The improvements, Vonn says, are most tangible at Lionshead, which used to have Vail’s older architecture. Now the Arrabelle, a European-inspired 62-room (including suites) luxury hotel, holds court at the busy plaza, and Lionshead bustles with energy. Modeled after centuries-old alpine chalets in Europe, the Arrabelle is a delicious combination of modern luxury and old-world decor, with elegant arches, thick walls and exposed beams. Rooms average 550 square feet, most feature a balcony, and all have heated marble bathroom floors. The rooftop pool and hot tubs overlook the Eagle Bahn gondola. The well-appointed lobby features floor-to-ceiling windows. The hotel is one of Vonn’s favorites.
“It has an authentic European feel,” she says of the Arrabelle. “I love the dark woods, the decoration and the design. You can get anything you want within a minute walk of the hotel, and their ski valet delivers all your gear to the slope for you.”
Granted, all of the luxury resorts at Vail shuttle your gear and deliver warm ski boots each morning. But not all the hotels are as well situated to facilitate Vonn’s dream day of skiing, which goes something like this:
Awaken at the Arrabelle and head to the Little Diner for breakfast. Standing room only, this hole-in-the-wall joint is reminiscent of Lionshead’s earlier iteration and serves up the best bacon and eggs this side of the Continental Divide. (“It is real diner food, but, hey, you’re on vacation,” Vonn says. “Go for it.”) Next stop is the General Store in Lionshead to pick up some frozen sausages. Seriously. Then beeline it to the gondola after fetching your gear from the ski valet. Head directly to Game Creek Bowl (hang a left off the gondola to Wildwood Express and at the top of that lift follow the signs to Game Creek), where most mornings see a fresh dusting of powder. If the snow is light, fluffy and deep, hit the back bowls (Vonn recommends China Bowl) or ride Teacup Express Lift to Skyline Express to Blue Sky Basin.
Lost yet? Don’t worry. Vail is so well marked that you’ll never be far from your destination — just remember to keep a mountain map handy or ask one of the many blue-jacketed ambassadors around the mountain for directions.
Adrenaline junkies will love the steep trees in Blue Sky Basin’s Earl’s Bowl, and intermediates will find challenge and reward in the predominantly blue runs off Pete’s Bowl. Beyond the skiing, the best part of Blue Sky Basin is Belle’s Camp, Vonn says. Remember those sausages you bought earlier? Pull them out and throw them on one of the free grills at the camp while you take in the 360-degree views of the Gore Range. Eat, and then ski some more.
“Seriously, is there anything better than grilling with your friends and skiing in the sun?” she asks.
At day’s end, Vonn would have you ride the free in-town shuttle to Golden Peak for dinner at Larkspur, which features locally sourced ingredients in gourmet, traditional American dishes. Vonn, who eschews carbohydrates while training, recommends the restaurant not only for its cuisine but also for the kitchen’s willingness to accommodate special requests. Following your meal, she suggests migrating into Vail Village for drinks at the Red Lion Restaurant & Night Club, one of the village’s après-ski institutions. Co-owner Phil Long is a master entertainer who plays cover songs on acoustic guitar and piano most nights.
As for the after-party, well, when you’re training on the World Cup circuit, there’s little opportunity for late-night clubbing. Vonn, who says she loves to dance, anticipates making up for lost time when she retires. For the night owls, Vail Village’s Samana Lounge throbs into the early morning with a packed dance floor that circles the sultry space’s bar.