With spectacular skiing, enticing summer pursuits and romantic aprés options galore, Vail is North America's mountain with the most.
There are exclusive ski-in, ski-out hotels to be found on practically every ski mountain of the world, places where porters take care of your every whim (and even those you hadn’t considered). At such hotels you’ll feel loved, but you’ll still share the lobbies and elevators with fellow guests. At Vail, on the other hand, where romance and skiing is reviewed after each ski season, deconstructed and improved all over again, you can avoid these pesky strangers altogether and have yourself a private snow romance in the luxurious confines of your very own private chalet.
But this isn’t just any slope-side chalet, the Game Creek Chalet can’t be reached by public road, or even private road, in fact there’s no way of getting a regular vehicle in here at all. To get here; high above the village of Vail, on a ski run somewhere on this 2,140 hectare monster of a mountain, guests must be whisked away by snowcat transfer, where they’ll ride to a European-style chalet with just a private chef to spoil the mood (although relax, they leave straight after dinner and won’t be back till you’re ready for a hearty pre-ski breakfast in the morning). Should you want, a ski concierge is on hand to warm your boots and check your gear’s ready for tomorrow, plus you’ll also have your very own private ski instructor waiting for you in the morning.There’s no need to go beyond your heavenly back deck, with its soaring views over Vail’s Game Creek Bowl. Even if you sleep in, it’s more than likely you’ll be the first to sample the fresh snow that’s likely to have fallen overnight. If it didn’t dump new snow, at least you had the chance to see the stars brighter, clearer and closer than you’ll normally see them here at 3,000-plus metres on a perfect Colorado night.
It’s fair to say Vail and its neighbouring ski resort Beaver Creek have revolutionised the way we view the skiing experience. Once, skiing was about hardship, trudging to and from car parks with slow, cold chair- lift rides. Now, it’s about luxury and exclusivity, without ever losing the adventurous essence of why we ski in the first place.
There’s plenty of adventure to be had here in North America’s second largest ski resort; Vail has the most groomed ski terrain of anywhere on the planet. What’s more, there are on average just 10 people skiing per hectare and 31 ski lifts to get you even further away if you’d prefer to share with less than nine others.There are seven back bowls of terrain with names like Inner and Outer Mongolia and Siberia Bowl in a ski area larger than all the ski resorts in New South Wales combined. In a week you won’t see the same run twice.
If you want more than skiing, Vail will give that to you too.There’s snow- mobiling, ice skating, dog sledding, cross-country skiing, ski biking, ice climbing and much more.Vail runs on adrenalin, it’s what makes this Colorado mountain village tick, most people here are at least a little insane; but then there’s another much gentler side altogether.
For every downhill ski racer intent on thrills, there’s a couple seeking the ultimate snow escape. Five-star dining options are as plentiful as the deep, dry powder snow. Some of Colorado’s best meals can be ordered here, try a degustation menu with matching wines at Vail’s finest restaurant, Larkspur. But for sheer exclusivity and romance, your best option is to dine just across the empty ski bowl from your private villa.You’ll need a snowcat, or perhaps you’d prefer a romantic snow-shoe walk under the stars. Dinner at the Game Creek Club is a secretive affair at Vail’s most exclusive restaurant, memberships are required for lunch, but dinners are available to the public (but book ahead to avoid disappointment).The Game Creek Club is a Bavarian-style lodge that has all the character of a traditional European chalet retreat. Enjoy a six course meal in the romantic Mt Jackson room while beneath you Vail twinkles its lights up at you.
If you’d prefer to stay amongst the alpine action in the village of Vail, newly opened hotels mean couples can expect the same level of convenience, luxury and exclusivity as a mountain chalet (although obviously you’ll have to see other people!).The Four Seasons Hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Residences and the Arrabelle at Vail Square opened their doors to the public in late 2010.Within these hotels you need never touch your skis before you start skiing.A porter will deliver them to the base of the gondola. At the end of the day, don’t worry about dragging your skis home, just leave them by the gondola as you finish skiing and a porter will deliver them to your hotel. Should you require rental skis and boots, someone will come to your hotel room and fit you with customised gear.
The village of Vail offers couples a huge range of romantic restaurants, bars and cafes.There’s also streets of retail shops to choose from, should you feel like taking a day off away from the slopes. But then season 2010/2011 delivered Vail one of its best ski seasons since records began, and with over 300 days of sunshine in any given year, you’ll be hard pressed to stay away from the slopes of one of the world’s most exciting ski mountains.
Summer In Vail
While thousands visit Vail during the winter, these days summer in Vail offers visitors just as many attractions. Summer is the time the locals at Vail love. “We came here for the winters, but now for us it’s all about summer,” says local hotel worker Jane. “There’s fewer people around but there’s just a buzz about the place you have to see to believe.” As the snow melts the wildflowers work their way up the valleys and right up onto sheer 14,000 foot mountain peaks and the summer temperatures melt all that snow to make the rivers around Vail some of the best spots for white- water rafting in the United States.While Vail and its surrounding countryside look heavenly, it’s the high adrenalin pursuits that make the place famous. Everyone, it seems, is at least a little bit crazy (let’s put it this way, Colorado is the state in the US with the lowest obesity levels because everyone is hyper-active).
The mountain biking here is legendary with tracks for everyone from complete novices to experts, while there’s also high-octane kayaking and mountain climbing to try. But you can relax too, the hiking around Vail is stunning, you can hike or ride a gondola to mountain-top restaurants for romantic lunches and dinners, whileVail is home to one of Colorado’s best golf courses.There’s free concerts in the streets ofVail by such notables as the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.There’s also historic mining towns around Vail to visit, like the town of Red Cliffs which looks more movie set than real life America, and which still retains the same 140-year-old mining character of yesteryear.
GETTING THERE: Book with United Airlines all the way through to Eagle Airport, 15 minutes from Vail, which takes you through San Francisco (or LA) and Denver – the transfers are very slick.
MORE INFORMATION: See Vail's tourism website.