Majestic mountains, fresh powder, and the feeling of exhilaration you get when you’re flying down a mountain: this is the Vail experience. Choosing to visit Vail for a winter getaway was one of the best decisions my son could make. Every winter, we plan a ski trip around his school’s winter vacation break. He and his friends decided together where they wanted to spend their precious week off, and I was more than delighted when they chose to visit Lionshead Village for the second year in a row. While the kids pick it for the skiing and fun village nightlife, it fits all my criteria for comfort and fine food.
Vail offers many things that makes it unique, like a deluxe movie theater serving cocktails and gourmet snacks and a lux bowling alley that does double duty as a mixology cocktail lounge. There’s a range of off-slope activities from several Nordic, backcountry and snowshoe tours, to nearby cat-skiing, hot air balloon rides and snowmobile tours. Even non-skiing amenities and activities can be found here. Let’s just say, if Vail doesn’t have it, there’s a good chance no other resort does!
There are plenty of high-end accommodations in Vail to choose from including The Lodge at Vail, The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Hotel Talisa, Four Seasons Vail, and Game Creek Chalet, just to name a few.
We chose the Arrabelle at Vail Square as our home away from home. When we settled in and went to rent our ski equipment, we were told that as guests of The Arrabelle, our boots and skis will be ready for us at the mountain base tomorrow morning. If that’s not five star service, I don’t know what is! Another convenience offered to us was a spacious room with benches where we could change into our ski boots. At the end of an exhausting but fun day, all we had to do was drop our equipment off with the staff, and they would store everything overnight. Not having to carry our heavy equipment around after a long day was incredibly convenient. The Arrabelle is truly a ski-in and ski-out hotel!
While we chose this property because of their convenient concierge ski feature, all of us really enjoyed the prime location and amenities as well. You’ll find The Arrabelle in the heart of Lionshead Village which means it’s walking distance to the shops, restaurants and ice-skating rink in Vail Square. Situated at the base of the Eagle Bahn gondola, the hotel provides easy access to snow sports and summer fun atop Adventure Ridge. The hotel evokes a sophisticated, cozy, European-style chalet. From the moment you walk into the rustic-chic lobby with dark-beam ceilings and see the huge stone fireplace, you feel the overall elegance of the hotel.
Since we were traveling with our son, we opted for a two-bedroom residence, which was perfect for our family. Walking into our room, we were awed by how spacious the accommodations were and the stunning views from the fourth floor. If we had a little more time on this trip, we would have invited our friends over for dinner or drinks. In fact, we could have invited 20 friends over since the combination living room and dining room were big enough to accommodate those numbers, and the kitchen was easily up to such entertaining. The log wooden dining room table was large enough to seat 12 . Since we ate out every evening, the table was mostly used by my husband and me for our morning work sessions.
One of my favorite aspects of the room was our private balcony with spectacular views of Vail. In the morning, my husband would go out onto our balcony, look out at the mountain, and plan out his ski day. In the evening, we enjoyed watching the sunset and he would point out the runs that he had done earlier in the day.
The plush king bed and big screen TV in our bedroom was a welcome sight after a long day of exploring. The spacious and modern ensuite bathroom had both a huge soaking tub and shower; but my favorite touch was the dual vanities. That’s always a plus when traveling with your significant other. Our son and his friend enjoyed their room just as much thanks to the comfortable double bunk bed which suited my 6’3 tall boy. But the icing on the cake was when the turn down service would leave delicious chocolates by our beds every night. Little touches like these go a long way to help make our family vacation fun, memorable, and sweet!
Deciding where to go for dinner in Vail is definitely a problem: there are way too many outstanding restaurants. Naturally, we wanted to try as many as possible! For our first night, we chose Fall Line, a contemporary dining option in Colorado’s Vail Village. It’s a modern, upscale restaurant serving innovative American cuisine accented with Latin influences from Executive Chef Jake Burkhardt. With an intimate setting, our moods were set for a romantic evening. We enjoyed salads for our starter; I chose the Butter Lettuce Salad, and my husband chose the Ensalada Rosa. For our main entrees, we went with the Colorado lamb shank, and the whole roasted Colorado striped bass. We were delighted in every bite. My husband then enjoyed a unique cocktail made of two types of vermouth and I chose a white wine from their cellar.
With an early start the next morning, we were up and out for our private ski lesson with our mountain guide. Experiencing the exhilaration of skiing Vail Mountain with a private mountain guide is a special adventure. He took us around the mountain to parts that we hadn’t explored, and tailored our lessons to fit our skill level and styles. Our mountain guide, Gutter, was fantastic and very patient with us throughout the morning. Towards the end of the lesson, we became more confident in the snow and certainly worked up an appetite for lunch at The 10th Restaurant.
After a morning of skiing, I dropped my skis outside the 10th Restaurant, located half way up the mountain at Mid Vail where the gondola unloads. Once inside, I put my boots and jacket in a little locker and put on a pair of their cozy complimentary slippers. It felt just great after some hard skiing, to walk in slippers to a window table and look out at the magnificent the Gore Range mountain. We indulged in the “modern alpine cuisine” which, as their menu says, draws inspiration from the Swiss and Austrian Alps regions, as well as Rocky Mountain cuisine. Wherever it came from, we had a sumptuous meal. One of us was not skiing that day which was not a problem; the restaurant can be accessed by just riding up the gondola.
All of us were excited each day about the après skis options. The kids would race back everyday to The Arrabelle for their famous afternoon free gourmet hot chocolate at 4:00 PM on the glassed-in second floor bridge. “Gourmet hot chocolate” turns out to be very different from what I had been used to and I could see why the kids made such a big deal out of it. Gourmet hot chocolate includes an array of toppings like whipped cream, chocolate chips, and toffee. For those with an insatiable sweet tooth (like most of the kids), they had a full array of cookies too. For adults, they offered Baileys Irish Cream and Kahlua to mix in.
After dropping off the kids, we sat with a few other adults and enjoyed cocktails with live music at Vail’s Chophouse. Alternatively, the Tavern on the Square has great live music as well.
It was so nice to stay in a town with award winning dining, and a diverse range of dining establishments. After hearing a lot about Game Creek Restaurant, we couldn’t wait for dinner. We took the short ride up the Eagle Bahn Gondola to Eagle Nest where we were whisked away to dinner, by Snowcat, through the woods to Game Creek Restaurant. Talk about taking fine dining to new heights! This European chalet and its magnificent settling was the perfect location for our 5-star, multi-course, gourmet American meal.
After spending some time wandering around town, we refreshed our mind, body and spirit with a much needed relaxing couples massage at The Arrabelle Spa before our journey home. We made sure to arrive early to thoroughly enjoy the steam room, sauna, and pool. The spa facilities are fantastic. We changed out of our wet bathing suits and took a shower in the locker rooms before slipping into our very soft and plush robes. We sat in the relaxation room until our massage therapist came for us. After the massage, we were returned to the relaxation room and were served a selection of herbal tea, flavored waters, and even small refreshing bowls of gelato. The ladies locker room was so fully equipped, I could have walked out with my hair done and ready for a night out. The massage was delightful and a perfect way to end a family ski holiday.
Disclosure: We were guests of Vail Resorts, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our trip. The opinions here are my own.