For European flair on this side of the Alps, no hotel compares to the Sonnenalp Resort in Vail Village. Outside, expansive white stucco walls are adorned with painted shutters, wooden window boxes and balconies. Step inside, and you'll think you've been transported to a luxury hotel in Garmisch. Nearly half the staff is continental, and everyone manages to exude the quiet confidence of European hotel school graduates. Owner Johannes Faessler, whose family opened the sister Sonnenalp Resort in Bavaria in 1919, manages the balancing act of re-creating the European hotel experience while taking pampering to new levels.
The 90 guestrooms are mostly suites, and they're done in high Bavarian-style, which means white stucco walls, natural-wood furnishings and hand-carved balconies.
But they're paired with de rigueur Colorado luxury expectations such as heated marble bathroom floors, gas fireplaces and the thickest terry cloth robes outside of St. Moritz. The spa is built to satisfy demanding Europeans who expect a Euro-lexicon of Finnish sauna, Turkish steam room and Moor mud bath. You can do laps in the indoor or outdoor pool and then lounge around the circular fireplace with a weissbier, since no true Euro spa is complete without a bar and wait staff. The dining room at Ludwig's is ski-formal, with dirndl-clad waitresses serving sumptuous Colorado rack of lamb and bouillabaisse prepared by French chef Jean Luc Voegele. And you'll actually see Faessler around his hotel, decked out in Bavarian attire. His presence, and not merely his wardrobe, is another authentic Old World touch. Like the best European hoteliers, he dotes on the property to ensure a seamless experience. It must be working-a full third of his guests hail from the other side of the pond. -E.P.
Rates run $235-$2,000 per person, double occupancy, including breakfast. Nov. 27-Dec. 20, book the Spa Dream package for $220 per person, and you get breakfast, a yoga class, spa treatment, spa lunch, and unlimited use of the spa and exercise facilities. 800-654-8312; sonnenalp.com.
This article appeared in the January 2004 issue.