Vail is where our daughter, Reagan (3-year-old at the time), stepped into her first pair of skis on a warm spring day. Her first lesson with Mom and Dad was on a flat area of snow right outside the resort, just to see how things would go. It lasted 15 minutes, as did her first time on ice skates—also in Vail. By the time we returned in December of that same year, she had more than tripled her time on both. Winter sports began to become fun for her, thanks to the magic of Vail.
Maybe it was seeing other kids gliding up the bunny hill on the Magic Carpet, skiing back down and ready to do it all over again, that gave Reagan the determination to give skiing another go. Vail has a fantastic beginner area at the base of Golden Peak, where anyone can use the Magic Carpet or Gopher Hill ski lift. Vail’s Ski and Snowboard School has all-day group lessons for children starting at age 3.
When it’s time for Mom and Dad to get in a few more advanced runs or lessons of their own, nothing is more convenient than Golden Peak Nursery, where children up to age 6 are welcomed for the day to play. Golden Peak is the very first childcare facility we’ve ever trusted with our child. It helps that Reagan is thrilled to go. Even more thrilling, Mom and Dad get some quality time together on the mountain.
Proving there is more than one way to play in Vail, skiers and non-skiers alike converge at the top of the mountain at Adventure Ridge, accessed by gondola, which is a ride in itself.
To commemorate its 50th anniversary and in the tradition of the visionary founders, Vail dedicated a new gondola in Vail Village on opening day (November 16). This 10-passenger gondola increases uphill capacity to Mid-Vail by 40 percent over its predecessor and is the first and fastest of its kind in North America. In keeping with the resort’s upscale theme, the new gondola boasts heated, cushioned seats and Wi-Fi access.
At Adventure Ridge, you’ll find a multiple-lane snow tubing hill with its own covered Magic Carpet lift. No dragging your tube to the top, save all your energy for screaming all the way down. Reagan’s favorite way to play at the park is on the bungee trampoline. Rent snowshoes, ski bikes, and snowmobiles from this snow park that stays open at night for tubing and guided ski bike tours.
Skating under the stars at the Alderhof Ice Rink in the heart of Vail Square is ice-skating as it should be. Was Reagan as stirred by the romantic, European-inspired village clock tower, cheerful music, and whirling ice skaters as I was? Maybe more. She was the last of the three of us off the ice.
Cozy up under a blanket in the crisp mountain air on a horse-drawn sleigh at 4 Eagle Ranch. Just 24 miles from Vail and one giant step back in time, our sleigh ride dinner is one of my favorite memories with family and friends. Upon our arrival, we were greeted with a warm cup of chili, hot cocoa, and hot apple cider in the rustic Nelson Cabin (circa 1890). A singing cowboy kept us entertained before we boarded our sleigh for a ride through just a portion of the 1,100-acre property surrounded by snow-covered hills and cottonwood trees. When we returned, a full ranch buffet of mouthwatering eats was waiting for us. We ended our evening roasting marshmallows over a bonfire and catching snowflakes on our tongues.
When not on the mountain, stroll through the two base villages: Vail Village and Lionshead. Between them, there are hundreds of shops and boutiques to poke around in and a variety of restaurant options to suit any mood. A free in-town shuttle connects Vail Village and Lionshead as well as the surrounding town of Vail.
Serious shoppers may want to check out the Outlets at Silverthorne. Brands including Ralph Lauren and J.Crew housed in villages of their own a short 25-minute drive from Vail make this a fun way to spend the day. If driving mountain roads isn’t for you, catch a shuttle at one of several easily accessible stops in Vail.
LEGACY OF OUTDOOR EXCELLENCE
For 60 years local skiers have turned to the experts at King Keyser before hitting the slopes. The founders, Mr. and Mrs. Keyser were among the founders of Vail Resort.
Today the owners and staff carry on the heritage. They all ski, snowboard, and just generally rock the world of winter sports. King Keyser can outfit the whole family with boots, skis, boards, and accessories. The outerwear selection is specially chosen to be functional and turn heads. They recommend Toni Sailer Sports, named for the Austrian ski legend. This brand is devoted to developing innovations that protect the wearer while delivering sophisticated good looks.
This article originally gave incorrect information about the Adventure Ridge gondola. The above text has been amended with the correct information.