Twelve years ago, when Mr. Tony was presented with a job offer to move to Colorado, we jumped at it. We had been living in Phoenix for 15 and 22 years respectively (myself and Mr. Tony) and were ready for a break from the desert despite loving the Valley of the Sun.
One of the main reasons for our excitement was that Mr. Tony dreamed of our family skiing together. It is one of his passions and he so wanted to share that with us. So, the minute we got here, we bought the EPIC pass and the rest is history. We quickly started exploring CO ski resorts and over the years, have experienced quite a few. We love it so much that we bought a ski chalet this past summer.
Some of our closest friends grew up skiing Vail and we quickly adopted it as our “go to.” It has the feel of a European ski village complete with fabulous restaurants, shopping and entertainment. Also, it is a huge mountain and will take you weeks to ski all of it. I am getting close after ten years of going there. And, the best part is that there is something for everyone – greens all the way up to double black cliff runs. Mr. Tony and Eva hit the latter and I am somewhere in between – LOL. I will say I have improved tremendously and have an affinity now for skiing.
Ok, back to Vail. There are actually two villages at the base of Vail mountain; Vail and Lionshead. We have used both as a base; it really depends on if you have kids going to ski school in one or the other or what is closest to your accommodations. East Vail is closest to Vail Village; West Vail to Lionshead. There is also one other lift that goes down to the Grand Hyatt but it does not access the villages. For the purposes of this article, I am focusing on Vail Village; Lionshead will be in an upcoming post.
Y’all Vail is not cheap! Did I say that already? But, with a little planning or not too distant planning, you can find something reasonable. We typically did one of two routes in the ski season before getting our place. First is using our Marriott/Starwood resort points to stay at the Vail Marriott. In ski season, hotels can be upwards of $1,000 per night so if we can’t use points, we are rental bound. If you have $1,000 per night budget, you may want to check out the Four Seasons Vail, the Sonnealp (we love it in the summer when more affordable and see below for more on their brunch) and the Solaris Residences Vail.
Here is my tip for booking points – do it way in advance. I start looking in March to book holiday travel (Christmas break). Keep looking every week until rooms open up and snag them. Trust me, this is a good use of points (keep thinking $1,000 a night). Beware though, almost all resorts charge a resort fee and you will pay that in addition to the points. At the Vail Marriott, for example, it includes the ski valet, afternoon snacks, free arrival drink and liquor tastings as well as children’s activities during high season. You will also almost always be charged for valet parking (ahem, like $30-40 a day in addition to the resort fee)!
So, if you don’t want to pay upwards of $100 in fees a day to use your points, don’t have points or don’t have $1,000 a night for a hotel, there are plenty of vacation rentals in Vail. I recommend starting on vrbo and looking for a place on the free Vail shuttle routes; one goes West and one goes East connecting in Vail Village. There are a lot of condo complexes scattered throughout and by grabbing the shuttle, you will save $25-30 a day in parking. Pull up vrbo and start searching. Make sure to look at the reviews and my advice for booking – do not book a place that does not have reviews. I have almost been scammed a couple of times from fake ads.
If you are willing to risk it, you can also wait for last minute deals by searching vrbo and contacting owners directly to negotiate. I have also heard of people calling the Vail Chamber of Commerce as they may be notified of last minute lodging deals. We haven’t tried that yet, but may this season. Here is the bottom line on lodging: it is not cheap but it is great skiing and a great experience! Try to save on other things so you can experience the vacay.
Vail is home to good eating! There are so many different options, and we still have not tried them all! We tend to stick to what we love so that is what I am highlighting here. These are all in Vail village; Lionshead will be coming up in a future post!
If you want great, innovative food with a little bit of some southern thrown in, as well as a hip atmosphere, look no further. This is one of the hardest tables to snag and is a must! Get online or call 30 days prior to make it happen (due to Covid, they have been only reserving two weeks out). Some of our faves: Pimento Cheese, Standard Wedge Salad, Shrimp and Grits, Rotisserie Chicken, Loch Duart Salmon and last but best, Gruyere Potato Puree (I have been known to eat this as an entree – LOL). One last thing, if you request a table by the window, your kiddos might just get a peek of a movie playing at the outdoor Vail ice theatre!
Pepi’s has been in Vail since the beginning – 1964; the owner is one of Vail’s founding fathers, Pepi Gramshammer, an Austrian who brought his vision of an Austrian ski chalet to Vail along with his wife, Sheika. Theirs is a true love story that you can read about here.
We love the Austrian food as well as the restaurant and lovely deck. It is a great spot on a sunny, winter day to have lunch and look up at the fabulous mountain above you. Everything on the menu is great but my favorite is the house salad with chicken! Can you believe that, a house salad! It is absolutely tasty. Tony loves the Schnitzel and the Bratwurst.
Do you want to feel like you are in NYC at one of the trendiest tables while still wearing your Uggs or Sorels? Look no further. Matsuhisa is your answer. And, you would think it is for adults; nope you will be surrounded by tables seating families dining on upscale sushi. And, it will cost you – upwards of $150-200 for two with drinks! Is it worth it? If you want to splurge for the scene and the tastes – you bet. I am not a sushi eater but Tony is. It is hard to pick our favorites but for me, the Rock Shrimp Tempura, Free Range Chicken and Tempura Vegetables; for Tony, he orders sushi all the way – Hamichi (Yellowtail), Tuna Asparagus Roll and Kappa (cucumber roll) and for Eva, the Chicken Skewer and Edamame. Go for the scene; enjoy for the senses.
