The Best of Vail

A completely subjective look at various businesses, services, and activities from the perspective of a long time resident. Expect to see additions, deletions, and changes periodically, so check back if you're planning to visit Vail during the winter or summer seasons.

We'll be examining the dining scene, on-mountain lunch spots, other restaurants, ski shops, and night life.  Check out our favorite Vail ski trails. For the summer visitor here are some off-road runs & hikes.  In the winter read the Mountain Insider.   The Review is a more detailed critique of new and old dining spots.   For some off the beaten path dining spots try the "good eats" page.

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Restaurants - Everyone's Favorite Subject!
Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Name Comments Name Comments Name Comments

Sonnenalp
Big cup of coffee. Appetite says buffet-wallet suggests the menu. Too pricey during ski season.
Red Lion
Lots of bulk for the buck - and a local's favorite for après.  Hearty portions.

Leonora

A tapas restaurant in the Sebastian Hotel.  Just a delightful menu that hits a high point at every level. Changed chefs in 2015 and have not updated since that time.
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Ti Amo (Eagle-Vail)
Copious amounts of basic Italian food in a warehouse type setting.  Nice prices & a local's favorite.  
Village Popcorn Wagon Try the breakfast egg McWagon.
Sweet Basil
Most consistent restaurant in town for lunch or dinner.  A bit noisy and quite pricey.
Grouse Mountain Grill (Beaver Creek)
Wonderful food, hosts, & surroundings.  Great wine list - make sure you have a high limit on your credit card.

The Little Diner

New ownership of an old Lionshead standby that was DJ's Crepes and Omelets. Closed for renovation and expansion in the summer of 2C017. Village Popcorn Wagon Decent hot dogs and brats.  Some specials change every season.
Mirabelle
Perfectly portioned creative cuisine. Excellence with a $$$$ tag.
Los Amigos Recently re-built. Best priced dinners in the Vail Core. Try an ala carte selection for the value.

La Bottega

A mid range Italian place.  Can be a bit unpredictable quality-wise.  The half chicken and salad is a great deal.

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Lunch on Vail Mountain
Given the many high speed lifts with easy and quick uphill access, the reality is that you'll find better quality and better values in the village, but here are some notes if you must eat on the mountain.  A good choice is to do stand up grazing at any of the following restaurants.  Eat quickly and get back on your skis quickly.  Avoid letting the thighs tighten up from spending too much time frozen in a seat at a table.
Facility Comments
Gold Peak Grill As of 2006, a no longer acceptable place for either breakfast or lunch.  Beyond overpriced, filled with loud obnoxious children and adults.  Used to be a rare value on the part of Vail Resorts.  They've cured the value issue - unfortunately for the worse.

Wildwood
Great view of Sundown Bowl - try the pavilion room for excellent soup - or for seating when the main restaurant is too crowded. Good BBQ & sides of beans & cole slaw in the main salon. Our favorite on mountain dining spot.

Two Elk

Completely rebuilt and expanded to over 900 seats.  A slightly upgraded version of the original - still expensive and always way too crowded even with the expansion.   A further expansion to cover the outdoor patio area in the 2005/06 season is a winner. Custom pizza's are good as is the simple menu in the covered patio section.  Wraps or beans and rice plate are best values.

Mid Vail

More seating capacity in the Look Ma area and also down at the Terrace level.  Probably our favorite lunch on the mountain is the turkey/pesto/roasted pepper Panini available at the Terrace.  It's made to order so expect a few minutes for it to be ready.  Two people can share this treat - note that it is not always available.

10th (Mid Vail)

A new sit down restaurant much needed to provide better seating and feeding for our upscale clients.  Quite pricey, but if one needs a lengthy and/or high quality mountain food experience, this is the place to go.  A caveat.  Service and food quality can sometimes be inconsistent.
Chaos Canyon Kid's Cafe Children's only lunch spot in the former Cook Shack location.  Another big mistake on the part of Vail Resorts to eliminate the only decent sit down restaurant on the mountain..

