The Best of Vail

For a change of pace, head over to Vail and discover new runs, restaurants, and scenery

675 Lionshead Pl, Vail, CO 81657, USA
We all have a mental image of upscale European alpine villages from countless spy movies and Vogue fashion shoots. There’s the little café with etched glass and women sipping Alsace with perfect hair and puffy parkas. The men are capable sorts, usually lean and well-traveled. Jet-setters, rich ski bums, and other dubious types mill around low-slung Citroëns with skis on the back, while the air feels charged with intrigue and adventure simmering under the laissez-faire insouciance. Sorta like the Arrabelle at Vail Square. “There’s no other place like this in North America that captures the iconic ambience of classic Old World European cities like Salzburg, Innsbruck, and Prague,” says John Dawsey, director of sales. “During the design phase, we really wanted to capture a feeling aligned with a cultured European central plaza.” The Arrabelle consists of 86 suites overlooking the town square, which converts into a skating rink in winter at the gondola base of Vail Mountain. The charm is in the details: working wood shutters, copper drainspouts, and subtle fairy-tale stenciling around the Bavarian Biedemeier-style architecture. The lobby’s windows are Czech, no less. Off the lobby, the Tavern is always buzzing with locals and visitors in the shadows sipping hot chocolate and Grand Marnier. The menu is meat-friendly. Try the Bone-in Veal Schnitzel with saffron risotto because that’s what spies and dangerous women eat.
Vail, CO 81657, USA
This iconic ski area is the third largest single ski resort in the United States and the largest in Colorado. Vail looks nothing like most other ski towns in the Rockies, which usually began as mining or ranching towns in the 1800s; Vail didn’t even exist until the ski resort was developed in 1962, and it was built to look like a Tyrolean village, with wide walking streets and easy access to the slopes. By 1968 a young congressman named Gerald Ford was coming here frequently, eventually buying a home that became his “winter White House” when he became president, putting Vail on the world map. Vail Mountain is divided into three key areas: the Front Side, Blue Sky Basin, and the Back Bowls. There are 31 lifts (including two gondolas) that access more than 5,000 acres of skiable terrain. The ski area spans nearly seven miles in length, and the longest single run, Riva Ridge, stretches four miles. There are two terrain parks and runs for first-time skiers to advanced cliff jumpers.
231 S Frontage Rd E, Vail, CO 81657, USA
Just off of I-70 in the town of Vail is the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum. It contains artifacts from Olympians and provides the history of Vail Ski Resort. It also has a gallery dedicated to the famed ski troops of the 10th Mountain Division during World War II.
Piney Lake, Colorado, USA
The Upper Piney trail is about a 12-mile roundtrip hike through aspen and evergreen trees. You can cut it in half by turning around at the picturesque waterfall about 3 miles in. Beyond the falls the trail gets steeper the closer you get to Upper Piney Lake.
82 E Beaver Creek Blvd #104, Avon, CO 81620, USA
By day, Loaded Joe’s is a gourmet café that serves artisanal coffee by Seattle-based Rococo Coffee Roasting company and hearty breakfasts and lunches made with local, sustainable produce. By evening, the relaxed space becomes an entertainment lounge and bar where you can enjoy cocktails and happy hour specials. There are also open-mic nights and live music.
414 W Beaver Creek Blvd, Avon, CO 81620, USA
Harry A. Nottingham Park is a beautiful 48-acre open space with walking trails and tennis courts. Adding to ambience is the lake, which is presently undergoing major repair work. In the summer you can rent paddle boats and in the winter go ice skating.
55 Village Rd, Beaver Creek, CO 81620, USA
This restaurant is one of the best in Beaver Creek, and features French/Belgian cooking and fine wine. While it’s a fine dining experience, it’s also family friendly, with a separate children’s menu. It’s located inside a charming old home.
Skiers at Beaver Creek Resort have a sweet surprise awaiting them at the top of the Strawberry Park Express Lift and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express Lift. The Candy Cabin, which debuted for the 2014-2015 ski season, feels like an old fashioned candy store with barrels of retro candies, such as Bit-O-Honey and Mary Janes, sold by the pound as well as custom chocolates. I’m not sure who this Willy Wonka fantasyland will be more popular with—kids or teens and adults with a case of the munchies.
The Riverwalk 27 Main Street, #101, Edwards, CO 81632, USA
My wife and I first ate here during the wintertime and were throughly impressed with the homemade pasta and sophisticated decor. In the summertime, there’s a nice patio overlooking the river. And, yes, there’s a bocce court where you can learn a new game, which has distant ties to the Roman Empire.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
National Parks