Fly fishing gear

10 Reasons Vail is a Great Year-Round Vacation Destination

Home to the newest national monument, the popular ski resort has more to offer than snow

Vail is a beautiful place to relax — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark

With over 5,200 acres of ski and snowboard terrain and 7 miles of famous Back Bowls, it’s no wonder Vail is considered one of the best ski resorts in the world. But that’s not all it should be known for.

The one-of-a-kind town has a storied history that begins with Pete Seibert, who founded Vail Mountain with Earl Eaton. It was 60 years ago, after returning from the mountains of northern Italy where he fought in World War II. Seibert was a U.S. Army veteran of the 10th Mountain Division, made up of the best skiers and mountaineers who trained in alpine combat at Camp Hale, just south of Vail. They set the tone for what has become an iconic resort.

President Biden recently designated Camp Hale a national monument, and it’s always a great time to pay a visit, even if you’re new to winter sports. Vail’s après-ski culture is legendary and there are enough off-piste activities to keep you busy no matter the season.

“Everyone knows winter, but if you come in the fall, you can see the Golden Aspens at their peak,” says Pete Seibert, Jr., city council member and son of Vail’s founder. “If you come in the summer, you can go fishing, rafting, or even hear the New York Philharmonic and see the New York Ballet. Having it all in one place is so rare and what makes Vail so special.

Here are 10 reasons why you will understand the local saying: “You come for the winter, but you stay for the summer”.

Nova Guides at Camp Hale Lodge

An ATV is a unique way to explore Camp HaleAn ATV is a unique way to explore Camp Hale — Photo courtesy of Nova Guides

Now that Camp Hale has been declared a national monument, this historic site will attract more interest than ever and Nova Guides has the permits to show you around. Depending on the season (the leaves that appear in the fall are breathtaking), you can take a coast-to-coast tour through the White River National Forest or go by jeep, ATV or snowmobile. Take a guided tour for an in-depth history lesson while surrounded by the beauty of the Colorado Rockies.

The lodge itself is an inviting place to relax after your activities – which in the summer can also include fly-fishing and archery. Lunch at McAllister’s Grill is included in many packages, and their signature Camp Hale Burger is a must. After eating, be sure to check out the memorabilia and black and white photos of the 10th Mountain Division located throughout the lodge.

Art in public places

Vail is filled with public artVail is filled with public art — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark

You don’t have to enter one of the galleries (although you should!) to see museum-quality art in Vail. With over 60 permanent pieces of public art on display – most of them outdoors – it’s a pleasure to stumble upon one unexpectedly. You might spot one while strolling through the village or leaving your car in the parking lot, where you’ll be greeted by a cheerful mural painted by renowned interactive street artist Kelsey Montague.

One of the most photographed pieces is the 10th Mountain Division Memorial, a 12 1/2 foot tall painted bronze statue titled “The Ski Trooper”, by Scott Stearman/Victor Issa. Download a map from the Art in Vail site, see the colorful “We All Build Nests,” and marvel at the man-made art that often rivals the area’s natural beauty.

L’Arrabelle at Vail Square, a RockResort

You won't want to leave ArrabelleYou’ll never want to leave Arrabelle again — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark

This magnificent hotel is synonymous with luxury and comfort, with impeccable service and an elegant, relaxed atmosphere. Be sure to book a massage at the on-site RockResorts Spa, renowned for its alpine-inspired treatments that incorporate natural ingredients and help soothe muscles after a day on the slopes.

The hotel’s tavern on the square offers beautiful mountain views as well as generous portions of upscale comfort food, including hearty chili and the most amazing artisan bread that could be a meal in itself. Because the hotel is located in the center of Lionshead, a short walk from the gondola, it’s super convenient to everything – which ultimately might not matter as you’ll never want to leave.

Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame and Museum

Visit the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of FameVisit the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark

This fascinating little museum is an unexpected treat worth a visit just for the gift shop, which is full of eclectic items celebrating skiing and snowboarding.

The carefully curated museum will give you a real appreciation for Vail’s rich history. You can learn all about the 10th Mountain Division, marvel at the accomplishments of the state’s ski and snowboard icons, explore the evolution of gear and fashion over the past two centuries, and even see the Tom Sims snowboard used in James Bond. movie, “A View to a Kill”. You may be inspired to step out of the lodge and into the elevator.

