Four Seasons Vail
Vibe: Rocky mountain pampering
At a Glance: Full of families and groups who like the comfort and familiarity of the Four Seasons brand of spoiling.
Review: Four Seasons entry into Vail Village in 2011 raised the comfort factor in this Colorado ski area. While the hotel does not offer ski in/ski out access, Mercedes SUVs and shuttles ferry families from the hotel to a Four Seasons ski club at the base where hot chocolate awaits and valets help skiers buckle their boots and deliver their skis to the gondola, making the Four Seasons Vail a safe bet for those who want a major mountain ski experience as well as major cosseting. After a day’s skiing, there is an impressive spa and outdoor heated pool on-site as well as a kids’ club, teen room and excellent modern steak house called Flame. The only complaint: shuttling back and forth to the base can be chaotic and the walk to the slopes is about ten minutes.
At a reported $350 million to build, the property delivers a substantial grand mountain resort experience. The lobby level is on the fifth floor where guests are greeted by a great room with fireplaces and views over the outdoor pool and to the mountain. The 121 rooms and residences have stone-hearth fireplaces, leather club chairs and solid oak furniture; and the best have balconies and views facing over the village to the mountain. Conveniences on property include a lobby-level deli and ski rental shop as well as a kids’ club and teen room on the same level as the 14,000-square-foot spa and outdoor pool. Flame restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The pedestrian village with its many casual restaurants and shops is only a block away and the Solaris center with an ice skating rink, Cinebistro and Bol, bowling alley are just two blocks away so families is well positioned for après ski activities.INDAGARE LOVES:
- The ski valets who greet you at the gondola to take skis and help with boots
- The excellent masseurs in the 14,000-square-foot spa
- The kids focus from a child-sized buffet area at breakfast to the kids’ game room
Who it’s right for: Families and Four Seasons fans
Who it’s not right for: Those looking for an intimate European-style property; they would be better off at the Sonnenalp
Ritz-Carlton Club Vail
Vibe: Grand mountain private club
At a Glance: First-class luxury in a mountain setting for those who want all of the trappings in an exclusive enclave that feels like its for members-only.
Review: The bright yellow castle-like building that houses the Ritz-Carlton Residences, a combination of private homes and rental units evokes a modern version of the ski palaces in Switzerland. The sprawling Bavarian edifice is located a five-minute walk from the Lionshead lift in Lionshead Village and caters to families and couples who often check in for weeks at a time.
Oriental carpets, chandeliers and wood paneling in the lobby announce the old world luxury that is laid on thick here. The adjacent library with its shelves of books, comfy couches, large fireplace and jovial bartender create the feeling of a welcoming private members’ club—only this one looks out on to a pool area and the mountain beyond. The rooms are really residences, ranging in size from two bedrooms to five bedrooms. The design aesthetic is Cowboy Comfort with lots of wood, wrought-iron and leather accents and every unit has a living room with an entertainment center and gas fireplace, a kitchen with granite counters and top-of-the-line appliances (including wine coolers) and bathrooms have marble vanities and heated tile floors.
The state-of-the-art gym and fitness center features a private trainer and regular yoga classes. The pool area draws families to swim during the day and in the evening they gather around the fire pit or for barbecues around the outdoor grill. The club concierges go out of their way before and during guests’ stays to play up the club aspect so they arrange for grocery stocking, ski guides, restaurant reservations and any other arrangements for a memorable mountain holiday.
Who it’s right for: Families who like a lot space and service
Who it’s wrong for: Anyone looking for a minimalist, modern aesthetic; the decor is Western overstatement laid on thickINDAGARE LOVES:
- The pool area with its massive hot tubs and grills for guests’ use
- The zealous club concierges who help ease you into vacation mode
- The fabulous kitchens in each room with state-of-the-art appliances
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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