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Breakfast at the Little Diner
Chris Council and Emily Chaplin

Around town, Vonn is less of an international x celebrity and more of a hometown hero. She still drops by Buzz’s Boots and Boards, a locally owned shop where the young Vonn took her skis for tuning. When she allows herself to eat carbs, she’ll stop for a cheap slice at Pazzo’s Pizza (“the best pizza outside of New York City”).

She said…
Some of Lindsey’s Vail favorites:

On the mountain:

Game Creek Bowl, Lindsey’s, Blue Sky Basin, China Bowl
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Off the mountain:

Samana Lounge
(970) 476-3433
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Buzz’s Boots and Boards
(970) 476-3320

Colorado Footwear
(970) 476-3130
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Bol at Solaris
(970) 476-5300
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Arrabelle at Vail Square
(970) 754-7777
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Ritz-Carlton Residences
(970) 477-3729
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Little Diner
(970) 476-4279
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(970) 754-8050
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Red Lion Restaurant & Night Club (970) 476-7676
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(970) 476-6628
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Pazzo’s Pizza
(970) 476-3663
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Vonn has a self-diagnosed shoe-shopping problem and takes care of it at Colorado Footwear, another Vail landmark located on the banks of Gore Creek near the Blue Moon Café. “Me alone with a credit card and a shoe shop is a dangerous thing,” Vonn jokes. “They carry some of the most comfortable après-ski boots that look like chunky old-school ski boots with buckles — and I’m not telling you how many pairs I’ve bought.”

She enjoys window-shopping at Vail’s world-class galleries, but for now the only art on her walls is “a few snapshots of family.” Such is the hazard of traveling, training and competing the majority of the year.

“I simply don’t stay in one place long enough,” Vonn says. “But there are so many good options in Vail, and once I retire, I plan to explore them in more detail.”

What she has explored, though, may come as a surprise. Vonn is an avid bowler who loves the lanes at the new Solaris complex. A mix of high-end residences, businesses and an ice-skating rink, Solaris bills itself as the “new Vail town center.” Straddling the line between Vail Village and Lionshead Village, Solaris is home to Matsuhisa, a sushi restaurant run by celebrated chef Nobu Matsuhisa. And it has Bl, perhaps the most modern, hip bowling alley/bar/restaurant combo in the West. Vonn, for the record, averages about 160 and has her own bowling ball.
To relax, Vonn carves out spa time. The new RockResorts Spa at the Lodge at Vail features a luxurious couples room with a freestanding soaking tub for two, along with facial and massage rooms, a women’s relaxation lounge, and a larger coed lounge. With its river rock and exposed-wood interior, the spa won Vonn over when her aesthetician offered her peach sorbet following a facial. The spa at the Arrabelle is equally relaxing and elegant, Vonn says, but with a more modern decor. She recommends the deep-tissue massage. You would, too, if your day job entailed hitting speeds of up to 90 mph on downhill skis.

Even as she appreciates its finer aspects, Vonn says the best part of Vail is what it represents in terms of family. For years, Vail was her family home. Now her brother Reed Kildow, 21, lives in Vail and teaches at the ski school. The two spend holidays together as well as the occasional day freeskiing. “He’ll take me in the moguls and jumps and the half-pipe, and then he brings out his race skis and challenges me.”

Guess who wins?

Beyond blood ties, though, are Vonn’s roots with the town itself. Vail believed in Lindsey Caroline Vonn before the world knew her name, and she feels a deep gratitude for the coaching and support she received at a critical age. So grateful, in fact, that this season, part of her giving back included accepting an invitation to the 2011 homecoming dance from a 15-year-old skier named Parker.

During a pep rally at the Ski and Snowboard Academy, Parker invited Vonn to be his date, and she says she never hesitated. It was the skiing star’s first homecoming; as a teenager, she was always competing on dance weekends.

“I have to give him credit for asking me in front of the entire school. What was I going to say, no? Not an option.”

Vonn takes her role as mentor seriously. She believes in fostering the same can-do attitude in kids that the town instilled in her 25 years ago. If that means buying a boutonniere and accepting a corsage from an underage aspiring skier, so be it. Vail’s done so much for her, she says. She gladly returns the favors.

“Vail gave me the opportunity to really blossom as a skier and figure out what I was really good at,” she says. “It’s extraordinarily special that way.”

While most visitors may not experience Olympic skiing epiphanies at Vail, they will very likely leave inspired. Whether it’s by Vonn’s legacy, the unrivaled beauty, the superlative skiing or the exciting town, Vail, like Vonn, is never boring. Who knows, perhaps you’ll leave feeling as attached to the area as Vonn.

“Vail is such a beautiful place,” she says. “It’s here that I finally learned how to compete in downhill, and now I get to ski at the best resort in the world. I loved it from the first day I came here. It’s home.”