With my snowboarding skills firmly intact, I decided this season I would head west again (after three years) for some real-deal riding. Here are my highlights from my January jaunt to Vail and Beaver Creek.

Favorite runs:
Avanti and Pickeroon, Vail (lift ticket $97 a day)—often-groomed, excellent mix of intermediate and advanced slope.
Larkspur Bowl and Golden Bear, Beaver Creek (lift ticket $97 a day)—the bowl was next to empty and made me shout, WOOHOO, multiple times; I renamed Golden Bear “Honey Bear” because it was such a sweet ride.

  • Favorite après-ski spots:
  • Garfinkel’s, Lionshead (drinks for two $15)—lots of picnic tables outside, making it easy to spot your friends; I accidentally stayed après après.
  • Los Amigos, at Vail Village (drinks for two $15)—watch tired experts and out-of-their-league beginners make their last run down the black-diamond Pepi’s Face, and be thankful you’ve already loosened your boots.

Favorite lunch spot:
The Broke Arrow, Arrowhead Village, Beaver Creek (lunch for two $30)—they have an outdoor grill and they put forest green, fleece blankets out on the chairs that surround the outdoor fire pit…nice!

Favorite new accomodations:
Arrabelle Resort at Vail (Superior King room from $966 per night)—I stayed with my friend Dave in Avon, but the Arrabelle would be my choice for a luxury crash pad.

Favorite spa:
Allegria Spa, Park Hyatt, Beaver Creek ($55 a day per person, includes entry to the Aquas Sanitas water sanctuary, five outdoor hot tubs, an outdoor pool, and the fitness room; additional services available)—without my trip to the spa on my last day, I would never have been able to run to catch the plane I almost missed due to a storm on the Vail Pass. Soothes sore sporting muscles like a dream. Don’t miss the contoured, heated loungers in the lavender-infused Tepidarium. I never wanted to leave!

Laura Teusink is Travel + Leisure’s associate managing editor.