We recently caught up with Vail native Simone Larese, owner of beloved Blü Cow in Vail. This bustling café on Bridge Street in Vail Village is known for its famous Swiss Hot Dog, beer, and après-ski scene. Plus it’s just around the corner from VBSR, which means that we can walk on over to Blü Cow for lunch, après, or late-night fun.
Like VBSR, The Blü Cow’s owner Simone Larese has roots in ski racing and comes from a family that passionately lives the Vail skiing lifestyle. Simone is also a VBSR Ambassador who makes use of our ski services and updates us on Blü Cow happenings in the process.
Read on to find out more about Simone Larese, local history, Simone’s Vail mountain favorites, ski gear, VBSR memories, and more.
Interview with Simone Larese of The Blü Cow in Vail
Vista Bahn Ski Rentals [VBSR]: Thanks for talking with us, Simone. The Blü Cow is your amazing Vail eatery, and it has a lot of ski history. What can you tell us about that history?
Simone Larese [SL]: The Blü Cow is one of the few remaining places that is truly the heart and soul of Vail. The history runs deep. Basically, my parents, who came to Vail from Australia in 1966, built and ran one of Vail’s first restaurants, The Blue Cow (with an e). It was mostly my mother’s idea, and she named The Blue Cow after a mountain New South Wales, Australia. The face and personality, however, was definitely of my Italo-Austrian father, Ernst Larese. Everyone loved my dad for his thick German accent and French Foreign Legion stories.
The Blue Cow was so authentically Austrian that my father even brought in a band from Austria, the well-known Obalorh brothers. There were two yodeling and wood-chopping dinner shows a night. Wood chips delightfully flung into people’s food. The lucky few who were around in these days still call it Vail’s most famous restaurant.
My parents also opened The Swiss Hot Dog, a stand that became famously cultish for its mind-blowing food served by my madman dad. Beyond being a genius chef, Ernst also had quite the personality. People came for the food and stayed for his stories. There’s a German word for what he was really good at: “gemütlichkeit,” which essentially translates to “warmth” and “good cheer.”
I have since taken over the business and opened The Blü Cow in Vail in 2014. Currently, we’re in our fourth year. It has been the most challenging thing I have ever done, but I am so lucky to be standing on the shoulders of what my parents uniquely created.
VBSR and Blü Cow: Ski Racing Roots
VBSR: Could you tell us more about how today’s Blü Cow connects with Vail ski culture and the skiing lifestyle?
SL: It’s wonderful for me to be back in the neighborhood of VBSR. We definitely share the same customers and friends. I can’t think of too many places left where the owners are also the operators. Both of our families have been deeply involved in skiing and ski racing, and perhaps we had no choice, being that we have European parents (sans the Aussie chick). If you didn’t ski, and ski well, we probably would have been disowned. To our parents, skiing wasn’t an elitist sport. To them, it was just a way of life. Both of our dads (Ernst and Joel) were brought up in the French and Austrian Alps, where skiing is a major part of the culture. You live in the mountains. It snows. You ski. It’s a pretty simple lifestyle.
VBSR: What is your earliest memory of skiing?
SL: My earliest memory is of skiing at the bottom of Vail’s Golden Peak. There was a little hill in front of the old Golden Peak cafeteria. I had more or less just learned to walk. My mother strapped these horrible plastic red things on my feet, with no edges or bindings, but they slid. It wasn’t fun, but I loved it, apart from frozen diapers. Thankfully, the technology has evolved.
VBSR: Like the VBSR family, you’ve got roots in ski racing. Please tell us more about your ski racing background.
SL: I began racing at the age of 5. Ski Club Vail made an exception to allow me in at that age. I just HAD to be like all the older boys. I truly loved everything about my early years of racing, and I got moved up in age so that I could compete with the older kids. While I competed in all four ski racing events, I began to specialize in the speed events as I started racing with the US Ski Team.
