toddler.
Get A Room: The normal guest rooms are a little tight; book a king-bed suite for a bit of extra space.
The Best Part: The location. The Saguaro is just blocks from everything: galleries, restaurants, bars, shops, and even Scottsdale Stadium—making it a great home base for Cactus League baseball.
Book It: Rooms start at $189; thesaguaro.com; 1-877-808-2440
OPUS Hut • Near telluride, Colorado / $ (For Skiers)
Balanced on the southern face of 13,661-foot Lookout Peak, the OPUS Hut (the acronym stands for Ophir Pass Ultimate Ski) looks like it’s straight out of the high Andes. Not just because of its wooden exterior and sharply angled roof, but also because of the surrounding jagged peaks, the unbelievable snowfall, and the isolation. Owner Bob Kingsley built the cabin after years of backcountry hut experience working in Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division hut system. His cabin, however, is a serious step up from most huts you’ll find in Colorado. In every way, OPUS Hut is a backcountry skier’s dream. Of course, with an option to have a “hutkeeper” who will keep the fireplace stoked and hot meals on the table, available hot water, and indoor toilets, anyone can enjoy a stay at this 11-month-old lodge. In the summer, guests can hike into OPUS; in the winter, skis or snowshoes will be necessary to reach the solar-powered hut. The 3.5-mile journey is an intermediate-level ski (of the alpine touring variety) or a difficult, deep-powder snowshoe.
Who It’s For: Powder hounds, tree skiers, and anyone else who loves to play in untracked snow.
Get A Room: Guests can reserve a single bed in the Bunk Room ($35 per night), choose a private room ($105–$175 per night), or reserve the entire hut ($560), which can accommodate up to 16 people.
The Best Part: The terrain here is epic and wonderfully varied, but having a morning cup of coffee on the deck—drinking in the unparalleled views of the San Juan Mountains—is beyond compare.
Quick Tip: Kingsley says a good time to visit the hut is from late October through mid-December; any later than that and the snowpack can become unmanageable for beginner skiers and sometimes dangerous due to unstable conditions.
Book It: opushut.com; email@example.com, 970-708-0092
Pioneer Guest Cabins • Crested Butte, Colorado / $$ (For Skiers)
We have extolled the virtues of this cluster of cabins near Crested Butte in the past, but the lovingly restored accommodations are just too cozy to pass up. Originally a part of the base area for the old Gunnison-Pioneer Winter Sports Area, the eight historic log structures are sprinkled throughout the seven-acre property that lives inside Gunnison National Forest. Complete with wood and/or gas stoves, fully equipped kitchens, and adorable rustic cabin decor, these compact living spaces have everything guests need for a romantic getaway or a ski weekend with friends. From the front doors of their cabins, guests can hop on snowshoe and cross-country skiing trails that wind through frosted spruce and fir trees. In early winter, deer and elk are sometimes spotted along the paths. For the downhill skiing inclined, Crested Butte Mountain Resort is just a 15-minute drive away and offers beginner slopes as well as a huge amount of lift-accessible extreme terrain.
Who It’s For: Ski-weekenders who might not be quite as enthused with your typical ski town condo rental.
Get A Room: The Alpenglow, Doubletop, Oh-Be-Joyful, and Cottonwood cabins are closest to the trails.
The Best Part: The solitude. Crested Butte is only eight miles away, but it might as well be a thousand.
Bonus: In 2011, Crested Butte Mountain Resort opened an on-mountain Zip Line Tour, which is one of the few winter-available zip lines in the state.
Book It: Rates range from $131 to $171 in the winter; pioneerguestcabins.com; 970-349-5517
Adobe & Pines Inn • Rancho de Taos, New Mexico / $$ (For Couples)
Romance is not dead. It’s just hiding out at a bed-and-breakfast in a tiny town outside of Taos, New Mexico. Built around a 178-year-old Spanish hacienda, the Adobe & Pines Inn exudes warmth and charm, and through the smallest of details—private hot tubs, wood-burning fireplaces, candles everywhere—nurtures a dreamy ambience that’s ideal for a weekend away from the kids. And while you’re away from the everyday grind, take advantage of the inn’s feather beds and the utter silence and sleep in—until about 9:15 a.m. At that point you’ll want to throw on some clothes and make your way to the dining room for a full breakfast of homemade biscuits with peach and rosemary jam or a veggie frittata with feta. Fully sated, you and your significant other can spend the day exploring the hacienda, the nearby San Francisco de Asis Mission Church (you’ll recognize it from Georgia O’Keeffe paintings), and the galleries and bistros in Taos.
