For those who just can’t get enough of winter, a weekend full of fresh powder, ski chalets and spiked cocoa is just what the doctor ordered. We called up our favorite nutrition expert (who also happens to be an outdoor enthusiast and Denver local), Ann Pierce from Pierce Whole Nutrition to get her recommendations for the best excursions, lodges and restaurants in the Colorado Rockies:
Aspen seems to have it all. The first time I went, I was expecting to feel very small amongst the rich and famous, but that is definitely not the case. Although it’s normal to bump into Heidi Klum on a hike or Lance Armstrong at the bar, the locals could not be more welcoming and friendly and there are shops, bars and restaurants to satisfy anyone. Make sure you aprés (for the uninformed, this is what skiers do post-skiing, and it usually includes an abundance of food, drink and laughter) at Ajax Tavern in The Little Nell, because the cheeseburger and truffle fries are to die for. Little Annie’s is a great Mexican place and for pizza-lovers, Brunelleschi’s thin crust pizza is absolutely perfect with fast and friendly service. If you’re up for a night out, the historic Wheeler Opera House is a great place to visit for concerts, movies and events.
For skiers, you have options. Ski Highlands if you want steep, difficult terrain and plenty of hiking. If you’re feeling brave, “hike the bowl” – it’s difficult but so rewarding (I hiked it with Chris Davenport last month!). Buttermilk is the mountain for the kiddos and Aspen is a good combination of the two. The shopping won’t let you down either with everything from Theory, Burberry and James Perse to Gap.
Vail is world-class skiing at its best. And now that our very own Lindsey Vonn has won the gold, Vail has even more to brag about!
Fuel up at Vendetta’s for pizza – you can sit down or just walk in and grab a slice, Sweet Basil for amazing modern American dining or Sonnenalp (Cameron Diaz’s hangout) for burgers and the mudslides. For aprés, including great music, try The Red Lion, The George, The Tap Room, or Los Amigos. If you can get a seat on the patio at Los Amigos, it’s extremely entertaining to watch skiers make their way down a steep run called “Pepi’s Face,” which is 100% ice and people fall 100% of the time!
Vail seems to always have events going on, such as their annual spring Pond Skimming competition (Watch the video). If you chose Vail as your skiing destination, I promise you’ll leave happy.
Just west of Vail, you’ll find Beaver Creek. Their slogan “Not Exactly Roughing It” pretty much sums up the experience. Picture this:
You walk through the village, skis in tow, headed to the chair lift. A friendly volunteer brushes by holding a plate of warm (and free) chocolate chip cookies. You are about to spend the day skiing – one cookie won’t hurt so you grab it right before you step onto the outdoor escalator that effortlessly transports you up one level to the lift area. Jump on the lift and head over to the Birds of Prey area, famous for its World Cup downhill course. The three chairlifts feed all types of terrain – greens, blues, blacks and beyond, which all funnel into one meeting area, so your group never gets separated.
Late afternoon when you call it a day, ski down to the base and relax with a glass of wine at the Ritz’s outdoor fireplace seating area. Everyone around you is calm and happy. Live music is being played softly in the background. Kids are under control. Wealthy, beautiful people in beautiful clothing walk by. Those fortunate enough to be staying at the Ritz are soaking in the outdoor heated pool. You get offered another freshly baked cookie or two. Life is good. (Can you tell Beaver Creek is my favorite?)
WP is ideal for families. They cater to all levels of skiing and have wonderful programs and ski school for children, allowing Mom and Dad to enjoy their time on the slopes. A part of the mountain called Mary Jane is a favorite for moguls.
Not into the downhill scene? Just past Winter Park, in Tabernash, CO, you’ll find a quaint little ranch called Devil’s Thumb Ranch. This place is known for its expansive Nordic center and miles upon miles of snowshoe trails. Cross-country ski or snowshoe over to the horses to say hello or trek up the hills for an extra tough workout. When it’s all over, relax at the Ranch Creek Spa.
Devil’s Thumb is a renovated and actually working ranch. It has two restaurants: the Ranch House for special occasions/foodies, and Hex’s Tavern, which is more casual but still a cut above anything you’ll find around town. Choose between staying in the main lodge or your own private cabin in the woods, complete with a wood-burning fireplace and fresh firewood delivered to your stoop each morning. I’ve stayed in both places and neither one disappointed. The service at DTR is impeccable and the décor is second to none with wooden cowboy hats and boots lining the hallways and deep leather seats welcoming you at every fireplace. When I build my mountain dream home, I will be hiring the DTR design team!
Sometimes described as the “anti-Vail,” Steamboat is welcoming to say the least. They aren’t going for glitz and glamour… more like Old West. As you drive into town from Rabbit Ears Pass, you’ll count no fewer than 54 F.M. Light & Sons signs, your one-stop shop for anything Western: cowboy boots, Carhartt jackets, and lifesize cardboard cutouts of John Wayne. Double Z BBQ is the best meat in town and don’t forget to order your meal with a hotlink on the side. Seating is tight, so go with people you are comfortable with!
The Steamboat Grand is a great place to stay for good service and a prime location. You can walk to the gondola and relax at their spa at the end of the day. But don’t overlook the vacation rentals – there are many, and you can get some great deals. Strawberry Park Hot Springs is just 5 miles outside of town and a great place to relax after a long day of skiing the famous “champagne powder”. Just beware: Steamboatians are a laid-back bunch and to them, sometimes (after dark) it’s just easier to do the hot springs in the nude…
Some things to consider:
Regardless of where you vacation, Vacation Rentals By Owner is a great option for lodging. You can rent anything from studio apartments to houses that sleep 12-16 or more for a weekend or longer. The houses or condos are always clean, convenient, and well-decorated so that you feel like you’ve escaped the real world and can relax. Prices vary depending on season, but don’t hesitate to negotiate if you’re booking last minute. The key is to book something on the bus route (unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to get a ski-in/ski-out condo!).