And then, I sort of abruptly quit racing one day. I really wanted to NOT be a ski racer and experience other parts of life. Crazy, I know. I was just very curious about other things in life, and at that time you had to choose to be a skier or get an education. I chose school and travel, and I had an opportunity to attend school abroad. Thankfully, these days that difficult choice has been eliminated. As the French say: Ç’est la vie.
Simone Larese of Blü Cow: Vail Favorites and Ski Gear
VBSR: What is your favorite Vail groomed run?
SL: Geesh, groomed runs are like pizza—even when they’re bad, they’re pretty all right! Riva Ridge is smokin’ when groomed, but so is International. And Gandy Dancer is classic.
VBSR: What is your favorite Vail powder run?
SL: Aprés Vous tends to get nicely wind-loaded, so it feels like flying along the rope line! I prefer wide-open powder runs. I love the way the modern skis feel doing a long GS or Super G turn in our famous Colorado dry snow.
VBSR: Skis and boots?
• Carved: Need a pair…Nordica 93’s do the job
• Powder: Armada Majic J
• All-Mountain: Nordica Enforcer 100 and 93, 185cm
• Race: lol!!!
• Boot: Nordica Doberman
VBSR: What are your off-snow passions?
SL: I’m addicted to whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, hiking. Both Joel and Ernst taught us a deep appreciation for the mountains. I love hiking during chanterelle mushroom season. During the fall, I used to collect and sell chanterelles to the high-end restaurants around town. I love cooking French, Italian, and Vietnamese food when I find the time. Really though, I love other people’s cooking the best! Traveling has been an important part of my life. I love getting out of Vail. 🙂
Simone Larese of Blü Cow and the VBSR Family
VBSR: What year did you first meet the Gros family and the VBSR crew?
SL: I believe that would be the year I was born. The Gros family has always been in my life. Sacha with his curly blond hair…Jane and her posh English accent…and Joel. Joel’s accent has been one of the more difficult to decipher. Even to an ear that was used to accents, his was something just extra, perhaps the Frenchest French I’ve ever heard. And of course, Dominique, or Doe, or Domino…she came along a bit later. I’ll never forget when she was born. I was so excited that there was finally going to be a girl! It’s safe to say that, to me, they’re family. Sacha and my brothers always pushed me to ski faster, and I really looked up to them.
VBSR: What’s your favorite VBSR memory?
SL: One late October, when I was maybe 8 or so, we had an early season snowstorm. We kids met at Joel’s (now VBSR), and Joel quickly got all of our skis ready—or whatever skis were lying around in the then-little underground shop. Back then, the lifts would open just for us local kids when it snowed early season. We skied our hearts and legs out. I remember it being so hard and so fun. The snow was thick and wet, with no base. It wasn’t pretty, but it was what we knew and loved.
VBSR: What service or product do you use most at VBSR?
SL: I use VBSR for all of my skiing needs, from advice to selecting new skis to binding checks, tunes, and waxes. I drop my skis with VBSR a couple times a week. I also send any of my visiting friends and customers to VBSR for rentals and storage.
VBSR: Anything else we should know about VBSR, you, and Blü Cow?
SL: Hmmm…I guess I’d love to say just to keep supporting us both! You can’t put a price on places like Blü Cow and VBSR where you’re able to not only be served by the owners but also become friends with them. Locally owned places are a dying breed, and yet they epitomize ski towns. We both have skiing in our blood. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?
Family-Owned Ski Services and Good Food
At Vista Bahn Ski Rentals, skiing and good food are as much a part of our family as Vail ski rentals and ski tuning are a part of our business. Come in for VBSR’s professional ski and snowboard services, and make the most of our stellar location. Just steps from Blü Cow and from Gondola One in Village, we’re the closest ski shop to the slopes. Use our Vail ski storage to walk hands-free through Vail Village at the end of the day. And reserve ski rentals online in advance to save time so that you can stop by Blü Cow for a famous Swiss Hot Dog!