The biggest attraction of the charming neo-Alpine resort town of Vail, so neatly set against the mighty Colorado Rockies, is an abundance of superb ski trails that lace the surrounding snow-clad peaks. But even Vail's most avid skiers need to take a break, and shopping is one of Vail's favorite apres -ski activities.
Fortunately, there's a great deal more to buy here than ski-lift tickets and expensive condominiums.
Vail's remarkably sophisticated stores, conveniently in the heart of the village, are run by retailers who readily meet the demands of their chic clientele. Vail's buyers are, for the most part, the jet set and international trend setters who insist on novelty and quality when they abandon the slopes for the shops.
Consequently, Vail's shops offer a stunning selection of the latest and finest of everything, ranging from sophisticated sports fashions to dressy attire and elegant furs, from locally designed jewelry to terrific furniture and home accessories.
What comes as a pleasant surprise, however, is that in this pricey town, retail prices on most merchandise are remarkably reasonable. There are also frequent sales that make shopping Vail an attractive proposition.
Handsome ski attire and equipment are sold in a wide variety of shops. One of the best is Pepi Sports, 231 Bridge St. For many visitors to Vail, stopping at this stylish, multistory shop is a tradition. Pepi's opened in 1965 and is one of the oldest retail outlets in Vail, which itself wasn't founded until 1962. Owner Traudi Schaller, a Vail personality, is usually in the shop to welcome customers.
Pepi's has assembled a vast stock of the top ski labels, including Franz Klammer, Euro Head and Bogner.
Women skiers can outfit themselves attractively for $300 to $1,000. Men can fully outfit themselves for $300 to $700. For head-to-toe, top-quality ski apparel, these prices are quite competitive. Post-holiday and end-of-season sales reduce prices to about half.
In addition to the ski gear, Pepi's has high fashion wearables for any occasion.
Labels include Byblos, Armani, Ralph Lauren, Escada and off-the-slope casual attire by Bogner and Euro Head. The shop also carries exquisite one-of-a-kind hand-knit sweaters by Susan Drinkwater (about $500), Rozzi's hand-knit angora sweaters (about $350), Caroline Tanner's exotic leather belts ($65) and Liliane hand-woven shawl-size scarfs ($210).
There are marvelous leather and suede fashions by CharCher ($200 and up) and a rich variety of locally designed outfits.
Gorsuch, 263 E. Gore Creek Drive, is another well-known ski and clothing shop, with several branches in Denver. Gorsuch features ski wear by Peter Steinebronn of Austria (suits are about $550 and up), Bogner (about $480 and up), Colmar (about $500 and up) and others.
Sweaters, Skirts Galore
In addition, there are wonderful fleece-lined parkas by Anzi Besson (about $400) and others, sweaters galore, headbands, hats of wool or fur, boots of every type, warm-ups and backpacks. For more dressy occasions, there are knit ensembles featuring long skirts ($78) and hip-length cardigans ($160), lace-collared linen blouses ($140) and dirndl outfits (about $350 and up).
Gorsuch is also an excellent source for old-fashioned flannel nightgowns ($70 and up) and all sorts of children's ski wear and other apparel.
Skandia of Vail, 182 Gore Creek Drive, sells fabulous hand-knit sweaters and other wearables. In addition to traditional Scandinavian patterns (about $175 and up) there are thick and warm woolen sweaters, hand knit by Lise of New Castle, Colo., with armies of appealing little penguins marching across their fronts and backs ($256).
Sweaters by Sabine of Oregon (about $300) are warmly colored and boldly patterned to create a sense of vitality that chases away the chills. Moni Beal's woolen headbands ($22) are a crowning accessory. And there are locally made vests, beautifully crocheted to look like falling snowflakes ($200).
If warmth and style are both priorities, a good place to shop is Designer Furs, 285 Bridge St. Catch the post-Christmas sales for drastically reduced prices on many unusual pieces. For example, sheared mink coats with top designer labels are put on sale with prices slashed by one-third or more. There are jackets and full coats of sable, fox, beaver and other popular furs, all reduced for clearance.
Most delightful of Vail's exceptional jewelry shops is the Golden Bear, 286 Bridge St., a stylish boutique with 14-karat golden bear charms that have come to symbolize Vail. In addition to baby ($150), mama ($175) and papa ($1,200) bears that are worn on gold chains, there are golden bear bracelets ($350 to $1,200) and other charming bear configurations.
Also, the Golden Bear shows carefully selected and interesting clothes made by small, high-quality American and European fashion houses. These are displayed on a rotating basis, often splendidly color coordinated. Everything in the shop is tasteful and unusual.