Skiers will do well to think about Colorado this year with the lack of snow at most California ski resorts. While not the best of seasons, Beaver Creek and Vail have 43 inches of packed powder even at the bottom. You will have to go way up the mountain at Heavenly to get even close to that this year. These two ski areas offer contrasting styles, and one is sure to fit your needs.
This chic European-style ski village is surrounded by majestic mountains rising steeply on all sides. An endless supply of skiing is just steps away, as are restaurants, shops, and a skating rink. Beaver Creek has a more contemporary feel, and the Park Hyatt is a perfect example. If you are looking for ski-in, ski-out access, check out The Charter for lodging that is close to all activities. These condo-style units are larger than most and not too tough on the budget.
My preference on this trip would be to stay in Vail and visit Beaver Creek. You could also split your time between the two, but that might be too much effort for most. The towns are only about 10 miles apart and no more than a 15-minute drive.
What makes Vail special? How about seven miles of mountain front, seven back bowls, three terrain parks, 300 days of sunshine, and over 5,000 acres. Did I forget one of the most charming ski villages in the U.S.? Vail Village has something for everyone with great shops and restaurants at the bottom of the lifts and mountain climbing gondolas. The town was patterned after the quaint Swiss ski village Zermatt, home to the real Matterhorn. Cobblestone streets and a strict architectural plan have kept the European flavor intact. The restaurant scene here might be as famous as the skiing, with international celebrities frequently just a table away.
We dined at La Tour, which is a popular spot with residents. This contemporary French restaurant has a decidedly European flavor. The ambiance is that of a fine home adorned by colorful artwork. The décor, service and great food make La Tour a popular year-round choice. Ah, yes, the food. We started with escargot and then ordered Colorado lamb, Dover sole, and Tasmanian salmon around the table. No wonder that Chef Paul Ferzacca is the toast of the town. La Tour offers café-style seating, as well, with views of the village and the interested passersby. For more information, visit LaTour-Vail.com.
Where to Stay
Vail Mountain Lodge and Spa is located in the heart of Vail Village on the banks of Gore Creek. This is a boutique hotel with 28 rooms and condos. Private fireplaces, deep soaking tubs, and luxurious feather beds await the tired skier after a long day on the slopes. Many of the rooms face the river, offering the nonstop soothing sound of the rushing waters below. Open your window at night, and you can be assured a deep, relaxing rest as the sounds of nature lull you to sleep as the fireplace keeps you warm, of course.
The Terra Bistro is located in the lobby area and offers fine dining with an emphasis on health. They serve free-range meat and poultry as well as vegetables from area growers. Terra Bistro is a perfect complement to the Vail Athletic Club, which is located on the Vail Mountain Lodge’s lower floors. This is not your normal workout facility as it is the hub for fitness in Vail Village. They have two floors of equipment and as good a setup as I have ever seen. The hotel’s spa is also located in this area. On a cold winter day, you would never have to leave the building if you decided to train or soothe your muscles instead of hitting the slopes. Visit VailMountainLodge.com for more details.
United Airlines seems to have the best connections from Santa Barbara Airport with nonstop service to Denver before connecting to Vail. Frontier also offers nonstop service to Denver with very competitive rates. Vail is on Mountain Time, so you will be losing an hour going. When I checked, the air fares seemed very reasonable in late February into early March.