The beauty of Eagle Airport near Vail is that you can arrive 45 minutes prior to departure and still have plenty of time to board your flight. This works well on arrival too where you can be from touch down to down town with luggage all in 45 minutes.
Ah, Vail and Beaver Creek! A luxury ski enthusiasts dream destination. And when I say ski enthusiast, to me this applies to those who love to make the first tracks on the mountain and those who love all that goes with a ski holiday – songs by the fire pit, pool side hot chocolate and s’mores, posh shopping, and absolutely wonderful restaurants!
This trip we tried a bit of “town and country” by splitting our stay at the newish Four Seasons Resort Vail directly in Vail Village and at The Ritz-Carlton Resort Bachelor Gulch. Two fantastic properties offering completely different holiday experiences.
For those that want to ski Vail mountain and then have easy walking access to all of the entertainment, shops and restaurants of Vail Village, Four Seasons may be the answer. This posh and chic Four Seasons Resort boasts balconies and fireplaces in nearly every guest room and has spectacular, sleek and fully equipped residence units with up to 4 bedrooms.
The outdoor heated pool and hot tubs are attended by a home-made molasses lollipop maker who also serves hot chocolate and brownies for the kids and drinks to the adults who soak away a bit of the day from the bottom of the mountain.
Having arrived with a bit of congestion, I decided to unwind with a deep tissue massage and foot reflexology in the lovely spa at Four Seasons. I had no idea my therapist would pick up on my labored breathing and really focus in on related pressure points – I felt completely renewed!
Of the many amenities at this cosmopolitan retreat, the service every guest will cherish the most is the on site Gorsuch Ski equipment rental shop where skiers and snowboarders are expertly suited up on arrival day. When ready to hit the slopes guests can be taken over in the Four Seasons shuttle, hop the complimentary local bus, or walk to Four Seasons ski concierge located at the Visa Bahn lift. Here equipment awaits with guests name on each item, private lockers are offered, and assistance with booting up is provided, along with yes, more hot chocolate (or waters or coffee). Not having skied in the entire 3 years we lived in London, I asked Four Seasons to arrange for a private lesson for me on my first day and my instructor, “Bigsy” was waiting for me at Four Seasons Ski Concierge, no need to go off looking for him at the base of the mountain!
Though Flame restaurant at the Four Seasons is a wonderful option, the joy for me of being a this in-town location was to be able to enjoy some of the spectacular restaurants in town each evening. From the 25-seat, tiny, and very authentic sushi gem, Osaki, to the famously delicious Sweet Basil, we enjoyed many yummy meals. One of the most fun evenings, however, was to take the Lions Head Gondola to the top of the mountain and then continue on by snowcat to the phenomenal Game Creek lodge, an enormous mountain top log cabin featuring wonderful wines and a nightly 3-5 course prix-fixe menu featuring highlands game meats such as Elk, bison, buffalo, and lamb. The Gondola ride down overlooking the lights of the village reflecting off the snow-capped Rockies was breathtaking.
If you are the type of family who loves many activities after the slopes close for the day, the village skating rink, upscale bowling and dining at Bol, and the Adventure Ridge activities center for downhill tubing, snow mobiling and ski cycling is really convenient.
After a few days of “city” fun, we travelled up to the more secluded Bachelor Gulch which along with Beaver Creek and Arrow Head make up a series of connecting villages which skiers can ski between for a more back country mountain stay. Arriving to The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, purported to be the world’s largest log cabin, is truly a special feeling. We arrived when après ski was in full swing. My kids were greeted by “Bachelor”, the enormous and loveable St. Bernard “puppy” (imagine a 140 pound 11-month old puppy), who serves as the resort Mascot and plays with the children in the lobby and out in the snow, but always in eye shot of the resorts Director of Security who looks after Bachelor day and night.
Guests can enjoy their après-ski cocktails in the sports bar called Buffalos, beside the massive fire place in the lobby lounge where sushi is prepared, or out at the fire pit which sits just off the Bachelor Gulch chair lift. The fire pit is truly a gathering place for resort guests and for locals who enjoy the live music, slope-side bar or watch their children play in the snow or swim in the heated pool nearby. The ski concierge team assists weary skiers with removing their skis and boots and storing their equipment until the next morning. Conveniently, a Beaver Creek ticket office is also on property and all rental equipment can be delivered and waiting for guests on their arrival day. (Note to ski school parents: if you rent your children’s ski equipment from the Beaver Creek ski school, it is best indeed to deliver it back to the ski school as the resort does not handle this equipment return for you).
The joy of skiing in the Beaver Creek area is that it is truly a luxury ski experience – the slopes are impeccably groomed, warm chocolate chip cookies are handed out each day at the bottom of the slopes, and niceties such as staff offering tissues to guests as they come into lunch are all just ways that Beaver Creek makes guests feel as if they are visiting an exclusive club. Skiers can literally ski between the villages of Beaver Creek, Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead each day on groomed cat tracks admiring fantastic privately owned log cabin homes built amid the Aspens of the surrounding forests.
Once we reached The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, we really did not feel the need to leave the resort at all – it has such a wonderful sense of place, a true ski lodge atmosphere, and outstanding and friendly service that showcases the very best of the brand. There were many families on spring break at both Four Seasons Resort Vail and at The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch – largely because they both offer phenomenal 1 to 4 bedroom residence units that are so perfect for families or group of friends. Yet, both properties are sophisticated and romantic enough for couples preferring to avoid children during their holiday. Spago at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch is the resort’s fine dining restaurant sporting a fun rock-and-roll play list, an open view kitchen and superb wine list ideal for date-night, and because the wonderful and eclectic diner menu changes nightly, guests can enjoy several evenings during their stay without feeling like it is a repeat experience.
A special treat for a group of friends, a romantic evening for two, or a multi-generational family dinner would the Ritz-Carlton dining experience at Anderson’s cabin. Andersons Cabin is the original homestead of John Anderson, one of seven bachelors who settled the Gulch in the early 1900’s. The Ritz-Carlton serves fire side drinks followed by a traditional Raclette Cheese and Game Meat Fondue dinner in a rustic cabin lit by candles and warmed by a wood burning stove, complimented by story telling of the history of life in the Gulch in the early 1900’s.
One of the true highlights of the resort is the exceptional spa built under the mountain with a series of steamy and icy water therapy treatments, the famous grotto and steam and sauna rooms. Guests can enjoy a truly rejuvenating experience following a series of visit in these under-mountain pools and water experiences, and best of all it is completely complimentary. My dry skin was completely revived by an expert hydration facial at the end of my week of skiing here.
I woke up on departure day wondering where the week had gone. Skiing with our family and friends has always been one of our favorite ways to spend a holiday. Active days and cozy nights all in the great outdoors. Staying in Vail and Bachelor Gulch meant an added layer of luxury, which when “working so hard” is really nice to enjoy! Every local we came upon said we had picked the perfect week – snow was on the ground and the sun was shining bright the entire week – spring skiing at it’s absolute best!