Who It’s For: This little B&B welcomes families, but has a decidedly adult ambience.
Get A Room: Puerta Rosa has a private entrance from the courtyard, a candle-burning kiva fireplace, and a two-person soaking tub.
The Best Part: Sitting around the fire ring, taking in the view of this historic hacienda, is one of the more peaceful settings you’ll experience.
Book It: adobepines.com; 1-800-723-8267
Spring Creek Ranch • Jackson, Wyoming / $$ (For Nature Lovers)
Say the word safari and the mind conjures sweeping images of Africa’s Great Rift Valley filled with exotic animals. But Denverites don’t have to go quite as far as Kenya to experience the exuberance of spotting wildlife. Instead, they need only travel to northern Wyoming’s Spring Creek Ranch, a rustic retreat that’s short on pretense and long on Western charm. Located on 1,000 acres of a wildlife preserve (elk, mule deer, moose, ermine, and red-tailed hawks) that faces the towering peaks of the Teton Range, the ranch is also just minutes from the National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park, and less than two hours from Yellowstone National Park. Throughout the winter months, Spring Creek Ranch offers sleigh rides in the National Elk Refuge, photo safaris into Grand Teton, and snowshoe hikes with the ranch’s resident naturalist.
Who It’s For: Nature enthusiasts looking for a reasonably priced wintertime excursion.
Get A Room: The Inn Rooms—there are four built into each of nine rustic cabins—are lower-cost options.
The Best Part: The view. The ranch rests atop the Gros Ventre Butte, which gives the resort unobstructed panoramic views of the Tetons.
Bonus: Breakfast at the Granary restaurant is a trip highlight. Try eggs Benedict or order something more daring like the Hoback Bowl with wild-game sausage.
Book It: Inn Rooms average $210 per night; springcreekranch.com; 1-800-443-6139
The Rocky Mountain Chalet • Fraser, Colorado / $ (For Backpackers)
Hostels aren’t for everyone. Sometimes they’re just a little too communal, a tad on the cozy side with complete strangers. However, there are places, like the Rocky Mountain Chalet, that do hostelling right. Not only does owner Dianne Wettersten have six beautifully appointed private rooms that feel more like you’re staying in a bed-and-breakfast than in a hostel, but she also maintains a sense of decorum in the four dorm-style rooms, which can sleep up to six guests. The Chalet mostly caters to young families and the we’re-traveling-the-world-to-ski set, but anyone looking for a down-to-earth, convivial vibe will relish the atmosphere—and the very unhostel-like gourmet kitchen and high-rent accommodations—at this Fraser-based lodge.
Who It’s For: Anyone wanting to do a Colorado ski weekend on a dime.
Get A Room: Traveling alone? Go for the dorm room, where you’re sure to meet a friend or two. The private rooms are better for couples or families.
The Best Part: You’re vacationing in one of Colorado’s resort towns and you’re paying (sometimes way) less than $179 a night.
Book It: therockymountainchalet.com; 970-726-8256
Miraval • Tucson, Arizona / $$$ (For Spa Lovers)
There’s a two- to three-hour window of happiness after experiencing a great massage that makes you feel light, content, and nourished both physically and mentally. When you book a trip to Tucson’s Miraval, that spa high is dramatically prolonged. Maybe it’s the serene setting, healthy cuisine, yoga sessions, wellness lectures, meditation time, art classes, or the outdoor adventure exercises designed to cleanse the mind and push the body that help your morning spa experience last. Or maybe it’s just that this destination spa does spa-ing so right. The spa menu at this (mostly) all-inclusive, 117-room resort offers no fewer than 100 different treatments, from water therapy and Reiki to body scrubs, facials, and hot stone massages for both men and women.
Who It’s For: The chronically stressed-out set; the super-crunchy, I’m-so-in-tune-with-my-body-and-spirituality spa-lover; and friends on a girls’ weekend away.
Get A Room: You’re not in your room all that often when you’re at Miraval; go for the standard room and spend your money on
more spa treatments.
The Best Part: Did we mention this place has a killer spa?
Book It: The Discover Miraval package starts at $299 per night and includes a $50 nightly resort credit, all meals and snacks, unlimited participation in regular resort-led activities like photography walks and climbing wall sessions, access to the spa’s numerous amenities, and a welcome gift; miravalresorts.com; 1-800-232-3969
Vee Bar Guest Ranch • Near Laramie, Wyoming / $ (For Families)
Tucked into the preamble of the Snowy Range mountains, the Vee Bar Guest Ranch leads a double life in southern Wyoming. In the summer, this 800-acre property hosts patrons looking for the quintessential guest ranch vacation complete with horseback riding, cattle drives, fishing, and line dancing. In the winter, though, Vee Bar morphs into an isolated bed-and-breakfast that’s the perfect launching-off point for wintry activities like skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Or, if relaxation sounds good, Vee Bar’s peaceful location—and well-stocked saloon—offers that, too.
