Growing up in the extremely flat state of Delaware, skiing was not something my family did regularly. As a kid, my parents took me to Pennsylvania a few times to learn to ski; but once my brother Ben and I got the hang of it, they started opting for warmer vacation destinations. My family has always been much more water-sport inclined. My Dad’s logic is: 1) the water is much more forgiving when you fall and 2) unlike skiing/snowboarding you don’t have to pay to go in the ocean. Solid points, I’d say.
So when Julian invited me to go skiing with his family in Colorado, I was a bit apprehensive. After all, I hadn’t skied since I was 14 and East Coast mountains are not exactly the Rockies. But once I saw photos of where we’d be staying, I was sold. Soon I was conjuring images of sipping hot cocoa by a fire, soaring down the mountain in my new gear, and relaxing at the spa after a long day on the slopes.
The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch
If you haven’t heard of Bachelor Gulch before, don’t worry, neither had I before my trip. Bachelor Gulch is an enclave in Vail Valley and is so named for its original settlers, the five Swedish bachelors who called this deep V-shaped valley, or gulch, home. From the Ritz, the resort town of Beaver Creek is just down the road and Vail is less than a 20 minute drive.
The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch is as stunning in real life as it is in pictures. Far from the hustle and bustle of the city, it’s the perfect place for a winter retreat. As soon as I walked through its doors twinkling with Christmas lights, I felt right at home. While some Ritzs can be a bit pretentious, this Ritz exudes understated luxury with its rustic decor evoking the great mountain lodges of the American West.
Highlights of Our Stay
We loved every moment of our stay but a few highlights stood out…
-Après-skiing at Bachelors Lounge, an open-air cigar bar kept warm with a roaring fire and electric heaters. After a long day of skiing, we’d head there for a glass of champagne or wine (or both…) and hors-d’oeuvres. We also spent many nights here, including NYE, sipping on cocktails and hanging out with friends.
-Listening to live music after skiing. The performer played a great selection of classic hits and always drew a fun crowd.
-Relaxing at the spa. After skiing, there was nothing better than heading to the spa to unwind. The grotto jacuzzi was the perfect thing for our tired muscles. We also took advantage of the steam rooms, saunas, hot and cold plunge pools, and the relaxation room.
-Breathing in the fresh mountain air. After being at home in Delaware for the holidays and Mexico City before that, I really enjoyed the change of scenery and reveled in the crisp air and the sight of snow and pine trees.
-Snowshoeing to Zach’s Cabin (more on that later!)
Unfortunately, the skiing conditions were not ideal. In fact, it was the least snow Colorado had seen in years! It was a shame Colorado was not quite the winter wonderland I had envisioned but that’s Mother Nature for you and it’s no use getting upset about. In a way, the less than ideal conditions were a blessing for me because I’m a huge baby about the cold. Most days, we were skiing in the high 30s and low 40s. Balmy temperatures for winter in Colorado!
Skiing in Bachelor Gulch is super comfortable because you can ski in and out of the hotel. You literally just put your gear on, grab your boots and skis (which are stored with the ski valet) and off you go! Also, an on-site mountain guide tells you everything you need to know about the day’s conditions and gives you recommendations based on your skill level before you hit the slopes. Beaver Creek Mountain is great for beginners and also has plenty of fun runs for intermediate skiers. One day, we made the trek to Vail which has more terrain and advanced runs. Vail also boasts superior views as you can see from the pics below.
Since my skiing skills were rather rusty, I decided to hire an instructor my first day. For beginners or anyone who hasn’t skied in a while, I’d highly recommend doing a group or private lesson. It’s not cheap but I considered it an investment in my future as a skier. In the end, it was so worthwhile. A good instructor will help you master your form, give you personalized tips, prevent you from doing anything potentially dangerous, and best of all, give you a big confidence boost!
The Vail Valley Food Scene
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Vail Valley has an impressive food scene. There are so many amazing restaurants serving up the best of local cuisine. I’d return just for the food! My favorite restaurants were…
Mirabelle– A super cozy Belgian spot perfect for food and wine enthusiasts. I tried elk here for the first time and it did not disappoint. Don’t skip the souffle, both the chocolate and Grand Marnier are to die for.
Zach’s Cabin– Perched on the mountainside high above Bachelor Gulch you can only get here by skiing, snowshoeing, or by taking a sleigh ride on the Snow Cat. During the day, it’s only open to members but at night it’s open to the public. We loved the rustic cabin decor, roaring fire, and hearty, delicious meals.
Juniper– A bustling eatery considered one of the best dining spots in the valley. We dined as a big group here and everyone was happy.
Another major highlight of our trip was snowshoeing up Bachelor Gulch Mountain for lunch at Zach’s Cabin. It was definitely a workout but the thought of a good meal was a real motivating force. We went on New Years Day and it was the best start to 2018! The views were incredible and after so much indulging it felt good to know we burned 1000 calories going up and down the mountain.
We had such a packed schedule everyday that I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in Vail. Guess I’ll just have to go back! Vail is made up of three lively areas: Vail Village, Lionshead, and Golden Peak. Vail Village and Lionshead were inspired by Swiss alpine villages and they’re filled with twinkling lights, endless shops, restaurants, and après hot spots. The shops in Vail Village are a mix of high end designers, ski shops, boutiques, and even a few Colorado classics. Do not miss Designer Furs and leather-wear specialist Kemo Sabe.
If you had asked me before this trip whether I prefer a tropical beach or a winter wonderland, I would’ve picked beach without hesitation. But after our week in Colorado I may be a convert. Our winter escapade made me remember how magical the snow-covered mountains are and how there’s nothing quite like snuggling up by the fire with your loved ones. While I’ll always be a beach girl at heart, there’s something that awakens the spirit in the mountains… the fresh Colorado air, lush pine forests, and glow of a roaring fire are memories I won’t soon forget.
What’s your idea of the perfect vacation? Do you prefer a tropical beach or a winter wonderland? Comment below!