25 Reasons to Love the Vail Valley

We have winter on the brain, and we came for the snow and the scenery, but there is so much more to our happy valley than powder turns in the Back Bowls.

By Vail-Beaver Creek Staff February 1, 2011 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2011 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

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The morning commute in Vail Village.

1. North America, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, Australia—the world seems to converge in the Vail Valley. (If only Antarctica had a resort-going population—no offense, penguins—it’d surely be a clean continental sweep.) For those who enjoy the varied customs and perspectives of our fellow citizens around the globe, this is the place to be each winter. You never know whom you might meet.

2. With conditions that are often dry, sunny, and still, you’ll discover that 10 degrees is skiable after all.

3. The thrill of bump-skiing on Look Ma is arguably surpassed only by watching bump-skiing from Chair 3 on Look Ma.

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Juniper's longtime favorite dessert.

4. This is a great place to get your just desserts. Among literally dozens of delectable options throughout the area, Charles’s Hot Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake with Myers’s Rum Sauce and Whipped Cream (pictured left) has been served over a million times—at Juniper in Edwards and previously at Sweet Basil in Vail Village—according to the estimate of its creator, chef Charles Broschinsky.

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The free Town of Vail bus.

5. Get on the bus! Free public transportation is an easy way to get around the valley, whether you’re shuttling between lifts or shuffling between bars.

6. The Vail pioneer spirit is alive and well among those who first came here more than a few years back. It may mean imposing on your pals for some loaner skis or a place for your nephew to crash, or it may mean crashing the spa at Sonnenalp (or Cordillera, or the Arrabelle, or Allegria, or...) because your college roommate manages the desk.

7. When you live in Colorado, you soon realize that all snow is not created equal. In much of the country, the fluffy white stuff often isn’t either fluffy or white: it’s wet, it gets gray, and in general it’s a total nightmare. On the peaks that line the Vail Valley, freshly fallen powder sparkles bright white in the sunlight—and continues to do so throughout the winter.

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Image: Jack Affleck

8. The Vail Valley welcomes the flavors of spring, even as ample snow still adorns the peaks, at the annual Taste of Vail festival in April.

9. The area is full of great skates, thanks to outdoor rinks that grace the heart of practically every resort center—which means après-skate warm-up options so close by that you could tiptoe there in your stocking feet.

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10. The Vail Ski & Snowboard Museum is like a slopesider’s trip down memory lane. You may just find those old Head skis you used to love.

11. Your toddler (or grandchild) can snowplow between your legs on the same catwalk you’ve been using for 40 years.

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The Red Lion.

12. Après ski here means soaking up the same Colorado sun and drinking in the ambience that draws guests and celebrities from all over. Our favorite places to get decked out for a serendipitous sip? Try Root & Flower in Vail Village, the Red Lion and Pepi’s in Vail, and the Coyote Café, 8100 at the Park Hyatt, and the Chophouse in Beaver Creek.

13.  It’s easy and safe (relatively) to fly far too fast (for a sane person) on the groomed corduroy of a wide-open Born Free—especially on GS skis.

14. Nothing beats an evening of watching Golden Peak turn progressively golder… alpenglow at its finest.

15. It never grows old: the ever-so-slight buzz you get on arriving from sea level has a little to do with anticipation of a great time on the slopes and a lot to do with the 8,000 feet of altitude.

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Image: Jack Affleck

16. It’s Monday morning, the weekend crowds have headed home, and it just dumped eight inches of fresh powder overnight. Yes, most locals have to kick off the work week, but the lucky few who have their priorities straight can take advantage of the two hours of free parking in the Vail Village and Lionshead parking structures to get in at least two—maybe three—Back Bowl runs before returning nose to grindstone. Try Wow to Yonder trees, then a front-sider through Riva Glade.

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Image: Bob Winsett

17. Lots of ski resorts offer activities for kids, but it’s hard to beat family fun the high-adrenaline way at Adventure Ridge: tubing, kids’ snowmobiling, ski biking, and more.

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18. You put your skis on one foot at a time. So do world-class skiers (like local golden girls Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin), who just may be gearing up right next to you at an area resort.

19. You can glide under a starlit sky on a horse-drawn sleigh ride followed by dinner at TimberHearth in Cordillera (or take the snowcat to Game Creek Restaurant, or ride an open-air sleigh to Beano's Cabin).

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20. And you can still see that night sky from Vail Village, Lionshead, and Beaver Creek (and take a moonlight snowshoe tour on the mountain).

21. The live entertainment at Pepi’s and the Red Lion in Vail Village and the Chophouse and Powder 8 in Beaver Creek--our apres singers rock!.

22. There’s a plus side to getting schooled on the slopes—if it’s at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, America’s only public winter sports school. Because it’s affiliated with the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, one of the academy’s promising pupils may just follow in the illustrious, lightning-fast bootsteps of Olympians Mikaela Shiffrin, Sarah Schleper and Lindsey Vonn (try a morning session at the Minturn Fitness Center for a champion-worthy sweat session).

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23. The region may be rural and relatively unpopulated, but state-of-the-art performing arts venues like the Vilar Performing Arts Center (530 acoustically dialed seats beneath an ice rink in Beaver Creek) and the outdoor Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail provide a great stage for everyone from the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and the Takacs Quartet to the Indigo Girls and kase/lang/veirs.

24. When you descend on a run that you have no earthly business attempting, you can fall back—or fall forward, or fall sideways, or all three at the same time—on the fact that Vail’s clinics are staffed by world-class orthopedic doctors, the ones sought out by high-priced athletes (and the teams and sponsors that invest in them) from around the globe.

25. The walk home after dinner can be just as much of a highlight as anything that came before on a rollicking Vail Valley day: tramping on crunchy snow, gazing at the Milky Way, breathing in the smell of piñon wafting up from local fireplaces.

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