One Sensational Colorado Spa and Six Perfect Pools

Warwick Denver Hotel

Many people come to Colorado in the summer to hike, bike, jeep, fish and sit outside to enjoy great concerts amid breathtaking scenery. Yes, Colorado ranks supreme for all that, however, this Rocky Mountain state also boasts some of the best pools and spas in the country. They’re terrific because of the mountains.

Mountain Lodge Telluride

Most of the pools highlighted below are backdropped by scenery eloquently described by Katharine Lee Bates in “America the Beautiful.” And because of the purple mountain majesties where we work our bodies to near exhaustion, it’s important to have glorious pools and spas where we can relax and rejuvenate. We have a good amount of them in Colorado, all of which are attached to prized hotels and resorts.

The Peaks Pool in Telluride

See the photos and my blurbs below to begin your journey through some of the best hydrotherapy offerings in Colorado. Whether you’re going to these establishments for a stay, a treatment or a day pass (often in conjunction with poolside dining), go ahead and plan your travels around them. The benefits you derive from these mountain oases will carry you well past the end of your vacation. And best of all: Most of these pools are open year-round because they’re heated.

The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch Resort

The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch Pool and Spa in Beaver Creek
My boyfriend, Steve, and I experienced The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch Spa a while ago during a spring ski getaway. I wrote about it at Pick a Spa, Pick a Ski Destination. We loved it then, however, recently we had an even more extraordinary experience, since we logged some delicious pool time as well.

Ritz-y Pool

Poolside Offerings

Oh, the pool. Drawn in by its black lines, we knew this stunning, infinity pool was the place for us. We arrived at lunchtime on a busy Friday and were thrilled to see that there was still a designated lane where we could do laps away from the din of Marco-Polo and all the other activity that characterizes a day at the pool in summer.

Steve diligently knocked out his sixty lengths while I bronzed, something I rarely find the time to do. I decided to forgo my workout because I had already sunk deeply into a lolling around mood, one enhanced by a stack of magazines and my phone turned off. (It actually went dead because of the heat.)

Bottoms Up

Food tastes best when eaten outside, particularly in the summer when salty chips and fries are de rigueur. We feasted on fish tacos and a grilled chicken wrap served in large Bento-type boxes that far exceeded your average poolside chow. (My phone had died by the time the food arrived, however, I did take a snapshot of the menu!)

Since this is Colorado, the clouds rolled in practically on cue by mid afternoon. Pas de problème. We just snuggled up to their poolside bar and sipped a frothy one, a beer that we found very amusing because it was a perfect pour by Bottoms Up. Many guesses later, we discovered that a magnet holds the key to the beer not bottoming out. You might have seen these beers at stadiums and now it appears they’re gaining popularity at certain mountainside resorts. (Just think après ski/large volumes of beer served/perfect every time.)

Steve and Me at the Poolside Bar of The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch

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Top Reasons to Go to Durango, Colorado

Durango: A Good ‘Ole Western Town

I’m back east now in upstate New York, trying to settle in after a whirlwind two-week trip to Colorado that was filled with lots of travel. During that time, I taped a few interviews for Travel Fun, my talk radio show on KOTO. I had the pleasure of doing one with Steve Gumble, founder of the renowned Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, which takes place every September. This time, however, we chatted about his new baby, the Telluride Jazz Festival, which kicks off tonight in Telluride and runs through Sunday. Had we had more time we would have talked about the Durango Blues Train, another big happening he created a handful of years ago. It is super fun and also one of my top reasons to visit Durango, Colorado. This year, the second Durango Blues Train of the season takes place August 18 & 19. Unfortunately these dates have sold out, too!  You can, however, start planning for next year. (Fortunately tickets are still available for Telluride Blues & Brews and Jazz.)


Yippee Ki Yay

A Recent Respite at The Office Spiritorium at the Strater Hotel

And you can still take the train most days. It’s true–Durango is all about the train, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to be exact. Add some blues musicians to that and a bunch of fun-loving people and you have an instant party. Durango is also about historic hotels such as the Strater and the Rochester as well as a whole wagon full of other fabulous sites, establishments and activities that exude the vibrant spirit of the West.

