Rugged and Romantic: Get Swept Away in Vail Valley

Vail Valley’s dramatic landscape lends itself to a range of activities and experiences that will sweep you off your feet in more ways than one. From Rocky Mountain outdoor adventures to romantic escapades, there are no limits to what’s possible in a setting this lofty and lovely. 

Surrounded by soaring peaks, Vail Valley is home to some of the most visually striking topography in Colorado, and its history shows that it has been and continues to be nothing short of inspiring.

Experience Authentic Colorado

The Gore Range has been a Vail Valley backdrop for an authentic Western lifestyle since the first settlers arrived in the late 1800s. After the mining boom went bust, Minturn turned to the “green gold” of growing lettuce for profit.

Though the success of Evercrisp Lettuce was short-lived, visitors can still shop a glorious harvest of fresh, locally grown produce at Minturn Market, a Saturday farmers’ market that runs from July through September.

Living close to the land is another legacy with continuity as seen on area ranches that welcome guests for a variety of outdoor pursuits. 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott was homesteaded in the 1800s. Today, visitors can take horseback trail rides, zipline tours and guided off-road excursions on the historic property. Forty-acre Piney River Ranch is associated with the explorations of John Wesley Powell; in fact, the trailhead to the 13,000-foot Mt. Powell begins at the ranch. In addition to Colorado hiking adventures, visitors can go fly fishing and horseback riding as well as canoeing and stand up paddle boarding on a private lake.

  • Go Rugged. Grab your buffalo plaid flannel shirt and head to Avon’s Nottingham Park for the annual Man of the Cliff event in October. Ladies are welcome as well. Competitions include ax throwing, hammer tossing, arrow shooting, keg pitching and beer drinking!
  • Be Romantic. Partner up for a day of visiting outdoor markets throughout Vail Valley. In addition to fresh-picked delights in Minturn, there are farmers’ markets in Edwards and Vail with a festival atmosphere that includes music and artisans. Swish and swirl together at Vines at Vail wine tastings or snuggle in for a horse-drawn sleigh ride followed by dinner. Because of their spectacular off-the-beaten-path settings, both 4 Eagle Ranch and Piney River Ranch are also coveted locations for wedding ceremonies and receptions. Other elegant options for weddings include upscale hotels like Sonnenalp, Arrabelle, The Westin Riverfront and Park Hyatt.

Welcome to the Winner’s Circle

Vail Valley’s snowcapped peaks have served as the inspirational training ground for American heroes from elite military divisions to athletic champions.

In 1942, the army’s 10th Mountain Division began winter training at Camp Hale near Red Cliff where they learned rock climbing, cross-country and downhill skiing and winter survival techniques. These brave men were deployed to the Italian Alps; there they won critical victories for the Allies. Pete Siebert was one of those infantrymen. When he returned stateside, he along with Earl Eaton brought their vision of world-class skiing to life, transforming Vail Valley forever. While Siebert’s dream of hosting the 1976 Winter Olympic Games didn’t pan out, the area has demonstrated a knack for mentoring decorated sports champions like Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shriffin and Josiah Middaugh.

Learn more about some of these heroes at Vail’s Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame. In addition to premier skiing and snowboarding at Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek Resort, visitors also can explore historic Camp Hale thanks to Nova Guides which leads winter snowmobiling trips and summer off-road tours, as well as fly-fishing outings and even archery instruction in the 10th Mountain Division’s old stomping grounds.

  • Go Rugged. From mutton bustin’ to bronc riding, kick up some dust and a good time at professional rodeos in Vail Valley held in July at the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo. Enjoy more Americana fun on July 4th in Avon when the town hosts the largest fireworks show in the state!
  • Be romantic. While accommodations for 10th Mountain soldiers were bare bones at best, 10th Mountain Huts are spacious alpine mountain cabins. You’ll have to pack in your own gear and food, but the settings are second to none. For post-activity recovery, do what resident athletes do and spend a few hours enjoying well-earned spa treatments at the area’s beautifully appointed health and wellness facilities.

The Hills are Alive!

With its European village vibe and a packed calendar of events that includes crowd-pleasers like Oktoberfest, you’ll feel like you’re on the location set of “The Sound of Music”! The classic film about the von Trapp family singers debuted in 1965, and only a year later the nation’s first gondola whisked skiers to the mountaintop at Vail.

Today, the Eagle Bahn gondola gives sightseers and adventurers a lift to a multitude of year-round peak experiences including Adventure Ridge/Epic Discovery, as well as a network of mountain biking and hiking trails. Don’t be surprised if skiing, riding, walking and exploring these hillsides, a stunning paradise of natural beauty not unlike the Alps in the film, causes you to spontaneously twirl and burst into song!

No, you aren’t hearing things. Those sweet melodies on the breeze are coming from concerts that enliven each community in the Vail Valley. Acting as a cultural conductor, President Gerald R. Ford endowed the community with a music venue named in his honor. The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater opened in 1987, with Willie Nelson performing the first summer. The Hot Summer Nights concert series also started that inaugural year.

Other longstanding cultural events at the venue include Vail Dance Festival and Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival. Since then, Vail Valley has been on an entertainment roll. Catch summer concerts at Avon Performance Pavilion, Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek, Eagle Town Park, and Little Beach Park and Amphitheater in Minturn.

For a vacation that’s an adrenaline rush for the body and the heart, make plans to visit Vail Valley today!