Ski & Food Guide – 31 Days Vail Valley

The induction to 2018 involved skiing.  Lots of skiing and an overall mountain Zen/detox from life, stress and social media.

Here we’ve shared our favorite restaurant picks, how we tackled the logistics and a few insights we acquired along the way.

E.B.Woodward’s 2018 Colorado Restaurant Guide

E.B.Woodward Restaurant Picks of 2018.  From quirky to comfort to adventure to fine dining.  We’ve got you covered for your ski trip!

Denver

  • Snooze – for the savory yet quirky breakfast choices
  • Cherry Creek Grill – for the atmosphere and foundational food selection

Idaho Springs

Vail Valley

Mountain Standard Oyster Shooter.  Vodka and brine for a delicious mixture.

 

Après ski restaurant selections are a big part of ski culture and how to end each perfect day. Many different vibes to choose from.

 

The aforementioned list encompasses all of the ‘can’t miss’ restaurants between Denver and Beaver Creek.  Assuming you’re driving like we did, you’ll have plenty of time to check these off as you’re passing through towns and toggling between BC and Vail resorts.

So why Vail Valley?  Why for 31 days?

Because the dream was to become short-lived ski bums.

Before this trip to Colorado, if someone would have asked our favorite adventure of all time, we’d undoubtedly have said The Serengeti, BUT having just come off of this month long adventure playing on snow covered mountains all day, not giving a f*&%  about anything, we’d have to say Vail Valley is our new all-time favorite and one that we’ll have on repeat until our bodies no longer cooperate.

The most thrilling aspect of the trip was enrolling in the EpicMix expert challenge of skiing at least 250,000 vertical feet (each) for the 2018 season. While we went to disconnect from responsibility, we still needed a challenge, so this was the perfect, playful way to achieve an alpine goal.  Combined, we crushed over 600,000 vertical (252K for Erin and 348K for Brandon) traversing over 1,100 downhill miles collectively over 31-consecutive days in Vail Valley.  That’s 120 hours of pure skiing.  It would have been more if there had been better snow and Erin wouldn’t have gotten the flu mid way through the trip.  We only experienced two good storms and the rest of the time just dealt with mediocre snow.

Ski Bums for the entire month of January 2018! A trip of a lifetime.

 

Noteworthy: Mondays – Thursdays, the mountains are desolate. We alternated between Vail and Beaver Creek resorts via the daily shuttle from the Westin.  We avoided the weekend and holiday crowds getting all of our skiing in on weekdays when we had the whole place to ourselves and then on weekends we found other activities.

Erin is a January baby with a milestone birthday, so when asked what she wanted, she said a blizzard.  What better place to celebrate than Vail Valley and what better way to celebrate than downhill skiing for an entire month straight.  We posted up at Westin Beaver Creek for the complete duration of our trip and turned into ski bums for all of January.  Our closest friends rotated in and out week over week traveling from various parts of the nation.

Our daily schedule: Ski, nap, hit the spa, find some good eats, build the back-end of our newest company, check on the existing business, repeat x 31 days.

Lodging Recommendation

We decided to post up at the Westin Beaver Creek in a studio suite for a multiplicity of reasons. It’s a four star luxury hotel for starters. The studios come with a traditional kitchen making it easy to prepare meals.  There is a killer fitness center on site, washer/dryer, several restaurants, shuttles, live music, spa, pools, hot tubs, steam room, massage therapist, sports therapist, ski instructors, ski rental, ski valet and the gondola picks up from the hotel lobby.  The place even has a yoga and pilates studio, boutique shop, Starbucks, Daycare, a calendar of events, is pet friendly AND offers splendid views of the countryside.  If this isn’t desirable, then perhaps look for an Air BnB or VRBO, there’s some gorgeous real estate to choose from!

Westin Riverfront Studio with kitchen.  Duration of stay 31 days.  Jan 1 – February 2.
Westin Riverfront outdoor hot tubs. Soaking away the soreness. Minor aches and pains from days upon days of downhill sports  🙂

 

Noteworthy: We stayed January 1 – February 2, 2018.  Lesson learned in that the snow is still a bit variable at this time of the season.  Our recommendation is to book mid-January to mid-February or just opt for the entire month of February.  January brought about a couple of perfect snow days, but not many. Most of the time we just dealt with packed, icy, somewhat drab snow conditions. Don’t get us wrong, it was still fabulous, but we are spoiled because we know what we’re missing and after a decade of skiing, we’re a bit snobbish about the conditions.

