In 2022, Vail celebrated its 60th anniversary. Founded by Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton in 1962 after the duo witnessed the magical allure of European mountain towns during their stint in the 10th Mountain Division, the famed Colorado mountain resort-village parallels those in Switzerland and Austria—from its chalet-style hotels to the Alpine-farmhouse facades hosting restaurants that serve up native delicacies, like cheese fondue and warm, spiced wine. As a place to be and be seen, Vail of course also features the latest in luxury, from premium boutiques to world-class restaurants, including Matsuhisa helmed by chef Nobu Matsuhisa.
Renowned for attracting the rich and famous, Vail provides the perfect year-round playground of gluttony and glam in the best sense. So much so, that even in the winter, visitors who don’t ski have a plethora of pastimes to engage in. A timeless favorite is curling up fireside with a seasonal cocktail—alongside shopping, spa-going, and splurging on premier dining options. Here’s what to do on a trip to Vail when you’re not on the slopes—or if you’re planning on skipping the skiing altogether.
How to get there
Eagle County Airport services the Vail region and is about 30 minutes away via rideshare or shuttle with Epic Mountain Express. American Airlines, Delta and United all fly into Eagle County Airport (EGE). Once you’re in Vail, you really won’t need a car as most hotels offer private cars or transfer vehicles for guest convenience. If you prefer to have your own set of wheels while traveling, you can also fly into Denver International Airport (DEN) and rent a car, then enjoy a scenic drive to Vail. Without traffic, you’ll reach the mountains in under two hours.
Where to stay
The Hythe Vail: This former Marriott property was stripped and rebranded as a Luxury Collection Resort following a $40 million renovation in November 2021. In old English, hythe translates as “haven,” which is clearly what this 344-room resort offers guests upon entry into its lavish lobby, with its roaring cylindrical glass fireplace that beckons you to settle-in and stay awhile.
The majority of the rooms are outfitted with gas fireplaces and kitchenettes, so it truly feels like you’re checking in to your own mountainside pied-à-terre, but with all the creature comforts of a luxury resort—including sprawling spa with outdoor Jacuzzis, a heated pool, swanky cocktail bar, and elevated restaurant.
Within steps of the Eagle Bahn gondola, the lodge is ski-in, ski-out. More importantly, for those on the après agenda, The Hythe is at the center of the social scene. Tucked into Lionshead Village, you’ll be within walking distance to area-attractions like Vail Square, where a pop-up ice skating rink debuts in the winter, surrounded by pedestrianized streets lined with cafes, pubs, and ateliers. Guests can also hop in a private transfer to Vail Village to visit nearby art galleries and other attractions.
What to do
Gondola to the top: Just because you’re not shredding down the mountain, doesn’t mean you can’t head up and enjoy the hill. Non-skiers can purchase a scenic gondola pass, which grants you access to the restaurants and bars at the peak with those soaring views—so you don’t have to miss out on all the high-elevation fun.
Relax at the spa: If you stay at The Hythe, the property’s Well & Being Spa can easily soak up an entire afternoon. The facilities here reflect the spa’s overall emphasis on recovery and rejuvenation, featuring NormaTec boots and Theraguns, as well as Vail’s only Himalayan Salt Lounge and halotherapy treatments. Don’t forget to leave time for the outdoor Jacuzzi with views of Vail Mountain’s front trails.
Browse art: Rotating exhibits at the contemporary Raitman Art Gallery or fine art at Gib Singleton Gallery will inspire your inner curator. Even if you have no plans to invest when you walk in, the standout collections may inspire you to change your mind.
Stay active with alternative outdoor activities: In the winter, take a guided snowshoe tour with an expert naturalist via the Nature Discovery Center or hop on a snowmobile. In the warmer months, try your hand at fly fishing, explore the aspen-wooded forests on horseback, or commit to 18-holes at one of the 17 championship golf courses around Vail.
What to eat and drink
Revel: Après vibes abound here, whether enjoying a warming libation in the 60s-inspired lounge—a nod to Vail’s founding year—or in the wooden-wrapped dining room. The menu emphasizes mountain fare, including staples of raclette with venison tips or the provisions board, composed of artisanal Colorado meats and cheeses. Shareable plates with seasonal offerings make this a great spot to enjoy with groups.
Swiss Chalet: If you woke up in Vail without knowing where you were, you might feel like you’d been teleported to St Moritz. So why not embrace that by indulging in Vail’s best Swiss fondue? Here’s another spot to bring the whole party and stay awhile, as it’s more-the-merrier when you’re dipping everything from prosciutto to potatoes into velvety cheese. Swiss Chalet also offers Chinoise meat fondue with Burgundy infused beef broth, as well as schnitzel and a sausage sampler that will further add to the whole geographic confusion.
Sweet Basil: Advertised as a modern American restaurant, Sweet Basil keeps things interesting with international influences—from Asian spices to Mediterranean flavors. The place has come a long way from its first opening in 1977 as a 47-seat restaurant. In fact, it underwent its 12th remodel in 2021, signifying how treasured this spot is with locals and visitors alike.
Two Arrows: This part-bar, part-cafe is the ultimate hip hangout in Vail Village while you’re waiting for your friends to get off the slopes. Whether you’re in the mood for a perfectly brewed cup of coffee or a unique craft cocktail (their Chai One On is a blend of bourbon, Applejack brandy, organic chai, Aperol and amaro), Two Arrows will satiate.
Root & Flower: For a Euro-influenced destination, it only seems right there’s a Euro-worthy wine bar at the heart of Vail Village. With more than 50 wines by the glass on offer, this is Vail’s oenophile institution. Root & Flower even runs weekly wine classes so you can broaden your vino horizons here. If you prefer more spirited libations, they also offer cocktail classes.
10th Mountain Whisky: Borrowing its name from the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, where soldiers trained a few miles south of what is now Vail, 10th Mountain Whisky raises awareness of Vail’s patriotic founders and establishment. Located in Vail Village, whisky enthusiasts can stop into their tasting room overlooking Gore Creek—or reserve a distillery tour, about 30 minutes from town, but a lively day trip that ends with a private cocktail hour. This whisky is prevalent in cocktails throughout Vail, so you’ll have many opportunities to experience it from its purest form to sipping it in a classic drink.
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