The cafeteria

Grab a burrito at La CantinaGrab a burrito at La Cantina — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark

I hesitate to call attention to La Cantina – literally a “hidden” gem in the basement of the Transportation Center – because it’s like revealing a local secret. You could easily overlook it or just dismiss it because of its location, but you’d be missing out on some of the best burritos you’ve ever tasted.

Although La Cantina only has a few tables, it offers a surprisingly extensive menu of authentic Mexican dishes ranging from tacos to enchiladas to chile relleno, all accompanied by free baskets of bottomless tortilla chips. Order at the counter or take a seat at the bar, where you might be able to convince regulars to tell you about some of their other favorite haunts.

Vail Mountain Gondola

A gondola offers stunning viewsA gondola offers stunning views — Photo courtesy of Vail Local Marketing District

A great way for non-skiers to experience the mountain at over 11,000 feet, a scenic gondola ride is an exhilarating way to take in the jaw-dropping views any time of the year. There are two gondolas, both offering dining options and access to a variety of hiking and biking trails.

Gondola One departs from Vail Village and Eagle Bahn Gondola departs from Lionshead. During the winter, take Eagle Bahn to Adventure Ridge for guided snowmobile tours, snow tubing, ice skating, snowshoe tours and snow biking. In the summer, it will take you to Epic Discovery, which features tubing hills, a rock climbing wall, mini golf and more. Children ride the gondola for free with the purchase of an adult ticket, and after 3:30 p.m. the gondola is free for everyone.

Goat Yoga at Vail Stables

Yoga is even better with goats!Yoga is even better with goats! — Photo courtesy of Vail Local Marketing District

Don’t worry if you don’t know a tree pose from Downward Dog. You’ll always fall in love with goat yoga, which focuses on goats and, honestly, doesn’t always have much to do with yoga.

Sure, you’ll get a little practice, but most of the wellness benefits come from the belly laughs and smiles from the baby goats climbing on you as you strike a pose. Surrounded by beautiful scenery and adorable four-legged children, it’s impossible not to feel joyful. GOAT, indeed.

Note that Vail Stables is a seasonal business and operates during the summer.

Vail Village

Vail Village is a destination unto itselfVail Village is a destination unto itself — Photo courtesy of Vail Local Marketing District

With its small alpine town vibe and upscale shops, restaurants, galleries and bars, Vail Village offers old world charm in the heart of the mountains. Not only is it easily accessible on foot, but cars are not allowed at all, making it safe and pedestrian friendly. Indeed, the streets are heated in the winter and the cobblestone in the middle is ADA compliant.

For some of the best dining experiences in Vail, reserve a table at Matsuhisa (extraordinary sushi), Sweet Basil (trendy new American cuisine), La Tour (creative French cuisine) and Flame at the Four Seasons Resort Vail (steakhouse with a modern twist ). Do not worry; Vail offers plenty of opportunities to burn calories.

Take a llama hike at lunch

Take a hike - with a llama!Take a hike – with a llama! — Photo courtesy of Vail Local Marketing District

It’s no wonder this is the most popular hike in the Paragon Guides. Llama’s Private Backcountry Lunch gives you an exclusive opportunity to experience the beautiful backcountry trails of Vail Valley accompanied by some lovely companions. It’s perfect for families, and your guide will customize the hike to suit everyone’s fitness level, providing plenty of interesting and fun facts along the way.

The ‘Boys’ – two friendly pack animals – will help you carry the gear, including all the fixings for a red-checkered picnic, while you ride, take in the scenery and breathe in the fresh air of the mountain. Best of all, they’ll provide comic relief and great photo ops.

Hotel Sonnenalp

Don't you already feel more relaxed?Don’t you already feel more relaxed? — Photo courtesy of Sonnenalp

With 112 luxury suites and 15 hotel rooms, this family-friendly mountain resort displays its German roots with bespoke Bavarian furnishings that exude a warm and welcoming atmosphere. You’ll want to stretch out on a comfy sofa by the fireplace and settle in with a drink and a good book. Or spend the day at the spa, where you can indulge in a mountain sports massage or rejuvenate at the Oxygen Bar.

Start your day at Ludwig’s Breakfast on the stunning glass-enclosed terrace overlooking Gore Creek. The signature buffet is a delight for the senses, with just about anything sweet or savory you could wish for, all served on pretty floral tableware. Save room for dinner at the Swiss Chalet, where Sonnenalp pays homage to traditional European cuisine with regional dishes like schnitzel and fondue.