What’s on your spring bucket list, Eagle County? | VailDaily.com

What’s on your spring bucket list, Eagle County?

Melanie Wong
Local chefs prepare food for hungry samplers at the 2014 Taste of Vail. Try samplings from more than 30 restaurants at the annual food festival, held this year from April 8-11.
Zach Mahone | Special to the Daily |

The days are longer and the temperatures are creeping up, meaning that the ski season is drawing to a close and spring is approaching.

Before we know it, winter will be on its way out, with all the powder-driven fun that comes with it. With its more temperate and sunny days, a full-slate of events around town and Mother Nature’s knack for blessing Vail with late-season powder storms, spring is a perfect time to enjoy everything the Vail Valley has to offer.

Here are some of our favorite things to do during spring — get out there and enjoy it before the fun is over.

Get away

Not away from the snow, silly — spring months can bring some of the best snow of the season. But maybe you’ve had your fill of resort skiing, and you’re ready to have a different sort of winter adventure.

Spring is a great time to book a hut trip. Eagle County is home to several backcountry huts in the 10th Mountain hut system, a network of rustic cabins that are accessed in the winter by snowmobile, skis or snowshoes. People book the cabins for one-night and multi-day trips in order to do some great backcountry skiing or touring, or simply enjoy some time of serenity in Colorado’s mountains. If you haven’t been on a hut trip, the huts usually accommodate between eight and 16 people, so you will probably be sharing the hut with other people. Don’t worry, it’s all part of the fun.

Kitchen equipment, sleeping mats and wood for the wood-burning stoves are provided at the huts, but you carry in your own sleeping bags and food, and tote out your trash. Some of the most accessible include the Continental Divide Hut, located less than a mile from the Tennessee Pass trailhead. For a more luxurious hut stay, check out the Shrine Mountain Inn, which consists of three different cabins nestled on Vail Pass. These cozy cabins keep you in the backcountry mood while being among the few huts that feature a shower, flushing toilets, hot water and a wood-burning sauna. It’s a mellow 2.7 miles from the Vail Pass trailhead.

These huts fill up fast for weekends, but the advantage of being a visitor in town is that you can often snag the weekday spots at the last minute. Check out http://www.huts.org.

Looking for a less rustic getaway? Then look no further than the Tennesee Pass Nordic Center and Cookhouse. Located at Ski Cooper between Vail and Leadville, this little gem of a family-owned resort offers visitors a day of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on the groomed trails of the Nordic Center, then either a gourmet lunch or dinner at the Cookhouse. A mile-long hike or ski will take you to this cozy yurt, where you can warm up next to the stove with a hot chocolate or hot toddy. We recommend replenishing your energy with the hefty buffalo burger or warming up with a bowl of piping hot soup.

Not far from the Cookhouse, you’ll find the fully furnished sleep yurts, where you’ll get an unadulterated view of the Colorado stars. The yurts sleep up to six guests. Find out more athttp://www.tennesseepass.com.

Hit the festival circuit

Just because outdoor fun is king in Vail, that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy our urbane comforts, too.

Spring is the time for culinary, music and culture events to flock to Vail, and the fun part is that the warmer weather allows for some of these events to be held outdoors. Here are a few of the festivals we look forward to every year.

Do ski boots ever hit the red carpet? They do in Vail, with the 12th annual Vail Film Festival, which brings 74 films from across the globe March 26-29. Past festivals have brought A-listers including Olivia Wilde, Jesse Eisenberg, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Smith, Adrian Grenier, Harold Ramis, Sophia Bush, Allison Janney, Jane Seymour, Zach Braff, Krysten Ritter and Aaron Paul.

“The Vail Film Festival offers an opportunity for people to see amazing independent, cutting-edge films that they wouldn’t have a chance to see at their regular theaters,” said festival co-director Sean Cross. “Film fans and aspiring filmmakers also have a chance to hear from many of the filmmakers directly at the screenings and interact with them and the actors at festival parties.”

Besides the films, music is a big part of the festival and the Friday Night Concert is one of the highlights. Past musicians include Sara Bareilles, Cary Brothers, Josh Radin, Meiko, Laura Jansen, The Milk Carton Kids and Jay Nash. Find the full schedule or buy tickets at http://www.vailfilmfestival.com.

If your dream weekend includes great wine and gourmet food, look no further than the Taste of Vail, April 8-11 in Vail. The festival is known for signature events that include the rose debut, where more than 100 rose varietals are presented for the first time, the Lamb Cook-Off, where local chefs compete to win the popular vote for best lamb dish, and the Mountain Top Picnic, where guests can munch and lunch in a huge snowfort at the top of Vail Mountain.

Greg Moffat, a longtime Vail local and a member of the Taste of Vail board of directors, said that one of the most unique things about the festival is that the chefs and winemakers are on hand to interact with guests.

“It’s one of the only festival of its kind where the owners, chefs and winemaker have to be there — they won’t be hirelings or reps. If you ask if a wine is oaked, you might get a 10 minute answer. If you’re a wine geek or want to be, it’s really fun, You know that whatever you’re having, it was lovingly prepared by someone who’s obsessed with it,” Moffat said.

And don’t forget Vail Mountain’s big end-of-season bash, Spring Back to Vail, April 17-19. The mountain’s closing weekend brings free concerts at Solaris Plaza in Vail Village and off-kilter traditions like the World Pond Skimming Championships at Golden Peak.

This year’s concert lineup includes rockers Portugal. The Man; folk-bluegrass favorites Trampled by Turtles; and jazz-funk band The Greyboy Allstars. Find out more at http://www.vail.com under the “events” tab.

Try a new winter sport

We’re not talking about trying out snowboarding if you’re a skier — spring is your chance to try something completely different.

Other winter sports offer a change of pace, change of scenery or an alternative activity if the snow conditions are variable.

Brian Stevens, shop manager at Minturn Anglers (http://www.MinturnAnglers.com), said that many people are surprised to learn that winter fly-fishing is great on local waters. The past weeks, with warmer-than-average temperatures, have especially opened up many waterways and are making for prime fishing conditions, he said.

“You can find yourself catching these really big, hungry trout and pretty much be alone out there,” he said. “The rewards this time of year are spectacular. In the winter, the river can be really clear. There’s great contrast of snow, river and mountains — everything you come out here to see. We’ve been seeing lots of wildlife, too.”

John Packer, owner of Vail Valley’s Fly Fishing Outfitters (http://www.flyfishingoutfitters.net,) said that spring is a great time for people with little or no fly-fishing experience.

“March through mid-May offers fantastic opportunities for large hungry brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout, and warmer water temperatures mean more food for hungry trout,” he said.

The other plus is that offseason rates are much lower than the peak summer rates. Most outfitters are currently offering wade or float trips for half and full days.

If you like speed but don’t necessarily want to do the work, there are a pack of huskies who would love to do the job for you on a dog-sledding tour.

Mountain Mushers (http://www.mountainmusher.com), based in Wolcott, just west of Vail, has been running dog sled tours for nearly 26 years. Tours are run on a private ranch on the south side of the Wolcott valley, meaning that other than you, your driver and your furry motors, there won’t be another soul out on the snowy trails. Owners Wally and Denise Glass promise a unique ride with a team of dogs from their 82-dog pack, mostly Alaskan huskies, as well as hot chocolate and fresh-made pumpkin bread during the tour.

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and mwong@vaildaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

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