| VailDaily.com

The Happiness Factor

The holiday season is finally over. As a ski resort community, we get exceptionally busy, and often the cozy fireplaces, wonderful dinners, amazing holiday lights, Christmas movies, and family gatherings that we associate with this time of year, get put on hold, we are too busy to enjoy the holidays, the coveted time of year when we should be out having fun, laughing and celebrating. We think we may take some time to relax and enjoy it after the masses have left town. Yet somehow, celebrating afterward does not have the same feeling.

Many who live here, are not near family. Various reasons bring us to the mountains, and distance, along with the cost of travel during high seasons, can make family visits cost-prohibitive. So, while we help others make incredible family memories, we often miss out.

Even those with spouses and children, find that because of intense work schedules, they are not home during holiday events, because they are needed at work, making it feel as though they are apart, even when only a few miles away. Loneliness in a crowd… it’s all too abundant in this valley, where we live, in an area where people come from around the world, to reconnect with family.

Yet, we keep on going, reminding ourselves, we are living the dream.

But that dream, the dream so many crave, leaves us with a sense of loneliness and that loneliness creeps in and takes up residence. How do we overcome that feeling of isolation? How can we feel so alone, when we are constantly surrounded by people? How can we be so connected on social media, yet feel so disconnected? Why does everyone else look so happy and we feel so sad? What’s wrong with me? Am I not worthy of friends, family, and happiness? How do I get over this slump?

During the last few weeks, I have just not been me. Normally, I celebrate holidays in full force… trees, lights, music, food, parties, movies, all the accouterments surrounding the holiday season.

My family is strung all over the country and because of logistics and cost, they had no ability to get together this year, which made me sad because I really wanted a Christmas like we used to have, particularly before my dad died. Intellectually, I know that life happens, challenges occur, and many people up here don’t spend the holidays with family.

I found myself closing off emotionally; not caring about any of it… not Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, none of it. There was an emptiness and sadness to the entire season instead of tradition and happiness. I was beginning to understand Scrooge’s perspective. Was I becoming one of those bitter people?

Could I party my way into a celebratory mood? By joining in on the overeating of too much rich food; the consumption of more alcohol than normal; and random sleep patterns, my normal routine was replaced with an odd array of activities, to keep me busy, and away from thinking about how sad I was. Pretending to be happy became a full-time job for December. It was a blur of activity that accomplished absolutely nothing; not at work, home, or in the community. Pretending to celebrate the holidays was exhausting.

In order to distract myself I booked a quick trip for me and my husband, only to return on Christmas Eve and it hit like a brick wall. I wasn’t ok and my emotions were boiling over. A new loss in my life brought up so much suppressed emotion and grief from the death of my dad. I guess, this is what they mean by “holiday blues”. Trying to make things perfect in an imperfect world is not only tiring but unrealistic, yet, as if a glutton for punishment, we attempt it every year. Yet, we must carry on, and carry on I did.

Speaking with friends, I realized that I was not alone. Some variation of this happens to everyone at some point. Living in a beautiful place comes at a price, and we all understand that logically, but emotionally it’s a different story. Yet, loneliness is felt by all of us from time to time. So what happens when things get so low that we begin to wonder if we’ll ever get beyond it? What can we do to move forward? Part is strategy, and part is attitude. So what can we all do:

Gratitude: Once we are able to identify happiness, we can build upon it. From the big things, like the love of someone special, a wonderful career or home; to the smaller blessings like a good cup of coffee, seat heaters on a cold morning, a friendly driver letting you in at a traffic jam; or the things we take for granted, like being in good health. Gratitude is the first step towards happiness. Begin your day listing 5-things you are grateful for and end your day with recalling 5-things that went really well. That gratitude-happiness perspective will train you to notice the best of everything around you, and the not-so-good parts will pale in comparison. Noticing the good around you will soon become habit; a habit that brings with it, happiness.

Be kind to yourself: Keep your machine in top shape. Your body needs nourishment and rest, particularly under duress. Giving our body what it needs for optimal performance, assures better results. If we are in crisis mode, we cannot afford for our body to give out to sickness or injury because of neglect. Eat well, sleep more; there are many strategies available for both.

Mix up the routine: Nothing screams boredom more than doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result (Einstein… not so dumb). Yet, we all do it! We must evaluate what we truly want in our lives and examine if we are working towards those goals.

Get Outdoors: People feel inspired and tranquil in the mountains. There is something magical that happens here. When stressed, just take an hour (you’re going to waste it worrying, anyway) and go for a walk or simply sit outside, in admiration of the majesty of our surroundings. Notice nature, the sights and sounds around you, the beauty of it all. Feel the synergy and calm. It will transform you.

Put a smile on your face: When sad, your body will assume a weak position… frown, slump, eyes down, mumbled slow speech, basically a defeated stance. It is your mind telling your body what to do when you’re sad. However, it’s a two-way communication. Your body often tells your mind how to react… ever stubbed your toe?

Take the time you need to decompress and feel the raw emotions: If feeling sad, experience it, then after a period of time, set it aside and make a decision, that while it’s okay to be disappointed and unhappy, we all go through it, it is not a place where you want to take up permanent residency. Stand up straight, walk with authority, put a smile on your face (yes, force it), and instead of thinking of loneliness, think about how wonderful it is that you have the freedom of time, to yourself, to plan and prepare for your future. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely.

