It’s huge. It’s decadent. And you love it. Here’s how to best enjoy your stay in Colorado’s upscale, badass ski town.

EAT

Vail being Vail, you can always find something over the top here, especially when it comes to gastronomical delights. The high-end German eatery Almresi (almresi-vail.com) is unique. This is the place for true Alpine fare you won’t find on this side of the pond—try the traditional fondue or gorge on the Original Austrian Hutessen, a family-style meal with meat, potatoes, salad and delectable dipping sauces. Got the family in tow or just looking for filling, fairly inexpensive noshing?  Everyone is happy with garlic bread and a Corfu pizza—feta, basil, black olives—at Pazzo’s (pazzospizza.com).

Sleep

The glam spot to bed down, Hotel Talisa (hoteltalisa.com) recently underwent a $65-million rennovation. At the luxury resort and spa, you can indulge in daily après, s’mores and yoga classes by Gore Creek—though it could cost $1,400 per night. Can’t take that kind of hit to your wallet? Head to the reasonable and quite comfortable Double Tree by Hilton (hilton.com/DoubleTree/Vail) for value. A double queen ran $239 per night in mid-December.

Play

Where to start? No, in all seriousness, that is the biggest question you need to ask when you decide to ski the third biggest single mountain in North America (with a sprawling 5,289 skiable acres). Especially on a powder day, you need to create a plan of attack for how to approach the mounain and harvest the most untracked stuff ahead of the masses. Our personal go-to campaign is to start at Lionshead and ride the Eagle Bahn Gondola up to Game Greek Bowl for some quick laps in fresh snow. Then it’s on to the Back Bowls via a screamer down the practically-perfect-in-every-way run Forever, with its 1,850 vertical feet of superbly pitched natural and groomed terrain. Repeat if you can’t have just one or start picking your way through stashes in China Bowl and Tea Cup Bowl. Now, you have a choice: Make the excursion to Blue Sky Basin or keep traversing the bowls to Mongolia. If you do hit Blue Sky, plunge down the aptly named Steep and Deep (supposedly the steepest shot on the mountain) and lap the enjoyable blue terrain on Pete’s Express. For those who prefer the joys of groomed piste over the rapture of wild snow, the resort committed to a 30-percent increase in groomed terrain in the Back Bowls this season, making the area more accessible, as well as providing more thrills for carving addicts and anyone whose legs are simply shot from harvesting too much powder. If the mostly south-facing Back Bowls are skied out or sun-affected, skip them. The front side of the mountain, especially the Northwoods Express and Highline Express lifts, face north and hold much better snow on non-storm days (well, and on powder days, too)—and they cover as much terrain as many small resorts.

—Doug Schnitzspahn