Europeans love Vail. The resort attracts a healthy transatlantic contingent who appreciate the mountain's toughness and the amenities in the village. In fact, the resort probably comes closest in the States to mimicking an Alpine resort, in everything from the architecture to the cuisine to the terrain. This is partly due to the legacy of early Vail developer Pete Siebert, who imported the cozy A-frames and gabled chalets that he saw while serving in Europe in World War II. Compared to slightly tonier Aspen, Vail regulars champion skiing over klatching, and fancy themselves a bit more hard-core in their mountain pursuits.
Beaver Creek, which opened in 1980, is a 15-minute drive from Vail, closer to the regional airport but farther from Denver—and thus, say devotees, from Vail's weekend crowds. Really a collection of three base villages—Beaver Creek, Arrowhead, and Bachelor Gulch (you can ski from one to another)—it's also smaller and pricier than Vail, with fewer options. The main village of Beaver Creek, with an ice rink at its center, is incredibly compact, with heated walkways and escalators leading to the lifts.
WHEN TO GO
Vail and Beaver Creek's ski season runs from late November through late April, but visitor numbers dip in January and between late February and early March. The area is beautiful during the summer, too: Wildflowers bloom in June and July, and daytime temperatures reach 75 degrees. Vail is a bit festival-mad, with the Vail Arts Festival in August, and both the Jazz Festival and Oktoberfest in September. Beaver Creek's Vilar Center hosts a year-round schedule of performing arts, including, dance, music, and theater.
HOW TO GET THERE
Vail is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Denver International Airport (DIA) along I-70; Beaver Creek is 15 minutes farther. Alternatively, the regional Eagle County Airport receives direct flights from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and nine other cities; it's a half-hour drive west of Vail on I-70 and closer to Beaver Creek. Once you're in Vail or Beaver Creek, you don't really need a car, so book a van transfer with Colorado Mountain Express, which serves both airports (800-525-6363; www.cmex.com). Tip: If you're flying into DIA and decide to rent a car, avoid I-70 early on Saturday mornings, when the city's day-trippers clog the highway. Once in Vail, use the town's efficient public transportation system, which provides buses that ferry visitors from village to village. Beaver Creek also has a free shuttle service.
Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau
100 E. Meadow Drive, Suite 34
Tel: 800 653 4523