COLORADO Travel Guide
Although it doesn't feel like it to us (this contributor is currently in Mexico!), ski season is officially in full swing in the States, with snow falling across the country and temperatures down below freezing in mountain towns out west. While the initial shock of the winter season takes some time to embrace, we know you're excited to hit the slopes.
With the calender now on December, ski deals and packages are really beginning to flood out. Hotels offer a variety of options, including ski and stay deals, discounts on rentals, and packages for both beginners and adrenaline seekers, and we'll dish on the best ones later this week so you can get to booking your trip for 2014.
We see many offers that allow you to save money, but we get most excited about hotels that provide unique perks and experiences for their guests. For example, we're digging Breckenridge Ski Resort's “First Tracks Fridays” program that begins this Friday (Dec 13th), which allows guests staying at any of the mountain's official lodging properties to get on-mountain access one hour before the resort opens to the public every Friday morning throughout the season.
We've said our piece about how impressed we are with Denver's up-and-coming hotel scene (seriously, we think we've done more stories on the Mile High City in the past few months than we ever have), so we'll get right to the new juicy deets on two new Starwood properties: The opening of a Westin at DIA Airport in 2015 and an Aloft downtown in July of 2014.
Westin DIA: Once the train is complete that will connect DIA with downtown, a Hotel and Transit Center (shown above) is on track to open that will house entertainment and restaurant options as well as lodging. Thus far, the only announcement has been a 519-room Westin. Details of the hotel are scarce at this point, other than that it will open in 2015 and include "nearly 26,000 square feet of meeting and conference space as well as restaurants, a health club and swimming pool and a parking garage." There's also no word yet on whether there will be other hotels on-site, but we'll keep you posted.
Anyone who has been paying attention knows that Denver is one of the most developing cities in the country when it comes to its downtown, slowly but surely transitioning over the past decade from a mountain town to a legit metropolitan area.
The latest chatter to come out of the Mile High City is last week's ground breaking of the Art Hotel, one of four new hotels to open in 2014 (the other three are the Marriott Renaissance in the Colorado National Bank Building, the Union Station Hotel, and the Aloft Downtown Denver). The first three floors of the nine-story building will be office space, and guests will check in via iPads on the fourth floor.
Most hotels spend lots of money to bring themselves out of the prehistoric era, but the Best Western Denver Southwest did just the opposite, throwing down $4 million to convert itself into a dinosaur-themed property.
The idea for the design came from nearby Dinosaur Ridge, an archaeological site 10 minutes from the hotel that houses the footprints of long-necked sauropods. The 112-room hotel is now all decked out with dinosaur paraphernalia, including skulls, fossil tables, classic dinosaur artwork and an on-site natural history museum dedicated to the prehistoric beasts.
The co-owners of the property said they hope the theme will draw some attention to the excavations that have taken place in the area and help bring tourists to see for themselves.
It's a very intimate procedure, getting a massage. You're naked. You're exposed. Enya's blasting in the background. Just how well do you know the person who is about to have their hands all over your body? We tracked down Marrana Davis, Spa Coordinator at the Oxford Hotel in Denver, to get some answers to our burning questions about life in a hotel spa.
HC: Marrana, you work in an urban hotel in downtown Denver. You get locals and tourists coming in for treatments. Who needs more TLC?
Marrana: Tourists. People that live and work down here tend to know us, and they’re very comfortable with our Colorado-type of place. We’re all kind of easy going, laid back for the most part. We operate in a vintage building. I think sometimes when people come in from out of town and they expect to find a spa that’s completely cut off from the outside world. We have a fitness room and a salon mixed in beside our treatment rooms. Our facility is a little more community-based.
Since we love us some glamping, we were excited to learn last year that there was going to be an option closer to home than the African bush, with Colorado’s Dunton Hot Springs opening Cresto Ranch, a set of eight en-suite luxury tents four miles downriver from the main resort.
Open since June 1, and until October 31 for its seasonal closure, Cresto Ranch has partnered with Muddy Shoe Adventures to allow you to get your glamp on and have a ‘transformational adventure’ at the same time. What that means, we’ll tell you.
The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, known for its killer views and luxe toiletries, officially opened a sister property on August 1st in Pike National Forest called The Ranch at Emerald Valley. It's only 30 minutes away from the Broadmoor, but it might as well be 300 miles.
The setting at the Broadmoor is certainly serene and luxurious, but it doesn't necessarily feel like a "getaway" despite the mountain access and beautiful views, mostly due to the fact that it has 700 rooms. With that in mind, it seems like the Broadmoor wanted to do things a little differently with the new property as The Ranch has only ten rooms.
