Local concierges spill their secrets about where to go, what to do in Vail Valley
December 9, 2016
Life of a concierge
Concierges are often asked some odd questions:
• At what elevation do the deer turn into elk?
• What machine is used to make those bumps (moguls)?
• Which way is the mountain?
• When are they going to move the white, fluffy stuff so we can go skiing?
• From a senior gentleman from the Bible Belt: Why don’t you give out joints in place of the wine in your rooms?
And guests also have made some memorable requests:
• The Chateau Beaver Creek was host to some high-flying pets. They were asked to drive Remy (poodle), Precious Pearl (cat) and Fluffy (hamster) to meet their private jet to whisk them away to two different locations to meet up with their humans. “The Jet Center staff thought that we were pulling a practical joke on them and were not amused until they saw in person the furry, friendly flyers.”
• The Chateau also hired an armored truck when one of its rental guests left a briefcase containing $100,000 in a car rental that had already been driven to Denver. The truck was necessary to bring the briefcase back.
• A property that wished to remain anonymous had a group of septuagenarian men request a stripper pole in their unit for a party. “It was quite a task — calling adult stores in Denver for suggestions, asking friends if they knew how to get one … but we did accommodate the guests request, with a trip to Home Depot.”
Before Google was around to answer your questions, there were concierges. Often ensconced at a special desk in the lobby, the concierge is a professional problem solver, committed to pointing guests toward whatever their hearts desire, from restaurant reservations to performance tickets to activity recommendations and almost anything between.
With more than 30 hotels, resorts and lodging properties in the valley, there is a wealth of knowledge here in the form of concierges. Like a living cross between a well-worn log of contacts and the most up-to-date guidebook, the concierges in hotels and resorts have tips and tricks that they're willing to share for an unforgettable visit — and a few that remain trade secrets.
At Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, the "Local Secrets" program was created to ensure guests get an insider's look at Beaver Creek and the Vail Valley. Guests are provided useful knowledge and tidbits that are personally vetted by the on-site staff via recommendation cards featuring outdoor adventure experiences — everything from the best local hikes and scenic road trips to insider tips such as where to stop to fill up water bottles, the cleanest bathrooms and more. Staff from around the resort, from front desk manager to the concierge to the director of rooms, weighed in to add to the growing list of Secrets.
For this version of local secrets, we polled concierges and hotel general managers from around the valley. Concierges from The Sitzmark, Manor Vail Lodge, Four Seasons Resort Vail and Chateau Beaver Creek all answered the call for their recommendations for activities and secrets.
On the slopes
There's no question that Vail and Beaver Creek mountains are some of the main draws to the valley during the winter. While there is plenty of terrain to ski, snowboard and telemark, it's always nice to have a bit of insider knowledge before hitting the slopes.
"On a Saturday powder day, take the bus to Chair 20 (Cascade) then to Chair 26 and drop into Game Creek bowl before the crowd," said Bruce Cavan, assistant general manager at the Sitzmark Lodge. "Take one or two runs, depending on crowd, then drop into Sundown Bowl and get first tracks. It works every time."
"Being located at Golden Peak, we are the easiest access to The Back Bowls," said Tami Cox, guest services manager at Manor Vail. "Take Chair 6 to Chair 11 to The Back Bowls … and there are shorter lift lines."
"Check out Vail's grooming schedule each morning for daily surprises on the slopes before heading up the mountain to ski," said Matt Wilson, concierge at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail.
Sometimes you want a day off the slopes — or something a bit different. If you want to add some adventure to your day, then the folks at Manor Vail suggest cat skiing. Several companies offer this backcountry adventure, such as locally owned and operated Vail Powder Guides, which has been leading trips on Vail and Ptarmigan passes and in the White River National Forest for more than 10 years. Make your reservation early to avoid disappointment (most holidays are sold out), or consider a mid-week excursion.
Looking for an opportunity to tell a "big fish" story in winter? Wilson said some of the best fly-fishing of the year takes place in March.
"There are less people fishing, thus an abundance of hungry fish," Wilson said.
There are several outfitters who offer year-round fly-fishing, including Minturn Anglers and Vail Valley Anglers. Float trips are available, as are wade trips for those hearty souls with warm and waterproof soles.
Cross-country skiing is a popular alternate activity during the winter. Though several areas offer groomed trails, such as the Vail Nordic Center or McCoy Park at Beaver Creek, Janet Bower, concierge at the Chateau Beaver Creek, had this recommendation for more experienced cross-country skiers: Procure equipment and follow the railroad tracks from Camp Hale to Red Cliff to enjoy the fabulous fish tacos at Mango's Mountain Grill.
For foodies who want to walk, rather than ride, Cox suggested taking a food tour of Vail. Vail Valley Food Tours offers several tours, including an apres tour in Beaver Creek, but Cox said the Vail Village tour is great for people who don't ski, plus it's a chance to learn the history of Vail. Starting at noon, this tour lasts 2 ½ to 3 hours and stops at five restaurants for samples. Guests learn not only about the town of Vail, but also chefs' backgrounds and history while snacking.
Eat, drink and be merry
Other than enjoying the snow in its various shapes and forms, the culinary scene is perhaps one of the biggest draws for visiting the valley. From apres experiences to excursions that allow you to deserve your dessert, the concierges have plenty of suggestions for wining and dining.
Sometimes the journey is half of the fun. Cox suggested taking a sleigh ride dinner, like the ones offered at Bearcat Stables in Edwards, or booking a weekend lunch or the four-course dinner at Tennessee Pass Cookhouse. There, you'll either snowshoe or cross-country ski a mile through the backcountry to work up an appetite before sitting down to the table.
A bit closer to home, Bower recommended snowshoeing up to Beano's Cabin at night for a cup of cocoa or other libation — going during a full moon is especially magical.
Then there's apres. While there are always favorite standbys, it's fun to find the more out-of-the way or under-appreciated spots.
"Up the Creek in Vail Village has a lovely spot along their north side deck that has some of the last sun of the day in Vail Village after a fun-filled day skiing," Bower said. "Enjoy the scenic creek or let the kids play out in the snow while enjoying truffle fries and other amazing appetizers."
Cavan recommended apres at Lancelot — "Be sure to get the prime rib sliders" — and Cox called out The Fitz Restaurant & Bar at Manor Vail, a hidden gem for apres ski and happy hour.
If a sweet treat is desired, then try this suggestion from Wilson: for a fun, flavorful and boozy dessert option, grab an ice cream (Joe's Deli has great options) and then head to 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits. Order their cordial, and pour it on top of the ice cream for a unique experience.
Whether you're looking for outdoor adventures, new spots to sup or even simple directions, the concierges of the valley are here to help. Ask away — they're happy to help. You might even learn the secret of where they store the moguls in the summertime.
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