Who It’s For: Families. The kids can roam the grounds, exploring the Little Laramie River if it’s not too cold, while the adults read a book next to the fire.
Get A Room: Vee Bar’s cabins offer a more spacious and private retreat.
The Best Part: Breakfast. Don’t miss the sunflower-seed bread or the house-favorite granola with oats, coconut, almonds,
Book It: Rates start at $150 per night during the winter; veebar.com; 1-800-483-3227
The Ranch at Rock Creek • Philipsburg, Montana / $$$ (For Couples)
If you’ve never been glamping—or don’t even know what the hell glamping is—you’re in for a treat at the Ranch at Rock Creek. This two-year-old luxury guest ranch has a variety of traditional lodging options; however, the glamorous camping (get it?) tents nestled along Rock Creek are a must for anyone with a sense of adventure. At more than 600 square feet in size and decorated better than your home’s master suite, these canvas outposts make you feel like you’re sleeping in a tent—without having to wrestle with a sleeping bag. Beyond the unique accommodations, the Ranch at Rock Creek is also one of the best guest ranches to visit in the colder months. With on-site ice skating, snowmobiling, sledding, sleigh riding, and cross-country skiing, the ranch is just as much fun in January as it is in June.
Who It’s For: Couples looking to splurge for a special occasion.
Get A Room: The ranch offers glamping for couples or families. For couples looking for an ultra-private getaway, ask about the Trapper Cabin.
The Best Part: Winter paintballing. Need we say more?
Bonus: Meals and most activities are included in the nightly rate, which means you don’t feel nickeled-and-dimed while you’re on vacation.
Book It: Depending on the lodging option you choose, nightly all-inclusive rates range from $950 to $7,500; theranchatrockcreek.com; 1-877-786-1545
Victor Hotel • Victor, Colorado / $ (For Explorers)
Winfield Scott Stratton, a prospector, capitalist, and philanthropist originally from Indiana, discovered the Independence Lode on July 4, 1891, just outside the settlement of Victor, Colorado. His discovery, which became an incredibly successful gold mine, ignited the blitz of gold rushers who descended on the area and built the town. The building now known as the Victor Hotel was originally erected in 1899 as a bank, but through the years it has hosted a hospital, restaurants, and myriad offices. Today, the hotel has a small-inn ambience that’s reinforced by the feminine decor and simple accommodations. But what makes the Victor a must-visit for many is its status as a haunted hotel. It is rumored that long-since-departed residents still roam the hotel’s hallways. Eddie, a former resident of the third floor who tumbled to his death when he stepped into an elevator shaft, is said to haunt the antique Otis birdcage-style elevator that still operates today.
Who It’s For: History buffs looking to explore nearby landmarks such as the Cripple Creek Mining District, the Gold Belt National Scenic Byway, and nearby towns like Manitou Springs.
Get A Room: For a night of ghost hunting, request a room on the fourth floor, which was formerly a hospital and morgue.
The Best Part: The hotel is surprisingly affordable; rooms start at $50.
Book It: victorhotelcolorado.com; 719-689-3553
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess • Scottsdale, Arizona / $$$ (For Families)
For anyone who hasn’t visited the Scottsdale area, it’s difficult to explain how a desert-bound suburb of Phoenix could be the resort mecca that it is. Trust us though; in between your everyday suburban strip malls and cookie-cutter subdivisions, there is a stunning resort culture. And for the past 25 years, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has been a bright spot in that well-manicured vacation landscape. Replete with five swimming pools, two world-class golf courses, a roster of restaurants, 44,000 square feet of spa space, tennis courts, and a kids’ club, the Princess is where Denverites should consider going when they’ve finally had it with the cold. Sitting out on the plaza, with a martini from the Stone Rose Lounge in hand, guests can soak up the temperate evenings while discussing how—golfing? lounging poolside?—they plan to enjoy tomorrow’s 70-degree weather.
Who It’s For: The resort can accommodate anyone, but it’s a welcome respite for families. Not only is there a kids’ pool with two waterslides, but there’s also a frozen drink and ice cream bar that serves frosty concoctions for kids and parents alike. Plus, Bobcat Billy’s Clubhouse is a daily camp for kids that runs $30 for a half day and $60 for a full day.