Volunteer: It builds community, you make connections with the people you are helping, and you cultivate friendships with other volunteers. Loneliness and social isolation are two of the most severe epidemics in the world today and volunteering increases socializing ultimately reducing loneliness. The benefits of consistent socializing include better brain function and lower risk for depression and anxiety. You also improve your immune system.

Finally, surround yourself with people who bring the best out in you. While, it is tempting to drown your sorrows with people who are in even worse shape than you, being with those who regularly overcome their challenges, will inspire you to press beyond what you think is possible. They may see a vision of you that you can’t quite imagine, yet. You are not alone; we’ve all been there.

Chasing Nirvana

We are told how lucky we are to be living here; a place where others travel across the globe to experience, and we have it every day. We live in Nirvana, yet…

What does it take to live “the good life”? Those that consider the good life to be within a resort community, face a high cost of living, low wages, few childcare options, limited career opportunities, remote locations, and other daily challenges. Many choose the lifestyle; some feel trapped by it.

Inevitably, wherever you live, pressure builds up and an escape valve is necessary to prevent an explosion. When that explosion feels imminent, an immediate solution becomes oh-so-tempting. While alcohol has been a go-to release mechanism for centuries, many have praised the availability of marijuana as a substitute, but regulations make its consumption sometimes di cult, particularly if a need is felt during working hours or away from home.

Where then, can one seek solace from the day-to-day pressures? Expectations are increased if your role is that of a parent, an executive, or a prominent member of the community. When everyone praises your accomplishments or ability to “live the good life”, will you appear ungrateful for not appreciating your many blessings?

Escape can become an obsession, and discretion is key. You just want a little something to take the edge off. A small shot of that warm golden liquid or maybe, just one gummy.

Now, if we could just repeat that feeling again. Maybe one more, not a lot, just once more. You don’t really need it; you only want it to help you over this momentary situation. But, that second hit didn’t quite feel like the first. Perhaps, it wasn’t enough. Just one more… and then, only if needed, another.

It may not keep you as sharp as you could be, but when you were “sharp” you were edgy, moody, unable to concentrate, angry, and all of the things, you despise. With just one tiny sip or hit, you are now, more in control, and can do a much better job.

Addicted… of course not, you could stop at any time.

Yet, the times when you feel it necessary to open that escape hatch, are becoming more frequent, and it is taking more to help you feel less. Life in Nirvana comes at a price.

That price is often stress, and stress can be painful. Can you live up to the image… the perfect employee/business owner, parent, spouse, community member or person.

We logically realize that perfection is impossible, but still see others who are “perfect” in our eyes or on social media.

When is enough, okay? Everything comes at a price. Life is stressful because unanticipated events result in unpredictable results, which by its very nature, cause stress.

Rather than explode, we decide to take that hit or drink and suddenly everything is a bit softer, more calm, easier to deal with. What we fail to realize at that moment, is that it is only an illusion. As everyone coming o a high will tell you, the hangover is the easiest part; it’s dealing with the aftermath of your response or lack of action, that causes long-term disasters. Precisely, what you were trying to avoid.

What do people do to avoid the temptation of substance abuse, when there appears to be little substitute?

First, we must realize that if we’ve accustomed our bodies to ingesting alcohol or drugs on a regular basis, our body has adapted and there will be a physical withdrawal. It will be painful; much more so, than what we were avoiding to experience in the first place. Sometimes people will seek substitutes, such as smoking or eating, and if we are to evaluate the detrimental effects, those transitions may be temporarily acceptable.

Secondly, there is no such thing as cutting back. Both physically and psychologically, the body has adapted to needing a certain amount of what you are taking, and cutting back will only cause the body to crave its regular amount. Cold-turkey is the only way to spark the body into creating a different response and returning to its normal state. It will seek healthier, more traditional responses to the stress you experience.

How do you change your routine when the rest of your life remains the same?

While you may not be able to change your environment, you can change your response and routine. The new year is the perfect time to say, instead of going to Happy Hour, I have begun a workout routine. Maybe a gym membership, where you can engage in healthy activity while socializing with a new group of friends. It doesn’t have to be strenuous.

When friends o er a drink or something stronger, you can say, in a disappointed tone, that you’ve discovered that you are allergic to it. In a way, you are correct, as your body no longer responds well to alcohol or drugs.

We all know the triggers our body sends, as we begin to experience what prompted drinking or drugs in the past. As we feel that beginning to happen, create an alternative response before it becomes too intense. Shock our body into a different state and create new associations to the stress. Maybe, you excuse yourself for a 3-minute restroom break, while you blast your favorite music into your headphones. Nothing can change a mood quicker than music. Then return.

If you’re a parent, feeling stressed (and who doesn’t), do things that involve physical activity with your children, to engage and change up the routine.

Think about your passions, and you will certainly find kindred spirits. Are you a secret artist or wannabe? Take a class or join a club. If you like the outdoors but aren’t a skilled athlete, check out the nearest sporting goods store and ask for a club contact; chance are, you’ll discover people who simply want to take regular outdoor hikes (which may simply consist of walks on trails). If you like animals but don’t want to own one, volunteer; there are shelters and rescue organizations, who would love your help. Speaking of volunteering, nothing reminds you more of what you have, than being with those who have even less.

Drink alternatives at parties could be sparkling waters, sodas, or drink mixers. We live in a town where people pride themselves on being “health nuts” and you can simply say that you are on a body cleanse, or that you have made a commitment to eat and drink healthier. You don’t need to discuss addiction or anything else… just declare it, a matter-of-fact lifestyle choice.