Vail Mountain vs. Beaver Creek

Vail is where it’s at – those back bowls of Blue Sky Basin and China Bowl are absolute heaven with wide-open trails, tree runs and plenty of expert terrain.  Erin is a solid blue skier (absolutely loves rolling blue cruisers, groomed or otherwise) and Brandon loves expert terrain (push the boundaries and go for speed).  We spent most of our time at Avanti and in Pete’s Bowl but we did explore the entire mountain.  On a powder day, Cloud 9 is euphoric with drop offs, tree terrain, hidden valleys and places to rest along the way.  Each day we ventured to Vail, we opted for Gondola One to Mid-Vail making it easy to access the whole mountain BUT towards the end of our stay, we were seeking more vertical feet, so we caught the Eagle Bahn a time or two.  The cat walks to traverse to the back bowls are a bitch, but once you get there, it’s worth the headache – bring extra protein/granola bars for that exhausting escapade and pack hand and foot warms because conditions can change without notice and you’re a ways from cover.

White out conditions making our way to the back bowls. Stopped to gear up for the long journey beyond the gondola drop off.

 

We do love Beaver Creek once we get high enough to navigate away from crowds.  On powder days, Grouse Mountain is the place to be as the “road less traveled” those trails are often untouched. Even I (Erin) found myself playing on the expert terrain with enough powder.  If you decide to enter any vertical challenges, the best way to get your feet is by riding Birds of Prey repeatedly.  Centennial lift is good for vertical and has a couple blue trails that qualify more as expert on icy days, I found my knees trembling on some of the steep sections.  Beaver Creek has a more robust snow making system than Vail which is helpful but also creates icier conditions than Vail.  It’s somewhat of a catch-22.  Fake snow is really only good when combined with boatloads of real snow.  This season was light on the real stuff.  The higher up, the better,  but often times we found ourselves standing in low hanging clouds which made visibility tricky.  We always pack sunny day and cloudy day goggles for changes in elevation and unexpected overcast conditions. There’s nothing worse then not being able to see as you’re cruising 30 miles an hour down slick terrain.

 

Ritz Carlton at Bachelor Gulch, Beaver Creek Mountain.  We avoided this area as much as possible. There are many beginners here and it’s very touristy. Continue on to Upper Beaver Creek, Centennial, Rose Bowl and Birds of Prey.  Arrowhead (with more snow) is a lot of fun as well.  In particular, the far skier’s left trail called Cresta (rolling blue, ability to pick up a lot of speed and very long trail!) is totally bad ass!

 

If we have to pick, Vail is our #1 followed by Beaver Creek. We love the vibe at both resorts not to mention the crowd is pretty chill.  Breckenridge is amazing and close by too.

Trial Maps 

Beaver Creek Trail Map.

Vail Trail Map.

Given we were there for such a long duration, we skied both mountains in their entirety at least all of the terrain that was open.  Several trails were closed at the beginning of our stay and by the end of the month, there were still a couple trails closed over at Arrow Head in BC.  Vail was fully operational by Feb 2.

Seeing what trouble we could get into this day…

 

Red Tail run. We rode this trail ad nauseam. It was delightful and emptied into Birds of Prey which was significant altitude gain for the Talon’s Vertical Challenge! YESSSSSS!!!

 

Interesting Random Fact:  Ski patrol is forbidden from saying anyone has ever died on the mountain.  As far as you and I are concerned, people get injured on the mountain, but are only pronounced dead at the hospital or once removed from the resort.  This is to keep morale high and make you believe you’re safer than you really are!  Death isn’t sexy and doesn’t sell. We saw a few folks on stretchers, but no one reported dead even after the fact.

Camelbacks, Rx Bars & Bloody Mary’s

We never eat on the mountain because it’s a complete waste of money for some super crappy food, not to mention it’s a cluster-F of people mid-day.  We wear camelbacks and pack plenty of Rx Bars to fuel throughout the day.  For a mid-day warm up (either right before lunch-rush or right after), we head to the mountain top lodges and Brandon grabs a Bloody Mary while Erin sips on Shock Top or a hot cocoa.

Brandon’s Bloody Mary preference at Spruce Saddle Lodge. Warm up in the lodge either before the lunch rush or afterward, but avoid the noon crowd.

 

The best value and eats are at the base of the mountain.  Last chair is typically 3:30 -4:30 (depending upon which part of the mountain you’re on), so we ski until the place closes then post up après ski waiting for the next shuttle back to the Westin. Be sure to carry cash to tip the shuttle drivers. We found these practical backpacks to carry our skies, water, snacks, extra goggles, and shoes (opposed to dealing with lockers at Vail). As for alternate transportation, Uber also served us well and you can select cars with ski racks as necessary.

If you’re going to shuttle between resorts and have a bit of a walk to the gondola/lift, the Dakine Heli Ski Backpack is the way to go.

 

Fly into Vail vs Fly into Denver vs Drive

We’ve flown, we’ve driven, we’ve done all the above, not to mention Erin was a long-time resident of Denver (10 years) and Brandon lived there briefly.  We’ve gone skiing every year for over 10 years.