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The following eateries deserve mention - you won't get hurt at any of them.
Restaurant Name Comments
Fiestas (Edwards) Local Mex. food hang out.
Lancelot Can be either real good or not so good prime rib.  In 2015 had some fun apres apps.
Gashouse (Edwards) Rustic local's hangout.  Decent food and booze.
The Grille (Leadville) Great fajitas.

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Ski Shops & Ski Repair Places.
The Shop A Critique

Gorsuch, Ltd.
Vail Village
Venerable old-line ski shop/fashion boutique. Family operated. Always top line equipment & clothing.  Located on the primary intersection in Vail. Because the shop's so popular, service is sometimes "clunky" at best.

Christy Sports
Vail Village
Large Colorado ski shop chain. Closest full line shop to the lifts. Well managed & helpful staff. Good rental & demo department.

 Double Diamond
Lionshead
No longer family owned and managed, but good boot fitters. Mid-range lines of clothing and complete line of skis & bindings. Multiple "Best of the Ski Shops" awards. They just try harder - and (generally) succeed.


Buzz's Boots & Boards
Gaining a good reputation for both rentals and for tuning.  Daughter of the owner was on the US team.
 

Vail Sports Arrabelle Shop

In December of 2009, I needed a pair of skis mounted.  Could have had that done for free at any number of shops in the village, but opted to try one of the "corporate" shops in Lionshead.  My experience with this shop was outstanding.  Without exception the personnel were friendly, motivated, intelligent, and helpful.  Absolutely the opposite of what I expected.  Highly recommended.

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Night Life & Après!
The Place Go there for: The Comments

The Red Lion
Lunch Après This place rolls from lunch hour on. It's noisy, offers good food & lots of different beers. Easy circulation to meet & greet.

Los Amigos
Après Still is the best open air "watch-the-slide-for-life-on-International-last run-of-the-day" place.

Garfinkles (Lionshead)
Après Great outside deck when the weather's good. Close to the base of the lifts for people watching. Decent burgers for lunch.
Pepi's Après &
Night Bar
Pass on this place.  It used to be fun.  Now you have to deal with the prototypical European arrogance at the door and lousy service in both bar and restaurant.

Vendetta's
Après &
Night Bar
Evolutionary upgrade from Donovan's. Ski Patroller's paradise. This is a local's hangout. Dinner is either great, or you'll wonder why you walked in the door.  Always a busy bar scene.
The Saloon (Minturn) Night Bar Noisy bar, chips & salsa, good bartenders, and if you want to eat, the Mexican food is fine too.

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Favorite Ski Runs
The Run What makes it good?
Prima/Pronto Always the first run of the day when I'm out on my own.  Different pitches, different lines, better sized bumps than Highline. All time favorite.
Rasputin's Revenge Very tough southern exposure, a somewhat "extreme" run. The gully is rocky - the face holds hidden cliffs. Just a great pitch when conditions are right.
Red Square Nice drop off a cornice. Consistent steep pitch. Ski it straight into the bottom of the creek bed.
Prima Cornice The top's a wild, but short "extreme" run. Almost always good snow, but there are still plenty of exposed rocks and trees. Bottom bumps can be scratchy.  Don't fall - you either land in the top of a tree - or on a boulder.
Riva This may be the premier cruiser run in the world when it's groomed. You can go a million miles an hour down it.  Do it responsibly.
Blue Sky Cornice Fun dropping several feet into generally soft chop.  Traverse at the bottom leads to several nice bumpy chutes.
The Divide Another nice, long intermediate bump run in Blue Sky Basin.  Always dry snow and a great place for a learning bump skier to practice.
Wild Card Absolutely great bump teaching terrain. You can find almost every type of profile across the wide face of this run.
Genghis Khan Another big cornice. Lots of steep variety - bumps down the gully and crud along the edges.
The Glade (now the Preserve) The place to be when weather on top is rotten. Good visibility, wind protection, and a nice intermediate pitch.
Highline Starting in 2008, the new high speed lift makes this run - more fun.  The only drawback is the increase in traffic - which in turn deepens the troughs and makes these bumps that much tougher.

