~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, December 23rd 2011

It's snowing in the Rockies. A bit. They're still waiting for the "big dump" that sets the resorts up for the whole season. Vail is the largest single mountain ski resort in America, and in Vail Village the trees are covered in Christmas lights, there are gas fires in the street and the pavements are steaming as the snow lands on them - they are heated from underneath.

Our hotel in Beaver Creek has an outdoor pool and five hot tubs, all exhaling moist warmth into the freezing air, uncovered during the day and mostly unused until après-ski time. There are patio heaters outside restaurants, heated underground car parks, and of course the ski lifts churning away all day and the piste-bashers grooming all night... It's all a stark reminder that downhill skiing holidays are high energy as well as high altitude.
In our room, though, there is a slice of a tree with the word "CONSERVE" scorched into it, ranch style. We are invited to participate in "helping preserve and protect natural resources" by placing this sign on our rumpled bed in the morning. If we do so, the staff "will prepare it using [our] existing linen". That is to say, they won't change the sheets. For a night, anyway: "a full refresh of all linens and towels will be provided after the second night". A snowflake in a snowdrift, you might say.

Rebecca Willis is Intelligent Life's associate editor, and a former travel editor of Vogue