Filed under: Luxury Travel & Hotels
If escaping to warmer weather isn't your optimal idea of a vacation, head west to the Rockies for a family ski trip. There, the air is clear, the powder is fresh, and the amenities are plenty. For the best of all three, try Beaver Creek and Vail – both of which are up for a Readers' Choice Award in the Best Luxury Family Winter Vacation category.
Perhaps the most famous of America's ski resort towns, Vail has its reputation for good reason. Vail Mountain, at 5,289 skiable acres, is the largest single mountain ski resort in the U.S.; the town of Vail is a luxury ski bum's dream. The area, which is reminiscent of renowned resorts such as Switzerland's St. Moritz, Italy's Cortina and Spain's Val d'Aran, it is a year-round destination for families with plenty of activities geared for all ages. Its legendary ski slopes make Vail the ultimate place to enjoy world-class skiing and snowboarding in addition to Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating. Kids ages four and under ski free; children's lift tickets start at age five and go to age 12. Nightlife includes world-class theater productions and some of the best dining in Colorado.
Vail offers plenty of other activities, such as the Nature Discovery Center atop Vail Mountain. The Nature Discovery Center has provided guests with access to the wonders of the natural world in addition to a variety of environmental education and interpretive programs led by naturalists. During the winter season, Vail Ski School students visit the Discovery Center as part of the ski school's SKE-Cology program, which educates youth about mountain safety and mountain ecology. In winter and summer, naturalists lead snowshoe tours and nature hikes that explore the sub-alpine habitat atop Vail Mountain, including Nature at Night, a free nature talk held under the stars. Expert naturalists also host regular moonlit snowshoe tours, allowing guests to learn about their surroundings while snowshoeing through the White River National Forest.
A few miles away, tucked away in the mountains, is neighbor Beaver Creek Village. This tony enclave offers a village-to-village ski experience with Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead and turns into a miniature cosmopolitan center every night, playing host to live jazz concerts, Broadway-level theater, visiting symphonies, films and other attractions. Bars and taverns line the warmly lit streets. For kids, there's a four-lane tubing hill and an ice skating rink, in addition to one of the best ski schools in the country, if not the world. A great place to stay in Beaver Creek is the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa. This 190-room chateau-style resort offers a full-service spa, private balconies in most rooms and an outdoor firepit complete with a daily dose of s'mores.
More intimate and removed than Beaver Creek Village, Bachelor Gulch is the perfect setting for a family-oriented ski getaway that combines privacy with authentic Rocky Mountain luxury. Bachelor Gulch is part of Beaver Creek and is one of its three Village areas. Stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, which is a Readers' Choice Nominee for Best Ski Hotel. The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch is a kid-friendly grand lodge with luxurious accommodations situated right at the base of the Bachelor Gulch Express Lift (a high-speed quad chairlift, providing unparalleled ski-in, ski-out access).
In Vail, stay at the Sonnenalp Resort of Vail, a boutique-style hotel in the heart of the village and enjoy nightlife that includes frequent musical guest, film festivals, and always cozy eateries and watering holes. Another great place to stay in Vail is the Arrabelle at Vail Square, a RockResort property. A brand new world-class hotel, it is located the center of Vail Square, and is just steps away from the Eagle Bahn Goldola at Vail Mountain. On top of luxurious accomodations and a full-service spa, it also has a beautiful skating rink and is surrounded by shops and restaurants that are suitable for all ages.
Room rates for the most luxurious hotels in the Rockies generally start around $400 per night, based on double occupancy. On the bright side, a flight to Colorado won't set you back as far as an international excursion.
Vote now for what you believe is the best of breed for each of the Winter Travel categories. Readers' Choice Awards for the Best in Winter Travel will be announced on January 31st.