Platts: Not my town!
PLACES TO DINE & IMBIBE
Below are a few of the restaurants/bars we checked out during our weekend escapade in Vail:
Best Boozy Coffee Drinks
675 W. Lionshead Loop
Blue Moose Pizza
675 Lionshead Place, #170
Note: Use the shot wheel to decide on your beverage
536 E. Lionshead Circle
Best Lounge Area
292 E. Meadow Drive
Best Live Music Spot
304 Bridge Street
When a person first arrives in Aspen, there are a few things that become ingrained in their psyche almost immediately.
Number one: If six inches of snow or more have fallen overnight, everyone must quickly proceed to the nearest chairlift, no matter what work responsibilities they have for the morning.
Number two: We live a life that everyone outside of Aspen considers a vacation and we must remind them of that whenever we can.
Number three: Vail is the enemy.
Similar to the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings or the Democrats and Republicans, or even Pepsi and Coca-Cola, Aspen and Vail are the yin and yang of Colorado ski resorts. One of us is Hillary Clinton and the other is Donald Trump (I will let the individual decide who is who on that one), meaning that each of us must take a side.
The rivalry between Aspen and Vail has existed since the birth of the latter as a ski resort 53 years ago. By then, Aspen had already established itself as one of America’s most iconic ski areas, in part due to the races it was hosting. Pete Seibert, originally an Aspen ski patroller, founded Vail Ski Resort with Earl Eaton in 1962, quickly developing it as a worthy competitor to Aspen. Seibert and other members of the Vail Resort team tried and succeeded at procuring major racing events for the ski area.
Today, Aspen and Vail are still competing to host world championships and other types of ski races, and a rivalry half a century old has not softened in the least. Why is one better than the other? Residents of both places have a list of answers.
In Aspen, we like to call Vail “truck stop skiing” because the resort is right off Highway I-70. We turn our noses up at their long lift lines and crowded slopes, claiming that they have far more gapers out and about than we do. Plus, we like to tout our mining town history and the culture that past brings to the present. We are a “real town.” Unlike Vail, which was created to be a ski resort.
On the other side of things, Vail locals and visitors have a collection of insults for us. Our crowds are uppity, overly fancy, self-deserving and pretentious. Plus, we are all drunk (according to a “study” by RoadSnacks.net) pretty much all the time. Vail may be located off the highway, but Aspen is difficult to get to and there’s no reason to travel that far when better terrain exists right off of I-70 (a point up for debate). Plus, Vail has a more affordable season pass called the Epic Pass that gives holders access to 10 other ski mountains in Colorado, Utah, California, Minnesota and Michigan.
The list of comparisons goes on and on, but you get the general idea. The rivalry between Aspen and Vail is heated and, as young Aspenites, we are taught to steer clear of the V-word. However, the other weekend, a group of friends and I (most Aspen locals) decided to break past the boundary and venture into enemy territory for a friend’s birthday. She grew up skiing in Vail and thought spending a weekend there at her parents’ condo would be something fun to do that was a change from our normal routine. None of us had ever experienced a ski weekend in Vail. I’d been once before in the summer for a beer festival, but that was really my only experience there. So we gathered our gear, raided the liquor cabinet for a couple cases of champagne and left the comfort of our own mountain town haven for another. We had to learn what #VailLiving was all about.
Our crew arrived on a Friday evening, quickly settling in at the birthday girl’s condo and cooking dinner. It was Vail’s opening weekend, and there was a lot of excitement in the air. However, like the Aspenites we were trained to be, we were all a bit skeptical about what was to come. To welcome in the weekend, we did what any true Aspenite would do: take shots and go to the bars. The condo is located in Lionshead Village, which is about a 10-minute bus ride from Vail Village. However, Lionshead had its own ambience to offer so we stayed close to home that first night, making our presence known through inebriated pool games and some clothing exchanges that may have gotten us kicked out of a bar. Note to self: Nipples, even those belonging to the male gender, should generally remain covered when partying in Vail bars. We weren’t deterred though. We held our heads up proud as our group was gently forced out of the bar, promising to write scathing Yelp reviews about the establishment.
The next day, many members of the Aspen team woke early to hit the slopes. The mountain had opened the day before with 1,150 skiable acres. To give some perspective, there are a total of 5,289 acres on Vail Mountain. Even having a fifth of that open before Thanksgiving was incredibly impressive. Ski-in, ski-out access to the slopes is something Vail has down to a tee. The condo was only about a five-minute walk to the gondola. To have that in Aspen, you essentially have to stay at The Little Nell. Not only are the slopes close, but everything else you could possibly need is as well. Before getting out to ski, some of us were able to go shopping, buy a boozy coffee drink (chai and Bailey’s is just about the greatest thing ever), mess around on the closed ice skating rink and get a fair amount of people-watching in. The convenience of the area, while incredibly accommodating, felt almost choreographed. A friend compared it to a Las Vegas or a Disney World, only for skiing. I could see where she was coming from. Something felt almost cookie cutter about it. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It just took many of us by surprise.
Regardless of the town comparisons, once we hit the slopes, it was anyone’s game. Vail is known for its vast terrain, as well as its variety, and it did not disappoint. Even though few slopes were open, we were able to get in moguls, groomers, a couple tree trails and a few terrain park jumps. The only worrisome part came toward the bottom when we were stopping for pizza and beer. The crowds on the slopes all converged and collisions seemed quite likely.
That night, we continued our escapades out on the town by taking a bus to Vail Village. Things seemed quiet outside, but once you found a proper watering hole the crowds emerged. Local live music was available at a couple locations, others had foosball and pool tables. I could never betray the Aspen night scene by saying it was better, but let’s just say Vail put up a good fight.
The next day, exhausted and hungover, we headed back to our home, all a bit more educated and knowledgeable about our rival town.
When all is said and done, my loyalty still lies with A-town. However, I can see the clear appeal in Vail. I can also see just how similar both towns are. Perhaps that’s why we have a need to constantly compare the two. But, I’m not sure it’s an either/or situation. Maybe we can love both. These are just some thoughts to ponder as the season kicks off. Either way, get out there and enjoy it. And try not to show your nips in a bar, even if it really isn’t your town.
Barbara’s misadventures in “Not My Town” have been documented on various social media channels with the hashtag #VailLiving and/or #notmytown. For everything Aspen-related, search #AspenLiving. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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