Some people think that they must be intoxicated in order to loosen up and have fun… yet, nothing could be further from the truth. What people fear is making a fool of themselves. If you are not hindered by alcohol or drugs, you can develop ways in which you can be yourself, without being embarrassed. Substances will only make you apologetic the next day, and the excuses will get old, making you look weak, not better. The freedom to be the real you is more powerful than any drug you can take.

Make the decision to not drown in liquor or bury in drugs, the person you are meant to be. You were born with special gifts that only you can develop. There are so many people who would love to get to know you. Be present, and you will discover a new world, awaiting all that you have to give.

Behavioral Health Appointments
Colorado Mountain Medical- 970-445-2489

Mountain Family Health- 970-945-2840

Local Support Group Meetings AA:

www.vailalcoholicsanonymous.com/meetings

Local Support Group Meeting NA: www.narconon-colorado.org

Hope and Help for families and friends of alcoholics: al-anon.org

Colorado Crisis Services: 844-493-8255

Hope Center Eagle: 970-306-HOPE

Eagle Valley Behavioral Health

www.EagleValleyBH.org

A glimmer of hope during the holidays

While it seems that everyone is surrounded in joy and celebration during the holidays, we must remember that for many, it’s just another workday, and for some, it is a reminder of all they feel they lack.

With a focus on family, friends, parties, shopping, bright lights, happy music, and fun celebrations of all sorts, we can feel overwhelmed; and after seeing such merriment posted all over social media, and watching movies that always have happy endings, it is easy to begin wondering why our lives aren’t as perfect as everyone else’s. We forget that most of what we see is staged and we are fortunate if we have even a couple of those things during the holidays… happy music and bright lights may be all we get some years.

If we have a cloud of darkness following us around, those bright holiday lights seem to cast an even darker shadow on our path. When it gets too dark, we begin to lose our way, and it’s almost as if it becomes a dark pit, from which we feel as though we cannot escape.

Desperate, we seek any way out, for it is a much- too-familiar scene. We first noticed it years ago, and while we are able to periodically lose it, it manages to always find its way back. And, each time it returns, it brings with it, heightened agony.

If it’s possible, the darkness actually becomes blacker and, as if it could speak, it creates a sound of doom. An overall encompassing sense of loss, heartbreak, worthlessness, loneliness, and pain… oh, so much pain.

After a while, getting rid of the pain becomes all that we can think about. We try everything to dull its effect; alcohol, drugs, risky behavior… anything that will distract or end the torment.

Some of us, lose our sense of reason and go to such extremes, that unwittingly, we can cause permanent harm to ourselves or others, and in a last-ditch effort to end the pain, we end our lives. We begin to imagine a peaceful sleep, an end to the horror we are feeling. Suicide becomes our respite. We really don’t want to leave; we just need tranquility and peace.

On Christmas Day 2014, instead of celebrating joyfully with family and friends, surrounded by delicious food, laughter and a warm fire, our family received the dreaded news that no family deserves to hear.

On the other end of the line, “your brother has died.” He died by suicide after a long and agonizing fight with addiction and depression, a decision made out of desperation, hopelessness, isolation and loneliness. A person who never had a bad word to say about anyone… who was known as a fun-loving sportsman and would often walk away from a golf course with his friend’s gambled money in his pocket and a smile on his face. A person who seemed to love life, yet one, for whom that dark cloud sought solace.

Special to the Daily

A year earlier, our family spent Christmas Day in the Eagle County jail talking to my brother through a screen. He had been incarcerated, his decision-making capacity blurred by sadness and pain. Scotty’s behavior had taken a dark turn and we could see the culmination of 14 years, over 5000 days, of grief all over his face. We wanted to think that it would pass, but instead, it became more erratic, more prevalent, and more ominous.

Instead, for years, during the holidays we had spent our time, trying to “ x Scotty”, only to realize that these demons were coming from within. There is no sense of helplessness greater than watching a loved one descend into darkness, without a glimmer of light, hoping they emerge to face another day.

He had gone to extremes before and thankfully survived, yet we feared that one day, he might not, and that dread was overwhelming. It engulfed the holidays and left our family filled with uncertainty, fear, and all-consuming sadness.

Special to the Daily

With the holiday season here, please take a few moments to notice the expression on a stranger’s face or look deep into the eyes of a loved one. Take note of subtle differences. Pain has many disguises.

Make time to share a friendly thought. Take a few moments to engage and listen, that simple act of kindness can go a long way, it may just save their life. Just a few caring words can provide that bit of light one needs to get past the threshold of despair… to live another day, and perhaps regain an inner strength, a feeling of hope, that they had long-thought disappeared.

If any of this is familiar, please call the numbers below. Please recognize that just because you don’t know someone personally, doesn’t mean they haven’t been where you are and can’t guide you out.

We too, have been on this journey of unimaginable pain and have come to know that it truly will subside. Please, let us be your friend, your guide towards emerging on the other side of this very di cult path.

You are not alone…We are here for you!

