Ski season is not quite upon us, but that hasn’t stopped ski bums and mountain lovers from flocking to the mountains already. Vail, the legendary ski town that boasts the most skiable acres in all of Colorado, is readying itself for an influx of visitors in the month of October, marking the unofficial beginning of its busy season.
So if you’re thinking of indulging in a little winter getaway to round out the year, you should start planning now.
Victor Rossi is the Chief Concierge at the Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail, where he has been for the past 20 years. His career in hospitality predates even that, though, as he began working at the Resort at Longboat Key Club in Florida, in 1987, and would go on to work at various resorts around the Sunshine State over the next decade and change. But after a vacation in the Rocky Mountains, Rossi and his family moved to Colorado in 2000. After a short stint at the Brown Palace in Denver, the Rossis finally landed in Vail in 2001, where they’ve been ever since.
“I never looked back after that,” says Rossi. “I love my job.”
Given his extensive background, we (correctly) assumed that Rossi would make the perfect candidate to dish on all things Vail: where to get the best cup of coffee, how to make the most out of a stay at Sonnenalp and what to say to endear yourself to the locals (spoiler alert: its very easy). Below, everything you could possibly need to know in advance of your next trip to the mountain town.
InsideHook: What’s an underutilized part of your hotel or unique service that your hotel offers that I won’t find elsewhere?
Victor Rossi: Our hiking and snowshoeing, available through our activities department. We are the only hotel in Vail permitted through the U.S. Forest Service. We offer almost daily hiking adventures and special event day trips limited to our hotel guests only.
What’s the best time of day to get my table of choice to myself at one of the in-house restaurants?
We are fortunate to have very popular restaurants in the hotel that are all open to the public. Best way to get in at your preferred time is to make a reservation in advance. Early and late seating times for all meals are always the easiest to get the best table selection. Requesting tables at the time of reservation is always a good way to communicate your seating preference.
Is there a time of year when that’s even easier to find?
Off season is always easier for a slower pace meal. Try to avoid holidays and holiday weekends if you are specifically looking for a particular seating area.
Where can I get a cup of coffee and go for a good walk?
Vail has many great coffee shops. Our Treff Café is a European coffee shop with great coffee drinks, teas, pastries and beer/wine and cocktails. Yeti’s Grind is a local favorite coffee shop as well, and located only a one-minute walk from the Sonnenalp.
What’s the single best meal in Vail, in your opinion?
We have so many to choose from. The Left Bank for great classic French cuisine and Sweet Basil for contemporary, creative American.
Is there a restaurant where only locals go?
Our locals take advantage of all of the great Vail restaurants, especially during the off seasons. Our Bully Ranch is definitely a locals’ favorite for a pub-style menu and a Colorado, western theme. Russell’s is one of my favorite steakhouses and La Bottega is one of my favorite Italian cuisine options.
What’s a bar where only locals go?
The George is certainly popular with the younger crowd, located in the Vail Mountain Haus.
Any particularly good late night spots?
Several great options along Bridge Street, as well as our King’s Club here at the Sonnenalp, with seasonal live music.
Best place for a sunset cocktail?
Outside venues like the Fitz, Bully Ranch, Alpenrose deck, Los Amigo’s and the Vail Chophouse.
Where’s a good spot to snap an Instagram-worthy photo?
Best place to eat a meal or have a beer outside?
Bully Ranch, Alpenrose, La Bottega, Mountain Standard, El Segundo, Fitz or Up The Creek.
What’s the easiest way to get around town?
Vail is very pedestrian friendly, with almost all Vail dining and attractions accessible by foot. The complimentary in-town shuttle can get you from side to side quite easily. Most finer hotels offer complimentary shuttle services within town as well.
Any potential issues I should be worried about or pay attention to when it comes to public transportation (busy times, delays, petty crime, etc.)?
We have no issues in Vail! Safe transportation is always available — any time of the day or late evening. In town, the shuttle buses get quite busy in the late afternoon during ski season, so avoiding 2:00–5:00 pm would be my only suggestion.
What’s the one thing everyone forgets to pack? Or the one thing everyone should remember to pack when visiting?
Sunscreen — high-altitude sun is intense; portable, refillable water bottles (hydration is so important); hiking shoes or sturdy athletic shoe in the summer and a winter walking boot, although in the streets of Vail, the snow is melted, so it would only apply for snowshoeing or off-village walking.
Is there a lesser-known cultural institution worth visiting?
The Colorado Ski and Snowsports Museum is great for telling the history of Vail and the ski industry. The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in the summertime.
What’s the best thing you can only get in Vail?
Golden Bear jewelry!
What’s the best thing you can only do in Vail?
Visit Piney Lake.
What’s something I can say or do to endear myself to locals?
What’s something that tourists tend to do that really annoys locals?
We love our guests! Come as you are. Personally, I do not like talking about dinner at 7:00 a.m., but I understand that New Yorkers are operating on a different clock.
Finally, what’s the best book to read about the area before I come?
Photographic books by John Fielder.
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