I stayed at the Sonnenalp in mid October, when the season is low occupancy. The benefit of off-season is that the Aspens are turning yellow, the creeks are void of other fly fishers, and you don’t need to make a restaurant reservation weeks ahead. Usually, winter and summer are their peak seasons, but fall is a good time for relaxation and natural beauty.
Style: Local Immersion, Adventure, Ski
About: Sonnenalp is a Bavarian style hotel set in the adult Disney-like setting of Vail. The whole place sends me back to my childhood fantasy of being in one of Disney’s cartoon sets in the Alps, however I’m in the middle of Colorado. As one of the first resorts to build in Vail, they have prime real estate next to Gore Creek, a Gold Medal Fly Fishing stream, and well positioned next to many of the quaint shops. This is where you go for summer hiking, mountain biking, fishing, zip-lining, amongst other adventures. This location is great for skiing (including adaptive skiing), if you don’t mind being a few minutes walk from the gondola. Thankfully, they do have a ski concierge that will keep your boots on warmers and deliver them with your ski equipment to the gondola, so you don’t have to hassle with that. They also own a golf course within 15 minutes of the hotel. No other hotel in the Valley has this special experience.
Rooms: The rooms are the old world charm of Bavaria, so expect a reserved and rustic luxury in the rooms. They do not skimp on amenities, meaning you will find a mini bar with reasonable prices, fireplace (needed all year round for the chilly evenings), balcony (so you can enjoy the natural beauty), Nespresso machine (my favorite), nice linens with heavy down comforters, an oversized bathroom with heated marble floors, and many other thoughtful details. You could seriously show up with only your clothes, and they would have the rest covered for you.
Pool/Gym: Their whole pool area, both inside and out, were such a high point of this hotel. Inside they have a hot tub and a pool. The pool swims out to the outdoor pool, which is kept very warm all year long. Outside you will also find two more hot tubs that are tucked away in the foliage on property. The outdoor area is immersed in the natural beauty of Aspens, conifers, and the babbling creek running right by. It’s astonishing how easy it is to forget that you are in the middle of the action in Vail while sitting out in their pool area.
Restaurants: I was only able to try Ludwig’s for breakfast, and I tried the expansive buffet. There were European options, from Muesli to cold cuts and cheese, and American options from eggs and bacon to chilaquiles and salsa. Of course there was a plethora of perfect pastries with assorted jams, nut butters, and Nutella. One of the most special parts of this restaurant is Stuberl, their wooden, hand carved room (shown above). This craft is so iconic of Bavaria that you’ll forget you’re even in the States. This space is perfect for a private party or a special celebration.
For dinner, Sonnenalp offers a fondue experience at Swiss Chalet. It’s an authentic Swiss dining experience, which you would expect to find in the Alps (hence Sonnenalp). Expect women in dirndls and men in Alp style clothing to take your orders and serve your food. Magical!
Bully Ranch serves up a more local feel and taste with a western-style decor and Rocky Mountain portioned meals. Both the indoor and outdoor spaces reflect the destination well.
Vibe: Bavarian, Traditional
Spa: Their spa includes steam rooms, saunas, cold plunge, and a relaxation cove, as well as treatment rooms and a nail salon. To heal you of your altitude sickness, they have an oxygen bar that will boost your energy, get rid of your grogginess, relieve your headache, and calm your nausea. I recommend at least a 15 minute oxygen treatment to feel the full effects.
Kids: Sonnenalp hits it out of the park with their kid’s club. It’s not only complimentary, but also interactive and well organized. Kids can go on their own adventure with a guest activities coordinator, tap into their creativity with art projects, or build their strength on the rock climbing wall. If you want to spend an evening out, sans kids, the concierge will arrange babysitting services for you. If you have a fur baby, you are in luck, as Sonnenalp is dog friendly (so is Vail). They couldn’t make it any easier for you as a parent!
Tips: Grab a pool lounge chair next to Gore Creek to enjoy the sound of the rushing waters while you read a book, enjoy a drink, or just close your eyes and feel the stress melt away. This is by far my favorite spot in all of Vail.
True North Amenities:
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
- Complimentary Buffet Breakfast for two daily for duration of the stay
- $100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit towards a selection of seasonal offerings ranging from a Sonnenalp guided activity, a lift ticket, ski rentals, spa, golf, personal trainer and other choices based on availability
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Overall, you do not need a car in Vail. However, in the summer/fall/spring, I recommend renting a car so you can explore the surrounding areas, find your own hiking trails, stop the car to fly fish some creek, and drive to nearby mining towns to see the history of the area. If you do this, it’s a 2-2.5 hour drive from Denver airport, all interstate to get there.
In the winter, I recommend two options . This is due to snowy weather and that your primary purpose to be in Vail is probably to ski or snow shoe, not to explore the surrounding area.
- Fly into Eagle County Regional Airport and take a 30 minute transfer to the hotel.
- Hire a private car or Colorado Mountain Express shuttle to provide the transfer.