Scotty Lamothe… Forever in our hearts. Dec. 16, 1981 – Dec. 25, 2014

Extreme Risk: 911

Moderate Risk: CO Crisis Ctr 844-493-8255

Hope Center: 970-306-4673

Eagle Valley Behavioral Health: for multiple resources: www.EagleValleyBH.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Ideas for surviving the holidays: https://afsp.org/ handling-special-occasions/

Speak Up Reach Out:

www.SpeakUpReachOut.org

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please reach out at www.eaglevalleybh.org/get-help-now

Docs who make house calls

Editor’s Note: This sponsored contest is brought to you by Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide.

Photo by jack affleck

Though Vail is, first and foremost, a giant playground, sometimes a little medical advice and attention is in order. Rather than traipse to a hospital clinic, some opt for a concierge medical experience. Alpine Mobile Physicians has been providing convenient, professional medical house calls for residents and visitors of the Vail Valley for nearly 14 years. Their board-certified physicians have decades of experience and provide open, honest and understandable treatment. They offer oxygen and IVs, medication, pediatric services, expedited x-rays, altitude illness treatment and prevention and all general medical, orthopedic evaluations. The physicians also perform minor surgical procedures. 

As specialists in altitude treatment, their research center has a new, state-of-the art altitude simulation chamber, which replicates conditions of elevations from sea level up to 18,000 feet. The chamber aids in ongoing treatment, research and high-elevation training for athletes.

“Altitude sickness is very common in the Rocky Mountain elevations around 8,000 feet,” says Dr. Douglas Van Mayeda. “If left untreated, it may develop, on occasion, into more serious conditions. However, our altitude simulation chamber can provide the safe medical environment needed for recovery.”

To help prevent altitude sickness, Dr. Doug recommends staying rested and hydrated prior to travel, and contacting your physician prior to your trip on specific recommendations, as one’s medical history does play a role in susceptibilities.

Small Town, USA

Editor’s Note: Sponsored content brought to you by Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide

Photo by Eagle Ranch Golf Course

Eagle

With pristine and abundant access to epic mountain biking, trail running, hiking, golf, parks and Gold Medal fly-fishing, Eagle is a year-round paradise. 

“Surrounded by BLM, state park and open space lands, Eagle is your springboard for adventure,” says spokesperson Mavis Fitzgerald.

Over 100 miles of single track are accessible right from downtown for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and biking and hiking in the summer. The town also offers a BMX park, pool and ice rink. The Eagle River Park offers 4.3 acres of whitewater rafting, which includes four in-stream features in the new world-class whitewater park. And the area is also home to game management Unit 44, one of the most coveted deer areas in the Western states. Summer events include Yoga in the Park and Showdown Town.

Cordillera

Cordillera is a luxury residential mountain community — a place in the renowned Vail Valley that is close to it all, yet still away from it all. It’s a serene place embedded in unparalleled natural beauty with a deep connection to, and respect for, the natural environment. 

Cordillera is, by design, a quiet place where people connect with family, friends and nature to share their passion for outdoor activities. Here, a person can hike for miles without running into anyone else, golf on some of the nation’s best private courses, fish on private ponds and river parcels and relax at home without any noise from clustered neighbors. 

Edwards/ Riverwalk

The charm of Riverwalk revolves around a babbling stream, dotted with multiple restaurants, retail stores and countless business services. The area includes a hotel, theater, market and liquor store, and the majority of businesses are locally owned and operated.

“It is the one place in the valley where you can park once and get everything you need without having to drive elsewhere,” says Todd Williams, community manager. “We even have residents who have retired to Riverwalk because of the ease of access to everything they need.”

Summers are especially busy, with a summer concert series every Friday in July and August.

Avon

For those seeking vibrant and inspiring Rocky Mountain experiences in a comfortable, unpretentious, small-town setting, Avon is a year-round mountain resort community at the base of Beaver Creek Resort. Family-inspired events and activities at Nottingham Park pair with lively bistro patios, freshly forged mountain bike trails and major outdoor music festivals for a vibrant, genuine, progressive experience in a true mountain town.

“It is a town that connects the shared values of both its residents and visitors, creating a one-of-a-kind place to visit, work, grow a business, raise a family and play in a spectacular outdoor setting,” says Elizabeth Woods, communication and marketing manager.

Minturn

Minturn is a small town with a big backyard. Sandwiched between Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts on the confluence of the Eagle River and Gore Creek, Minturn is a great alternative — or addition — to the typical resort vacation. 

With a population of just over 1,000 people, the town is virtually surrounded by havens for backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, fly-fishing, hiking, mountain biking, rafting and kayaking. Main Street is full of unique, local (and sometimes funky) shops and restaurants that make day and weekend trips a pleasure. 

Summertime highlights include the Minturn Market, a weekly artisan market, and a free summer concert series on Thursday nights, throughout July and August. And in the winter, check out the barstool races.

For more information about Minturn and its events, visit www.minturn.org. 

Ticket for Adventure

Editor’s Note: Sponsored content brought to you by Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide

Zipliners
Photo byDominique Taylor
Insider Tip

Weather Patterns
It is very common to have rain at one end of the valley, and sunshine at the other.
If inclement weather rolls in while you’re in Vail, check the weather in Eagle — and vice versa. Chase the sunshine!

Hidden Gems

Piney River Ranch
Photo Courtesy of Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide

If you want to get off the beaten path, there’s no more magical spot than Piney River Ranch. Just 12 miles north of Vail Village (about a 45-minute drive, sometimes replete with moose sightings), it’s a popular spot for canoeing and stand up paddleboarding (SUPing), hiking, camping and wildlife viewing with the added bonus of spectacular views of the peaks of the Gore Range.  