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Runs and Hikes in the Vail Area
Note that the times and distances for these off road adventures assume leaving on foot from the Lionshead Parking Structure and running, not walking, so plan your trail times accordingly if you move at hiking pace or if you shorten the runs by driving closer to trailheads to reduce the distances.
Name of Run Estimated Mileage Round Trip Time Comments Elevation Gain/Loss
Vail Mountain Top 20 miles 3.5-4.5 hours Follow any of the mountain roads up past Mid-Vail. Head towards Eagle's Nest. Halfway to the top of the gondola the road forks to the left and up. Stay on road to top of mountain and then return. 3,000 feet
Berry Picker Trail 12 miles 2.5-3.5 hours Access the main trailhead near the Vista Bahn in Vail Village or join it from Gitalong Road if you start in Lionshead 2,000 feet
Pitkin/Booth Lakes 21 miles 5.5-7.0 hours Run along the frontage road to East Vail. Head up the Pitkin Creek Trail to the lake. Behind the lake head up and over the pass and down to Booth Creek. Then downhill to the Booth Creek trailhead and back to the village. 4,000 feet
West to East Grouse 25-30 miles 6.5-8.5 hours Drive to the Grouse Creek trailhead on Hwy. 24 to Minturn. Run and stay on the West Grouse Creek trail until you reach timberline. Head around or over Grouse Mountain and descend via East Grouse Creek. Lots of bushwhacking, but great scenery and hoards of elk. 4,000 feet
Vail to Copper Mountain 42 miles 6.5-8.5 hours Run to East Vail and then simply follow the bike path over Vail Pass to Copper Mountain for breakfast or lunch and then return. 5,200 feet
Booth/Crater/Piney Trail 33-38 miles 7.0-9.0 hours Run to East Vail, up the Booth Creek Trail. Bear left at the Piney River sign and bushwhack the marginal trail up past Crater Lake, down to the Piney River, to Lower Piney Lake, and back via Sandstone Road. 4,000 feet
The Commando Run 33-38 7.0-8.0 hours Head to East Vail and up the bike path towards Copper Mountain, turn off to the right at the top of Vail Pass. (Refuel at the rest area.) Continue up and over Shrine Pass. Turn right at the Lime Creek road. Watch for and hop on the old Colorado Trail, continuing up to and through Bowman's Shortcut. Either go up over Abraham Peak and return via the jeep road or traverse uphill to China Bowl and back down any of the mountain roads to the village. 5,000 feet
Crater Lake Loop 22 miles 5.5-7.0 hours Go across the I-70 overpass bridge, up Sandstone Road; turn right at the Lost Lake fork; stay right at all times and continue on that road to the end. Then bushwhack over the ridges above Crater Lake. Stay on the ridgeline and go over Bald Mountain and back to Vail Village on the Spraddle Creek jeep road. 5,000 feet
Shrine Pass/Red Cliff
Minturn/Vail
40 miles? 8.5-10 hours Run to East Vail, up to Vail Pass, right on Shrine Pass Road, down to Red Cliff, back on Highway 24 to Minturn, and return to Vail by any number of routes 4,500 feet
 

MORE COMMENTS AND CAUTIONS. If unfamiliar with this area, seek local guidance. If at all possible, don't run or hike alone. There are locals who have lived here all their lives who commonly get lost on several of the above noted trails. Leave a message with someone as to your intentions and expected time of return. Be prepared for anything. 

Mountain weather is utterly unpredictable. Carry lots of water, matches, food, etc. within your ability to pack all that survival stuff along. There's plenty of wildlife on all these runs. You can meet fox, bear, deer, elk, coyotes, porcupines, and yes, even mountain lions. The scenery and vistas are outstanding on any of these run/hikes, but please exercise good judgment - and above all, leave no trace of your passage.

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Orv Petersen
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