Colorado Girl Talk Hotels Mountain Living Restaurants Spas The Rockies Travel: Colorado Girl Talk Hotels Mountain Living Restaurants Spas The Rockies Travel
I love travel. Yes, it can be terribly tiresome but it usually brings about some of the most unexpected and exciting happenings. Case in point: Last week I stayed at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain, one of my favorite properties in Colorado. It was to be a stopover with my friend, Mary Dawn, on our way back from combined promotions (for my new book and her delightful alpine goods) in Denver and Breckenridge as we made our way toward Telluride, Colorado, home base for us both. I was planning to just chill and recover from almost five weeks away, soaking up all the amenities of this first-class resort. But what an adventure it turned out to be!
The stay started out quietly enough. We had both settled into our luxurious digs replete with full kitchen and glorious beds piled high with comfy pillows in a variety of sizes, half of which we wanted to take home. I padded down to The Westin’s newly renovated fitness center the first morning to see how I could begin to restore myself after way too much time at my desk followed by extensive travel. This beehive of fitness fiefdom was still buzzing with activity at 11 a.m.—no wonder since it’s one of the preferred athletic clubs of the Vail Valley. I peeked into their fully-equipped pilates and spinning rooms before opting for the solitude of their yoga studio where I was thankfully in time for a much-needed class. Susan, the yoga director, took special care to address my needs, those of a weary travel writer that hadn’t devoted much time to being fit since last ski season ended. Thanks to her and the calming surroundings of this specially-designated yoga oasis, I felt one step closer to being whole again.
After chitchatting with the staff about all the doings at the hotel, I learned that the resort was in a flurry of activity largely due to the Audi FIS Birds of Prey World Cup Men’s Race that was taking place at Beaver Creek during that period. “Yes, I saw the gates and skis piled up in the lobby when I checked in last night,” I said. “I had totally overlooked the fact that that was going on. Then someone told me the Austrian team was staying here,” I added.
“Come back later in the afternoon to see the athletes working out,” a couple of the staffers exclaimed practically in unison. “It’s quite the show—with all those good looking guys lifting weights and swirling in their hula hoops,” one chuckled.
Sadly, my afternoon passed all too quickly up in my room at my laptop and by the time I sauntered down to the fitness area at 5:45p.m., all the studly dudes had left. Darn, I thought. There’s nothing like checking out world-class athletes in action and I missed it.
That evening, however, on the tail end of a most enjoyable dinner at Cima, the Westin’s signature restaurant and a Richard Sandoval creation, Mary Dawn wasted no time getting in on the World Cup fun. “Would you please tell those guys over there Grüß Gott?” she kindly asked the waiter. Already it was clear they were part of the Austrian ski team, so why not send the classic Austrian/Bavarian greeting from the Alps over to them? Why miss out on some Euro schmoozing? Three guys bopped over to our table and sidled into the curvilinear booth faster than you can say hooray. We enjoyed trading cross cultural stories and experiences until the wee hours of the morning. Since MD lived in Germany six years and is fluent in German, she particularly enjoyed the exchange. My French experience (eleven years in Paris) brought less to the table yet we were all in a bon vivant mood nonetheless. Fortunately our Austrian ski team companions were comprised of the director, a coach and a technician or else I can’t see how they would have been able to race the next day.
We reorganized our plans, decided to spend another night and headed off to the World Cup Men’s Downhill Race the next morning. We picked up the bus just outside The Westin where we instantly found ourselves among ski and outdoor sports enthusiasts of every age and nationality. The party-like atmosphere increased exponentially as we inched our way to the main event, the site of this dazzling race at Beaver Creek, the only men’s World Cup ski event that takes place in North America. In Europe, approximately 50,000 people attend these competitions; here, you could count a fraction of that although everyone—from loyal fans to odd onlookers—came equipped with a mountain of good cheer for the racers from every land.
MD and I bypassed the grandstand and instead worked our way up front just behind where the racers and their staff hang after the finish. Whoa, what a show! Our attention was split between the guys powering down Birds of Prey, the renowned Beaver Creek run that gives this race its name and the spectacle before us. Truly I’m not one to let a guy turn my head, but these fellas give good looking new meaning. They were all so darn buff. Such wow factors—MD and I couldn’t believe the size of their butts and thighs. I guess that’s what’s needed to have the strength and athleticism to dig into the icy course at breakneck speed. Surprisingly tall as well. At this point, I’m convinced that being handsome is part of the requirement for becoming a member of a national ski team. Woo-hoo! And we rang our Swiss cowbells and cheered every single one of them on. Whether it’s the Olympics, the Tour de France or the World Cup, there’s nothing like being a part of an international sporting event, especially for us Europhiles.
By 4 p.m. we were hobnobbing with the best of them at a Veuve Clicquot-sponsored tasting and fashion show in the heart of Beaver Creek village. (We enjoyed V.I.P. passes, however, the event was open to all.) Leave it to Beaver Creek—a ski resort typified by heated walkways, exclusive boutiques, people dressed as chefs dispensing freshly-baked cookies after skiing and the slogan “not exactly roughing it”—to put on such a glorious show. The whole day was free (except for some of the refreshments) and then a sexy showing of ski, snowboard and après-ski wear for men, women and children to boot! (If you want to take cues from this fashion show, the look on the slopes this year is to go topless—or to sport just a bikini top—beneath your parka. Wink. Wink. I dare you.)
