Luxury Hotels in Vail
It is always at this time of year that my thoughts turn to skiing. I first visited Vail seventeen years ago and have been hooked on that Colorado snow ever since. It has changed and expanded over the years but it still gives me that same frisson of excitement when I turn off the I-70....
I remember people thinking we were mad, travelling out to Denver (from the UK) for a week's skiing but it always felt like an adventure especially with a gang of family and friends. You could ask "Why would you travel to the USA when Europe is on the doorstep" which would be a completely legitimate question. The answer would be "to get away from the crowds". We always had to go skiing in school holidays and it often felt like more time was spent in queues or fighting to get on chairlifts than actually skiing. Vail was another world...Polite queues, wide open slopes, armchair skiing and champagne powder. It was love at first sight. I remember going across to Beaver Creek one day towards the end of the season and it literally was my husband and I on the slope with not another person in sight. Magical! It also comes down to value - a similar standard of accommodation is much more expensive in Europe.
So, if you decide to ski in Vail, where do you stay? I have been lucky enough to stay at some of the top resorts in Vail and all provide luxury accommodation, it just depends on location and personal taste.
The Arrabelle is located at Lionshead, an area which has really developed over the last few years. In terms of location, this is my favourite as it is just steps to the Eagle Bahn Gondola and there is plenty of life around including a good mix of cafes, shops and restaurants. The rooms wouldn't be my idea of heaven (flouncy pelmets!) but all the usual luxury amenities are here and the service is good, with the ski valet right in front of the slope. I do like their relaxed dining option, The Tavern, which is a lively slopeside spot for a drink or bite to eat. This has a particularly good atmosphere in the spring sunshine.
This would be my choice in Vail although the location lets it down slightly. The luxury and service synonomous with Four Seasons is clearly on show here. We stayed in a suite which was spacious with every conceivable amenity and good views over the mountain. I am delighted that they have changed the bar area which now has a much better atmosphere and is a smart choice for a casual dinner. The spa is world class and who doesn't love a pool area with complimentary hot chocolate and cookies. It is a short walk (5-10 mins) to the slopes and the ski concierge is a stone's throw from the main lift. With complimentary hot chocolate and muffins to indulge in before you head out to the slopes and the friendly staff who take your skis at the end of the day, this is faff free skiing at its very best.
The Sonnenalp is a European style resort so think plenty of pine and traditional alpine uniforms. A slightly shorter walk to the ski concierge than the Four Seasons and again this is just across from the main lift. The rooms didn't do it for me although they are comfortable with all amenities. Breakfast is superb and the bar is spacious, lively and comfortable, perfect for apres ski drinks. Their casual restaurant, Bully Ranch, is one of my favourites where they serve a great burger. I didn't see the spa although I am told it is worth a visit. Service here is excellent.
**New Opening** Hotel Talisa (formerly Vail Cascade Resort) opens next month under the Starwood umbrella. A Luxury Collection Resort, this is definitely one to watch.
Also worth mentioning is Landmark Condominiums, a good option for families or groups (up to 4 bed condos). Our unit had a huge balcony with great views of the mountain, daily service and comfortable en suite accommodation.
DO prebook your lift pass. This has significantly increased over the years and discounts are available if you pre book online. From the UK, Ski Safari can arrange trips to Vail (and know what they are talking about!). This season should be interesting as Norwegian Air have launched direct flights from Gatwick to Denver. Previously there were only direct flights from Heathrow with British Airways.
DON'T forget that most hotels charge a resort fee and valet parking fees.
FOR better value ski at Easter rather than February. We have always had good snow in the spring and the warmer temperatures are perfect.
AND FINALLY If you get the chance to ski over at Beaver Creek ( about 20 mins drive from Vail) make sure you ski down to Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch for a hot chocolate.
PS Vail and Colorado are every bit as good in the summer.....
PPS If you like Outlet Shopping then Silverthorne is on the way back to the airport.