Skiing makes you hungry as it requires a lot of energy and those moguls, especially! So, steakhouses are plentiful in ski villages. Two of our favorites in Vail are Flame at the Four Seasons and Elways at the base of Vail mountain village. We don’t particularly have favorites as we order our steaks and/or burgers based on what we are feeling that night. For the most part, we are not disappointed at these two favorites. One advantage to Elway’s is that it has a nice Apres-ski! You just go in, take off your boots, put on a pair of their slippers and have a warm (or cold) drink with some apps.
Pizza – because you know I love it! Vendetta’s
In Vail village, Vendetta’s is our favorite! They have a casual pizza eatery as well as a nice Italian restaurant. Honestly, when it is pizza night, we usually enjoy take-out with a movie unless we are in Lionshead (more on that in another post). And, I usually have my favorite – CHEESE!
Tacos? Yes, please at Los Amigos
Now, y’all, I am not going to lie and tell y’all this is the best Mexican food I have ever had. It’s not; but it is good and fills the need when you are craving chips and salsa, tacos and margaritas! It is at the base of Vail mountain and has one huge plus – the back patio literally sits right behind the Eagle Bahn Gondola providing magnificent views of the mountain! Why not head in for an Apres Ski or a fun dinner?
Time for a Bloody Mary on a Sunday? Look no further than the Sonnealp Brunch at Ludwig’s!
We love a good brunch! We don’t do it very often but when we do, we want a good one! There are some that I dream about like the one at the Phoenician, the NYC Waldorf Astoria (currently under renovation), the Broadmoor and the more simple, but still fabulous one at the Sonnealp Vail. It will set you back, but for us, it is worth it!
Last, but not least… Bol
Bol is a fun experience as it has great cuisine in and of itself, but it is also an upscale bowling alley. It is a fun thing to do if you are on a longer vacation and need a break from skiing 🙂 We have done it once; it is a little pricey and we are not big bowlers so this is more of a once or twice experience for us!
Now, y’all know no vacay is complete without shopping! And, here are my tops for our family. Keeping it real – shopping in Vail is expensive so we are either looking for a sale or something really unique! Therefore, this section is not huge but these retailers are worth a stop!
I love a cool pair of goggles so when mine broke in Vail, we headed to the Goggle Bar as it has the most fashionable shades around. I fell in love with a pair of new season Smiths with pink reflective lenses (tried to link but cannot find) and of course, they had sparkles on the side!! Y’all know we love our glitter, sparkle and shine her at Love Glitter Girl!
Alright, girls, this is a place to splurge! And, I gotta be honest – I never have. But if you are looking for high quality, classic wear and fun ski attire, head on in! But, be prepared for your eyes to bug out! Ski jackets at $1,500 are the norm, not the exception!
Getting Mr. Tony to shop is near impossible! That is his least favorite word to hear come from my mouth. However, even he likes to head into this men’s boutique in the Solaris Plaza. They have a lot of cool brands – Penguin, Diesel, Peter Millar, Paige, Vince, Johnnie O, Vineyard Vines and the list goes on. The secret is to head immediately to the back where they have an amazing sale rack!! Every year, Mr. Tony adds a few pieces from this store to his wardrobe (or I sneak in a few – LOL).
Perch is an upscale, women’s boutique where you go to spoil yourself! Whether for Apres Ski or to Sparkle or to lounge at home, Perch has it all. They are even one of the few retailers in Vail carrying Aviator Nation. I splurged on a darling dress on sale this Winter that I can’t wait to pull out when the weather warms up.
Whenever we headed to Vail Village when Eva was younger, her first stop was Skipper and Scout. This is probably one of her favorite boutiques of all time – no joke. And, I have spent quite a few greens here and it is a good thing I have saved from TJ and the like! However, Skipper and Scout has those unique pieces you don’t find anywhere else. And, the $48 price tag for a long-sleeved t has been worth it. Those are the shirts Eva gravitated towards when packing her bag. The good news – they recently started selling some womenswear including Aviator Nation and Electric and Rose.
The Golden Bear is the iconic symbol of Vail Valley. This wonderful little jewelry boutique specializes in Golden Bear jewelry and many a Colorado gal owns at least one piece! They are timeless and speak to the love and passion for this wonderful Valley. Now, I have not yet obtained one, but Mr. Tony has it on my bucket list. My personal favorite – the small gold diamond encrusted Golden Bear necklace 🙂 And, who knows, Ms. Eva may get one for an upcoming occasion – but shhhhhh, don’t tell!
Well, girls, that’s a wrap. I didn’t save the best for last in terms of ski resorts. Vail is definitely our favorite and it brings me such pleasure to share it with you! And, as I mentioned, there is still more to come as I didn’t highlight Lionshead and the love we have for it! Do you have a favorite Vail haunt that I didn’t mention? Please leave in comments so that others can learn from you and we can experience it!