Featuring private cabins and a large lodge, The Ranch focuses on that classic rustic feel and puts guests in the wilderness of Pike National Forest. Think wood-burning fireplaces, hearths, and a definite log-cabin feel. During the day, guests will engage in activities such fly fishing, hiking, and horseback riding through the mountains.
We’ve been pretty vocal about our growing displeasure for packages and offerings designed more to gain publicity than they are to attract and benefit guests. These, for example. And now some say the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek’s new “sleep ambassador” program is right up there with the best of them.
Us? We’re skeptical by nature at this point. But that’s not fair – everyone deserves their day in court. So we tracked down the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek’s Sleep Ambassador herself, Nancy Rothstein, for some pillow talk.
HC: Let’s get right to it. Your campaign with Park Hyatt Beaver Creek claims hotels are in “the business of sleep.” Do you really believe that? As world travelers, we must say, rarely do we choose a hotel based on its sleep-inducing powers. And some destinations just don’t let you sleep. Vegas, for example.
Even though the ski regions are still getting last-minute storms as we approach mid-April, we are, for the most part, done with winter. Bittersweet for us skiers, for sure, but we do believe that summer in the mountains is just as good, if not better, thanks to the wide range of activities that come along with it: Hiking, biking, climbing, camping (or glamping), and rafting, among others.
Another good thing: Aspen tends to chill out a bit. Since the masses view winter as the season in Aspen, rates become more affordable in the summer, the crowds are gone, and the service is friendlier as the so-called "pretentious level" drops exponentially (french fries are probably still $17, though).
Last week while in Aspen we stayed at the Limelight Hotel, which unfortunately often gets forgotten amongst well-known names like the luxurious Little Nell, the newly-renovated Jerome (it's beautiful, by the way), and the Snoop Lion endorsed Sky Hotel (Aspen has a great hotel scene for such a small town, don't you think?). We dug the vibe at the Limelight, as well as the included breakfast and free bikes, but it's a unique summer offering that's really got us intrigued.
The Stanley Hotel near Rocky Mountain National Park is known for being spooky, for sure, and it certainly has its place in pop culture for inspiring Stephen King's novel The Shining and making a cameo in every twentysomething male's favorite film, "Dumb and Dumber" (race you to the top!).
But did you know about the sister property right next door called the Lodge at the Stanley? It used to be a "bachelor’s building," created specifically for solo male travelers back in the day (1910), but today the 40-room boutique inn is more like a bed and breakfast than a lodge.
“I call it a luxury inn,” said chef/innkeeper Midge Knerr, who ran a bed and breakfast in Rhode Island for 30 years and was one of New York City’s first female chefs. “It exudes a bit more of mountain feel – cozier than the main building, with an artisan touch.”
If the past is any indication of what Robert Woolley is capable of, we have no doubt his latest endeavor, Woolley's Classic Suites, will find success as a new brand in the hotel industry.
It just doesn't seem like it will be with the leisure market, unfortunately.
Woolley,who invented the all-suite hotel concept in 1969 and sold what is now the Embassy Suites brand to Holiday Inn in 1984, recently broke ground on a four story, 191-room flagship property just outside of Denver in Aurora, Colorado. Although the website claims the hotel will aim to cater to both the business and leisure markets, all signs point to this property becoming more or less an airport hotel.
Scheduled to open in the spring of 2014, the location of this project has nothing to offer vacationers. The hotel is being built in an office park that houses the likes of Boeing, Best Buy, Nabisco, and Reebok, and while the marketing campaign claims it's "minutes" from downtown Denver, those familiar with Aurora have eyebrows raised. In reality, Aurora is closer to the middle of nowhere than it is to the city. Woolley's Classic Suites will be located at the beginning of Pena Blvd., the nine-mile long "driveway" to Denver International Airport.
So, why here and now?
Ok, so we know we went on a little rant about the fact that technology might be slowly killing off the traveler in all of us, but this weekend in Vail we stumbled upon a mighty helping hand at the uber-luxurious Solaris (yes, it is still ski season!)
Ski and mountain towns are serene and relaxing, but if you're anything like us, the morning can sometimes be a little manic. You're up early, dressing in layers, trying to get a coffee down and, caffeine aside, a bit anxious. What's the weather like at the top of the mountain? Did the lifts open at 8 or 8:30? Are the slopes already crowded? Did the backside get as much snow as the front? For us, all those questions were answered by the Solaris' in-room Crestron control system.
We liked how we could call for our car and contact the front desk without picking up the phone, but what really impressed us was how it aided in helping us plan our attack for the day. From this little box on the wall, you can access nine mountain cams that shed light on lift lines, snow quality, weather, and crowds. We found it useful to check just before heading out. Lots of skier traffic around Eagle's Nest or long lines at Wildwood? No problem--Blue Sky Basin it is.