We met up with some members of the Italian National Ski Team that were understandably quite content about their victory for the day. “Actually, all of our guys did well,” said Federico, the team’s physical therapist that surely had a hand in helping the racers be on top of their game. By the time our conversation ended, I had secured an offer for an alignment of my own.
Here we also hung out with my sister-in-law, Geri Lee Ide, who was visiting with her family from nearby Redstone, Colorado. I might have missed her altogether had MD not spotted Geri’s Beaver Creek posting on Facebook. (We all lead such busy lives—it’s hard to always know when our paths might cross.) I also lost track of the fact that her brother-in-law, John Jacobs, is heavily entrenched in ski racing. His dad and former Olympian, Tom Jacobs, developed the break-a-way pole for racing in 1978. His company, Reliable Racing, was built around that and for many years they’ve supplied FIS ski races all over the world. “You can find our products at virtually every ski hill and ski race in the United States,” John told me while having pizza together after the festivities. Best of all, from gates to bibs to base layers to ski wax, most of these products are made in Glens Falls, New York, near Lake George, a region close to the Jacobs/Ide/Clemente hearts. You can shop for these high performance goods in their retail store or at Reliable Racing’s online boutique.
Geri and her family were staying at a nearby hotel, the same as the Italian team. We went back there and sat around the fire enjoying a drink until I finally decided to take Federico up on his offer. Clearly the Italian team was in a celebratory mood although Federico was still working on the athletes since there were still two more days of racing to focus on. He kindly adjusted me in between the racers, cracking my back and neck numerous times with great ease and skill. By the end of our session, I was beginning to feel transformed by this Italian osteopath, a warm, gentle soul that seemed to fit all the requirements, including being very good looking, of being a member of a World Cup ski team.
I left grateful that I had enjoyed such a fun, action packed day and night, that the busses were still running late to The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa and that I was still fully aware that I had my own bel uomo awaiting me at home.
Life in the international sports arena is certainly one hell of a ride.
For more fun with the Italian National Ski Team, watch a video made by Federico that features the team’s November training at Copper Mountain and other Colorado highlights including a trip to a Nugget’s game in Denver.
To read more on The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, check out Sleek and Sustainable: Two Stellar Colorado Properties, A Pristine Pool Experience in Avon/Beaver Creek and Great Fall Travel in the Rockies.
Thank you to The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Beaver Creek Resort, Jack Affleck, Yann Benjamin, David Childs and our trusty iPhones for the photos in this story.
Looking for a Swiss cowbell or other wonderful European gift ideas to enhance your life? Check out Alpen Schatz, Mary Dawn’s online boutique of alpine treasures. Type in Bonjour upon check out to receive a 10% discount.
The World Cup in Telluride
My own town of Telluride, Colorado, will be hosting the Audi FIS Ski and Snowboard Cross World Cup this week December 12-15. There will certainly be lots of opportunities for hot athlete sightings—this time for guys and gals since both men and women are competing. I suggest you hang at the hill at the Telluride Ski Resort to watch the competition, hit Tomboy Tavern (which is sure to be happening) and attend the closing party at the base of Lift 4 on December 15 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. To catch team members up close and personal (in casual groupie mode, of course), your best bet would be at the hotels where they’re staying. Mountain Lodge Telluride and The Peaks Resort & Spa will be hosting teams, so you could always stop in there for breakfast or après-ski. The Peaks boasts a huge fitness facility which becomes hot-athlete-central during this time. They also host a Disco Ski Party the last night of the event.
Check out another Telluride World Cup story that features more European flair including Eisbaer, the official supplier of the Austrian Ski Team here. You can order those goods from Alpen Schatz as well. (Be sure to type in Bonjour for your 10% discount.)
Thinking about planning a girls’ or a guys’ trip? I say plan it around one of these great events. There’s so much fun to be had and the eye candy is topnotch. (Oh jeez, this will surely get me in trouble.)
Reading/Gift Suggestions on the Sports Theme
Ski instructors love to tell jokes—it’s a great way to entertain clients out on the hill. Some of the best ones are about snowboarders or snowboard instructors. (It’s kind of like the rivalry between the French and Germans, Austrians and Italians.) Telluride ski instructor Mark Dresie has just published The Snowboarder Joke Book, which he’ll be selling at the Telluride World Cup event this week. You can also buy it online. Here’s a good one:
What do you call a snowboarder who loses his girlfriend?
If you’ve followed my blog at all, you should know that I’m a ski instructor, too. My new book, A Tour of the Heart: A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France, is really about the bridge between the sophisticated life I lead in Paris and the more down-to-earth existence I’ve embraced in Colorado. It’s also a story of self empowerment through sport, something all these world class athletes certainly came to know at a young age. You can read about A Tour of the Heart and buy it here. Colorado and the Telluride Ski Resort are also featured in this book. You can also buy signed copies from Alpen Schatz.