Piney River Ranch rents canoes and SUPs, and you can take a leisurely tour of the lake before heading to the restaurant for some pulled pork or carnitas tacos and a beer on the porch.  

Salad at Piney River Ranch
Photo Courtesy of Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide

 If you want a more adventurous route to the top, hop on your mountain bike. It’s a full-day mission, but here’s the route: ride up son of Middle Creek to Lost Lake then ride down to Piney Lake. After you’ve taken in the scenery (and perhaps a beverage), you can ride back on Buffehr Creek.  

Explore the Wild West

4 Eagle Ranch
Photo by Dominque Taylor

Found just 30 minutes west of Vail, 4 Eagle Ranch pays loving homage to Eagle County’s ranching history. The property sits in the middle of a wide, pristine valley, where summertime horseback rides and ATV tours, and wintertime sleigh ride dinners are paired with stunning views of New York Mountain to the south and Vail Mountain to the east.  The ranch’s “First Thursday” events celebrate the tradition of country dancing.  Line dancing instruction kicks off the evening, followed by a live band and a la carte buffet. Take some time to check out the valley’s only winemaking operation, Vines of Vail, which operates out of 4 Eagle Ranch.

The ranch is also the home base for Zip Adventures, Vail’s first zipline criss-crosses Alkali Creek Canyon. Further downstream, the creek feeds into the Eagle River and carries kayakers, rafters and fishermen to Eagle and beyond. The ziplines vary in height and length, with some offering a nice cruise and others a free-for-all of speed and daring. Some adrenaline junkies have clocked in at 50 mph, which feels a lot faster when you’re airborne. The longest of the lines is 1,000 feet while the highest is 200 feet above the ground. Zippers do some light hiking between the waypoints, where they climb onto a wooden stand and strap in. The trips are always done with a guide, and take a little over 2 hours.

History Buffs

Red Cliff Bridge
Photo Courtesy of Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide

Those interested in the history of the valley can take a scenic drive and explore the area’s mining — and soldiering — roots. Hop in the car and head to Minturn, a funky little town with a big backyard. Keep going and you’ll find Gilman, an abandoned mining town that sits just before the Red Cliff bridge. Though the ghost town is off limits to visitors, it is easily photographed from the road. 

Vail’s history is inseparable from that of the 10th Mountain Division, the mighty ski troopers that helped win World War II. A sculpture depicting a 10th Mountain soldier sits next to Vail’s covered bridge. And on select Fridays throughout the ski season, take in a 10th Mountain Legacy Parade, which includes skiers dressed in traditional uniforms in a Torchlight Ski Down to the base of Gondola One, followed by a parade of military veterans. And if you wander south along Highway 24 and you can discover Camp Hale, where many of those soldiers trained in the snow.

Hop back in the car and keep driving until you find Leadville. The “highest incorporated town in North America,” Leadville has a mining museum. Better yet, take a ride on the Leadville and Colorado Southern Railroad  (LC&S), which runs routes in the San Isabel National Forest, 1,000 feet above the headwaters of the Arkansas River Valley. On the ride passengers learn about Leadville and its legends, such as Molly Brown, Augusta and Baby Doe Tabor, the Guggenheims and Doc Holiday.

Leadville Train
Photo Courtesy of Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide

Winter Wonderland

Though skiing and snowboarding are the lifeblood of the valley, there’s more to do on the snow. Try a moonlight snowshoe tour with Walking Mountains Science Center. Naturalists will guide you on a captivating journey into the night; you’ll also learn about the habits of nocturnal animals along the way.  

Or, in the light of the day, head over to the Vail Golf Club and Nordic Center. During the summer months the golf course is one of the more picturesque in the Valley, offering views of the Gore Range. But during the winter, it becomes a wonderland for cross-country and skate skiers, snowshoers and even snow-bikers — and they rent all the gear too.

An Authentic Backcountry Adventure

Snow activities at Sage Outdoor Adventures
Photo Courtesy of Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide

Sage Outdoor Adventures is your ticket to pristine and inspiring outdoor activities, from snowmobiling to rafting, side-by-side RZRs, 5 stand sporting clays, fly-fishing and horseback riding.

Darryl and Cole Bangert, co-owners and father/son team, have been backcountry and river guides for over 40 years. Joe Tomasic, general manager, has been with the pair since 1997 and helped open Sage in 2008.

All land-based tours operate on a 6,000-acre private mountain situated near Castle Peak, north of Wolcott. Sage snowmobilers, ATVers and horseback riders have this mountain all to themselves.

Sage hires its guides based on personality and core values. These knowledgeable, passionate and friendly guides usher small groups on trails through forests of aspen, juniper, sage and pine, dotted with sparkling ponds and creeks. This guarantees an intimate backcountry experience with stunning views, including the grand overlook on Red Canyon Cliffs, which sits above a 2,400-foot chasm.

In addition to over 85 miles of custom-built four-wheeling and snowmobiling trails, the company owns conveniently located river rafting outposts on the Eagle, Arkansas and Colorado rivers. Sage’s whitewater rafting program is the most thought out, family friendly and professional experience in Colorado.

Fly-fishing on 7 miles of private water is one-of-a-kind— with its access to the most pristine landscapes, tall trees and cliff sides— takes place on the exclusive Piney River. It’s the “Holy Grail” of fly-fishing rivers intended for experienced fly fishers.

