For the record, I want to state that Vail Resorts' big loss in its first quarter had nothing to do with my being there a few weeks ago. In fact, I'm pretty sure that had the Head of Drinking Regrets and I visited a few days earlier, Vail would have at least broken even.
It was a long week of skiing, eating too much and drinking more than should be legal. Even now, going up a single flight of stairs would give us chest pains -- if only we could go up a flight of stairs without bellowing like cows in the slaughterhouse because our legs still hurt so bad from overdoing the skiing (surprise!). Unfortunately, back in the real world, we can't employ our mountain-man method of pain control and muscle therapy: doses of vodka and tonic every ten minutes until we felt no pain in our legs, then doses every five minutes. Our pharmacy of choice was the Red Lion (304 Bridge Street in Vail Village).
Despite being unable to fully medicate myself, I have to admit that I'm glad to be back from the mountains. Vail is a strange place filled with skiers from around the globe, all trying to outdo themselves in the ridiculous-ski-outfit contest. You have your spandex Spyder guys who look like they're qualifying for the Olympics but always wind up wiping out and holding a yard sale on the steep parts of the green runs. Then you have the women dressed in designer snowsuits with large, furry animal carcasses on the collars, who think they're the hottest things on the mountain. They're very successful at seducing guys ten years their junior who are hanging out at the bars at Lionshead with their buddies, vying to see who can pick up the oldest woman in the most ridiculous outfit. The only people you don't see at Vail are the blue-jean-wearing skiers, because the ski patrol has run them off.
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The outlandish attire isn't reserved for the slopes; at night, Vail visitors act like they're living on a movie set. At the Red Lion, the chosen film was apparently Dumb and Dumber, minus the humor. If you've seen this movie (and all real guys see it annually, as part of the guy-bonding ritual), you'll remember that Jim Carrey and his friends sit in a mountain lodge in obnoxious sweaters, enjoying jokes and witty conversation that revolve primarily around lighting farts. On the nights we were at the Lion, nearly 90 percent of the customers had broken out their sweaters, probably thinking they were a required mountain-retreat uniform. They didn't realize that this sort of sweater makes you look like a large farm animal, maybe a sow, getting violently ill on a sheep. And staring at such sweaters too long, especially when you're drunk, has been known to induce seizures. But the people wearing them assumed they looked cool.
Aside from the sweaters, though, I liked the Red Lion. It had live music, a young, friendly crowd of folks who drank like they had nothing better to do than ski the next day, and a big bar where you could get a drink in no time if you were wearing a lead apron. I recommend this accessory, because unless you're a woman, bartenders' X-ray vision will look right through you. Perhaps silicone enhancement is what made the women visible; there were enough popular females with such artificial attributes that the Red Lion is sure to become a favorite with the Institute of Drinking Studies.
That is, if we at the Institute can survive the drive west, since we spend most of our time sitting on I-70 plotting the death of whoever is causing the inevitable traffic jam, and God help them, it better be something serious and not just to look at the bighorn sheep or the idiot in the sports car who ended up in the ditch because he had to prove his manliness by not going a reasonable speed on icy roads. Other than the awful commute, I recommend Vail for both the skiing and the nightlife. But if you want to fit in, don't forget your sweater.