If there were a category of resort hotel called Upscale Contemporary Bavarian, the Sonnenalp would own the franchise. Managed and impeccably run by Johannes Faessler, whose family has long owned the original Sonnenalp, in Germany, this property exudes style at every turn. The 115 suites and 12 rooms are cozy—arched doorways, beamed ceilings, and those heavenly down comforters—but never claustrophobic. The spa is small and classy, with a very appealing indoor-outdoor pool area. Ludwig’s, the formal restaurant, is the place to go for Dover sole, chateaubriand and lobster thermidor, and the wine list is appropriately weighty. Rooms from $520.
Constructed in 2007 and originally opened as the Vail Plaza Club & Hotel, the Sebastian was acquired last winter by new owners: an investment company owned by a Mexico City family with long ties to the area. Renovated and rechristened this fall, the property is now a combination hotel (100 rooms) and private-residence club (36 units) under the management of Colorado’s Timbers Resorts. From the outside, the Sebastian still conforms to Vail’s general style—its stone-and-stucco façade is made quaint with wooden balconies and a scalloped Alpine roofline—but once inside you are definitely not in Bavaria anymore. The lobby’s scale is mountain monumental, no surprise there, with a huge fireplace and similarly oversized chandelier and sofas as the focal points, but the fireplace itself is freestanding and made of dark-chocolate beams that look like the Legos-on-steroids of a design-savvy (and Gulliver-sized) child.
The chandelier, with its profusion of twig-like branches, harkens to the traditional antler fixtures of yore and yet, randomly studded with a blizzard of small bulbs, it’s the antithesis of traditional; it resembles an electrified anemone as much as any animal’s horns. Works by Mexican abstract artist Manuel Felguerez—including two large moody paintings in the adjoining library, alongside smaller sculptures that could be Braque figures come to life in shiny metal—look right at home here. If that home belongs to an art collector. Similarly, the giant “icicles” hanging above the Frost bar, also just off the lobby, would not be out of place in the coolest Los Angeles (or Las Vegas) bar—no doubt a reason why the space, which has live music nightly, is attracting not just guests but also locals bored with the more predictable bars and lounges around town.
The Sebastian’s public spaces are new-school Vail, making it a modern lodge for a cosmopolitan guest. Upstairs, its rooms and residences retain a more-typical Western look—Indian-print pillows, square-legged tables—but overall the property is worldly and full of personality, well-suited especially to both couples and very well-traveled families. The main restaurant, Block 16, just opened on Christmas Eve, but you wouldn’t know it’s new from the food, which is nuanced without being overly dainty. One bite of the mushroom risotto, with its pure, piercing distillation of porcini’s nutlike flavor, and you’ll consider ordering it every night. Breakfast at Market, the cafe next door, might have a way to go—perhaps offering a buffet daily and not only on weekends would give mountain-bound visitors the flexibility and the speed that can now be missing?
Located in Vail Village, just across the street from the Sonnenalp in one direction and the Four Seasons in the other, the Sebastian is not ski-in/ski-out. But it’s an easy 10-minute walk to the main base, where the hotel has an adjacent ski valet desk whose excellent staff can set you up with rentals and take care of them for you overnight too.
For your own after-ski pampering, do not miss a treatment or two at the Sebastian’s Bloom Spa. In the last major renovation left to be done since the hotel was purchased and renovated, the space is scheduled to get a makeover of its own this spring but its current lineup of therapists needs no refreshing. Put your face and body in the hands of aesthetician Teresa Minami or massage therapists Jordan Zimmerman and Kathleen Gass, and within minutes you’ll be smiling at their touch. And by the end of the hour you’ll probably reach that ultimate relaxation point: blissful sleep.
Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa
There’s not an elk chandelier or overstuffed chintz sofa in sight in the twenty-eight rooms and condos here. After a recent, $25 million renovation, it now boasts a clean-lined, sleekly modern look accented by warm wood trim. Other on-site attractions are the Vail Athletic Club and a well-regarded spa with thirteen therapy rooms and a plentiful menu of treatments, including many variations on facials. The lodge’s local-favorite restaurant, Terra Bistro, emphasized healthy dishes and organic ingredients long before either became trendy, and wine list remains formidable. Rooms from $425.
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