Naturally, not every visitor is fit for a brisk haul up the mountain or an afternoon on the slopes. But because Vail Valley Medical Center is situated closer to the pulse of a resort than most any other topnotch hospital, it seems a shame to deprive visitors of at least some means of exploring the mountains. Mere steps away is the Eagle Bahn Gondola and Vail Mountain, so it’s easy to get at least a bird’s-eye view of the sprawling terrain. It doesn’t have to be a hike from bottom to top — but it can be. Take these suggestions on where to take visitors who are …
Skiing or snowboarding are the obvious choices in winter, and there is no shortage of ice skating options — both Lionshead and Vail Village have outdoor rinks, but Dobson Ice Arena has public skating sessions year-round. For more action in the summer, rent bikes and ride from East to West Vail on the recreation path or, for a real adrenaline charge, haul the bikes up the gondola and ride down the mountain.
In the summer, with plenty of water in tow and donning a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or sneakers, send the hearty and healthy to Berry Picker trail, Vail Mountain’s signature — but strenuous — hike. The trail winds through green berry groves, across a number of creeks and streams, through a rainbow of regional wildflowers, including several thatches of columbine, Colorado State’s flower, and directly across the meadows that double as ski slopes in the winter. Take a break and grab a snack at Eagle’s Nest and ride down the gondola
for free. The 3.5-mile hike, depending on your pace, takes between 1 and 3 hours.
If you have visitors that don’t care much about the mountains or the natural scenery, head to Vail Village or Lionshead for mountain fashion galore and an array of internationally-touted restaurants. Window-shop or dive right in to galleries, jewelry stores, clothing boutiques and mountain gear shops. Take a break with a snack at any of the nearby restaurants.
The walk itself from the medical center to the gondola is beautiful, through the woods on the recreation path behind the library along Gore Creek. The jaunt shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes and the gondola ride is a mere eight minutes. Rise nearly half a mile in elevation from the base to the summit, and be prepared with a jacket or extra layer because the weather can change dramatically from top to bottom and it is, as a general rule, at least 10 degrees cooler at the summit. Here, you will find Eagle’s Nest, a bustling center of strapping in and adjusting equipment during the ski season and an enormous patio and barbecue in the summer.
FRIENDS ON A RAINY DAY
Famous as it may be for sunshine, the Colorado Rockies are occasionally prone to short spells of stormy weather, and if the outdoors are simply soggy, then … bowling anyone? This is not your typical venue. Bol in Vail Village offers 10 lanes and a full dining experience, with everything from sliders to pizza swanked up along with the ambiance. Just a couple doors down lies CineBistro, the most spacious and comfortable movie theater around complete with dinner, drinks and a fancier bucket of popcorn than you’re accustomed to, all served at your armchair in front of the big screen.