Staking a bold claim atop its nest above Vail Valley, the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera flies the flag of luxury from the confines of its Alpine-inspired Belgian chateau. Wayfarers can face down mountainous vistas in their choice of two accommodation options, taking restive refuge beneath the Loft suite's cathedral ceilings or filling the multi-room Cordillera suite with the inviting glow of a Santa-free fireplace. Exorcised excursionists seeking out-of-room experiences can brush up fairway feats with access to three private championship-caliber golf courses designed by seasoned linksmiths including Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, and Tom Fazio, or practice the construction and carving of snow turkeys on the slopes of nearby Vail and Beaver Creek. Cast about with the lodge's fly fishing facilities, or sweat out toxins in the 20,000-square-foot spa's assortment of exercise equipment, saunas, and hot-coal tennis courts.
Though The Minturn Saloon has gone by several different names since it was established in 1901, it has always kept sports close to its heart. Years after being owned by Jeff Taylor—who used to feed knuckle sandwiches to his boxing-champion sparring partner Jack Dempsey—the saloon now serves as a tasty reward for out-of-bounds skiers brave enough to complete the Minturn Mile. A “quirky riverside joint” lauded as one of the Best Bars in America by Esquire magazine in 2007, The Minturn Saloon and its bartenders live by the motto, “If John Wayne didn’t drink it, we don’t make it,” according to the New York Times. Tall glasses of beer and tangy margaritas wash down hearty bites of fajitas, enchiladas, ribs, and nachos while diners admire a taxidermied buffalo and signed photographs of celebrities who once sat in their seats, such as Yogi Berra, John Wayne, and basketball legend King James VI.
The seasoned dough slingers at Chicago Pizza have infused every steamy thin- and thick-crust slice with handspun ingredients and family pride for 20 years. Create-your-own pizzas range from 12-inch discs ($13) to 18-inch flavor frisbees ($19), all waiting to be decorated with traditional toppings such as pepperoni and mushrooms ($2) or gourmet toppings such as chicken, feta, and pesto ($3). Specialty combo pies, such as the 14-inch white veggie with garlic butter ($20), offer timid tasters an assortment of predesigned toppings partnerships. Among dinnertime entrees, chicken parmesan arrives hot and resting on a bed of spaghetti, ready to be awakened by the playful poking of friendly fork tines ($15), and hefty meatball sandwiches pack their toasted french loaf jackets full of marinara-marinated protein and mozzarella ($10). Chicago Pizza also serves domestic and imported beer, as well as wines as good for sipping and savoring as they are for spilling on business rivals.
With only a few 5-gallon buckets and some extracts, Bonfire Brewing began in a garage. Nowadays, the microbrewery team makes enough batches of brew to fill up to 15 of the taps at an on-premise taproom in Eagle. Here, bartenders decant hoppy IPAs, smooth brown ales, and lighter wheat beers into 16- and 23-ounce glasses, as well as to-go growlers, kegs for delivery, and time capsules for future thirsty people. The taproom opens around 5:30 p.m. every day, when the Bonfire crew invites patrons to tour the brewery; play rounds of darts, foosball, and shuffleboard; or groove to live music on weekends.
Not much surpasses the delight of having a snow-day off from school—unless it's the sensation of zooming down a powder-covered cliff face. At Copper Mountain, visitors of all ages recreate snow-day elation on slopes seemingly made to be skied. Naturally divided into terrain of varying difficulty, the 2,645 acres of mountainous landscape were identified as "the most outstanding potential ski area in the Arapaho National Forest" by an early US Forest Service survey team.
Resort planners took their cues from these natural features, mapping out distinct ski areas that keep beginner, intermediate, and expert slopes largely separate from each other, helping skiers of disparate experience levels stay out of each other's way. Each area corresponds to a village, where shops and restaurants amuse visitors relaxing between rides and snowmen relaxing between top-hat fittings while 22 lifts whisk skiers up to the mountain's 126 uncrowded trails and vaunted back bowls. Experts craving access to hard-to-reach crags can hop on a snowcat for a ride up the mountain free of charge. And for those looking to boost their skills, lessons range from children's classes to quickie refreshers that reinforce advanced skills.
But skis aren't the only tools that afford thrilling trips. Pipes and parks let boarders practice mid-air tricks, and a four-lane tubing hill sends families through banked curves. Critterland charms younger visitors with friendly characters, forts, and rides, and complimentary snowshoe tours acquaint groups with the pine- and spruce-tree-dotted countryside. Away from the snow, a bevy of year-round bars and restaurants complement the amenities of the local spa and gym.
Thanks to a highly efficient snowmaking system, powder dusts Copper Mountain for one of the region's longest ski seasons—November through early April. But enthusiasts needn't pack up their gear in the off-season. Woodward at Copper hosts year-round programming for snowboarding, skateboarding, skiing, and cheer disciplines. A 19,400-square-foot playground known as the Barn houses bowls and artificial jumps, which deposit airborne athletes safely into foam pits, much the way young penguins learn to fly.
The steady rhythm of a chopping knife can be heard from behind the counters at Spooners Frozen Yogurt, where toppings are freshly prepared every day. Customers can decorate their cups of all-natural yogurt with morsels of fresh fruit, chunks of cookies, or nuts. Every flavor of the locally-sourced yogurt is made with no artificial dyes or preservatives.