I’ve recently started to write content for Discovery Map, the cheery, hand-drawn maps you can pick up at resort destinations across the United States. They’re developing their website, which is where my destination descriptions can be found. So click Colorado’s Wild Side and Hit the Streets of Durango to read about my top reasons to visit Durango, Colorado. And when you go to visit, be sure to pick up a Discovery Map to help you find your way around this historic gem in southwestern Colorado.

Click here to listen to a previous Travel Fun interview with Steve Gumble where he talks about Telluride Blues & Brews and the Durango Blues Train. You can also read more of my Telluride Blues & Brews stories here.

For more of my stories on Durango and the outlying area, click here.

The Historic Strater Hotel

6 May 2015, 9:52am
France Hotels & Lodging Paris Trip Planning:
Comments Off on Paris Update: Two Lovely Left Bank Hotels

Paris Update: Two Lovely Left Bank Hotels

Moi on a Recent Trip to Paris

Moi on a Recent Trip to Paris

It’s that time of year again–springtime in Paris. Not only is it a beautiful time to visit the French capital, but it’s also when a lot of people–many of whom I only vaguely know through social media or elsewhere–contact me for recommendations for Paris and other parts of France. I try to graciously tell them that they will find a wealth of hotel, restaurant, shopping, sightseeing and general information as well as a treasure trove of all kinds of tidbits in my books The Riches of Paris:  A Shopping and Touring Guide and The Riches of France:  A Shopping and Touring Guide to the French Provinces. But still, they want some insider tips directly from me. The irony of that escapes me, since I am the author of those books as well as a travel memoir entitled A Tour of the Heart:  A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France.

So for the sake of appeasing my potential Paris travelers and out of love for the city in which I lived over eleven years, I’ve decided to start posting more on Paris and the French provinces here at my blog. Hotel recommendations are a good place to start and below you will find two of my longtime favorites.

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Fall in Colorado: A Beautiful Time for Sightseeing and Winter Travel Planning

Fall in Telluride

Fall in Telluride

Fall in Aspen

Fall in Aspen

As you can see from the photos featured in this post, we are in full fall splendor here in Colorado. The foliage is peaking now, yet there’s still a lot of green on the trees. So it should remain beautiful in the mountains for another few weeks. Now we’ve entered the autumnal phase of white beginning to replace the gold, russet, burnt umber and bronze that currently punctuate our alpine panoramas. Yes, as the snow fills in, this harvest of fall colors fades into the landscape and we’re left increasingly hopeful about the opening of our ski resorts and the promise of the winter season in the Rockies.

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10 Jul 2012, 3:18pm
Colorado Hotels & Lodging Mountain Living Restaurants Spas The Rockies:
Comments Off on Back to Normal at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs

Back to Normal at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs

Poolside Luxe at The Broadmoor

What a difference a day makes. It sounds trite but boy, does it ring true.

A week can make even more of a difference. This past week of moisture—day after day of hard driving rains and good soaking showers—has changed the look of Colorado measurably. Although some of our grasses, bushes and shrubs were burned beneath the pounding sun of late spring and early summer, most of our flora has perked up and as I gaze outside my window here in Telluride, the scene appears lush and verdant.

Double Beauty

Today in Colorado Springs, the most destructive fire in the history of Colorado has been declared fully contained. There’s not a trace of smoke in the air (actually there hasn’t been for days). With the monsoonal flows of July and August seemingly settling in throughout the state, I can almost hear every Coloradan breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Now don’t be scared off by the word monsoon! Ours are nothing like what you would expect on the other side of the earth. In the Rockies during most of July and August, you wake up to blue skies that typically cloud over in the afternoon, just enough to give our glorious landscapes a good watering. By late in the day, the sun usually reappears, affording us spectacular sunsets and an abundance of rainbows. This doesn’t happen every day although typically it occurs just enough to keep our mountain-scapes green and fresh.

