Beaver Creek and Never Fail Vail

We have skied at Beaver Creek and Vail every few years for the last 20 years. It was a treat to get back to one of our favorite ski haunts for a stop on our roving retirement Ski Colorado tour this year, even if it was only for one week.

Vail Never Fails

Diana continued to rehab from her recent ACL surgery this week. Happily, I was joined by a friend for several days of skiing. Although we had ski-in/out digs at Beaver Creek, we journeyed to Vail for 2 days. Totally worth it. Six inches of freshies was just icing on the cake.

Between The Front Side and The Legendary Back Bowls, Vail seems to go on forever. Cresting each ridgetop, laying before you is another snow playground, replete with open bowls, groomers, and gladed trees. I have not yet found a ski resort that compares in size, variety, and quality of terrain. Vail never fails to impress. Period.

Not Exactly Roughing It In Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek is a frequent stop on the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup circuit. It last hosted the championship in 2015 on its Birds Of Prey run. Beyond the competition, Beaver Creek is its own little world of luxury. From your comfortable hotel or timeshare in the village, you can ride a couple of escalators (stairs are so pedestrian) to the main lift up the hill. Other years (read: non-Covid), you might be greeted with free chocolate chip cookies at the escalators. Or you can try some moves on the village ice rink.

The mountain is fairly spread out with mostly intermediate terrain. Steep-bumped and gladed terrain are also present to test your skills. There are a lot of ski-in/out (or nearly so) accommodations available, making for easy access to the slopes.

The Lux Life At The Westin Riverfront

We scored a timeshare week for rent at the Westin Riverfront Resort. You can read about how to Rent a Timeshare. Our spacious, comfortable one bedroom came with a full kitchen, small patio, and covered heated parking. We were able to use the spa, fitness, and hot tubs at the adjacent Westin Hotel. Live music was playing in the lobby bar from 4:00-6:30 every night.

The free ski valet held our skis overnight and stored our boots inside on a drier. In the morning, all we had to do was walk 100 yards (mostly indoor) from our room to the valet and boot up. Our skis were handed to us next to the gondola. After a short ride, it was a short walk to the lift and up the hill. Handing back the skis and boots at the end of the day was that simple, too. The valet even bagged our skis on the morning left. Diana told me we will definitely be returning to this hotel.

Reservations Still Required

Even if there is plenty of room on the hill, the Vail properties are still adhering to their reservation system. If you have an Epic Pass, it is pretty simple to do, although space on Saturdays at prime locations can be a little difficult to score. If you buy a lift ticket online (i.e. not a pass), your purchase includes the reservation. Refunds can generally be had by canceling your ticket by noon of the day of the reservation.

Even more challenging is on-mountain inside dining. Reservations open at 7 am for the current day. One day at Vail I tried to change a booking at 7:25 am and lunch was already sold out all over the hill. That said, I was able to find walk-in space for 1-2 people whenever I really needed it. The main issue is a need to get in from the cold to warm up for a while. I hope and expect ski hill reservations to be unneeded next year.

The Car Swap

I had to spend one day during our stay at the Westin driving 5 hours to/from DEN airport to swap cars. I had had my first car for 28 days. I’ve been using my Chase Sapphire Reserve for car rentals because it includes primary coverage for car rentals, but only for periods less than 30 days. So, back it went.

On the advice of AutoSlash, I rented through Thrifty the first time. Doing so again meant I didn’t have to go from one off-site car rental to another, which could be quite a slog on foot through the snow. I tried calling to see if I could get the reservations bridged so that I wouldn’t need to make the trip, but the Thrifty/Dollar site at DEN has merged with Hertz (they all have the same parent company) and no one bothered to install phone service for Thrifty. There was no way to contact the office 🙁

Some Good Eats, Too

Dinner reservations in ski towns were a challenge even before Covid. Although there are fewer people in town, inside dining is restricted to 25% capacity in most counties. Spacing compliance among restaurants varies greatly. Generally, restaurants with small footprints are not great at maintaining the distance between guests. Even though I tried 2-3 weeks in advance, I was unable to get a table at some of my favorite spots after 5:15 any day. This isn’t much different than what I faced in prior years.

We cooked in or did takeout a few nights, so we only had 3 nights of inside dining. Northside Kitchen belied its co-location with a gas station. The food and wine list were very good, although I was initially overcharged for wine. Zino is a fun Italian place in Edwards, about 10 minutes west of Avon, where we stayed. Our last night was at Maya, a tequilaria and restaurant inside the Westin. Their empanadas were quite tasty.

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