Following an eight-year, $2.5 billion refresh, this Colorado town looks like a clean, Austro-Germanic college campus where visitors convene for one higher purpose: to appreciate the great outdoors
Creative dishes are just the beginning at Flame inside the Four Seasons, where the chef’s constant experimenting yields elk corndogs, kimchee Brussels sprouts, and bacon-infused doughnuts. Perhaps the chef’s coolest experiment, though, is Back of House Burger, the name for the single table you can reserve inside the kitchen (for one party up to 20 people). The menu offers ludicrously large $22 burgers and adult shakes with flavors like Birthday Cake and Creamsicle, spiked heavily. You don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to reserve, just call the restaurant or the hotel (it’s not on the website). In contrast, the steakhouse Elway’s, founded by John Elway, has a “less is more” philosophy, with all the mouthwatering classics you crave, and just opened a location at Denver International Airport in June. Sweet Basil has been a local favorite for 35 years, thanks to cult classics like the truffle deviled eggs. Last December, the owners procured the space downstairs—the former Blu’s and a fly-fishing shop—and turned it into Mountain Standard. The executive chef is the same, but the dishes are less traditional (try the whiskey-braised pork belly or the duck confit potato skins). Hear live jazz at Kelly Liken and sip unbelievably fragrant cocktails that use fresh ingredients like a savory tomato consommé or Olathe sweet corn, depending on the season. For a special occasion, treat your party to a prix-fixe meal at the mountaintop Game Creek Club, accessible only via the Gondola and a Snowcat (Tuesday through Saturday evenings, open to non-members). Don’t be turned off by the dated décor.
Vail gets about 354 inches of snowfall per year. The front side of Vail Mountain has traditional trails and moguls, while the back bowls stretch 7 miles end-to-end. Two new lifts will be operating this season, bringing the total to 33, in addition to conveyances like the Vail Village gondola with Wi-Fi and heated seats. Regulars will be happy to learn that this season, the Vail Resorts Epic Pass, which allows access to 10 resorts across four states (plus a few places in Europe), will include the Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah. Popular with families is Adventure Ridge on Vail Mountain. Kids can play on a ropes course, zip line, or snow-tube while parents kick back with a beer. Non-skiers who want to shop have their pick of everything from fine art galleries to The North Face. Of note is Worth Home, which reopened last November, and sells chic martini sets, fur pillows, and starburst sculptures. Meanwhile, a handful of women’s boutiques showcase more variety of sophisticated, fashion-forward designer brands than we see in San Diego. Vince and Rag & Bone dominate at the edgy Perch; girly Luca Bruno caters to the Tory Burch and Nanette Lapore crowd; and the more street-friendly Blues Jean Bar specializes in premium denim and animal-skin leggings. Browse Due Luca Bruno for a Missoni or Hervé Leger investment dress.
The recently opened Solaris Residences tower over the center of Vail Village. Guests can get any size accommodation, from a posh studio to a six-bedroom penthouse with a gourmet kitchen. Each reservation comes with a personal assistant, ski valet, and free Wi-Fi. The boutique hotel and residence club Sebastian is just as new and offers a refreshing modern vibe in contrast to the surrounding village. For health fanatics and athletes, Vail Mountain Lodge houses the Vitality Center—a goliath compared to the average hotel gym; plus, there’s a spa. After a long day of skiing, get a deep-tissue massage or take a yoga class. For last-minute deals on Valley lodging, including B&Bs, condos, resorts, etc., check vailonsale.com.