Get A Room: Families should book a room near the Sonoran Splash or East Pool, where most of the family action takes place. For quieter but still family-friendly accommodations, book a casita on the west side of the property.
The Best Part: The Princess is not just some place to stay while you’re on vacation; it is the vacation. If you’re a fan of full-service resorts, you will fall in love with this desert flower.
Book It: Rates start at $349; scottsdaleprincess.com; 1-866-540-4495
Point Breeze Cabin • Near Leadville, Colorado / $ (For Skiers)
Point Breeze, the newest addition to the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, came online last winter. Like many of the structures in this renowned system of backcountry huts, Point Breeze is privately owned. Unlike many of the association’s other outposts, this one-story log cabin is well appointed and cozy, with only two private rooms and four common-area beds. If you work the calendar, you can find dates that will make your party the sole inhabitants.
Who It’s For: This cabin rests in close proximity to other 10th Mountain huts, making it a great one-night layover for those doing multiday hut trips.
Get A Room: Book a private room for a quieter stay.
The Best Part: It’s only a .75-mile trek via a well-marked trail into the cabin from the Tennessee Pass trailhead.
Book It: huts.org; 970-925-5775
Tennessee Pass Sleep Yurts • Near Leadville, Colorado / $ (For a Group)
Even if you’re not typically the type who likes to “rough it” on your weekend vacation, we still recommend the ski-in accommodations at Tennessee Pass Nordic Center, Cookhouse, and Sleep Yurts. Long known for the exceptional backcountry dining experience at its Cookhouse—a 40-seat restaurant housed in a cozy, candlelit yurt—Tennessee Pass has recently added four six-person sleeping yurts that are located an easy 1.3-mile ski or snowshoe from the Nordic Center parking lot. The rounded, tentlike structures come equipped with a wood-burning stove, bunk beds with full mattresses and one full bed with linens and comforters, a stocked kitchenette with propane burner and fresh water, and, to top it off, down booties for your stay.
Who It’s For: A group of friends that appreciates the great outdoors and who don’t mind cozy sleeping arrangements.
The Best Part: You’re only .3 miles from the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse; make reservations to eat there for dinner on at least one night of your stay.
Bonus: Tennessee Pass will shuttle your overnight bags to and from the yurts for you.
Book It: Winter 2012–2013 rates are $225 per night for six guests; tennesseepass.com; 719-486-8114
The Mining Exchange • Colorado Springs, Colorado / $$ (For Local Travelers)
This recently rejuvenated 20th-century masterpiece gives guests a glimpse into Colorado’s past while still providing all the comforts of modern-day accommodations. Originally built as the home of the first stock exchange for the mining industry, the hotel’s three buildings still contain vestiges of their long history. Tall ceilings remain from the days when floor-to-ceiling chalkboards kept track of commodities. Original windows and exposed brick walls greet guests in their rooms. And there’s even a restored circa-1896 grand piano in the lobby. Located in the middle of Colorado Springs, the six-month-old Mining Exchange has been a welcome addition to a cityscape that was in need of a fresh lodging option.
Who It’s For: For those who travel south from Denver often—whether on business, or to enjoy a day in Pike National Forest, or maybe to catch a game at the Air Force Academy—the 117-room Mining Exchange is the most enticing option downtown.
Get A Room: Starting at $169, the Grand Suites are worth the cash.
The Best Part: Right next door is the Springs Orleans, an up-tempo Cajun-style eatery that often has live music.
Book It: miningexchangehotel.com 719-323-2000
Vail’s Newest Digs
If you haven’t been to Vail in the past few years, you might not recognize Colorado’s most famous ski town. Major resorts, boutique hotels, and exclusive chalet-style complexes have recently opened giving visitors a host of new options for staying in a place they say is “like nothing on Earth.” Here, a few of our favorites.
Solaris / $$$
This large development, completed in time for last year’s ski season, has redefined the Vail Village. With its shopping, restaurants, ice-skating rink, movie theater, and bowling alley, Solaris Residences has become Vail’s “other” town center. For guests staying in one of Solaris’ 79 luxury units, this means the action is just steps outside the front door. Not that you’d mind staying in your one- to six-bedroom condo all day if you had to. With stone fireplaces, gourmet kitchens, hardwood floors, expansive bathrooms, climate-controlled wine storage, and terry bathrobes at your disposal, even the allure of Vail’s slopes can dim in comparison. And with floor-to-ceiling mountain views, you kinda feel like you’re on the mountain anyway.