So in case you haven’t fully absorbed my message, I can tell you now is a great time to visit colorful Colorado. If you want to help those that have suffered from the tremendous outbreak of wildfires we recently experienced, plan a trip to Colorado. If you already have a trip planned, plan another. With all the national news coverage of the fires, you can bet the state’s tourism has been slammed. I wish CNN and others would now broadcast that this great Western state is looking mighty fine and that blooming wildflowers have replaced blooming wildfires.

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Strater Hotel: the Grande Dame of Durango, Colorado

Strater Hotel in Durango Backdropped by a Quintessential Colorado Blue Sky

If you’ve read some of my posts on my blog and/or if you’re familiar with my books on France, you likely know by now that I love hotels. Historic hotels in particular move me. I’m a big fan of experiencing these bastions of history and tradition during one’s travels, whether it’s to pop in for a drink or to stay a few nights. No matter how you choose to discover these landmark properties, a visit to them allows you to soak up the spirit of the place for either a brief moment or a more luxurious stay. The world is peppered with such places of lodging, steeped in history, that folks have been enjoying in many cases for more than a century. I encourage my readers to seek them out at every turn because it’s often within their splendiferous interiors that we gain the true essence of the place we’re visiting; it’s here we’re able to peer into the past while embracing the present.

In most cases, these fine establishments serve as the cornerstones of the cities and towns we love to visit. Many were built during the golden era of that destination in an effort to express to the world all that the town had achieved, all that the community was becoming. Erecting a notable place of lodging for business and leisure travelers alike was a sure-bet way of putting a destination on the map in addition to providing the right conditions for welcoming visitors in a more dignified and glorious manner.

Nearly every town and city in Colorado boasts a fine hotel, most of which were built during the boomtown era of the mining days toward the latter part of the nineteenth century. It was one of the most significant ways of saying “we’ve arrived.” Finally an old cow town could receive its potential investors and other movers and shakers of the day in a proper manner. The Strater Hotel in Durango, Colorado stands out as one of the finest examples of this necessity to build a handsome place of lodging in emerging towns throughout the West.

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Sleek and Sustainable: Two Stellar Colorado Properties

Style-y Dining at Eight K at the Viceroy Snowmass

Style-y Dining at Eight K at the Viceroy Snowmass

What does it mean to stay in a green hotel? In the case of The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain and the Viceroy Snowmass, it means stepping into a swanky world where sustainable luxury reigns supreme. I stayed at these two stunning resorts this past off-season and was highly impressed by their look and commitment to preserving the environment.

While on the premises I observed a certain amount of sustainable practices on my own, but I yearned to find out more. I posed the question “What makes a hotel green?” to Jeffery Burrel, Director of Operations of The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, and to Jeff David, General Manager of the Viceroy Snowmass, in a recent Travel Fun interview and was interested to hear about what goes into the development and operations of a sustainable property.  And I bet you will, too.  Here’s a short list of the environmentally-conscious building strategies and operational practices implemented in these and most other LEED-certified properties:

-Many of the building materials are sourced locally.  Expect lots of rich stonework and other natural elements.

-Some of the building materials come from post consumer/industrial recycled content.  The roof of The Westin Riverfront, for example, is made of recycled automobile tires.

-Lots of glass, made up of high-performance windows, assure sweeping views.

-Low and non-emitting paints, adhesives and carpets are utilized throughout to ensure healthy indoor air quality.

-Much of the resort’s electricity comes from renewable sources.

-Low-flow fixtures help to conserve water.

-High efficiency appliances are used in the kitchens.

-Housekeeping products tend to be non-toxic and non-allergenic.

In addition to the above, each resort implements a variety of other green-oriented practices.  At The Westin Riverfront I particularly appreciated the recycling bins in the kitchen and their huge emphasis on fitness.  “We have more health and wellness space than banquet space,” says Jeffery Burrell.  Indeed I was totally won over by their outdoor saline lap pool which to me, is better than swimming in the ocean. (There’s no black line in the ocean.  And if you’re a serious swimmer, you want the black line.)  You can bet, too, that their saline natatorium is far better for your health and wellness than swimming in most chlorine-saturated pools.

