By: Claire Sanderson
So what do you do once you’re off the slopes in Vail? Claire, a Denver native and current D.C. resident, takes us to the intersection for the best of après ski meets Vail nightlife.
Bars: there are numerous bars to try out— all a different vibe. I am giving each bar a rating on a 0-10 scale of wildness. 0= super chill (grandma is hanging out); 10= crazy (there will be people on drugs that are not legal in Colorado).
0 = Pepi’s— this is a yummy place to get lunch or après if you are with adults. I usually only go here for lunch during the summer. It’s a fun atmosphere and is located in the Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer, which rings true to it’s Austrian family owners.
1= Pazzo’s— more of a restaurant/pizza joint. It’s definitely a family establishment, but it gets louder the later it gets. We always liked to start the night off here and get a good base of pizza (SO GOOD – best in Vail), chicken wings, and a few pitchers of beer. There most certainly will be a wait, so get there early if you want a large table, or a table in general.
2= Bol— A bar/restaurant that doubles as a bowling alley! It’s a fun activity for a group. They have decent food and cocktails/beer. It’s in the new Ritz, so it has all the fun details a new bowling alley has. Also for you parents, it’s kid friendly.
3= Los Amigos— Mexican restaurant right at the base of the mountain in The Village. It’s a fun spot to sip margaritas and watch folks come in at the end of the day (or some less experience folks slip and slide their way in on the last crowded and skied off run on the mountain). The food’s not terrible, but it’s nothing compared to Mexican food found elsewhere in the state. It’s low key with a lot of families, but can be fun with the right folks. We often go here when we are craving margs after a long day and before we impart on the rest of the evening.
4= Sonnenalp— this is a fancy hotel right outside the main Village. It has a great restaurant, the Bully Ranch, that has a fun bar area. Great for a yummy dinner. They also have a fun lounge area where you can order from the menu and listen to the pianist. They also have a fantastic Spa! If you pay like $20 or $30 you can use the spa amenities, like the indoor/outdoor pool, hot tubs, sauna, steam room, etc. Trust me, it’s worth every penny, especially after a day or two on the slopes. They have an oxygen bar and a big fireplace where you can relax in a fluffy robe. They also serve food from the bar menu. My favorite drink to order there is called the Mudslide— it is fantastic. My house is about 15 minutes away from the base, so one day we usually will pack a change of clothes in the car, come down after a hard day of skiing and hit up the spa from 4:00pm-7:00pm for some relaxation, shower, get ready there and then go out on the town for dinner and drinks! Always a fun option, amiright?
5= Garfinkels—this place is great for après ski. In fact, they have a huge deck for après ski at the base of the mountain. Usually a wide variety of folks—from locals, to families on vacation, to groups of mid-20’s & 30 something year olds. More of a sports bar type on the inside. Plenty of TVs if you are trying to catch a game. Nightly specials throughout the week. While it’s not in the village, it is in the heart of LionsHead across from the Gondola, which is great for people-watching.
6= The Altitude Billiards and Sports Bar—This is kind of hard to find if you don’t know where it is. It’s been called a few different things, but it’s a big sports bar with big screen TVs, billiards, and video games. It’s in the basement of the Evergreen Lodge—right near the covered bridge. This place is fun to go to if you have a big group, but it’s dark. Reminds me of Buffalo Billiards in Dupont Circle (D.C.). If you’re familiar—it’s a similar crowd.
7= The Red Lion—this is “the place to be” according to many who come to Vail. It’s a long-standing restaurant and bar that many locals and visitors alike enjoy. The food is good and the bar is well stocked, but the music is what draws most people in. They tend to have live music and it fills up in the bar area quickly. This place is a favorite for the après crowd and the later bar crowd as well. But, be warned, this place fills up quickly and is usually 1 in 1 out by early evening. If you want to go here, claim your territory early and leave your personal bubble at home. Age range is large here: 20s-60s.
7= Vendetta’s—Another pizza place folks frequent should Pazzo’s have a really long wait (which it always does) or the Red Lion is just too crowded (which is typically is). Vendetta’s has a fancier restaurant in the basement, but y’all want to go upstairs to the pizza bar area. There is table service up there and you can sit at the bar. It’s a more laid back vibe with a relaxed crew of 20’s & 30’s by 9pm, but a fun place to go with a group and share a few pitchers and recap the day. It’s also open fairly late if you want to snag a little 4th meal on your way home. Location=across the street from the Red Lion.
8= The Shakedown (used to be called The Club)—At one point, this was my favorite bar in all of Vail, especially during my college days—in the summer during the lacrosse tournament/over the 4th of July. It used to be a local gem, something the tourists and ever-present wealthy foreigners did not know about or did not care to know. It would be crowded, but never too crowded where you felt uncomfortable, and you would always run into someone you knew, or two, or three! (There were a few blurry nights that ended on the dance floor with a John Denver cover band). Noteworthy: There is a bell near the stage and whoever rings it buys the whole bar shots! However, as they say, all good things must come to an end. The Club sold out to another owner and changed its name to the shakedown. So, there is almost always a cover now, what used to be reserved for extremely crowded nights like New Years or 4th of July and they pack people inside so much you can hardly move and the crowd is more of a mix of the tourists you see anywhere else in Vail. Still a fun time, but the glory days of The Club from the 1970s-2010 are over. Location: Around the corner from the Red Lion, near the chocolate factory, in a basement.
9= Whiskey Jacks/ Vail Underground—name changed. This is where “The Club” goers moved to after their exodus from the now-Shakedown. Whiskey Jacks, not called Vail Underground, is a loud and fun bar that has several different rooms connected to create a labyrinth that can be confusing after a few too many cocktails at altitude. It’s dark, but it is a fun bar to sit and chat in the front room or dance the night away in the back room. Full disclosure: I have not been here since it was changed to Vail Underground, so this may not hold true anymore. Location: also around the corner from the Red Lion (the other way) across from Vendetta’s.
10= Samana—if you miss the raves and parties you had while abroad in Spain, look no further than Samana. Samana has techno music and live DJs depending on the evening. Typically filled with international tourists, you are likely to find some of Mexico City’s rich and beautiful dancing the night away and throwing back tequila shots. The light show can be really fun here, but you need to be wearing your party pants if you’re going to enjoy this place. Get ready to get down on the dance floor and don’t expect there to be a lot of conversation. Location: another basement, closer to the covered bridge.
Catch y’all on the slopes, at the spa, or at the Shakedown.
Claire Sanderson currently lives and works in Washington, D.C., where she serves as a Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX). Claire’s a Denver resident and has a family house tucked in the mountains of Vail that she’s spent most of her life escaping to for fun, relaxation, and a whole lot more. Follow her on instagram @clairemsander