A Black Girl’s Guide To Vail, Colorado’s Alpine Village And Picturesque Ski Town

Jack Affleck

Before I became an adult, my experiences and vacations were limited. When I left home, I planned for my adult years to be filled with adventure and exploration. As my world expanded, so did my adventure bucket list. One of my biggest desires was to try skiing.

I got to live out this goal thanks to an invite from the Grand Hyatt Vail. I could check skiing off my bucket list of experiences and take in the popular ski town of Vail. The city is a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding because of its slopes, which make it great for beginners like me to experts, even attracting the Obamas years ago. It has 5,317 skiable acres, which is 4,000 American football fields, making Vail Mountain the largest ski resort in Colorado.

When I arrived, I felt like I was in a romantic Hallmark movie, the protagonist hoping to meet her true love on a ski adventure. Unfortunately, the latter didn’t happen, but I did step into the essence of a picturesque mountain ski town with tall snow-covered spruce trees, brick streets and sidewalks, ice skating in the square, and storefronts that ranged from ski shops to cafes. It was magical and I could not wait to try something new.

Here is what my experience was like as a first-time skier visiting Vail.

A Black Girl’s Guide To Vail, Colorado’s Alpine Village And Picturesque Ski Town
Grand Hyatt Vail

The Hotel

At the center of my ski adventure was Grand Hyatt Vail, which makes skiing accessible as a luxury ski-in/ski-out resort. Two of the hotel’s unique features include a ski rental shop, Venture Sports, on site to pick up ski gear, and a chair lift that takes you to the mountain. The staff there ensured my ski boots were on correctly, and you can also purchase anything from goggles and gloves to things as simple as hand warmers if you forget your own.

Vail Mountain’s Chair 20 sits right outside of the ski rental shop, but the terrain is too advanced for novice skiers. My options were to take the Grand Hyatt Vail shuttle or private transportation in the hotel’s Suburban to Lionshead Village to ride Gondola 19 up to Vail Mountain for my first time on the slopes. From Grand Hyatt Vail, it’s a quick 10-minute ride to two villages filled with shops, restaurants, and outdoor activities that you can get to via the shuttle. Getting around was much easier than I anticipated, and I’m glad I didn’t have to get a rideshare to explore.

The 285-room property opened in 2019 and is home to two restaurants, a spa and fitness center and a Topgolf Swing Suites. The terrace rooms offer balconies with amazing views. My double queen room had a great view of Chair 20 going up the stunning Vail Mountain, and below, you could see the banks of Gore Creek from the terrace.

During downtime, my friend and I would hang out in the hotel lobby to enjoy freshly baked chocolate chip cookies or s’mores with a complimentary champagne toast.

A Black Girl’s Guide To Vail, Colorado’s Alpine Village And Picturesque Ski Town
Courtesy of Eric Dunn

Skiing on Vail Mountain

My personal trainer told me that skiing was “no joke” to the body, so ever since I told her I was going, we started preparing my body for the trip. I’d started consuming more water and incorporating exercises to get my legs and arms ready for the moment. But you don’t know how your body will handle everything until you do it.

When I arrived, it was snowing, making the mountains perfect for my first ski lesson. According to my Vail Mountain private ski instructor, Christy, fresh powder snow is more manageable to ski through and makes for a softer landing if you fall. I fell a few times and was thankful for the blankets of snow.

Vail Mountain offers group and private ski lessons, and I did a full-day lesson on the green trail, which is great for beginners. Our instructor shared the history of Vail with us as we rode the gondola up the mountain, made sure our boots were on correctly so we didn’t bruise our legs, and taught us how to use our skis. She also showed us how to walk, slide and glide down mini hills. My biggest challenge was braking, which requires you to turn your hips and legs inward to form a pizza slice with your skis. It was the most awkward and uncomfortable experience, but as I started progressing, it was such a thrill. Many people of all age ranges and skill types were taking classes in the mountains. I especially loved to see how fearless the children were in the snow. Classes can start at age 3, and I watched toddlers find their way with a wild and carefree spirit. If they could do it, so can I.

A Black Girl’s Guide To Vail, Colorado’s Alpine Village And Picturesque Ski Town
Makoto Vail

Food, Fun & Relaxation

Relaxing in the room was my favorite part after a long day of skiing.

In 2024, the hotel opened Makoto Vail by chef Makoto Okuwa, which features innovative and contemporary Japanese food. There was a variety of sushi options and small plates to choose from. You can see the staff preparing the food in the open kitchen when walking into the restaurant. My friend took the adventurous route and got the Caterpillar roll, which featured an eel. I had the Wagyu Beef Stone, a fun Instagrammable way to cook beef. We left room for the desserts Fruit Toban Yaki and the Flaming Death Star, which were served with a presentation that had to be captured by our phones.

The hotel offers breakfast with different room packages and every morning, we ate a breakfast buffet with mountain views at the Gessner. This restaurant is open for your first meal of the day as well as your last. For dinner, it turns into an American steakhouse with different meat cuts to choose from. There is also seafood if you are looking for something lighter.

We also ventured off-site for a dining experience in Vail Village. We took the shuttle and walked through the village to Chasing Rabbits, a unique entertainment venue in Vail. The venue has four different rooms, each with a different menu and theme. We ate at the restaurant with a Mediterranean-inspired menu and played some games at the Rabbit Hole arcade.

Before you leave Vail, spend some time in The Spa at Grand Hyatt Vail to rehydrate your skin and show your muscles some love with a massage. I needed that massage so badly after putting my body through skiing. I felt energized after the experience. The spa also had a steam room, but you can warm up in the property’s hot tub and heated pool. After dinner, I went to the hot tub, which was the best way to end the trip.

I’m so happy to have checked skiing off my list after several attempts I made to experience it. Skiing was challenging for my body, but after experiencing it, I would do it again; especially if I had a great place to relax and recover my body, as I did at the Grand Hyatt Vail.

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