Whether it's a family friendly retreat or party central you're looking for, T+L helps you decide between Aspen and Vail.
Hot Hotel: Discerning skiers are heading to the St. Regis Aspen Resort (doubles from $799), which is fresh off a redesign that gives the modern rooms a touch of Gilded Age opulence.
Lodging for Less: Updated last year, the 45-room Hotel Aspen (800/527-7369; doubles from $299) is a hip alternative for travelers looking to save their money for lift tickets or late-night magnums of Veuve Clicquot.
Après-Ski Scene: The younger bump-skiers take over the banquettes at the Kimpton’s Sky Hotel (800/546-7866; drinks for two $20); a quieter scene unfolds on the fireside couches of the Little Nell (970/920-4600; drinks for two $30).
Coveted Table: Cache Cache (970/925-3835; dinner for two $150) is still the choice reservation, but townies are flocking to casual newcomer Justice Snow’s (970/948-9209; dinner for two $60).
Bring It Back: Look for gorgeous gemstone jewelry at Maja DuBrul (970/920-1133), run by the granddaughter-in-law of Walter Paepcke, who founded modern-day Aspen.
Celebrity Sightings: Owen and Luke Wilson, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, Jack Nicholson—and their pilots, of course.
Hot Hotel: After several years and a $2 billion investment, Vail’s village redevelopment is complete; the Four Seasons Resort Vail (800/332-3442; doubles from $635)—with its claw-foot tubs and 75-foot heated outdoor pool—is the crown jewel of this renaissance.
Lodging for Less: Vail is surprisingly short on affordable rooms; the best place for deals on rentals and hotels (including the new Sebastian Vail) is vailonsale.com.
Après-Ski Scene: The Arrabelle at Vail Square, a RockResort, has given new life to the village’s Lionshead base area, with everyone from Mexican power brokers to Denver day-trippers heading to the sunny patio at the hotel’s Tavern on the Square (970/754-7777; drinks for two $20).
Coveted Table: Elway’s (970/754-7818; dinner for two $120) just opened at the Lodge at Vail, a RockResort; its house-cut prime steaks and 350-bottle wine list are giving competition to the area’s other hot spots, Kelly Liken and Larkspur.
Bring It Back: Don’t miss a stop at Gorsuch, the legendary family-run boutique where coyote-fur boots and turquoise belt buckles set the bar for mountain fashion.
Celebrity Sightings: Michelle, Malia, and Sasha Obama; local Olympian Lindsey Vonn; and fund managers on corporate retreats.
Ignore Gorsuch's chain-like omnipresence: when the moneyed set shop for the slopes, this is where they come. The original store, opened in Vail Village by former Olympians Dave and Renie Gorsuch, has been outfitting skiers since 1966, and its popularity has spurred outlets in Aspen, Beaver Creek, and Keystone. Sure, you'll find North Face jackets, Descente snowpants, and top-of-the-line equipment, but also top-tier home furnishings—from French stag wine glasses to Feu de Bois candles.
Tip: With the inside track on the latest skis and excellent customer service, this is the place to get demos.
St. Regis Aspen Resort
179-room brick hotel between Aspen Mountain's 2 main ski lifts. Suites come with butler service.
Aspen's singular ski-in/ski-out property is also its most glamorous address. It doesn't hurt that almost every single guest is swathed in Loro Piana cashmere and Prada skiwear, many carrying designer dogs to match their duds (the in-room pet dining menu and dog beds make it perfect for pet-porting travelers). The 92 spacious rooms, recently touched up by designer Holly Hunt, blend classic Aspen touches with a residential warmth. Rooms feature gas fireplaces, plasma TVs, and marble bathrooms. As cozy-chic as the rooms are, you may prefer being seen at the new bar, Element 47, sipping a Silver Lining (Colorado vodka and blood orange puree topped with an edible silver Aspen leaf) while weighing the virtues of hedge funds.
About 10 minutes from downtown, this Cherry Creek steakhouse is owned by former superstar quarterback John Elway (who occasionally stops by to have a steak and sign a few autographs). A granite water wall marks the entrance to the dining room, which is furnished with white-clothed tables, brown-suede booths, and several TV’s tuned into sporting events. There’s also an outdoor patio which serves as a live music venue during the summer. In addition to the signature USDA Prime steaks, served with traditional sides like Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, the menu also includes non-steak entrées such as dashi-braised Chilean sea bass.