3 perfect days: Three veteran concierges weigh in on making the most of a singular day in paradise
December 30, 2016
Vacations can be tough.
The average American receives 10 days off a year; many don't even use all of their accrued time off. As a result, taking a trip can turn into a stressful task: making sure that everything is situated, that everyone is happy and that each minute is appreciated. It can be daunting.
Even planning a vacation in a location as idyllic as Vail can be difficult. Not because there is a lack of entertainment, but because there are so many options. Given an unlimited timeline, guests could spend an entire winter season here, exploring the mountain, venturing into the backcountry and taking advantage of all of Vail's cultural and dining options.
In fact, that's how many of the locals became locals — they came for a vacation and decided to make it their home.
However, even if you have to return to "real life" after a visit, we know how important it is to maximize your time and make sure that you're fitting in all of the experiences that will make an unforgettable vacation. In order to assist in this venture, we enlisted the help of three of Vail and Beaver Creek's finest concierges.
Each concierge has planned one perfect day for three different types of visitors: a couples' retreat, a getaway for a group of friends and the ultimate day for a family. These experts know first hand what makes an incredible experience — after all, that's their job.
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Matt Wilson, Four Seasons
Originally from central Pennsylvania, Matt Wilson moved to Vail from Philadelphia six years ago and has made the most of his new home. An avid mountain biker and part-time raft guide in the summer and skier in the winter, Wilson has embraced the Colorado lifestyle and enjoys sharing his love of the area with his guests.
"That's one of my favorite things about being a concierge," Wilson says. "My job is just making sure that our hotel guests are having as much fun as I am."
That extends to future fun, too. Even on another continent.
"I recently helped someone get set up on a trip to Cairo," Wilson said. "I reached out to the Four Seasons in Cairo and helped out, making sure that the plans were set. That was a real head scratcher, but it was also cool because I've always wanted to go there."
One perfect day in Vail:
Vail is an ideal destination for a group of friends, whether it's a group of guys, girls or mixed company. Here is Wilson's lineup for a perfect day in Vail.
Fuel up for a day on the mountain. Grab a No. 3 from DeliZioso, which includes egg, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and pesto, and take it to go as you make your way to the gondola to grab one of the first cabins.
Each day is different, as the wind direction can load the snow onto certain slopes, depending on how it's blowing and the snow texture and density can change throughout the course of the day. To make the most of a bluebird day, grab a grooming report and see what's sporting fresh corduroy. Wilson recommends Riva Ridge when it's freshly groomed. On a powder day, an early morning run down Ricky's is a great way to start the day before heading back to Blue Sky Basin.
If there are non-skiers in the group or you've decided to take a day off, then Sage Outdoor Adventures leads snowmobile tours that are scenic and exhilarating. The snow muffles the rhythm of the four-stroke engine as you're whisked through powder fields and aspen groves. Pick up soup from Northside Grab & Go in West Vail and you'll be set for an afternoon warm-up before heading back out on the sleds.
Afternoon means apres in a ski town. There is a wide variety of options, such as Vendetta's for pizza, Moe's for wings, Garfinkel's for burgers and Mountain Standard or The Remedy for cocktails. One way to maximize your experience is to plan ahead.
"While on the ski lift, all of the details of our order are planned out," Wilson says. "We decide on the venue and the exact details of what we're going to order, down to the toppings on our pizza."
As restaurants can get busy at the end of the ski day, having an idea of your order will ensure that you're sipping on a beverage and noshing on snacks as soon as possible.
As you've most likely filled up during apres ski, it's time for relaxation. Soaking in a hot tub at your hotel or condo will be the icing on the top of your ski day, easing sore muscles and allowing you to unwind with your friends. A glass of sparkling wine or a local craft beer will never go amiss, but remember — you're going to do it all again tomorrow, so rest up.
