A couple weeks ago (in mid-December), I spent two days in Vail, Colorado, on assignment for the 50th anniversary of the ski resort. Admittedly, I had preconceived notions about the area based on what I’d heard and read in passing. To say I was a little intimidated about what I might find in Vail is an understatement. While there, I took several in-the-moment notes to keep track of my thoughts and observations as I explored the village for myself.
> Everything is decorated for the holidays. Garland, white lights, bows, wreaths.
> It smells like winter. Many hotels have stone fireplaces, and that warm smell of smoke hangs over the village, blanketing it for the season.
> Vail isn’t a city. It’s a village, and at night, it looks like something found in the pages of a children’s book.
> Some of the older buildings have lower ceilings and cozy interiors. This runs counter to what I find in tropical destinations, with high ceilings and sparse furnishings, but in Vail, where it’s definitely chilly, the compact space is welcome.
> The ski lifts up the mountain are long. And once you get off the gondola, you’re only at Mid-Vail. No joke. This mountain is huge.
> From the top of the mountain, you can see forever in a different way than you can see forever in a desert.
> Working at Vail is like working at Disney – it’s a badge of honor. People love to say, “I worked at Vail for a season.”
> There’s an expectation that everyone who visits Vail to ski or snowboard has at least some knowledge of the sport. Though you can rent skis, boots, poles and helmets (the only place I’ve seen this), you can’t rent ski jackets, pants or goggles at the mountain’s rental shop, so you have to come prepared. Assuming I could rent ski pants, I had to wear Under Armor, leggings and jeggings, making me the bulkiest skinny girl on the mountain.
> Back bowls offer opportunities to get away from the crowds on the front side of the mountain, but how do you decide to go bigger, steeper and harder? What drives people to hike up and ski out mountains that don’t have lifts? As a beginner, the idea of doing this boggles my mind.
> Animals live in harmony with residents. Lots of people have large, furry dogs.
>The only shoes women should own are boots, and the boots women are wearing in Vail are super cute.
> Vail as a whole is a first-class experience. Ski valets, greeters at every door. Usually renting equipment feels like being herded through a concrete corral. In Vail, there is carpet, space and heat to help get the job done.
> It’s easy to be spoiled. Life feels seamless.
> Who needs wifi in a gondola going up a ski mountain? Enjoy the view instead.