For this month-long excursion of 2018, we decided to drive from Nashville (skis in tow) and visit family along the way.  We drove 18-hours each way and while it was one hell of a long commute, we listened to some good podcasts, got into some interesting discussions, made stops to see family and friends and caught some gorgeous scenery along the way.

Had we of flown, we would have missed this striking view of the sun setting over the mountains while cuddled up in our Denver hotel.

 

36-hours round trip by car. Starting from Brandon’s parents house (50 min north of Nashville.)  Duration of stay once we reached our final destination was 31-days and we brought our own skis,  gear, crock pot & Vitamix – crucial pieces as far as we’re concerned! IN WINTER MONTHS, WE MUST HAVE HOMEMADE CHILI.

 

Once we arrived in Beaver Creek, we used our car most days and loaned it to friends as they visited.  Flying into Vail is a great option so long as you don’t need or want a car, but flying into Vail and then having to rent a car and pay to park it is a bit of a drag on the wallet.  Flying into Denver is a less expensive option and using a shuttle is cost effective, but it’s a bit of a buzz kill to make multiple stops with strangers in tow.  Our general rule is if we are staying for 2 weeks or less, fly directly into Vail.  If we are staying 3 weeks or longer, then fly to Denver and rent a car or just go ahead and make the long drive from home.

Things To Do Other Than Downhill Ski

Shopping at Gorsuch and Vail Village in general is high on our list of things to do that don’t involve skiing.  Snowmobiling and dog sledding are fabulous ways to spend time exploring Leadville. Our dog sledding tour was cancelled last minute due to “white-out conditions” unsafe for the dogs. Snow shoeing and cross-country skiing are viable options.

Snowmobile tours in Leadville, not for the feint of heart at this elevation.  Definitely a great way to cross over the Continental Divide in Breckenridge. Multiple companies and departure cities to choose from within 1-2 hours of Vail Valley.

 

Spa days of doing absolutely nothing are a great way to decompress.  Watching a movie at Solaris is a good time-killer and there’s always bowling at Bol or ice skating at the rink. There’s nearby ski resorts east bound in I-70 for a change of scene, shopping and food. Live music and concerts at night (check schedules). Curling up with a book by the fire watching the snow fall is/was one of the most magical moments along with sleeping-in and waking up naturally (no alarm clocks for one month!) Experimenting with the dispensaries could be fun…when in Rome, right. 🙂

Ice rink at Solaris.

 

EpicMix Challenge & Best Phone Apps

It’s more cost effective to buy a season pass versus day passes, if you’re going for an entire month.  It’s also more cost effective to buy and own all of your own ski gear opposed to renting for a month.

Once you have an Epic Pass, download two apps (1) the EpicMix app and (2) Ski Tracks.  Epic Mix will track your vertical and allow you to enter challenges to compete with other skiers and all of your professional, complimentary pictures (look for photographers on the mountain) will populate there.  Ski Tracks will document details for every run you complete including speed, distance, grade of incline, vertical feet, miles, etc.  We used Ski Tracks to measure, understand & improve our abilities day over day.

Download the EpicMix and Ski Tracks Apps.

 

Enroll in challenges on EpicMix and compete with other skiers. This was the ‘King of the Mountain’ challenge.

 

Look for the picture stations on the mountains. Get free, professional shots uploaded to your EpicMix.

 

Ski Tracks App with your own stats.

 

This is our 31 Ski Trip in a nutshell – definitely the cliff notes version.  There’s so many stories we could tell and restaurant details we could divulge but we’d probably put everyone to sleep so we will spare you! We highly recommend prying yourself away from your corporate job and/or if you’re retired, then come out of retirement.  Whatever your situation, you should make your way to the mountains for real life Zen.  It’s serene while at the same time challenging.  We had the time of our lives living at the Westin for all of January getting our heads and hearts aligned to tackle yet another new business venture  growing yet another year younger together.

Amazing Friends of Ours

Special thanks to our good friends who joined us on this fabulous journey!  Geneva from Detroit (you can take the girls out of Detroit, but you can’t take Detroit out of the girls!)  Michael and Rana from Louisville (best business partners eva eva). Ken, Amy & Charlie from Kalamazoo (look for Ken’s debut in Sooper Troopers 2 out in theaters April 20, 2018!)  Amanda from Nashville (read all about her in Bloomberg!)  Kim & Ken from Denver (not pictured).  It wouldn’t have been as much fun without all of you.

Grateful hearts love gratefully. Vail Village 2018.

 

With Love.  With Gratitude.

E&B Woodward

Retired Tastemakers, World’s 50 Best Restaurants
Fine Dining Lovers across 5 continents


The thesis of E.B.Woodward is to connect humanity through cross-cultural food and travel adventures.  We take a transparent approach in hopes of influencing tourism and country/restaurant revenue.  All of this in an effort to improve human relations, raise standards of living especially in underdeveloped nations and encourage self-enrichment through cultural awareness and gastronomy.


 

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