To the Mountains: Where to Stay in Vail
Ski, snow and serenity – welcome to Vail.
OK, we’ve had our fun with the word play and shan’t be un-Vailing anymore jeux de mots. Now it’s time for some simply inVailuable words of advice as to where to stay in Vail. So, what have we got here? A mountain resort town that serves as a gateway to both the White River National Forest and the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest. And just beyond that, you’ve got the Rocky Mountain National Park. Basically, we’re in a spot surrounded by some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes: mountains, valleys, lakes… all buried under a bed of snow in the winter months. And hey, you’ve got something in common: you’re a beautiful natural spectacle also embellished by the white of snow in your winter months. Own that snow, you silver fox/vixen.
The town itself is packed with restaurants, bars and cafés, its modern edifices backed by behemoths for mountains. Fine-dining and festivals make up the activities in a town known for its colourful building façades, serene gardens and ski slopes of varying difficulties for both beginners and experienced skiers pretending they’re capable on a black slope. And hey, it’s just outside Denver, just in case you’re scared of being far from a big city. Here’s our Plum Guide review of where to stay in Vail.
Let’s start at the western end, and gradually move eastwards. Like the return journey of the pioneers on their Pike’s Peak Gold Rush to Colorado. And while we’re mixing our travel guide with some history and culture, it’d be amiss of us not to mention that the real South Park, Colorado, lies just a one-hour drive south from Vail. It looks absolutely nothing like the cartoon, but it’s a bit of trivia for your kids.
Where were we? Ah yes, West Vail. Walk along the Davos Trail and enjoy the serenity in this quiet part of the town. Stroll beside the Gore Creek, which is more scenic and tranquil than its horror-movie name might suggest. Let your kids climb on the play area in the Ellefson Park, which is surrounded by green mountains. They turn white with snow in winter, becoming one of the town’s most popular sledding spots. Grab a bite at the Westside Café & Market or give up on your life, your dignity and your waistline, and bring the kids to the McDonald’s. The Vail Ale House next door is a stylish old-world brewery with all sorts of bottles on the counter. Wash down your sorrows with some midwestern concoction, as though you’re in that Back to the Future film where Doc has to be revived with some kind of flaming gasoline of a drink. What do you mean you’ve never seen it?
The town centre
Remember how we said we were going to gradually move east. Well, we’re glad we prepared you, because it’s finally happening. And you thought the day would never come. OK, so the centre of town – no surprises here – is the liveliest part. This is where to stay in Vail if you're looking for a good time. It’s packed with things to do, including pizza places, deluxe resorts and shops. Pop into the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame to learn all about the weird and wonderful world of winter sports. Watch an ice hockey game or attend a concert in the John A. Dobson Ice Arena and watch your little ones frolic in the playground of the Red Sandstone Park.
On the eastern side of the town centre lies the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, whose stage has been graced by all sorts of musical acts. Go along and try to get the band to notice you and bring you on stage to play, like in that recurring dream you’ve been having.
We’re fast reaching the end of our journey east in Vail. This is where to stay in Vail for nature enthusiasts and hikers. Embark on some of the trails leading north and south from the district: you’ve got the Booth Falls trailhead to the north and the Fang – a giant frozen waterfall – on the south, whose name fits in well with that meandering Gore Creek tributary nearby. Leave Fang and Gore Creek behind, and venture through the Gore Valley Trail, leaving blood and carnage in your wake. Not really. Follow the Pitkin Creek on the Pitkin Lake Trail or make your way further east to the Bighorn Creek. Make sure to see the East Vail Falls, a set of cascades crashing down between the trees. Set up a picnic on the grass beside the Bighorn Park and enjoy a leisurely or competitive game of tennis at the Vail Racquet Club. At the very eastern tip of the town lies the Vail Eagle Colorado viewpoint, allowing you to look back at this picturesque town and its place in the valleys of Eagle County.
So determined were we in our attempt to cover a west-to-east journey of sorts, that we almost left the most fun part of the town out. It's neither west, centre nor east, but mostly decorating the southern ridges. The Vail Ski Resort is thought to be the largest of its kind in Colorado – which is pretty big to be fair. All sorts of trails criss-cross down the slopes in the districts of the Front-Side, the Blue Sky Basin and the Back Bowls. Ride the Eagle Bahn Gondola up into the heavens, looking down at the town of Vail from a great height.