A mini-guide to the world-famous mountain resort.
A mini-guide to the world-famous mountain resort.
Text: Nick Remsen
Approaching Eagle—the Coloradan city, with a regional airport that’s just a 30 minute drive from Vail—can at first confound. Especially so in a winter that has had less than optimal snow conditions. Where is the picturesque peppered-white valley landscape? Where are the surrounding majestic peaks? From an airplane window—my window, an American Airlines 757 from Miami to be exact (and yes, there’s a direct flight from Miami to Eagle during peak seasons, marginally surprisingly), it all looked a little… well, dull.
But that changes as you drive east, ascending gradually into the Vail region. This geography is North America’s equivalent of South America’s Southern Andes or France’s Alps; big, bold, beautiful. And, here, Vail’s promise is one of the biggest, boldest, and most beautiful—especially its gigantic back bowls, of which there are seven. It is a massive complex, and its operation is impressive; I didn’t have excellent snow conditions, but the skiing was superb, all the same.
Though the season is nearing its end, there is still time to book a last minute spring trip, if interested. Furthermore, there’s plenty to do in Vail during the summer, including biking, hiking, fly-fishing, zip-lining and more. But no matter your preference, let this miniature V Guide to Vail serve as a reference point for whenever you may go—and take it from this “intermediate-advanced” skier, someone who has hit the slopes from Stratton to Deer Valley to Bariloche, there’s something extra charismatic about this singular, gigantic place (which, in fact, stretches six skiable miles from end to end).
Where To Stay:
The Hotel Talisa, which reopened in late 2017 after an extensive renovation and rebrand, still has that new-property gloss, but, at the same time, it’s instantly comfortable. Like a big, finished den. It must be the bones of the old place, which was known as the Vail Cascade Resort. It’s not “lodge”-like, but rather, a contemporary homage to the history of its setting, which holds an ever-gurgling creek. (“Talisa” means “beautiful water.”) Dogs are welcome on the property; guests, fresh from the brand new spa, which literally just opened last week, pad across the lobby in their robes and slippers while après-ski cookies are handed out in the living room foyer. Hotel Talisa is set to be part of Starwood’s The Luxury Collection branch; it’s its own distinct entity, and it’s worth its per night price tag. Western inspired art, including a cooly graphic carpet scheme that geometrically evokes flowing river water, rounds out the aesthetic factor. But, the best part about Hotel Talisa is that it is "ski-in, ski-out"—with a lift at its side-door, and a ticket-office and rental podium on site. Also, finally, a tip: request room 177—it’s on the ground floor, and has a cozy, railroad layout, with a separate seating area for working or, simply, resting your feet after a long day of down-hilling.
Where To Eat and Drink:
Almresi is a great new Bavarian-inspired restaurant in Vail Village. Ironically, it has a semi-tropical vibe; jolts of color can be seen throughout the room, the bar feels pseudo-beach-like, in a way, and polychrome flowers adorn its logo. I see nothing wrong with a dash of Hawaiian-ness to an otherwise German-Austrian atmosphere. The beer, naturally, is great, and the service is impeccable. A must have—seriously, go out of your way for it—the salmon filet, which arrives wrapped in a sheet of cedar wood. It is memorably delicious.
As far as après-ski goes, Vail’s, while prominent, seems to be more of a beer and boots-off kind of thing (as opposed to European après, which is more rosé and Gucci loafers). There’s a bit of it all, though—but, for the classics, go to The Red Lion or Pepi’s Bar.
Where To Shop:
Vail is wealthy, no doubt, and it attracts a monied clientele. Branded shops abound, but with a lot of stuff you can purchase elsewhere. For something specific to the place, go to Axel’s. This family-owned trading post makes it own clothing—of some of the finest leathers and cashmeres around—for a look that can be described as Western-relaxed-luxe-lived-in-chic. Axel’s does also carry other top-tier labels, like Kiton and Massimo Alba, but go for something made by the family. Like, perhaps, Axel’s “Argentina” blouse or its “Modena” navy blazer. (I'm thinking about ordering the latter.)
Where To Ski or Board:
The Back Bowls, over and over and over again, without question. Sun Down Bowl is full, jaw-dropping even, with nice, wide black diamonds; China Bowl has a bit easier blues for those looking for trails that are a little less steep. Another favorite: Blue Sky Basin, Vail’s highest point at 11,460 feet. Here, we like the trails named “Champagne Glade” (black diamond) and “In The Wuides” (blue square). Remember: drink a ton of water before and during your time here. Altitude sickness is a thing, but it’s amenable with H20, Tylenol for the headache, and, if desperate, portable oxygen tanks back at the hotel. Enjoy!