Steve Trombetta, Hotel Talisa, Vail (formerly Vail Cascade Resort & Spa)
Perhaps one of the most experienced and well-connected people in the Vail area, Steve Trombetta has been a concierge and guest services manager at the Hotel Talisa, Vail (formerly Vail Cascade Resort & Spa) for 33 years. In those decades, he's met and become long time friends with many interesting people, from football icons to past presidents. And, though they're celebrities, they're not that different from other guests at the hotel in their wants during their stay.
Bruce Smith, former defensive end for the Buffalo Bills, came to Vail for surgery at the Steadman Clinic and stayed at the Cascade. Steve remembers that one night he wanted pizza, so the staff took him to Pazzo's.
"He ordered six pizzas and I got some for us as well," Trombetta said. "When we got back to the hotel, he gave us two and he ate four. He is a very big man."
After three decades working in Vail, Trombetta is now welcoming the next generations of families to town.
"I've been doing this for so many years that I'm now having the kids (of former guests) and their families visit," Trombetta says. "They tell me that mom and dad don't ski anymore, but that they said to say 'hello.' What's really fun is when the parents tell their kids that 'Steve gave me a ride on the bell cart when I was your age.' It feels good."
One perfect day in Vail:
for a couple
There's something inherently romantic about a ski vacation as a couple: the snow falling softly on the trees, cuddling up in front of a roaring fireplaces and sharing the slopes together. Here are Trombetta's suggestions for a perfect day in Vail.
Start off the morning by donning a robe and taking a quick dip in the Jacuzzi. Then indulge in the breakfast buffet at the hotel (Trombetta recommends the pancakes). Afterwards, chat with the friendly and knowledgeable concierge to map out your route for the mountain as conditions change regularly.
"Another good suggestion for intermediate skiers is to go on the Vail mountain tour, which is offered daily," Trombetta says. "It's a great way to learn the mountain."
Then head up on the Cascade lift to the mountain.
If you need a break from enjoying the fresh powder, for convenience, Trombetta suggests eating at one of the many different options Vail provides for lunch, such as Two Elk, Bistro 14, or Mid-Vail. However, if you had the buffet, you might not need lunch — a filling breakfast means that you can ski through lunch and enjoy less crowded runs as everyone on the mountain tends to eat at the same time.
However, sometimes sustenance is necessary. In that case, ski down into either Lionshead or Vail Village for one of the many options there: Sweet Basil ("great food for more than 30 years and even better people watching"), Mountain Standard, Up the Creek, Vendetta's or Pepi's ("for some Bavarian flavor"). In Lionshead Village, Tavern on the Square, Vail Chophouse, Garfinkel's and Montauk are all easily accessible from the mountain.
"Now, for most people, apres ski is the best time," Trombetta said. "That is ski verbiage for happy hour! Don't forget your skis if you are apres-ing elsewhere."
In the Vail Village, continue the Bavarian theme with entertainment at Pepi's, or head to Los Amigos for margaritas (right off the slopes); Red Lion also has apres entertainment and a lively crowd. If you want to hear the latest and greatest on what's happening on the mountain with ski patrol, then go to Vendetta's.
If you're not filled up on apps, visit one of the world-class restaurants that are located in both villages, from TV's famous chef Matsuhisa to incredibly diverse cuisines. Browse EAT magazine to find the restaurant that looks right for you. Once you decide, call your concierge ASAP to make your reservations; restaurants often fill up quickly.
While there are many amazing restaurants in the base areas, for a truly romantic experience Trombetta recommended guests consider a sleigh ride and dinner on the mountain, like at upscale cabins such as Beano's and Zach's at Beaver Creek, or at the rustic Four Eagle Ranch.
Powers van der Mandele, Guest Services Manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch
A New York native, Van der Mandele moved to Vail in 2010 after a year in Ketchikan, Alaska, in search of stellar skiing. As with so many others, one season has now turned into seven.
Van der Mandele started at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch as a concierge. He's had his share of interesting requests through his tenure, like the guest that asked the staff to bring a carnival (rides and vendors and all) to the hotel including elephants and giraffes for a birthday party. Note to self: It's not feasible to stage an African safari-themed zoo at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch. From hippos to helicopters, Van der Mandele has heard a lot, and fulfilled as many requests as he can. However, the one thing that never disappoints is the amazing setting in Beaver Creek.
