Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
December 23, 2009
We arrive at the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa and we’re checked in and on the lift within 10 minutes.
That makes me very happy because we’ve driven from Aspen for my dear friend Listle’s wedding, or “shreddin’ weddin'” as she referred to it in the e-mail invitation she’d sent two weeks before the wedding. The point is, I want to be on time.
The last time I stayed at the Vail Cascade was in the late ’90s when I was working for Transworld Snowboarding magazine. Every year, over 200 of Transworld’s advertisers, staff, photographers, and other industry rats would get together at some epic resort and for five days, we’d snowboard, party, and pretend we were there for business.
Somehow, no matter where we were, every year we had epic powder. And every year we went to a cooler resort than the year before. It started with Jackson, then Banff, then Whistler. We always stayed at the coolest hotels.
The year we stayed in the Banff Springs, which is like a giant castle, we had a medieval theme and the whole staff dressed up in costumes the night everyone arrived. At Whistler, we stayed in the Chateau Whistler, a four-star Fairmont hotel where there was a memorable eucalyptus steam room.
The year after that, it was Vail.
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I’ll admit I was a little disappointed. I’d been going to Vail my whole life so it was nothing new. My parents took me for the first time when I was 6, when I had Rossignol Smash Js that were 120 cm long and I was scared to swim through the plastic strips that separated the outdoor pool from the indoor pool in the lobby.
My parents had a timeshare in Avon for many years and I’d attended CU Boulder, so it was just old hat. I loved going to these exotic locations I hadn’t visited before – mountain ranges in places that were just a little too far off the map for my New England family that had a ski house in Stratton, Vt.
What I didn’t realize was the Vail Cascade is another side of Vail, like literally. It’s a beautiful hotel that has its own lift and it’s the farthest lift to the west, so it’s removed from the main arteries of Vail Village and Lionshead. The year we had our industry conference there (this time the theme was James Bond), it snowed. By having lift access out the front door of the Cascade, we got untracked powder and lots of it.
So I’m feeling nostalgic, not only because of these pleasant memories but also because my dear friend Listle is getting married to the love of her life, and better yet, they’re doing it their way.
They’d only been engaged a few weeks (he popped the question while they were vacationing in Jamaica back in October) when they decided they wanted to get married right away. Here’s a shocker: It seemed they actually cared more about being married than they did about planning some big, fancy wedding.
They put their own twist on it and I can say hands-down it was one of the most touching ceremonies I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t one of these affairs you normally see on top of mountains, like at the Aspen Mountain Club when everyone is uploading in formal wear, the bride shivering in her strapless gown and trying to hold a smile as she poses for photos in a blizzard. The bride wasn’t decked out in some a fancy dress by Vera Wang or Monique Lhuillier.
The bride wore Burton.
It was a white one piece, to be exact, with a belted drop lowrise and faux fur collar. The groom wore all black, though I’m pretty sure that’s the outfit he wears all the time. The “aisle” her dad walked her down was a ridgeline that led to a clearing. It was at the top of a run that was far enough out of the way that no one passed by us.
The guests whistled the wedding song and the ski patrol brought over a garbage bag for our champagne glasses and offered anyone who needed it a ride in the snowmobile. When the ceremony was over, the happy couple snowboarded down the mountain with cans tied to strings attached to their boards, like most people have on their “Just Married” cars. The wedding party followed, picking our way through some early season powder. I could say in all honesty that it was the most fun I’d ever had at a wedding ceremony in my life.
We reconvened at the base of Lionshead on the patio of Garfinkle’s where buffalo wings and nachos and cheese fries and other things a princess should never eat were being served on the picnic table outside. I’m loving the whole old Vail vibe, this now rustic old watering hole that’s cozy compared to all the shiny and new in the area.
The next day we sleep in and head for breakfast at the Atwater, but my grilled chicken sandwich with avocado, roasted red peppers and cheese has bacon so it kind of works.
Then I take it upon myself to accompany the groom to the Aria spa. He has a kink in his shoulder and needed a massage. I opted for a Triple Peel Detox facial since I’m more concerned with my looks than my muscles, though it also happens to be the most luxurious treatment I’ve had in quite a while. We’re talking 80 minutes of beauty-enhancing bliss complete with a scalp and shoulder massage, those moisturizer hand-mit things, and a very in-the-know esthetician who talks about “the skin” in third person (I love that), and applies moisturizer with an ultrasound machine. At one point, I totally forget where I am.
I have no doubt in my mind that Listle and Ninja will have a happily ever after. Clearly they’re off to a pretty good start.