The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa

The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa

At the Viceroy Snowmass, I noticed that the kitchen appliances were unplugged on a daily basis, a smart practice that I’ve since adopted at home.  This was also the first hotel where I found 16-ounce bottles of amenities in the bathroom.  What a great idea! (See below for more of my thoughts on hotel amenities.)

Don’t for a moment think that cutting-edge and down-to-earth are mutually exclusive in either of these resorts.  At both The Westin Riverfront and the Viceroy Snowmass, I was especially impressed by their friendly and efficient service.  I also liked their many little touches such as the aluminum water bottle presented to you upon arrival at the Viceroy and the employee name tags stating each person’s passion at The Westin. Both of these features—especially the name tags—provide nice opportunities to engage warmly with the hotel staff.

And best of all, each of these resorts boast outstanding spas and restaurants that you can enjoy even if you’re not a guest of the hotel.  In fact both the Restaurant Avondale at The Westin Riverfront and Eight K Restaurant at the Viceroy Snowmass are immensely popular with the locals.  As for their spas, zen and nature have never come together in such a sensuous manner in both of these healing spaces.

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Skiing and Spa Going: Part One in Vail, Colorado

Après Ski Necessities at Vail Plaza Hotel & Club

Après Ski Necessities at Vail Plaza Hotel & Club

What?  Don’t tell me you’re tired of hearing about skiing.  While most die-hard skiers are still plowing through mashed potatoes and corn snow at ski areas such as A-Basin in Colorado and Mammoth Mountain in California, most of us ardent ski buffs have finally resigned ourselves to hanging up our skis for the season.  But smart travelers should begin contemplating next season.

If any of you out there (devoted readers, for example) have been waiting with bated breath to read about my weekend with Steve (see Weekend Expectations blog below), I can tell you our time together scored exceedingly high marks.  We, in fact, spent two weekends in a row together in April experiencing end-of-ski-season bliss.  Plus we learned that spring is a great time to ski and spa go without dealing with the crowds.  Bargains are excellent during this time as well.  (The same, of course, holds true for early season in November and the first half of December.)

Vail and Its Fairytale-Like Village

Vail and Its Fairytale-Like Village

We zipped off to Vail after Telluride officially closed to experience the fun and fanfare of their closing weekend.  A spring storm dumped impressive amounts of snow on the mountain beginning the Thursday before.  Had it not been for Steve nursing an extremely sore back (from apparently having skied too hard the previous weekend in T-ride which had also benefited from an outstanding snowfall at its closing), I would have feared more powder day problems.  Instead we carried on like two lovers on a weekend getaway where skiing and mountain fun entered into only part of the equation (wink, wink).

I had only been to Vail once before many years ago for my PSIA (Professional Ski Instructor of America) certification, so this time I was eager to discover it for real.  Steve gladly toured me around Vail’s renowned back bowls and I was thrilled to find myself cruising on black terrain considerably softer than what we have in T-ride.  (Of course I love our steeps but they do require more effort.)  After just a few hours of skiing, however, Steve declared that his back had had enough.  That was fine with me since by then I felt as though I had a good grasp of the mountain and looked forward to the day when I could return and really wear myself out at this world renowned resort.

This left us with time to explore Vail Village, a pedestrian-friendly assemblage of shops, restaurants, bars and places of lodging that truly made us feel like we were on vacation.   One might look at this Bavarian-inspired hamlet as hokey (I have in the past), but it really does transport you to a faraway land and we jumped on for the ride.  Steve, with his family ties to the Italian Alps, pointed out how authentic these alpine chalets really were in their construction and interpretation.  This enchanted me even more, so I suggested we stop for a coffee and a strudel at Hotel-Gastof Gramshammer, one of the more charming wooden establishments in the area, founded in 1965 by Austrians Sheika and Pepi Gramshammer.

It was a good choice.  We sat at their German beer garden terrace and then later discovered that this classic alpine establishment also housed two other restaurants, a particularly animated bar and hotel rooms above.  I wasn’t sure whether I was more wooed by its charm or Steve’s attentiveness.

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