Vail Winter Vacation at Lion Square LodgeSeptember 14, 2010 4 Comments
Our holiday in Vail, Colorado was by far one of the best skiing vacations we have enjoyed yet. It was mid January 2009 and we flew non-stop into Vail’s Eagle County Regional Airport from Los Angeles where our shuttle driver was waiting to take us to the Lion Square Lodge in Lionshead Vail. Big Mountain Transportation is the company we used to book our “Executive Van” where we paid $200 in advance of the trip (not including tip). This van was able to accommodate our whole family including my husband and two kids (ages 4 and 6), my parents, and my brother and his wife. The airport was about 45 minutes away from our lodge, and we decided to stop off at a market to pick up food and a few supplies before continuing on to our destination. We knew our lodge was equipped with a full kitchen so we wanted to make sure we had everything we needed for the duration of our stay.
Some of the amenities offered by Lion Square Lodge included 24-hour front desk, concierge services, ski rental office, ski storage, complimentary ski valet, and ski and grocery store shuttles in the winter. One thing worth noting is the complimentary cookies and hot chocolate available at the ski valet each day. They were absolutely irresistible – what a nice touch! The lodge also had an outdoor pool with three spa tubs and a small fitness center on site. They also provided complimentary passes to the Vail Cascade Resort’s health club and spa, one mile away. Complimentary wireless Internet access was available in the lobby, lounge, and business center.
There is an Italian restaurant on site called the Mezaluna restaurant. There are also several restaurants within a short walking distance from the lodge as well as plenty of shopping. We ate at the Mezaluna Italian food restaurant on our first night and the hostess had no trouble seating our family of 8 despite the last minute reservation.
Situated right on the slopes, Lion Square Lodge offers lovely views of the mountains, the slopes, wooded areas, and the meandering creek below. There were deer and other animal tracks in the freshly fallen snow that added to it’s natural charm. Each morning we dressed and walked down to the lifts located just a few paces from the lodge’s door. The lifts were a smooth and easy ride to slopes that seemed endless and surrounded by breathtaking beauty. We learned from our driver that Vail is the largest ski area in North America with over 5,000 acres!
Our two children were enrolled in the ski school which kept them entertained while freeing up our time to play. The price was $139 for the full day ski lesson and lunch. The cost was $20 more for children ages 5 to 6 who wanted access to the lifts, which my 6 year old daughter did on our last full day. Throughout the day we would peek in on them in their helmets, plowing down the gentle training slopes at the foot of the Gondola next door to Lion Square Lodge. The location could not have been better – for us or for them – and we had complete peace of mind leaving them in the most capable hands of the instructors. The instructors were patient, kind and had plenty of energy to match that of the children in their care. All the children were fed as well, making it even easier for us to enjoy ourselves, knowing that our children were well looked after.
On one particular day my husband took the kids inner tube sliding at the top of the mountain. Inner tubing was only available for a small window of time (between 12 noon and 4pm), so immediately after lunch they purchased their tickets on the main floor next to the ski school (only about $12 to $15 each for 1 hour), and rode the Gondola up to the top. The inner tube tracks where off to the side, next to where the ski school held lessons for the older kids. It was just a few feet away, and there were 4 or 5 tracks specifically groomed for the occasion. A special lift for inner tubes was in operation and would tow each inner tube along with its passenger up a hill with short cables and latches. Kids and adults alike couldn’t get enough of the exhilarating rides and took full advantage of the paid hour of sliding. There were cameras located in fixed places along the tracks automatically snapping pictures, which were available later for purchase.
For lunch, we would either stop at the chalet on the mountain, or on ocassion, I went back to the lodge to prepare myself a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich, along with a hot cup of tea. There was a restaurant at the top of the mountain near chair 3 called Wildwood Restaurant. We had lunch at this 11,000 elevation food oasis not just because of the convenience, but also because of the wonderful mouth watering barbeque menu choices.
After a long day on the slopes, we would take a dip in the heated pool and hot tub to melt away the day’s stiffness. It felt dreamy as the thick steam billowed into the icy air around us. The setting was picturesque with the nearby flowing river and snow covered trees. Here we met people from all over the world where we engaged in entertaining conversations and exchanged our day’s experiences. Even after a full day of mountain activities, the kids still found the energy to participate in snow ball fights around the pool.
Each evening we went out for dinner in our group of six adults and 2 children. Everything was walking distance in Lionshead, which made it ideal. One of our favorite restaurants was the Vail Chophouse, where my brother ate a 42 ounce Porterhouse steak all by himself! The food and ambiance was so good that we dined here on two separate occasions while on our vacation. On our second visit a magician dropped in at our table just before dessert and dazzled the kids (and us adults) with some wonderful magic tricks involving coins and cards. My 6 year old daughter was especially wide eyed with wonder! It was a very nice, unexpected and a memorable surprise.
After dinner we would stroll and peek in the windows of the various shops on the way back to our lodge. There was an open ice skating rink in the center of an outdoor shopping area where we would stop to admire the scenery. It was a winter wonderland with all the Christmas lights still decorating the square. Eventually the bone chilling cold nudged us back to the warmth of our lodge, where we would sip red wine by a roaring fire and share the day’s adventures.
We’ve been to many Colorado ski resorts in the past including Winter Park and Keystone. They were all marvelous, but many of our family members experienced altitude sickness because of the extremely high elevations. Our Vail trip proved to be a much more pleasant experience because of the lower elevations. This is definitely something to consider when travelling with young kids.
Our return flight was later in the day, so we first had lunch at Garfinkles in Lionshead just after checking out of our hotel. As expected our Big Mountain Transportation driver picked us up on time and transported us to the Eagle County Regional Airport with plenty of time to check in and relax. The flight back to Los Angeles was non-stop and easy. This was a holiday I would very much like to repeat in the future with my family.