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Beyond the Powder


About three minutes into our ride, I realized that $6 for a bandanna to cover my mouth was a good investment; I was literally eating dust before pulling it up over my face. And it was awesome. I gunned my ATV over some rocky bumps in the dirt road and followed the line of riders up into Vail’s mountains, keeping an eye out for the moose that had been meandering through Nova Guides headquarters, Camp Hale, just before our tour left.

Vail, Colorado’s charming mountain resort town—the laid-back little sister to Aspen and worldly big sister to nearby Beaver Creek—has never disappointed. My favorite skiing excursion happened here years ago: After days of unrelenting snow, my family and I headed to the back bowls and tackled the slopes just as the snow ended and the sun’s rays emerged. Carving our way through the powder that day was nothing short of joyful.

Which is exactly how my husband and I felt last fall driving up into the mountains in our borrowed Tesla S P85D, the sun blazing through a panoramic windshield that ended just beyond the crown of my head. We pulled into the lovely Manor Vail Lodge, a Destinations Hotel property, in time for dinner at its casual restaurant, The Fitz.

Vail is best known for its winter skiing, but anyone who writes off the rest of the year is missing out. The nearby hiking is wonderful, and there are great restaurants and shopping. The town is located only an hour and a half or so from Denver—and even closer to the Eagle/Vail/Beaver Creek airport. There are adventure sports, luxury rental condos and an annual dance festival that draws world-class talent.

My husband and I started the next day with an early morning hike up the Booth Falls Trail. We powered through a bit of altitude-induced huffing and puffing before turning around to appreciate the surrounding peaks and valleys, ribboned with changing colors.

That afternoon, we took a gondola to the top of Vail Mountain to the Epic Discovery playground (opening for the season in June): ziplines, a raised alpine coaster, adventure courses and a magnificent view of the Gore Range. It might have been (frankly) the one time we wished our kids were with us; they would have had a blast. But since they weren’t, our next stop was Vail Brewing Company, a short and scenic drive away in Eagle.

We spent much of the next day on the backs of ATVs with Nova Guides, followed by a chicken wing refueling stop at BC Backcountry Wings in the funky little town of Minturn (stop for a drink in the kitschy Minturn Saloon if you have time). After chilling by the pool in the afternoon, we headed out for dinner at the bustling, chic and delicious Mountain Standard in downtown Vail, followed by a stop at 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirit Company’s cozy tasting room.

We spent our last morning wandering through the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, located just behind Manor Vail Lodge—and enjoying, one last time, the hotel’s prodigious breakfast buffet. We left Vail well-fed and slightly worn out—in the best possible way.

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