“Would you like truffle or foie-gras fries with that?” It is not a question you hear at many ski resorts – or anywhere, really – but you’ll ponder it often at restaurants in Vail. No other ski resort in North America panders to the luxury shusser on quite the same scale – and it does not take long to get into the luxury groove. Those down-filled, fur-trimmed $800 mittens you tried on in the village? What a great souvenir! And over at nearby Beaver Creek mountain, those ski-in chalets seem reasonably priced at $11-million. The ski lift is right outside the front door, after all.
And it’s hard to match Vail’s luxe après-scene in Canada, which many Easterners have already figured out. “Vail is the No. 1 upscale ski destination out of Ontario. No contest,” says Michael Merrithew, owner of Merit Travel, who adds that 15 per cent of his clients choose Vail over other ski destinations.
Clearly, vacationing in Vail (tagline: “Like nothing on Earth”) and Beaver Creek (tagline: “Not exactly roughing it”) is about so much more than the skiing. If you want the best blowout ski vacation money can buy, this is where you can start.
Fly into Denver and Vail Valley is a two-hour drive through the mountains. Scenic in good weather, the trip is white-knuckle nerve-shattering in bad. Why not fly direct? Last month, Air Canada launched a weekly Toronto to Eagle County flight. The regional airport is just 30 to 40 minutes from Vail and Beaver Creek resorts, which means you can be on the slopes the afternoon you arrive – and a lift ticket is free if you show your boarding pass.
Where to stay
Flash it again at the Sebastian on Vail Road and you’ll land $500 (all figures U.S.) in resort credit for a five-night stay. The year-old hotel has an urban boutique vibe that’s also playful (a yule log burns on the Frost Bar’s 60-inch flat screen, while several gorgeous gas hearths glow nearby). Rooms at the art-focused hotel start at $439. thesebastianvail.com
Need more space for your brood? A four-bedroom condo at the Arrabelle at Vail Square should satisfy: fireplaces in every room, a kitchen that’s better stocked than your own, ensuite washer and dryer (Tide Pods included), a telescope, WiFi, and enough space that your teenagers can pretend you don’t exist. Rates start at $2,671 a night. arrabelle.rockresorts.com
If it’s an on-mountain high you’re looking for, book Beaver Creek’s Trapper’s Cabin. For $50,000 (U.S.), a helicopter meets your group of four at Eagle airport (direct flight included) to start a five-day stay in this secluded chalet. Inside you’ll find luxe ski apparel and four Epic Passes (which grants you year-long access to Vail’s 26 resorts in four countries), plus a dedicated concierge and chef. No need to schlep your own skis – rentals and a guide are delivered to your door, plus you’ve snagged access to the mountain before it opens to the public, a privilege typically only available to homeowners. Spa treatments and other impressive inclusions complete this white-glove winter getaway. trapperscabincolorado.com
What to do
You did come here to ski, right? Even if you’re an expert, go with a guide. You’ll fast-pass the lift lines and spend more time ripping runs than reading trail maps. And the stories they can tell! Ask about the heiress who enjoys her hot tub topless in full view of the hills. Guides from $815 a day, gratuities extra. vail.com
An après-ski massage is de rigueur, but have you thought about what all that wind, snow and sun has done to your skin? A customized facial at Rockresorts Spa will smooth out the rough spots ($150). The best spa in Beaver Creek is found at the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch; try the 90-minute platinum restore facial for $300. rockresorts.com/spa; ritzcarlton.com
Blow more of your holiday bonus at Gorsuch, a luxury retailer. The exquisite pieces on offer include Bogner’s $2,000 parkas, $400 cashmere thermals and cute shearling-lined booties for $1,000. Pick up the artfully embroidered Alp-n-Rock henley tees ($198). No ski bunny at home has one of these. gorsuch.com
Looking for something fun and funky? Try Bol, the lounge-like 10-pin alley in Vail Village. Seriously, even the bowling shoes aren’t ugly. Order a Moscow Mule (ginger beer, vodka, lime juice in a copper mug) and you’ll look like you own the place. bolvail.com
Where to eat
Ski in to the best lunch on Vail mountain: The 10th offers white-linen dining at 3,125 metres elevation. Not only will you eat well, but you can switch your boots for fuzzy slippers. It’s safer to pad past the magnums of Veuve Cliquot on display than clump by in a ski-boot balancing act. the10thvail.com
Or ski down Golden Peak and break at Larkspur, a modern eatery that’s refreshingly un-chalet like. Here you can hang out on the patio and watch the racers take on a black diamond run and the snowboarder’s half-pipe. Desserts can be packaged to go; share the maple caramel corn or a lemon-infused cinnamon doughnut on the lift back up. larkspurvail.com
If you’re out to impress someone special, a table at Matsuhisa in Vail will do it. Plates of sushi and sashimi crafted in mind-blowing flavour combinations are unforgettable. The miso black cod and lobster ceviche, both served adorably on baby lettuce leaves, are stand-out dishes. matsuhisavail.com
Another fantastic meal is dinner at Zach’s Cabin in Beaver Creek. Reservations include an open-air sleigh ride up the mountain to the log cabin-turned-gourmet restaurant at 2,800 metres elevation. Make sure to order the Monte Cristo PB&J with foie gras – it’s an appetizer, but order it for dessert if you don’t want to look like a tourist. zachscabinbeavercreek.com
Fancy something French? Make a reservation at Mirabelle in Beaver Creek. Chef Daniel Joly’s unpretentious, elegant dishes are what the locals crave when they’re celebrating yet another incredible day of living the good life. mirabelle1.com
(Editor's note: An earlier version of this story stated that rates for a six-bedroom condo at the Arabelle at Vail Square started at $2,671 a night. That rate is for a four-bedroom condo.)
The writer travelled as guest of Vail Resorts. The company did not review or approve the story.