I remember when Avon was nothing more than a trailer park in the early years of the Vail Valley. Before that, homesteaders in the 1800s raised cattle and grew hay in the fertile land along the Eagle River, and by the 1920s lettuce was the main crop. The earliest inhabitants were the Utes who summered in “the shining mountains” to hunt deer, elk and buffalo. Those shining mountains became Beaver Creek in 1980, and Avon became a full-fledged town, serving as gateway to the resort and its neighboring villages of Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead that crown the mountains high above.
Today, Avon has become a destination in its own right. Besides being a centralized and less expensive lodging option in the valley, it offers its own activities, most of them free. With the Eagle River meandering along the mountain edge of town, fishing and floating opportunities abound during the warm-weather months. A well-used bike path along the river connects Avon to Edwards to the west, and to Vail Village and beyond over Vail Pass to the east. Enter town through a series of roundabouts; in their center you’ll see large bronze sculptures, part of the town’s public art collection started in 1989. View more at the library and other key locations.
To the West lies Nottingham Park and Lake, named for early settlers in the area. Supposedly, the Nottingham family from England named the town Avon, likening it to the Avon River Valley in their homeland. A paved recreation path surrounds the 48-acre park where you can fish, paddleboat and paddleboard in summer and ice skate and play old-school pond hockey in winter. There also are tennis, basketball and volleyball courts amid lush native landscaping. Locals say the park’s Fourth of July celebration is the best in the Rockies, and in August Mini Cooper enthusiasts from around the U.S., Canada and Mexico gather in the park for a Mini parade and party. Next to the park is a the 40,000-square-foot Avon Recreation Center, offering a full lineup of exercise and yoga classes, along with fitness equipment and an impressive indoor aquatic facility including heated pools and 140-foot slide, providing year-round recreation.
During the warm-weather months, Avon’s Whitewater Park, underneath the tongue-in-cheek named “Bob the Bridge,” offers hours of free fun for all levels of kayakers. A free shuttle makes it easy to get around town. Those who wish to combine learning with their recreation can visit Walking Mountains Science Center, an Avon-based nonprofit that provides education in natural and environmental science for students, adults and families. Programs take place throughout Eagle County.
The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa
The crown jewel of Avon is The Westin Riverfront Resort, a three-peat winner of Conde Nast Traveler’s annual list of the country’s top ski resort hotels. Stretching along the banks of the Eagle River, the luxury hotel links Avon to Beaver Creek via the Riverfront gondola just outside its back door, making it true ski-in/ski-out lodging.
Colorado’s first hotel to achieve Silver LEED certification, The Westin epitomizes understated elegance. Its decor is mountainy yet not rustic, modern yet not over-the-top, and luxurious yet not pretentious. Earth tones in rich fabrics complement native stone and wood, and floor-to-ceiling windows bring the mountains in. The subtle but prevailing theme of trees appears in delicate tree-branch chandeliers, the cutout wall of the lobby bar, and ornamental aspen trees growing in the spa lobby. A sense of place comes alive on hallway walls that bear black-and-white photos of vintage Vail. Its 230 rooms are homey and functional, each with a kitchen and gas fireplace.
The lower level is devoted to wellness: the award-winning full-service Spa Anjali, an extensive athletic club with studios, a medical clinic, and access to the year-round outdoor saline lap pool and three riverside hot tubs. Other amenities include a Kids Club; ski valet; ski, snowboard and bike rentals, and doggie bed and bowl for Fido.
Last summer, Chef Richard Sandoval opened Maya, making The Westin the third location after New York and Dubai for his flagship restaurant of modern Mexican cuisine. Maya’s food is what you find at the finest restaurants in Mexico City—traditional recipes made with contemporary hands. The menu reads like a page out of a Mexican grandmother’s cookbook—huitlacoche enchiladas, chipotle camarones, and the signature dish—three kinds of mole, each with 30-40 different ingredients. The space tastefully channels a Mexican hacienda with dark woods, amber glass lanterns and native tile and pottery. On the patio, comfortable sofas around fire pits mountainside make daily happy hours memorable.
Vin48, a bright, contemporary eatery with trendy Americana dishes in small and large plates, shares space in the breezy “Boat Building” with Blue Plate, a casual bistro that marries old world flavors with American comfort food. Vin48’s menu includes favorites like crab-stuffed sole and fried chicken while its neighbor acknowledges that American food is a melting pot of cuisines, serving specialties like Schnitzels and fondue along with Colorado lamb and Rocky Mountain trout. The Avon Bakery and Deli is our go-to place for order-ahead picnic take-out. Organic breads baked daily make the best sandwiches and breakfast fare.
Claudia Carbone is an award-winning travel journalist based in Denver. She’s been writing about ski resorts around the world for nearly 30 years. She contributes regularly to Colorado Expression as well as other publications.
When you go
Walking Mountain Science School
Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa
126 Riverfront Lane, Avon
Avon Bakery & Deli
25 Hurd Lane, Avon
The Blue Plate Restaurant
48 E. Beaver Creek Blvd., Avon
Vin48 Restaurant and Wine Bar
48 East Beaver Creek Blvd., Avon