You Know You’re In Vail When… Your rental comes with a personal assistant, who will help you plan your visit and make sure your stay is flawless. Can’t find your favorite toothpaste in Vail? He can. Want your daughter to take an ice-skating lesson with a princess? She can make it happen. Suggestion: Bring plenty of cash for tips.
Don’t Miss: A reservation at Matsuhisa, Solaris’ fine Japanese restaurant from chef Nobu Matsuhisa.
Book it: solarisvail.com; 970-476-9000
The Arrabelle at Vail Square / $$$
This RockResorts property opened in 2008 in Lionshead Village and was really the beginning of Vail’s mini renaissance. From the rubble of the 1970s-era buildings that, until recently, dominated Lionshead, the Arrabelle arose in all of its classical alpine glory. The resort took its architectural inspiration from European cities but the resulting 62-guest-room building and surrounding environment are oh-so Vail. The grand lobby with a roaring fireplace, the rooftop lap pool and hot tubs, the 10,000-square-foot spa, the rustically elegant guest rooms—it’s all so upper-crust, yet the Arrabelle has an airy, approachable vibe that’s too often hard to come by in chichi resorts.
You Know You’re In Vail When… The hotel you’re staying at has a stunning on-mountain, three-bedroom cabin—the Game Creek Chalet—that you can only access by snowcat or skis.
Don’t Miss: The Arrabelle puts out cookies, hot chocolate, and tea in the grand lobby in the afternoons. Sometimes it’s the simple pleasures that really stand out—and make a vacation.
Book It: arrabelle.rockresorts.com; 1-866-662-7625
The Ritz-Carlton Club, Vail / $$$
Unlike some of the other new accommodations in the Vail area, the Ritz-Carlton Club & Residences Vail is understated. Don’t get us wrong, it’s well appointed and the service is impeccable; however, this isn’t a fully loaded resort hotel. Although the Ritz-Carlton Club offers in-room massage therapy and two treatment rooms, there isn’t a full-service spa. While the Lobby Lounge has a snack menu, it’s not a signature restaurant. And though there is a very nice, very private outdoor pool and hot tub, there just isn’t that swanky poolside atmosphere you’d find elsewhere. But—but!—none of this is a downside if you’re looking for the quieter side of Vail, where you spend evenings in your fabulous condo, sipping on a glass of wine, while making dinner for your family. The Ritz in Vail feels like more of an extended-stay kinda place (albeit a very nice one)—the spot you want to be when you’re planning to spend a week or more in the valley.
You Know You’re In Vail When… Your skis arrive at the gondola before you do. The Ritz’s ski valet helps fit you with the right equipment and shuttles it (and you!) to
the lift. Plus, the valet has snacks and drinks ready for you after you’re finished with your turns.
Don’t Miss: The Ritz-Carlton often does email promotions that can discount rooms up to 30 percent. Visit ritzcarlton.com to opt-in for emails.
Book It: thevailcollection.com; 1-888-272-6618
Four Seasons Resort Vail / $$$
While the Four Seasons is celebrating only its third ski season in Colorado’s most iconic valley in 2012, Vail Ski Resort is celebrating its 50th birthday. Way back in 1962, there wasn’t a bevy of top-notch accommodations to house the skiers the new slopes were attracting. Today, that isn’t a problem, especially with the addition of the 121-room Four Seasons Resort Vail. Yes, Four Seasons is an international brand, but its Vail outpost does Colorado proud with a sophisticated ambience that doesn’t overdo—or underdeliver—on that requisite ski lodge feel.
You Know You’re In Vail When… After you’ve soaked in the outdoor heated pool you can cuddle into a heated robe (a staff member will greet you while you’re still dripping) and settle down near the outdoor fireplace with a glass of mulled apple cider.
Don’t Miss: The Haut Chocolat at the Fireside Lounge. This churned-tableside treat is more dessert than beverage.
Book It: fourseasons.com/vail; 970-477-8600
Chalets at the Lodge at Vail / $$$
Nearly adjacent to where the new gondola will begin whisking skiers up Vail Mountain this winter rests the Chalets at the Lodge at Vail. As location goes, there isn’t a better ski-in, ski-out option than these four- and five-bedroom units with flat-screen TVs, fireplaces, in-floor radiant heating, and gorgeous views of the Gore Range. Perfect for big families, these private residences (some have a rental option) were part of Vail’s Front Door project and coincided with the opening of the new skier services building and the addition of a spa at the Lodge at Vail.
You Know You’re In Vail When… Matt Lauer was the “renter” who stayed in the unit the week before you.
Don’t Miss: The hot tubs are situated right at the base of the mountain, which means you have stellar views of the slopes.
Book It: 1-888-272-6618