Your guide to Vail, Aspen and Park City.
Fresh snowfall in the Rockies is expected to lure insiders eager for a winter wonderland adventure straight to higher elevations over the upcoming holiday (President’s Day is Feb. 19). Fortunately, the nation’s industry-frequented mountain resorts are raring to go with thrilling terrain, posh accommodations, and roaring après / culinary scenes, all an easy direct flight away from L.A..
With more than 5,200 flawlessly groomed acres, including seven grandiose Back Bowls and the Blue Sky Basin, and tips up after just a two hour flight to Eagle County Regional Airport, EGE, (and average 30 minutes into Vail Village via Colorado Mountain Express), discriminating powder hounds continue to bow down to this regal resort destination.
Visitors appreciate the low-key luxury of the European style destination where the ambiance is more Patagonia than Prada. Top-notch ski valets and instructors abound (request John Weiss to amp up your ski game) in a town where stellar service is at its core. Other delights include such family-friendly adventures such as dogsledding, snowshoeing and ice-skating at the center rink.
Managed by Vail Resorts, the visionaries behind EpicPass and EpicMix Time Insight, data on lift lines, trail maps, snowfall, and loads of other useful tips is available in real time via iPhone, so you can make the most of shred time across all eleven (and counting!) of their mountain resorts (in Grand Teton National Park, Breckenridge, Keystone, Tahoe, Park City, Beaver Creek, and Whistler).
Notable Names: David Letterman, Michelle Obama, John Wells, Clint Eastwood, Lindsey Vonn, Taylor Swift
Epic Runs: For the intermediate and advanced, head straight to the grandiose Back Bowls (there’s seven of these revered natural basins). Get your sea legs on The Slot then head to Genghis Kahn for an extreme pitch adventure.
And, Blue Sky Basin (located 7 miles from Vail Village) lives up to the Vail tag line, “Like Nothing On Earth.” This is open meadow backcountry at its best.
On Mountain Fine Dining: Located at Mid-Vail, the 10th offers upscale dining complete with haute cuisine, fireplaces, outdoor decks, and views of the Gore Range. And, for those who need to give their tootsies a break, trade your boots for the famed, in-house slippers.
A few short hours following après, foodies head back up the mountain via Eagle Bahn Gondola and a memorable snowcat escapade to Game Creek Restaurant, a classic European chalet where decadent, multi-course fare and award-winning wines are flowing.
Luxe Lodging: The Arrabelle at Vail Square is the only 5-star, ski in/ski out hotel in Lionshead (book one of their 22 private residences with gourmet kitchen and up to five bedrooms).
And, not to be missed is a hard-earned visit to the on-site, 10,000 square foot Rock Resorts Spa for some post shredding bliss.
What once was a silver mining town still reigns as the playground for the rich and famous. While the quaint streets are decked with swanky boutiques and buzzy restaurants helmed by revered chefs, Aspen boasts a variety of grand mountain ranges guaranteed to satiate everyone from beginners to hardcore thrill seekers (Ajax, Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass are a few of the choice runs).
The atmosphere may come off more mighty mogul than mountain mama, but it’s a town filled with depth thanks to its indigenous delights and inspiring cultural scene; Food & Wine hosts their annual culinary festival in June and The Downtown Aspen Art Festival is held in July.
Easily accessed via a direct flight to Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, ASE, followed by a quick zip to the downtown area in about 15 minutes.
Notable Names: Rihanna, Elton John, David Geffen, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, Jessica Chastain, Jack Nicholson
Epic Runs: For extreme skiing, it’s Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands where there are very light lift lines and open slopes catering to all levels.
Silver Queen at Aspen Mountain features Elevator Shaft, the steepest run with a slope angle of 42 degrees, spilling onto the front face and The Little Nell, with picture-perfect views of town.
Long Shot is one of the best intermediate runs at Snowmass, and one of the longest in North America.
Après: One must experience Cloud Nine at Aspen Highlands with views of the majestic Maroon Bells (advance reservations and ski in/ski out only) to understand what après to the hilt really means. The menu is Swiss-inspired with raclette and fondue amidst what eventually turns into a rollicking scene of champagne popping (and spraying!) merryment. And, the other ultimate “see and be seen” spot is the sun drenched deck at Ajax Tavern.
On Mountain Fine Dining: At 10,500 feet and renovated in 2016, Gwyn’s High Alpine located mid-mountain at Snowmass cranks up the cool-factor with its warm atmosphere (new installations include a bar, wood burning stove, and big screen TVs), epic views and sophisticated cuisine.
Luxe Lodging: The most desirable rooms in town are the newly redesigned, one and two-bedroom suites at The Little Nell, the only 5-star, ski in/ski out property at the base of Aspen Mountain.
Sure, it’s Hollywood’s home away from home with the annual Sundance Film Festival. But, now that Park City and Canyons are connected, the whopping Park City Mountain is the largest ski area in the United States with more than 7,000 acres.
Nestled above Park City, Deer Valley ups the ante with famed 5-star, ski in / ski out hotels and ski butlers galore ready to buckle those ski boots and hand you a cup of creamy hot chocolate the moment you glide off the slopes. Cherished for impeccably groomed runs, this is the powder time at its most pampered.
Notable Names: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Gwen Stefani, Dana Walden, Will Smith, Bradley Cooper
Epic Runs: The Meadows/Meadow Way is the ideal beginner / learning, “cruisy” area at mid mountain on the Canyons Village side. This will become a family fun zone next season as part of a major capital investment.
Harmony, one of longest runs on the mountain, is long and leisurely from the top of Peak 5 lift to the bottom of Tombstone lift. Glide past statuesque trees and ski in / ski out mountain homes in the exclusive residential area known as The Colony.
In Deer Valley, Stein’s Way on Bald Mountain is long and steep, and Centennial Trees at the top of Lady Morgan Express chairlift satiates skiers eager for double black diamond tree skiing.
Après: Local favorite, Legends Bar and Grill at Park City Mountain Village delights with its lively vibe and traditional pub fare.
Nestled between the Express and Ruby lifts, indulge in a high dose of rustic glitz with Champagne, charcuterie and truffle popcorn inside the Gorsuch-appointed Après Lounge at Montage Deer Valley.
On Mountain Fine Dining: Lookout Cabin, located off the mid-station of the Orange Bubble Express above Canyons Village spoils visitors with boundless views of the Wasatch Range and full-service Rocky Mountain delights.
Luxe Lodging: After a $15 million renovation, the ski in/ski out Grand Summit Hotel, A Rock Resort holds court right at the base of Canyons Village. All 212 of the suites were completely renovated including the spa, and the property is also steps away from one of Utah’s most memorable dining experiences (including a charcuterie platter that will bring foodies to their knees), The Farm.
For classic Swiss chalet ambiance in Deer Valley, and what is considered the world’s best ski hotel (with an unrivaled ski valet), Stein Eriksen Lodge steals the show. Large families and gatherings (up to 18 guests) settle right into the Lodge Luxury Suites, ranging in size from 1,200 to almost 5,000 square feet, and most come with the quintessential ski vacation perk – a hot-tub studded deck. Bottoms up!