Vail is always glorious, and I have had some of the best times of my life here (and some of the worse, when I broke my hip just standing around last year!). But I skied again this season, enjoying the sunshine, the well-groomed trails, and the incredible vistas! I have had the good fortune to ski in many areas of the world, including Mt. Blanc in France and in New Zealand. None of them command the views of Vail. I was happy to return to some of my favorite trails, including Simba, Born Free, and that scenic cruising traverse from the Avanti Lift (number two chair), past the rugged, majestic peaks, and back to the Eagle Bahn Gondola. It is called Eagles Nest Ridge. Yes, it is better to download from there in this record warm weather. The bottom part of the mountain is too soft. I did ski down the first day -- that was enough. But I hate to miss skiing across the little bridge at the end -- that is always a treat.
If you don't want to ski, there is a fun park for young at heart at the Eagle Bahn. It is called Adventure Ridge, and includes a giant trampoline, biking on the snow, and special kids snowmobiles. There is also snow tubing. And for superb dining , the family ate at Bistro Fourteen. We rode the Gondola up, and it is truly dramatic to see the lights of Vail below us as we descended. You do not need a lift ticket to enjoy those facilities in the late afternoon and evening.
For lodging, we stayed at the Antlers Vail; one of the most luxurious and comfortable condos I have ever enjoyed. General Manager Rob LeVine is a special person -- warm, funny, and conscientious. I am told he is a legend in Vail. As I am writing from our seventh-floor room, I can look up at the mountains and ski slopes (sadly, with melting snow) and down at a fast flowing mountain stream. There is also a warm outdoor swimming pool, and two hot tubs with powerful jets. The pools look like part of the mountains, with giant rocks placed in them for dramatic effect.
Condos are always pricy, but the cost is reduced if you share it with a number of people. We had four adults, a big friendly dog, and four computers. Since we are all workaholics, the free wifi was essential. Also in the condos, we were able to make runs to the well-stocked Safeway and prepare our own food, although we did visit a few restaurants. The Antlers staff will run to the store and shop for you, if you give them a list.
For ski rentals, we have been absolutely delighted with Ski Butlers. They meet you at your hotel to bring and fit your equipment, and take it back when you tell them where and when to meet. Or you can leave the equipment with a responsible person, and Ski Butlers will pick it up. This time we used Rossignol skis and boots or Dynastar skis. They were rocker bottom skis, which are said to float on powder -- when there is snow. They were also excellent on slush and kept us from catching our tips.
This is a big year for Ski Butlers -- an enterprise founded by clever young people who love the snow sports industry. They are one of seven finalists for the 2012 Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award. They will join the other finalists in a business summit in Washington, D.C. in late May. We wish them the best of luck. Ski Butlers serves over 30 major resorts in the West and British Columbia. They have grown quickly since they were started by college students in 2004.