Affordable Off Season Adventures in Vail

Travel to Vail off season for  warm days, chilly nights and great food Photo: Jason Heflin

VAIL, Colo. October 30, 2012 — The undiscovered magic of Vail, Colorado has nothing to do with its well-known powder or black diamonds, and everything to do with warm days, chilled nights, and budget vacations.

Vail Colorado is the ideal weekend getaway, but spending a few days in this modern mountain hamlet can often be out of reach for those on a budget.  Traveling out-of-season can reward the traveler with an unforgettable and affordable trip.

Make the magic of an affordable Vail vacation a reality by following these five tips:

Shoulder Seasons

Vail is synonymous with skiing, but with those amazing powder days comes a tough-to-swallow price tag.  In the winter, accommodation rates alone are out of reach for the budget conscious.  If one enjoys Mother Nature’s other seasons, however, Vail can become quite an affordable option.

World-class resorts, such as the customer service utopia of The Sebastian, can make for a reasonably priced base camp.

Summer and fall are an excellent time to visit the high Rockies, and many even argue they are the best time to vacation or visit. In autumn, the changing aspen leaves transform the mountains into a colorful patchwork of brilliant yellow set against the dark evergreen canvas of the spruce forests.

If world-class fall foliage isn’t inspiration enough to book a ticket, then consider the warmer months.  Vail has an incredible summer season full of sunny days, mild nights, and enough adventure activities, like whitewater rafting, hiking, or rock climbing, to pack a four-day weekend from dawn to dusk.

Rolling on a Budget

Nestled in a cozy corner of the trendy Solaris complex of Vail Village is arguably the swankiest bowling alley on the planet. Bol can be nearly impossible to get in to during ski season without making a reservation days in advance, but during the summer and fall months there are often opportunities to simply walk in, or at least snag a table and a lane reservation by calling a few hours in ahead.

Bol is one part fine dining experience (think fois gras and tuna tartar), one part hip martini bar, and one part futuristic bowling alley. Imagine a mash-up between the bar in the movie Tron and the ultimate grown-up play place. The crowd is a comfortable mix of casual or well dressed out-of-towners and laid back locals.

 Two-Wheeled Adventure

When the snow retreats to the lofty summits of the 14,000 ft. peaks of central Colorado, there is one sport that dominates the region: mountain biking. Road bicycles and simple cruiser bikes are also very popular during summer, but it’s hard to walk down a street without encountering a dusty trail rider wearing an enormous smile on his or her face.

For the best experience, invest in a day pass for the gondola. These glassed-in cubes slide up the mountainside with you and your trusty metal steed, all the way to the peak of Vail Mountain. Once at the top, bomb down some of the sweetest single track in the west. It’s highly recommended to study a map, however, since some of the trails are classified as “downhill,” which translates, “extremely steep and deadly.”

Back Country Cruise

Try a guided Jeep tour with Nova Guides.  A half-day excursion out to Camp Hale, a former WWII military training base, can carry you and your crew to new heights, literally. The twisting roads kink and turn their way up to elevations most city slickers don’t experience in their lifetime.

These rugged off-road trips are well known for getting visitors up close and personal with flora and fauna too. Red tailed hawks, deer, elk, marmot, and the elusive and chirpy pica can be spotted along the journey. The guides are extremely safe and happy to explain the history of the area and its natural wonders.

Be forewarned, temperatures can get a bit nippy up high, so take a good jacket even on the warmest day down in Vail.

Dinner Specials

When in Vail, eating is more than a way to stay fueled for the next adventure; it’s an experience. During these “shoulder seasons,” the Vail Valley becomes a shade more affordable.

Sweet Basil is the place to see and be seen in Vail Village. The night we visited, we were seated next to an NBA star. A few tables behind us, a reality TV star was dining with a friend. Reservations are a must and the entrees are incredible. Rocky Mountain Trout,  Colorado Lamb Shank, and their roasted beet salad give the restaurant farm-to-table bragging rights.

Elway’s Vail, a spin-off of former Bronco’s quarterback John Elway’s Denver restaurant, is a shining example. A multi-course gourmet meal can be snagged for under $50 per person, but only during the off season. This isn’t just a soup and salad combo either; we’re talking melt-in-your-mouth steaks, salads and soups using locally sourced ingredients, rounded off with desserts like Elway’s take on the classic Hostess Ding Dong, created by hand in house and covered in caramel and chocolate sauce.



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Jason Heflin

Jason spent his youth exploring the creeks, trails, and back roads of his home state, Kentucky. His final year in college he joined a study abroad trip to Ireland.  His time exploirng the hills and pubs of the Emerald Isle sparked his passion for  travel.  Since then, his journeys have landed him on five continents and in dozens of countries.

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