“Our main goal is to connect people with nature and hope they disconnect from their daily grind for at least a few minutes,” Tomasic says. “We take people to amazing locations they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to.”

Insider Tip

I frequently hike the beautiful North Trail which is perched above West Vail and the scenic Gore Creek Valley. With amazing views of the Gore Range’s rugged peaks one can also view the town center of Vail and the trail runs on Vail Mountain. The wildflowers are spectacular and the views stretch for days. After the hike, it’s fun to hop on a free bus from West Vail into Vail Village and enjoy a delicious meal on Vendetta’s patio. Surrounded by flowers, the patio scene is a hot spot that attracts locals and visitors, who are known to bring their dogs on occasion. Try the stuffed shells. They. Are. Amazing.

Carol Johnson
Mountain Youth, Eat Chat Parent
Community Impact Award Winner

The Vail Valley’s Favorite Activities

Editor’s Note: Sponsored content brought to you by Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide

Sage Outdoor Adventures rafting
Photo Courtesy of Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide
Please Be Aware

Though the weather is warmer, Colorado summers bring varied weather conditions at higher elevation. Be sure to pack water, sunscreen, a raincoat and do not wear cotton. Wear clothing that can wick away moisture.

There’s no shortage of activities to keep everyone engaged, excited and happy while playing in the mountain air. Whether swallowing fear and flying over a gorge via a zipline or taking a few laps through your favorite powder stash, the Vail Valley is one big playground.

Hike

Hikers on Vail Mountain take in stunning views of the Gore Range as they walk through fields of wild flowers.
Photo by Dominique Taylor

Needing nothing more than some solid footwear and an idea of where to go, hiking is an easy pursuit to enjoy. From super steep trails that promise waterfalls and vistas, to mellower treks that roll through meadows and glades. If you want to get a jumpstart on elevation, hop on the gondola or chairlift at Vail or Beaver Creek, and start mid-mountain.

Fish

Darren Brennan casts his line on the Colorado River as the fall colors start to show themselves.
Photo by Dominique Taylor

Fly-fishing can be a year-round activity in the mountains. Learn to fly-fish — or perfect your cast — through outfitters like Gore Creek Fly Fisherman, Nova Guides, Piney River Ranch or Sage Outdoor Adventures. Wade through the crisp water, or book a float trip to enjoy the sparkling water against a clear blue sky and snow-capped mountains. Access to some of the best fishing holes in the Gore Creek, Eagle River, Brush Creek and Colorado River can be tricky, so we highly recommend the experts who keep track of the fish on a daily basis.

Bike

Photo Courtesy of Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide

Winter or summer, spring or fall, this is one sport that spans them all. Paved trails along the Eagle River provide smooth pedaling for people of all ages and abilities, while dirt trails winding down mountainsides range from beginner to advanced. In fall, golden aspens provide a particularly stunning backdrop for riding, while winter white calls for fat biking. Many cross-country centers, such as Vail Golf Course and Eagle Ranch Golf Course, allow these beefed-up version of mountain bikes. Rent bikes at such shops as Venture Sports, Base Mountain Sports, Charter Sports and Vail or Beaver Creek Sports.

Epic Discovery/Adventure Ridge

Epic Discovery
Photo Courtesy of Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide

Vail Mountain has built the ultimate play adventure area at Eagle’s Nest. During the snowy months, it’s called Adventure Ridge, and includes a snowmobile track, snow tubing and ski biking. The summer months bring Epic Discovery, which includes zip lines, alpine coaster, bungee trampolines and several ropes courses.

Snowshoe

When snow blankets the ground, take in the scenery while getting a cardio workout by snowshoeing. Rent gear at the Vail Nordic Center or the Beaver Creek Nordic Center. Explore the world with a naturalist at Walking Mountains Nature Discovery Center at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola.

Horseback Riding & Sleigh Rides  

Slightly down valley, Bearcat Stables offers a bit of the Wild West in a safe environment. Horseback rides are based out of the Bearden Homestead and are ideal for the novice rider, with gentle terrain and small groups. They also offer horseback-riding camps and multi-day adventures from Vail to Aspen, as well as hunt camps. Come winter, snuggle under a blanket and be transported via a horse-drawn sleigh through time and snow for dinner at the fully restored Bearden Cabin, a unique and historical experience.

Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Caverns
Photo by Jack Affleck

Head west and discover what Glenwood Springs has to offer. Iron Mountain Hot Springs sits at the base of the Colorado River with views of Red Mountain and Mount Sopris, With 16 natural iron-rich pools in varying temperatures from 99 degrees to 108 degrees, it’s an amazing spot to relax, detox and let your worries (and aches) melt away. Or for a more thrilling time, check out Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, billed as America’s only mountain top theme park. From the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster to cave tours, it’s a one-of-a-kind place.

Vail Recreation District

Vail Recreation District Golf
Photo Courtesy of Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide

The Vail Recreation District has been providing events and activities for families for decades. From summer sports camps to daily drop-in activities, the rec district has you covered. Check out the Imagination Station in Lionshead for hands-on experiments for children. Also offered here are paint-your-own pottery and a smattering of classes.
Or head to the Vail Golf Course: during the summer months, play the undulating greens under the watchful eye of Gore Range. In winter, rent a fat bike or try the Nordic and snowshoe trails.

