Rediscover the adrenaline rush of real skiing with Colorado’s greatest runs
Tempus heads to the Wild West towns of Vail and Breckenridge to find some nail-bitingly steep slopes
There’s something missing from today’s skiing holidays. Admittedly, there’s nothing quite like getting back to that alpine wonderland, taking in the beauty of the mountains as you’re blanketed in opulence at every snow-capped turn. Luxury isn’t exactly missing from an escape to the slopes but, if you’re anything like me, that desire for the extraordinary too often seems to be emphasised in everything except the most important aspect of this kind of escape: adrenaline.
Getting on the slopes is, to me, about pushing yourself to the limit. It’s making that jump you wouldn’t normally try or the white-knuckled excitement of getting off-piste somewhere new. If you’re looking for that rush, take it from one thrill seeker to another – there’s nowhere quite like Colorado.
Home of the brave
The western American state of Colorado is home to Vail and Breckenridge, two postcard-perfect towns in the Rocky Mountain range that combine the best qualities of a mountain escape with elegant après-ski.
My adventure started in Vail at the Arrabelle at Vail Square resort. Arriving is a literal breath of fresh air. This European-style, fairytale-like building exudes warmth and welcome. From the striking fireplace that greets you in the lobby to the marble and wood décor that runs throughout, this ski chalet epitomises the old-world charm of Vail Valley – one of the greatest US ski resorts, with a European twist.
A quick meal at the Tavern on the Square and a night in the hotel’s luxurious rooms later, I was ready for a morning on the Vail Valley slopes. Despite being a confident skier, I indulged in a private instructor for the day to get a feel for the Rockies. From finding secret spots to developing my daredevil skills even further, it was a huge benefit having a veteran of the slopes on hand. >>
We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of world-leading snowboarders training for the upcoming Burton US Open Junior Jam. We had nothing but awe and admiration for the competitors – all aged 14 and under – as they absolutely shredded the course. There wasn’t any jealousy whatsoever. Honestly.
Another exciting way to explore the Rockies is via snowmobile with Nova Guides. This unbelievable expedition allowed us to traverse the slopes with an entertaining and informative guide at a nail-biting 180km/h – it truly gets the blood pumping.
After a long day on the mountains, we indulged in the RockResorts Spa and steam room adjacent to the Arrabelle – an absolute must for fighting off muscle ache. Then, after a revitalising full-body sports massage, it was time to hit the town. With traffic-free roads and an array of things to do and see, Vail is an enticing après-ski location.
Refuel with dinner at AAA-rated fine-dining spot Game Creek Restaurant. This scenic chalet-style restaurant is accessible only by snowcat in the winter and by hiking or four-wheel drive shuttle in the summer, and overlooks the famed Game Creek Bowl. Not just high-altitude but also high quality, Game Creek Restaurant offers diners a five-star all-American menu and the tenderest of steaks, an award-winning wine list and excellent customer service. >>
Spirit of the wild west
Where Vail boasts a reputation as one of the top ski resorts in the world, the nearby town of Breckenridge feels more like one of Colorado’s best-kept secrets. This hip, close-knit town has a rich Wild West gold-mining history in addition to its breathtaking slopes. Amid all the action is the magnificent One Ski Hill Place, a top destination for avid skiers who want a ski-in/ski-out hotel that’s also in range of the town’s amenities.
Thanks to its varied slopes and advanced terrain, skiing at Breckenridge will not disappoint even the most discerning of skiers. The Double Black Diamond-rated 9 Lives run is a slope so steep just looking at it will put your heart in your mouth. This impressive run can be accessed only by the highest chairlift in North America. At just shy of 13,000ft, it has to be seen just for the pure height – and is not for the faint of heart.
Get a sense of Breckenridge’s heritage at Hearthstone, a fine-dining restaurant located in a 125-year-old building. Chef Michael Halpin curates not just a step back in time, but a step in the right direction, serving exceptional, locally sourced food. Nearby Briar Rose Chophouse and Saloon is a hark back to the Old West serving vast amounts of aged beef and wild game.
Another taste of the town’s culture comes in the form of the world’s highest whisky distillery, Breckenridge Distillery, which sits at 9,600ft. Here it’s not just the altitude that will impress, but the quality of the range of grain-to-bottle whiskies and rums, distilled botanicals and blended bourbons aged by experts in barrels from Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana.
All in all, I couldn’t dream of a better destination than Colorado to get my skiing fix. From getting a lesson in American history in the towns, to the truly heart-stopping runs high in the Rockies, these mountains provide thrills like no other. Some of our party headed off to explore the rest of the US with their Epic Passes, which allow unrestricted access across the States. But unlike them, I was homeward bound – with just enough time left to head up to the slopes for one more adrenaline rush.