Travel Tips: Off-Season In Vail

A least a handful of friends asked me if I went skiing last week while visiting Vail, Colo. I suppose it shouldn't have surprised me; Vail is world-renowned for its snowy peaks and steep slopes. But lucky for me, not a flake was to be found.

Instead, I spent a long weekend enjoying Vail during the "off-season" — which meant morning climbs to 10,000 feet for breathtaking (literally) views of the valley and neighboring mountaintops. Deluxe afternoons were spent relaxing with a novel fireside or indulging in spa treatments. And evenings were topped off with cocktails and dinner (followed by more cocktails) without a moment's wait, at the town's most coveted tables at 8 p.m. every single night.

So listen up, folks! There are a great many things to do in Vail — 12 months out of the year. A visit during the tail end of an Indian summer might just be one of the finest times to stay, when Olathe sweet corn and Palisade peaches abound, and when quiet strolls along the paths in Betty Ford's Alpine Garden will find you lost in daydreams and inhaling piney breezes from the forests that surround. Of course, grilled brats, huge steins of bier, and dancing in the streets to celebrate Oktoberfest don't hurt either. These are just a few of the things you'd never get a chance to enjoy from November through spring.

Vail Off-Season Must-Dos:

Back of House Burger Bar: A single table hidden behind the swinging doors of the kitchen at FLAME, the popular steakhouse at the Four Seasons, is the whimsy of Western-cuisine-influenced chef Jason Harrison. His menu is a choose-your-own-adventure burger bar highlighting the best of Colorado's beef. He even converted a beverage refrigerator into a mini dry-aged meat locker to make sure his grind is as good as gold. (And not to worry, the Colorado health department has approved his designs.)

To get to B.O.H. Burger Bar, you must be in the know; a mere Google search will leave you hanging. Just give the reservations line at FLAME a ring and tell them I sent you. Only word-of-mouth will get you in.

Kelly Liken: Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've all heard about how great her food is (and it really is). But have you checked out the cocktail list? Pine-nut-infused bourbon, made by Colorado distillers at Breckenridge, made me wish to never return to Manhattan. Their tomato consommé martini made a Bloody Mary seem like blasphemy. And the margarita made with fresh-pressed corn juice and a crack of black pepper was, well, like smoking... let's just say it was addictive.

Vitality Center at Vail Athletic Club: In order to get my head straight (and feel a little less guilty about the loaf of truffle-honey-glazed brioche I had for brunch at Game Creek), I spent an afternoon in detox mode. Lounging in one of the center's outdoor whirlpools and receiving their signature Nature, Body, and Spirit treatment is a lovely respite. It included a sage foot soak and massage, appealing to my gastronomic senses.

Be sure to book an apartment at Solaris Residences. They come with fully equipped kitchens, and overlook the Sunday morning Vail Farmers' Market & Art Show, a perfect combination for creating your own culinary masterpiece using Colorado's local bounty in the comfort of your sweet home away from home.