Snowmobile

Photo Courtesy of Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide

Sage Outdoor Adventures shows you exactly what powering through the high country involves with its snowmobile tours. Nova Guides is also known for its seemingly endless miles of 360-degree panoramic views with its Top of the Rockies tour, which includes views of the Continental Divide and begins in historic Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Army Division trained for World War II. Either way, you can zoom up to elevations of over 12,000 feet, where you just might feel dizzy from the thin air — and adrenaline.

Skate

Ice skating at the base of Vail or Beaver Creek mountains looks, and feels, like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting — only with more snazzy village appeal, and pizza, fire pits and hot drinks to warm up the chilly afternoon or evening. Both rinks rent hockey and figure skates for a festive evening on ice.

Stand Up Paddle Board or Kayak

Stand up paddle boarders demonstrating tricks on the river
Photo by Dominique Taylor

If you’re ready to navigate the water (lake or river) yourself, rent a SUP (stand up paddle board) or kayak. Beginners may want to get their sea legs on the stiller, gentler yet still lovely Nottingham Lake in Avon. Or sign up for a class through a local gym. Once you feel comfortable kayaking or SUPing on the lake, ask your rental agency where the calmest stretch of river lies and head on out.

Rafting and Tubing

Fast and furious, or go-with-the flow: you decide. Sage Outdoor Adventures can help you navigate the rivers. Turtle Tubing is an excellent option for families and groups looking for an affordable, fun float trip.

Golf

Beaver Creek, Eagle Ranch, EagleVail, Gypsum Creek, Red Sky Ranch, Sonnenalp, Vail Golf Club, Cordillera — each one provides its own unique perspective on greens, tees, traps and topography. Golfing in the Vail Valley offers unique opportunities to spot wildlife — big and small — while experiencing how high elevation makes your ball go farther.

Set a course for adventure, plan ahead, and don’t leave any stone unturned while planning your play in Eagle County. It’s the perfect place to mix a little action with adventure and a side of awe-inspiring views.

Dining & Lifestyle

Editor’s Note: This sponsored contest is brought to you by Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide.

Dominique Taylor/Dominique Taylor Photography Classic Guacamole | served with warm chips and a Prickly Pear cocktail from Maya in Avon.

Bon Appetit!

In the Vail Valley, eating and drinking are an important part of the day. From fine dining hotspots to casual comforts, it’s not hard to find great food

A Big Night Out

For a wonderful experience, treat yourself to one of the valley’s fine-dining mainstays. In Vail: Enjoy the mountain view and pristine sushi at Matsuhisa Vail, courtesy of celebrity chef Nobu. Leonora in The Sebastian Vail focuses on delicious, international flavors, with a large array of small plates for those who want to try everything. Flame at Four Seasons Vail is a great one-two punch of stellar food underscored by comfortable, intuitive service. And Terra Bistro’s extensive menu includes tried and true favorites with seasonal inspirations.

In Beaver Creek: Splendido at the Chateau continues to produce over-the-top cuisine that hits all the right notes. WYLD at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch focuses on alpine-inspired ingredients. For a truly romantic experience, cozy in to the converted farmhouse that is now Mirabelle Restaurant. Beano’s, located mid-mountain, is accessible by snowcat-driven sleigh in the winter months and via horse or shuttle in the summer.

Dominique Taylor/Dominique Taylor Photography Colorado Lamb, carrot, yogurt, kale, quinoa, lemon, vadouvan.

Inspired Options

Many restaurants offer creative menus in a more casual setting. In Vail: Try the Sonnenalp Hotel, which offers the best fondue in the valley at Swiss Chalet, casual Southwestern-style pub fare at the Bully Ranch and the best breakfast buffet in town at Ludwig’s. The vivacious Mountain Standard has a menu built around live-fire cooking, and it’s delicious. Bol in Solaris brings big, bold flavors to the menu — plus there’s a custom bowling alley in the back of the restaurant.

In Beaver Creek: The Golden Eagle Inn has long been known for its warm hospitality as well as its cuisine — during the summer months the patio is the best seat in the house. Hooked has a delightful approach to seafood that puts you in the driver’s seat — pick your fish, then cruise the lengthy prep options. In Avon, Maya’s Mexican-inspired food is a tour of regional specialties, but the simple homemade tortilla shines big and bright. In Edwards, Craftsman elevates the humble sandwich to new heights. The Rose’s playful, ingredient-driven menu tempts the tastebuds.

Dominique Taylor/Dominique Taylor Photography Assorted icecream cones and ice cream flavors with cascading sprinkles.

Casual Comforts

With three locations in the valley, Pazzo’s Pizzeria is tops, thanks to its Azteca and Corfu pizzas. Find them in Eagle, Avon and Vail Village, as well as street-side at the Vail Farmers’ Market. The Little Diner in Lionshead has serious street cred from breakfast and lunch devotees. At Pivot 62 in West Vail’s Highline, a DoubleTree by Hilton, cocktails and casual eats are the name of the game. Northside Coffee and Kitchen in Avon has an amazing baked goods case — doughnuts galore — but the full menu is extensive and diverse. Try Sundae in Edwards and Vail for some delightful homemade ice cream, with or without the customized mix-ins. The Bookworm of Edwards started out as a retail operation that’s grown into a community hotspot — try one of the “literary” crepes or salads.

A Place To Stay

Editor’s Note: This sponsored contest is brought to you by Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide.

