Colorado's Cinderella ski village, Vail has come of age swiftly since it was staked out in 1962. German hoteliers, French restaurateurs, and celebrity skiers have transformed it from a one-industry town into a year-round international resort. Beaver Creek, Vail's young and glitzy sister resort 10 miles west, sprang up in 1980, but simple mountain life is alive and well in the other valley towns of Minturn, Edwards, and Eagle. Until recently, locals claimed there were two seasons in the Vail Valley: winter and construction. Now, with new resorts, biking trails, and golf courses, the secret is out. Summer-- with blissful weather and a list of activities that far outnumber winter's snowy occupations-- is stealing the show.
Lodge at Vail 174 E. Gore Creek Dr., Vail; 800/331-5634 or 970/476-5011, fax 970/476-7425; doubles from $215. Vail's only hotel in 1962, the 118-room Lodge was constructed as a dorm for workers building the ski area. It has come a long way since that time, when it offered $10 summer weekend packages (with meals thrown in) to attract off-season business. Now it's the top crash pad in town.
Sonnenalp Resort 20 Vail Rd., Vail; 800/654-8312 or 970/476-5656, fax 970/476-1639; doubles from $150. Sonnenalp's Bavaria Haus spa is reason enough to come to Vail. Try a Moor mud treatment or the Turkish steam room. Then dip into a pot of raclette fondue at the Swiss Chalet, one of three restaurants in the 150-room resort.
Hyatt Regency Beaver Creek 136 E. Thomas Place, Beaver Creek; 800/233-1234 or 970/949-1234, fax 970/949-4164; doubles from $205. The 275-room Hyatt is one of the loveliest addresses in Beaver Creek, a vacation town full of resort one-upmanship. In the evening, sit by the fireplace in the soaring, lodge-like lobby and listen to tall tales by resident historian Frank Doll.
Pines Lodge at Beaver Creek 141 Scott Hill Rd., Beaver Creek; 800/859-8242 or 970/845-7900, fax 970/845-7809; doubles from $110. In winter the service here is so attentive your skis are waxed while you sleep. But in summer, the place feels deserted; you may wait in an empty lobby for a quarter of an hour before a valet appears with your car keys. Once you're ensconced in one of the 60 cushy rooms, all is forgiven. Ask for a room facing east for a view of Beaver Creek Village.
Eagle River Inn 145 N. Main St., Minturn; 800/344-1750 or 970/827-5761, fax 970/827-4020; doubles from $98. Twenty years ago, this 12-room inn was a run-down $12-a-night flophouse. The back yard-- lined with weeping willows and bordered by the Eagle River-- is a tranquil place to try your hand at croquet.
Minturn Inn 442 Main St., Minturn; 800/646-8876 or 970/827-9647, fax 970/827-5590; doubles from $65. When Mick Kelly and Tom and Cathy Sullivan bought this 10-room log house, they stripped away linoleum and wall-to-wall shag and discovered mining shaft braces, testimony to Minturn's vibrant mining town days.
Lodge at Cordillera 2205 Cordillera Way, Edwards; 800/877-3529 or 970/926-2200, fax 970/926-2486; doubles from $280. This 6,500-acre mountaintop estate houses 56 guest rooms, most with fireplaces and private decks, all with unobstructed vistas.
Blu's 193 E. Gore Creek Dr., Vail; 970/476-3113; breakfast for two $18. Vailites ease into the day with blueberry French toast, omelettes, and granola, served on a patio next to Gore Creek. Don't worry: you're far enough back that you won't get snagged by someone learning to cast a fly rod in a morning session. Great spot for lunch, but it fills up fast.
Cucina Rustica 174 E. Gore Creek Dr., Vail; 970/476-5011; breakfast for two $30. At 2 a.m., Dino DeBell and his staff begin baking pastries and breads. By the time you emerge from under the covers, you'll think you're still dreaming: a copper-and-stone buffet is lined with smoked fish and a half-dozen varieties of wild berries. Sit in oak-and-leather chairs designed by Bob Zimmer, who worked with Robert Redford on Sundance. Or eat on the patio, amid snapdragons, petunias, and field poppies.
Daily Grind 288 Bridge St., Vail; 970/476-5856. A quintessential coffeehouse, with espresso drinks, fruit juices, and Birkenstock fare: fresh muffins, vegetable soups, and sandwiches bursting with alfalfa sprouts.