It had snowed just over 24 inches the night before my last day at Vail. “Almost two feet of powder.” exclaimed Mark, my Australian born ski instructor. “It’s a real skier’s dream.”
“Well, then,” I responded. “Today’s the day I become a real skier.”
Less than 30 minutes later I was face down in a pillowy pile of powder, my skis facing down the mountain in a deep V-shape, my poles…well, who knew where my poles had gone! It was an ego blow of a beginning, and there were at least two more tumbles before the end of the day, but by the time we were ready for lunch at the new mid-mountain eatery, The 10th, I’d braved the Vail bowl knee-deep in powder (with lots of encouragement from Mark). And in one of the special touches that make this mountain playground so unique, the waitress at the 10th celebrated my alpine achievement with a delicious dessert marked with a chocolate “Happy Birthday!”
And with that, a real skier was born.
When I was invited by Vail Resorts to experience five days of incredible skiing, spas and personalized service in Vail, Colorado, it was the promise of miles of mountain that was impossible to refuse. An avid skier, I had never really made it to any of the big ones. So why not start with the biggest one in the U.S.? Vail Resort rises 3,450 ft from the base, which is already over 8,000 ft above sea level (FYI: “it’s the altitude” can be used as an excuse for everything from tipsiness to excessive shopping, as I discovered). Eighty-two percent of the runs are for skiers at an intermediate level or higher, making this a mountain that doesn’t kid around. We started our day on the brand new Gondola One, which takes skiers from Vail Village to mid-mountain in heated, wifi-enabled style, taking just long enough to eat an egg sandwich and guzzle down a latte, as evidence by a boarder who shared our gondola. With 193 trails, you can ski for days without doing the exact same run twice, so we loved having our EPICMix pass, which offer unrestricted skiing at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood and Arapahoe Basin for US$679. and acts as a tracking device, counting your runs, measuring your miles and sharing your downhill deeds on Facebook and Twitter. Like.
We stayed at the luxurious Lodge at Vail, mere steps from Gondola One. From the gigantic pillow-topped beds and the luxury beauty products in the spacious rain shower-equipped bathroom to the muscle-soothing outdoor hot tubs and on-mountain ski valet, the Lodge leaves no stone unturned (nor need unmet), including readily available hot chocolate to warm guests up from the cold. The Lodge also offers delicious dining options including the massive breakfast buffet and the Vail location of Elways, a paradise for carnivores featuring massive steaks and delicious sides (try the brussels sprouts!).
The Lodge at Vail, 174 East Gore Creek Drive, Vail, CO 81657, 1-888-328-1005, www.lodgeatvail.rockresorts.com
Vail features an incredible array of dining options to suit the needs of any traveler, from the mountain cafeterias to the brand new on-slope restaurant, The 10th, where I celebrated by Bowl Mitzvah with a chocolate pave with peanut butter ganache and caramel popcorn (following a healthy veggie sandwich for lunch). Perhaps my favourite bite during my stay (aside from my new foodie obsession, truffle fries) was the roasted banana and chocolate napoleon at the Larkspur, located at the base of Golden Peak. I’m a dessert fiend and this was one of the best I’ve ever tasted, offering the perfect end to an elegant dinner that began with fresh oysters and a vibrant grapefruit and basil cocktail, folowed by a divine striped bass with roasted cauliflower and curried sultanas.
After a long day of skiing you’d be silly not to soothe your burning thigh muscles with a spa treatment. They’ve considered every detail at the Spa at The Arrabelle, from the fluffy robes and giant jacuzzi to the soothing scent of the eucalyptus-infused steam room. As we discovered throughout Vail, it’s all about the special little touches, like the fact that our rejuvenating 50-minute massage was followed by a refreshing bowl of lemon sorbet. Just what our aching thighs needed.
Spa at The Arrabelle, 675 Lionshead Place, Vail, CO 81657, 970-754-7754
There’s plenty of upscale shopping to be had in Vail, and we fell head over hills with a relatively new boutique. Perch has only been open since December but has already claimed its spot on the fashion map. We picked up a gorgeous silk blouse by Joie and a cityscape tank from Clover Canyon.