Edwards | The Inn at Riverwalk

After a complete “reimagining,” The Inn at Riverwalk has a new, mountain-modern ambiance with an inviting lobby where guests can relax, work or play. In addition to the beautiful new interior, lots of little touches show just how much thought went into the project. From tiled entryways to the guest rooms, just perfect for ski or bike gear, to a plethora of energy efficiencies that keep the hotel certified Actively Green, the hotel is intuitively designed and easy to navigate. The pool area and fire pit also received a refresh, so it’s easy to achieve the hotel’s mission: Stay and play. Close to, literally, everything, Riverwalk is a hub of activity, including a movie theater, 11 restaurants, more than 25 retail stores and countless business services.

Avon | Christie Lodge

Coming off a recent full-scale remodeling project, Avon’s Christie Lodge offers an inviting setup for travelers. Located in the middle of Avon with on-site restaurant Pho 20, and within easy walking distance of Pazzo’s, Loaded Joe’s, The Blue Plate and Vin 48, the all-suite rental and timeshare property is hard to beat for sheer value and accessibility. Christie Lodge is in easy access to bus routes to both Vail, Beaver Creek and Eagle. Whether it’s a one- or three-bedroom option, all the suites include kitchens, private balconies, housekeeping services and 24-hour front desk help. Indoor/outdoor pool, children’s activity center, a fitness room and outdoor fire pit round out the amenities. The staff’s motto? “Having fun helping our owners and guests have fun.”

West Vail
Highline, a DoubleTree by Hilton

After a massive renovation that updated this West Vail mainstay, Highline, a DoubleTree by Hilton is a stylish space designed to make it easy for families. The mountain modern design is both warm and sleek, and the communal areas are so inviting that there’s an energetic hum. In addition to the three restaurants on property, many more are in walking distance. Coupled with the hotel’s free shuttle service to Vail Village, having a rental car is unnecessary. Most of the hotel rooms include a daybed, and some suites offer separate living and kitchen areas. In addition to rooms for large groups, weddings and meetings, other updated facilities include an outdoor heated pool and hot tub, patio with outdoor fireplaces, 24-hour fitness center and onsite ski/bike rental shop along with  five massage treatment rooms.

Vail Village | Four Seasons Vail

Situated right in the middle of Vail Village, Four Seasons Vail is an integral part of the village scene, complete with special touches such as catering to four-legged friends. Don’t bother renting a car, as everything is walkable from this central hotel. Specializing in bespoke experiences, a stay at Four Seasons highlights the local landscape, be it with access to fresh powder stashes with a ski concierge, or a tour of a local distillery followed by a tasting. The spa is a main attraction, as are the on-site restaurants. Flame specializes in all manner of steaks and chops, while the more casual The Remedy Bar has something special going most days.

East Vail | Vail Racquet Club

Once you discover East Vail, you might not want to ever stay anywhere else. With bus access to Vail Village but on the edge of the “wild,” Vail Racquet Club’s 20-acre property is surrounded by aspens and pines. Guests are free to wander the forested grounds and the park, making it a special place for visitors. One-, two- and three-bedroom condos, as well as suites, give groups of all sizes plenty of options. With on-site banquet space, large parties and weddings are easy to host — and they only allow one wedding per weekend. Hotel guests are welcome to use the spa, pool and a bevy of complimentary fitness classes, and the new restaurant, Heirloom, offers a wide variety of seasonal options.

Sage Outdoor Adventures: A True Backcountry Experience

Editor’s Note: This Sponsored content is brought to you by Sage Outdoor Adventures.

Photo Courtesy of Sage Outdoors

Sage Outdoor Adventures is your ticket to pristine and inspiring outdoor activities, from snowmobiling to rafting, side-by-side RZRs, 5 stand sporting clays, fly-fishing and horseback riding.

Darryl and Cole Bangert, co-owners and father/son team, have been backcountry and river guides for over 40 years. Joe Tomasic, general Manager, has been with the pair since 1997 and helped open Sage in 2008. Darryl has pioneered several outdoor adventure companies in the valley, which means Sage always insists on doing it better than the last time.

Sage is ranked No. 1 on Trip Advisor and has a 98 percent referral rating, higher than any other outfitter in the nation. 

All land-based tours operate on a 6,000-acre private mountain situated near Castle Peak, north of Wolcott. Sage snowmobilers, ATVers and horseback riders have this mountain all to themselves.

Sage hires its guides based on personality and core values. These knowledgeable, passionate and friendly guides usher small groups on trails through forests of aspen, juniper, sage and pine, dotted with sparkling ponds and creeks. This guarantees an intimate backcountry experience with stunning views, including the grand overlook on Red Canyon Cliffs, which sits above a 2,400-foot chasm.

Photo Courtesy of Sage Outdoors

In addition to over 85 miles of custom-built four-wheeling and snowmobiling trails, the company owns conveniently located river rafting outposts on the Eagle, Arkansas and Colorado rivers. Sage’s whitewater rafting program is the most thought out, family friendly and professional experience in Colorado.

Sage is the only local outfitter that offers 5 Stand Sporting Clays with 13 stations, creating endless shot combinations.

Fly-fishing on 7 miles of private water, accessed with Polaris RZRs, takes place on the exclusive Piney River; it’s the “Holy Grail” of fly-fishing rivers.

“Our main goal is to connect people with nature and hope they disconnect from their daily grind for at least a few minutes,” Tomasic says. “We take people to amazing locations they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to.”