Dropping into 50 inches of untracked Colorado powder, we marveled at how different this felt from skiing the rest of Vail. The newest addition to Vail Resorts' gargantuan back bowls opened this month, and Blue Sky Basin, as they're calling it, is the best example of what we hope will be a new trend in mountain sports: bringing the backcountry experience inbounds. There are more than 500 acres of intermediate-to-advanced skiing and snowboarding, and the feel is rustic and undeveloped. Even the lift houses resemble nineteenth-century mining structures. "It's a work in progress," explains Vail's Tom Allender, meaning that the ski patrol is still marking obstacles. But that was fine with us. Once we were off-trail, what difference did it make?
New York architect Robert Kahn knows everybody, so when Gwyneth Paltrow asked him what she should see in Rome (while she was there filming The Talented Mr. Ripley), he collected travel tips from his artist, writer, and historian friends. Realizing that "everybody should have access to these invaluable opinions," Kahn, a onetime resident of the Italian capital, decided to publish City Secrets: Rome, a collection of tips, comments, and mini-essays, mainly about art and archi- tecture, whose 200-plus contributors include restaurateur Danny Meyer, painter Frank Stella, architect Michael Graves, and playwright John Guare. His favorite secret? "A Clerical Shopping Spree," by art historian R.J.W. Cro (page 105), which describes the store where Kahn likes to stock up on the distinctive fuchsia socks favored by Catholic cardinals. The elegant, pocket-size book, published by the Little Bookroom, goes on sale in March. Next up? City Secrets: New York.
Wondering what it's like to fly on the Concorde but just not ready to spend $10,000 for a weekend in London or Paris? British Airways has a solution: In February and March, it is diverting one supersonic jet to the Caribbean. "Barbados in Style" includes seven nights at one of five luxury hotels and starts at $4,499 per person, round-trip Concorde ticket included. (For $2,200, the airline will sell you the ticket without the hotel.) The plane makes the 2,000-mile journey from JFK in two and a half hours, less than half the usual flight time to Barbados. Think of it as your chance: We're told the entire twelve-plane fleet of SSTs will likely be retired in a dozen years or so, and there's nothing on the drawing board to replace them (800-222-7342).
Is that sand in my foie gras? As an off-season inducement, the Sonesta Resort in Aruba is offering cooking classes the week of June 8 with Andrew Carmellini, executive chef at Café Boulud -- packages start at $612.50, less than dinner for four at Daniel (800-766-3782) . . . It's pronounced skinny atlas: Obscure Skaneateles, in upstate New York, is suddenly a hot destination, what with the Clintons' visit last summer and Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger taking up part-time residence; in May, the town gets a new country inn, the Mirbeau Inn & Spa, featuring a 10,000-square-foot luxury spa and French-American cuisine (877-647-2328) . . . High-speed access: Amtrak has rescheduled the debut of its delayed Acela express service, the high-speed train that should cut travel time on the Washington-to-New York-to-Boston corridor nearly in half: "Definitely late spring," they're saying now (215-349-3339) . . . Yes, we have no Nokia: Your cell phone may not work in Europe, but World in Touch and Alitalia Airlines now offer their own rent-a-phone service: A StarTAC can be waiting at the airport or at any Italian address you choose (888-552-8550).