It’s Thursday night in February and, despite the lack of snow outside, Bol, an upscale bar, restaurant, and bowling alley located in Vail Village, is packed. Patrons lounge in comfy leather chairs, watch sports on up to 15 different televisions, and roll down 12-pin alleys fit for the White House. But mostly they eat. They chow on everything from gourmet pizza with speck and figs to grilled calamari to a $90 serving of Kobe ribeye. This new hotspot in Vail is tucked into the eastern corner of Solaris, the development created by Peter Knobel, a former telecommunications executive from Long Island—and it’s only one of the diverse experiences the complex offers. Solaris also includes 900- to 6,500-square-foot luxury condos, a movie theatre with waiters that serve you cocktails and dinner (try the salmon with lemon-whipped potatoes and New York strip steak) during the coming attractions, art galleries, a skating rink, a coffee shop, and Matsuhisa, a five-star Japanese restaurant. It sparkles, it overwhelms—and it was very close to never existing.
Back in 2005, when the project was initially proposed, some town council members, whose votes were necessary to approve the project, feared the massive structure—547,000 square feet—would block the mountain views. But in a November 2007 election, those council members lost their seats to officials who supported Knobel’s project.
So far, Solaris has been a major success. Forty percent of the $1.45 million to $19 million 79 residences have been sold and a number of them are rented for $785-$7,000 per night. The restaurants are usually full—you need to book reservations at Matsuhisa a month in advance—gradually shifting the dining and partying scene from Bridge Street (the area of Vail Village where most of the bars and restaurants are located) to Solaris, a five-minute walk west.
The attention to detail that Knobel put into each facet of Solaris wasn’t lost on me. My three-bedroom condo was large enough to house my entire extended family and featured a kitchen and bathrooms that were fully decked out in marble. Solaris also includes a modest exercise room that offers a trainer-led ski- and snowboard- specific morning stretch, massage rooms (though you can just as easily call the massage therapist to your own abode), and a 40-foot-long Turkish bathhouse-style pool. Your skis are stored in a locker just beneath the Vista Bahn chairlift—a five-minute walk from your room (or one of the bellmen will shuttle you there). In addition, a stay at Solaris gains you access to a personal assistant who’ll do everything from your grocery shopping to your dog walking. In fact pretty much anything you ask of any of the employees is taken care of with a smile (be sure to carry around a pocket full of tip money).
But the highlight of my experience was Matsuhisa. The restaurant is owned by Nobu Matsuhisa, the acclaimed chef known for his innovative dishes (and his roll as Mr. Roboto in Austin Powers). I started with the new-style salmon and beef sashimi, both of which were so delicate that they seemed to dissolve on my tongue, releasing powerful bursts of flavor. From there, it was on to the black cod, tempura crab claws, and shoshito peppers, all of which were equally impressive. To top things off, I indulged in the bento box with chocolate lava cake.
I stumbled to the elevator and in five minutes was cozied up in my plush, king-sized bed. Two minutes later I was out cold. When I awoke, it was snowing.