Natural beauty surrounds the Vail and Beaver Creek areas in Colorado and sets the scene for endless activities. Located in White River National Forest, these two ski towns prove perfect for adventurers looking to hike, snowboard, eat, drink and be merry.
Here are our picks for the top Vail and Beaver Creek attractions:
Hit the Slopes
Obviously, skiing gets top billing in these parts. When you want to strap on your skis, head to hot spot Vail Resort, North America’s most popular ski resort. It boasts 5,289 acres of skiable terrain, 31 lifts and its longest run is four miles with a vertical drop of 3,450 feet.
Skiers also will want to check out the Birds of Prey, a World Cup downhill ski course in neighboring Beaver Creek that was developed in 1999 and designed by Olympic champion Bernhard Russi.
Try Other Outdoor Activities
Skiing isn’t the only outdoor attraction here. Go to Vail’s Gore Creek, a great fly-fishing river that runs right through the village.
Colorado also is known for having some of the best white-water rafting in the country. Venture out with Lakota Guides, which is the only company in the United States to offer night rafting sessions, or Timberline Tours, which is the largest and most experienced outfitter in the region. Operating since 1971, Timberline Tours is known for its customer service and white-water U.S. team racing heritage. Plus, it organizes Jeep tours on trails around Vail Village and historic Eagle River Valley.
Relax at the Spa
While meditating in nature is nice and all, sometimes you need just a little more help to really relax.
Find that help in The Spa at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail. The only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star spa in the area has a menu dedicated to get you acclimated to the high altitude. It also offers several treatments that incorporate one of Colorado’s best exports: beer. Treat slopes-weary feet to a warm beer soak while you sip a cold one.
In Beaver Creek, reserve a massage bed at Four-Star Allegria Spa at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek. Try the signature Colorado Wild Rose Cure, a rubdown with rose-geranium body butter, a wildflower body scrub and a bath filled with soothing chamomile.
Afterward, take advantage of the Aqua Sanitas, an area of the venue that is modeled after ancient Roman baths. It features a jetted pool, mineral pools, a cooling rain shower, a wintergreen-scented caldarium steam room and a tepidarium.
Indulge at Swiss Chalet
Fondue proves tasty year-round, and Swiss Chalet in Sonnanalp Hotel in Vail does it right. It’s not all gimmick, either. Inside, it looks and feels like you are dining in a traditional restaurant in Switzerland, complete with cowbells hanging from the rafters, alpine-style food and pots of melted Swiss cheeses.
Warm up with a plate of käse spätzle (a German version of mac and cheese with egg noodles), raclette matterhorn (grill beef, chipolata and smoked Polish sausages and more tableside and then pour melted raclette cheese on them) or hearty bratwurst mit rösti (a crispy cake made of shredded potatoes), and of course, get a round or two of fondue. A bottle of something crisp and white will pair nicely, or simply order a giant mug of beer to go with the comforting meal.
Hike with Llamas
There’s hiking and then there’s taking to the trails with a cute, gentle llama who can not only carry some gear, but offer a unique way to traverse the mountainside.
With Paragon Guides, you can book a day trip or sign up to hike around and camp in cabins for a few nights. One of the trails the company takes is the same path the 10th Mountain Division ski troops in WWII followed, so not only do you get to take in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains with a furry companion, but you get side of history, too.
Tour Crazy Mountain Brewery
Though this Edwards brewpub doesn’t give public tours, you can call ahead a book a private showing of its barrel room and facility. Then, head to the taproom and sample the mountain establishment’s tasty lineup of beers such as the Lawyers, Guns and Money barley wine; Lava Lake witbier; or Emotional Rescue, a double IPA.
As you sip, check out the unique art decking out the cans and bottles.
Shop at Gorsuch
If you have ever been to a mountain town in Colorado or Utah, you have probably seen a Gorsuch shop or two. But the original location resides in Vail, which makes a visit to this multi-story, high-end adventure clothing shop a must.
Run your fingers through a fur-lined, woolen throw blanket, try on a mountain-chic après-ski jacket, and outfit yourself for whatever activity you might find yourself doing in the area.
Sip All Day at the Wine and Spirits Festival
One of life’s best combinations wine and a gorgeous view. Get both every August during the Beaver Creek Wine & Spirits Festival.
Expect a little cowboy action thanks the Whiskey Wranglers at the event’s kickoff rodeo; a handful of thoughtful wine seminars; wine-fueled hikes; and mountain top tastings.
Dine at Wyld
Rustic yet upscale, The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch restaurant offers a true taste of Colorado cuisine. From bison carpaccio to elk chops with whipped sweet potato to Rocky Mountain oysters done well (yes, those are bull testicles), the food here eloquently showcases regional favorites.
The forest-styled interior pays homage to the natural beauty around the Four-Star hotel, so you get the sense of dining among the aspen trees with the comfort of being inside.
Get into the Winter Spirit with Vail Snow Days
One of the biggest parties in the mountains happens early each December in Vail. Skiers can enjoy fresh tracks on the mountain, après parties galore, drinks on the gondola and live music at Solaris in Vail Village all night long during Vail Snow Days.