#TravelTuesday: Vail Mountain, Room to Roam

by Doug Flatt on January 12, 2021 in Travel,
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The pandemic has caused an outdoor revival, leading many people to reconnect with the outdoors to find peace and tranquility from Mother Nature. And where better to find it than on Vail’s snowy slopes?

With over 5,300 skiable acres, this longtime Colorado favorite offers ample opportunities for pristine runs and stunning views of the Gore Mountain range. Over half of that acreage is made up of Vail’s legendary back bowls. These bowls have been the trademark for Vail Mountain for decades. Once you experience them, it’s easy to see why they are so popular.

Carving turns on a bluebird day in the Vail back bowls. Photo courtesy Vail Resorts

Vail recently expanded their snow making capabilities by almost 200 acres to increase its total snow making terrain to over 600 acres.  This increase in snow-making will provide guests with earlier access to higher elevation terrain, a broader variety of trails and earlier season access from all three base areas. Expanding and investing in new snow-making technology and equipment decreases energy usage and maximizes water efficiency.

Ski Better, Safer

With a mountain the size of Vail, unless you’re a frequent visitor, it can be hard to find your way around. Ski school isn’t just for beginner skiers and riders, it’s a great investment for skiers of all abilities. Skiing can never be perfected, as there’s always room for improvement. So, skiing along with seasoned instructors is a great way to improve your turns and overall experience on the mountain. Instructors also have an intimate knowledge of the mountain so they know the best runs based on current conditions, not to mention those late afternoon powder stashes.

Once you experience Vail’s seven legendary back bowls, it’s easy to see why they are so popular. Photo Doug Flatt

If you’re going out on your own, which most experienced skiers do, then the Epicmix app should be part of your standard equipment. The app has some new features for the 20/21 ski season like grooming status, lift line wait times, GPS location on-mountain, dining, web-cam and ski patrol locations. All that, along with weather, snowfall and trail updates, makes planning your day simpler. 

A huge portion of Chicken Pot Pie at The 10th at Vail Mountain. Photo Doug Flatt

There are a handful of mountain dining options that are closed for this current season, so check Vail Dining for complete updates prior to your visit. There are still plenty of options on the mountain to choose from. But, if you’re looking for a special treat while you’re on the hill, try out The 10th, a full-service restaurant at the top of Gondola 1. Their modern alpine fare includes truffle fries, elk chilli, a generous portion of chicken pot pie and grilled rainbow trout just to name a few.

Where To Stay

With many skiers getting behind the wheel to hit the slopes this ski season, mountains like Vail are particularly appealing. Here, you can leave your car parked throughout your stay, using the bus and walking to get around town and the mountain.

Vail is easily accessible no matter where you stay in the village. Photo Doug Flatt

Located in the heart of Lionshead Vail Square is Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, which offers easy access to Vail Village. It’s also less than a 5-minute walk to the Eagle Bahn Gondola and Born Free Express Lift. This is the only traditional hotel we’ve featured in this series, and for a detailed listing of all the precautions Vail Marriott is taking during the pandemic click here.

In addition to the convenient location, one of the coolest features at the Vail Marriott are the heated igloos on the outdoor patio. They make enjoying apres bites and drinks enjoyable even on a cold wintery day.

A sample of apres drinks inside the cozy igloos at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort. Photo Doug Flatt

If you’re planning on spending multiple days on the mountain, a spa treatment can dramatically help your body recover from a day on the slopes. I usually opt for a full body sports massage with an emphasis on my legs. But, don’t forget the Salt Therapy Room, it’s a nice option for relaxation and is known to help the respiratory system.

There’s a skating rink in Lionshead Village, just down the street from the Vail Marriott. Photo courtesy Vail Resorts

Dining

Vail Village offers world-class dining, so if there’s a specific kind of food you’re looking for, you are sure to find it. (Make sure and check specific locations for any changes due to local pandemic restrictions.) 

Nobuyuki Matsuhisa opened the 29th restaurant that bears his name in Vail Village. Here you’ll find traditional Japanese cuisine infused with bold South American and Western flavors. 

At Matsuhisa Vail, you’ll find traditional Japanese cuisine fused with bold South American and Western flavors.
Courtesy photo

La Bottega is the quintessential, romantic and charming Italian restaurant. The dining area is small, so during the COVID-19 emergency it would be a good idea to get take-out, but this is a must visit nonetheless.

Mountain Standard takes food preparation back to its most simple and primal roots, with most dishes being prepared over an open wood fire. Don’t let this simple approach fool you. With a combination of natural ingredients and bold flavors, Mountain Standard will not disappoint.

Know Before You Go

The biggest change this season with COVID-19 restrictions is the need to make reservations for both season pass holders and daily lift ticket skiers. It’s imperative that you plan in advance and purchase lift tickets prior to your visit. Leave your Benjamins at home this year since all transactions at restaurants, hotels and ski schools are cashless.

Before heading to the Rockies this year, always check local regulations and closures, for both Vail Village and Vail Mountain

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Cover: Vail’s China Bowl. Photo Chris McLennan

Doug Flatt is a keen skier who loves a challenging mountain. Off piste, Flatt is the publisher of Texas Lifestyle Magazine.

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