A weekend in Vail: Ripping powder and retreating to the Lodge


The Super Bowl was just about to begin, but football was far from my mind as I lay on a massage table at the RockResorts Spa at the Lodge at Vail.

I had been skiing the previous two days, inspired by the quality of Vail Mountain itself, and also by the good fortune of having arrived in the Colorado mountain village just in time for a storm that dumped 13 inches of powder.

But those two days on the mountain had taken a toll on my body, as my masseuse Chelsea observed more than once. "An hour is never enough," she said soon before the massage came to an end.

Still, if I had any soreness left as I made the walk through the hotel back to my Spa Suite, I hardly noticed. The good vibes I felt from the previous 48 hours were all I was thinking about.

Like so many others, for most of this Covid-19 winter I have been cooped up in or near home. So my hosted three-night visit to the Lodge at Vail was a much-needed respite from routine. The 165-room hotel, which is part of the Vail Resorts-owned RockResorts brand, was the original lodge that catered to the ski area when it opened in 1962. It has, of course, been updated since then, most recently in 2014. But that perfect location, just a one minute walk from the Vail Village gondola, remains a constant. From my room I could see the gondola rising overhead just a few hundred yards away.

Skiers line up for the gondola at Vail as a powder day gets underway.
Skiers line up for the gondola at Vail as a powder day gets underway. Photo Credit: Robert Silk

Meanwhile, in the nearly 60 years that have passed since the lodge and ski area opened, the village itself has grown up around them, leaving the Lodge at Vail with immediate access to the restaurants, shops and charming pedestrian streets of the Alpine-themed town. 

On each of my three nights in Vail, my walks to dinner were so short I barely required a coat, even in the chilly February Rocky Mountain air. One of those meals was at Almresi, a family-owned German restaurant that could just as easily be speaking for all of Vail Village when it markets itself as a place "where the Alps meet the Rockies." There, I enjoyed a hearty meal of short ribs, red cabbage and spaetzle, which is an egg-noodle pasta typical of the German, Austrian and Swiss Alps.

The restaurant's drink menu also stood out, including my shot of Zirbenschnaps, an Alps pine liqueur.

The following night I dined at the recently opened Slope Room inside the Gravity Haus lodge. Executive chef Alberto Soto told me that the self-described "new American" steakhouse has opened with "some serious momentum."

I opted for surf items that night, including the seared Maine scallops -- enjoying them as well as the restaurant's highly memorable staff. 

Still, it is the mountain itself that continues to draw most of the crowds to Vail. I hadn't skied there in more than two decades before this recent trip. But it didn't take long during that first fresh-powder day for me to recall why I had always remembered Vail as among the finest ski resorts I've had the privilege to visit.

The heated pool at the Lodge at Vail; reservations are required for the hot tubs.
The heated pool at the Lodge at Vail; reservations are required for the hot tubs. Photo Credit: Robert Silk

With nearly 5,300 acres of skiable terrain, Vail is the third largest ski area in the U.S. Its vast back bowls, though, are what really set the mountain apart: There are seven of them, totaling more than 3,100 acres.

During my first day on the mountain that weekend, after having spent more than six hours turning, slicing -- and yes, falling -- through that foot of fresh snow, I finally was too tired to ski any longer.

Happily, I could literally see my hotel room patio as I walked off the mountain. The Lodge at Vail's well-heated outdoor pool, as well as its outdoor hot tubs, weren't going to be hard to get to. 


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