"There is just something about waking up in the morning and looking out at the high peaks that I will never tire of, and certainly won't ever take for granted," Van der Mandele said.
One perfect day in Beaver Creek:
Though the view at Beaver Creek is a great start to the day, head down to Northside Kitchen & Coffee in Avon to grab a Gringo Burrito and a dozen of their famous house-made donuts, to fuel you and your family up on the go. Chow down and head to Beaver Creek Village to meet your ski valet at the White Carpet Club, located at the base of the Centennial Chairlift. The White Carpet Club gives members private lockers, slope-side valet and, if you need it, preferred parking. Membership is available daily, weekly or for the season, so you can let the onsite concierge store your belongings for you and keep your shoes toasty warm while you enjoy the slopes.
"Beat everyone to the lift by enjoying the White Glove First Tracks and experience the world's finest groomers before they open to the public," Powers says. Taking place on certain dates, you'll meet at the base of the Centennial lift at 7:30 a.m. for a private guided tour before anyone else gets their first run in.
If there are non-skiers in the family, then there are other activities to try on the snow. Visit the Beaver Creek Nordic Center to rent snowshoes or cross-country skis and explore McCoy Park. Or, visit the ice rink in the center of Beaver Creek Village to take some graceful turns around the rink.
After a few hours of skiing on the slope, turn in your equipment at the ski valet and walk over to Beaver Creek Chophouse's patio. Soak up the sun slope-side while munching on lunch — the Bird & Brie sandwich is a favorite. After a leisurely lunch, get ready to hit the slopes again before heading over to The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch for what Van der Mandele says is Beaver Creek Mountain's best apres ski.
"Hang out at the famous Ritz-Carlton fire pit and listen to wonderful musicians play your favorite songs," he suggested. Powers also encouraged the adults to enjoy a signature Ritz-Carlton cocktail while the kids can grab a delicious complimentary chocolate chip cookie at 3 p.m. or roast s'mores around the firepit.
Be sure to save some energy after apres. You can ride back up and leisurely ski the Intertwine trail all the way down to Beaver Creek Village before turning in your skis to the valet and warming up in an outdoor hot tub. If you're too satiated, then there are shuttles that will return you to the Village from Bachelor Gulch.
Ready for a dinner experience to remember? Bundle up and return to The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch to catch your open-air sleigh ride up the mountain to Zach's Cabin. Warm and cozy and welcoming for the whole family, you'll switch your shoes out for some comfy fur-lined Crocs and cozy up to your fireside table. With a menu of elevated American fare, there's something for everyone to enjoy, such as the chili encrusted elk tenderloin entree. The evening is complete with the magical sleigh ride down the mountain.
If it's a Thursday, Van der Mandele suggested something special for the kids: Thursday Night Lights. A weekly evening ski-down, this memorable opportunity is open to skiers and riders who are at the intermediate level or above. Equipped with glow sticks, participants ride ski down the mountain accompanied by music and a fireworks finale.
"This day encapsulates everything that Beaver Creek is: excellent service, excellent skiing, excellent dining, excellent apres and the world's most luxurious ski town atmosphere," Van der Mandele said. "This itinerary includes amazing services and some incredible locations that really set Beaver Creek a bar above the rest."
There is plenty to do and experience in Vail and Beaver Creek. The reality is, one day is never enough.
"This is just one ski day, not a week-long trip itinerary," Trombetta cautioned. "There's also Adventure Ridge for tubing on the mountain, dog sledding, snowshoeing, horseback riding, snowmobiling, fly-fishing, art gallery walks and more."
So, whether you're traveling with a group of friends, with a special someone or with an extended family, you'll be able to make the most of a vacation in the Vail Valley with these tips and suggestions. Everyone's experience is unique, though, so enjoy creating your own adventure.