For newlyweds who love to ski—or would like to celebrate their vows by learning how—few destinations mix powder and pampering better than the neighboring Colorado resorts of Vail and Beaver Creek. Vail Village, the older and vastly larger of the two mountain villages, was built from scratch starting in the 1960s to resemble an Alpine retreat. Its narrow streets are lined with restaurants, shops, hotels and clusters of condos. Beaver Creek has a similar storybook appeal, albeit with a more modern motif and a more compact footprint. In each case, the ambience could not be more romantic. Both villages boast plentiful dining options, from Southwestern casual to Continental chic, and a plethora of hotel choices—many with “ski-in, ski-out” access to the respective mountains.
Amid all the amenities, the skiing is the main attraction. Spread along a series of peaks, Vail has a mind-boggling array of terrain for all skier types. Those who truly love skiing (second only to their new spouses) will revel in Vail’s famed Back Bowls—miles of wide-open, back-country terrain and gladed runs (through the trees) with endless views of the neighboring snow-capped ridges. The skiing at Beaver Creek is impressive on a smaller scale, though no less challenging and diverse—and far more spectacular than anything found in the East.
These ski areas are so big you’ll feel like you need a guide to show you around. Good news: Free guided tours are available daily on both mountains. It’s a fun way to learn your way around on skis; for short stays, these tours are essential. Speaking of essentials, both areas offer excellent and creative on-mountain dining options. You’ll never go hungry at these resorts.
There’s also plenty to see and do at night. A premier Beaver Creek experience is dinner at Beano’s Cabin (970-754-3463; beanoscabinbeavercreek.com), an imposing log structure nestled partway up the mountain. Getting there via Sno-Cat drawn-sled is half the fun. What could be better than huddling together under the blankets beneath a perfect starry sky, entertained for the 15-minute ride by an ebullient, banjo-picking host? Beano’s serves a five-course, prix-fixe menu (with locally inspired entrées like elk Wellington and buffalo steak), accompanied by a spectacular wine list. It’s a pricey evening—but unforgettable.
The village of Beaver Creek tends to be cozy and quiet after hours; Vail, on the other hand, comes alive at night. Vail’s walking streets teem with activity, even on the coldest nights, and hot spots like the Red Lion (970-476-7676; theredlion.com), Pepi’s (970-476-4671; pepis.com) and Bully Ranch (970-479-5460) are packed with skiers sharing stories of the day’s downhill glories.
As remote as it seems, the area is easy to reach. There are daily non-stops from Newark to Eagle Airport, 35 miles west of Vail, or you can fly into Denver and enjoy the scenic 2-1/2 hour van ride ($89 round trip with Colorado Mountain Express). The two villages have dozens of hotels and condos to choose from; here are three boutique-style options, all under the Rock Resorts umbrella:
The Arrabelle is one of Vail’s newest luxury hotels and is the focal point of the newly developed Lionshead section, walking distance from the center of Vail Village. With 36 guest rooms and 66 residences available for rent, Arrabelle combines the intimacy of a small hotel with the perks of a full-service resort. Stucco walls, vaulted ceilings, arched hallways and dark-wood accents give Arrabelle the feel of a medieval Alpine castle, but with all the modern comforts. Rooms range from a premier double queen with balcony and a mountain view ($499 per night during the winter) up to the king suite. The latter has two bathrooms and a large sitting area—perfect for entertaining guests at your destination wedding.
Arrabelle doesn’t skimp on the details. Every bed has a canopy over the headboard, bathroom floors are heated, each room has a gas fireplace and most have a Jacuzzi. The hotel has a sumptuous spa, heated outdoor pool and two hot tubs for unwinding after a day on the slopes—or whatever activity you choose. The plaza below is filled with shops—even an ice rink. The hotel’s dining options include the elegant Centre V for breakfast and dinner, and the more casual Tavern on the Square for lunch, dinner or that après-ski toddy. Arrabelle is a true ski-in, ski-out location at the base of Vail mountain; a valet will store your skis overnight and have them ready for you each morning. There’s nothing medieval about that. 970-754-7777; arrabelle.rockresorts.com.
In Beaver Creek, the Osprey has a unique ambience described as “Alpine chic”—it’s modern mountain luxury with plenty of warm, woodsy touches. All 45 guest rooms were renovated in 2008 and include 42-inch flat-screen televisions and mp3 docking stations; many have gas fireplaces. The hotel has a pair of two-bedroom penthouse condos available for guests. This is also a ski-in, ski-out location, literally steps from the base of Beaver Creek’s Strawberry Park Express lift. For après ski, there is a small pool and hot-tub area and an attractive lounge and restaurant with a creative tapas menu. (Tapas favorites include the sweet-potato and cheese enchilada and the grilled rib-eye and cheese quesadilla.) Rooms here start at $299 during ski season. 888-974-1594; ospreyatbeavercreek.rockresorts.com.
The Pines Lodge is a wallet-pleasing option, but no less comfortable. The Pines has 60 hotel rooms, most with spectacular views down the valley and to the mountains beyond. Honeymooners will love the King Corner room, with king bed and extra seating area. Every room has a 42-inch flat-screen television, plenty of pine trim and whimsical piney touches, including the irresistible pinecone “do not disturb” signs. Skiers will appreciate the row of cubbies in each room’s entry hall for stowing gloves, helmets and other paraphernalia. Winter room rates start at $199. The fourth floor has an array of spacious duplex condos, many available for guest stays. After skiing, guests return to complimentary fresh-baked cookies and hot drinks in the lobby. Fine dining with a mountain view is offered at Grouse Mountain Grill. Don’t miss the pretzel-crusted pork chop, the restaurant’s signature dish. 970-754-7200; pineslodge.rockresorts.com.
Is a destination ski wedding in your plans? All three of the hotels mentioned here are part of the Rock Resorts chain, a sister company of Vail Resorts, which has planners on staff to help with all aspects of your special event. Each hotel has meeting and banquet rooms suitable for a destination wedding, and each offers on-site catering. The Osprey has the added benefit of being directly across the road from Beaver Creek’s non-denominational chapel.
If the locations sound great, but you could do without the snow, Vail and Beaver Creek also are enticing summertime destinations. Warm-weather activities include golf and spectacular hiking. And once the snow is gone, couples can opt for an on-mountain wedding at a special deck at the top of Beaver Creek’s Centennial Express lift. Imagine taking your vows in the open air at 10,000 feet. It’s sure to raise your love to new heights.