It’s hard to believe we’re already practically on the eve of Memorial Day Weekend, America’s unofficial start to the summer. Here in Telluride, Colorado—like in other mountain towns across the West—this weekend marks the end of off-season, also known as shoulder season. Yes, from now through almost the end of September/early October, our prized tourist destination will be flooded with visitors from all over the world. Indeed, the town’s population will go from scant to near overflowing (at peak times such as during the Bluegrass Festival and over July 4th).
Even the locals are back in full swing, many fresh off of fascinating travels to far-flung lands. Most have come back with tales of adventure and chance encounters in foreign countries. Since I’ve been largely holed up at my desk, I’ve been listening with particular interest to their stories and impressions, while taking inventory of must-see places on my personal list. Europe still reigns supreme for me. And although I have traveled a lot throughout this storied continent, I’m continually drawn there for this reason or that.
Hotels Restaurants Skiing & Snowboarding The Rockies Utah: Hotels Restaurants Skiing & Snowboarding The Rockies Utah
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I’ve been thinking a lot about Utah lately. Maybe it’s because although we’ve had a ton of snow here in Colorado, it seems as though the Utah ski resorts have even bigger snow totals, especially once you consider their base. It was almost a year ago that my boyfriend and I enjoyed a spectacular weekend of spring skiing at Snowbird and now we’re itching to go back.
The year before that, we called Sundance home for five days and reveled in experiencing Utah’s top ski resorts including Deer Vally, Park City and the Canyons. Then and also last year, we drove through Heber City, a vast, flat area only twenty minutes from Utah’s world-renowned mountain destinations and towering peaks. Settled by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the late 1850s and named after a Mormon apostle, Heber Valley of today still appears pastoral and low-key. Dairy farming continues to reign supreme, a tradition started by Swiss settlers ages ago. Ranchers claim a fair piece of action as well.
Colorado Hotels Restaurants Skiing & Snowboarding Telluride The Rockies: Beaver Creek Breckenridge Colorado Hotels Restaurants Skiing & Snowboarding Telluride The Rockies
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Woo-hoo! It’s been snowing in Colorado—big time. Anyone that’s been following this winter’s weather patterns knows that Colorado has been shortchanged in snowfall this season. Yes, it has been a little tough going but that’s all changed after one humongous storm. And then another biggie.
Just in the nick of time, over forty inches were dumped on parts of the San Juans, the mighty range of the Rockies that dominates most of southwestern Colorado. Avalanche control work is still being carried out in much of the region but since Saturday, folks have been able to enjoy epic skiing and riding.
It’s no surprise that Wolf Creek racked up the highest number of inches with Silverton and Durango Mountain Resort following closely behind. Here in Telluride, we were extremely happy with almost three feet—yes, people have been hooting and hollering on and off the slopes for the past five days. (I was thrilled to enjoy two stellar days of skiing early in the week and then gladly welcomed a day at my desk after feeling totally whopped and sore after so much fun. Plus, I’m still tired from having succumbed to the flu—yuk.)
Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge report almost two feet of fresh this past week while Aspen has measured a bit less. The latest weather system just blew out of the state and now everyone in Colorado seems to be grinning ear-to-ear. With blue skies all around us, it doesn’t get much better for enjoying all this lovely Colorado champagne powder.
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.
Art & Culture Colorado Four Corners Hotels Restaurants The Southwest Utah: Art & Culture Colorado Four Corners Hotels Restaurants The Southwest Utah
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I’m feeling a little sentimental these days. Lately this golden season has flooded me with memories of two significant trips I took in the West at this time of year. The first occurred eleven years ago when I discovered the penetrating red rock landscapes of Moab, Utah during a road trip with the goal of where to settle in the West. The second happened in Monument Valley when I accompanied my parents on a trip-of-a-lifetime through southern Utah and then down to the Grand Canyon. (Visiting the Canyon had always been a dream of father’s—little did he know he’d end up marveling at the awe-inspiring monuments of Monument Valley just as much.)
At each of these high desert destinations, I felt and continue to feel humbled by the panoramic vistas seemingly painted in every shade of red throughout this arid land. Here buttes, spires and pinnacles tower over you as though nature’s standing guard in what sometimes looks like one of America’s last great frontiers. It’s no wonder some of the most iconic images of our country may be found in Moab and Monument Valley, Utah. The greatest westerns ever made were filmed here, specifically at two lodges that continue to pay tribute to the rich history of movie-making that occurred around their properties: Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab and Goulding’s Lodge in Monument Valley. The landscapes at and surrounding these ranches have, in fact, been so well preserved that movies, TV shows and commercials continue to be filmed here today. (Johnnie Depp was just at Goulding’s last spring filming the new version of “The Lone Ranger.”)
In today’s modern world of WiFi, iPhones, texting and the like, we don’t expect to encounter major Internet difficulties when traveling. Sure, there are still remote destinations (especially here in the Great American West), when good, fast and reliable Internet connections can be a little sketchy, however, even in those remote areas, access to email and the worldwide web is being improved upon almost daily. In any event, “getting away from it all” is part of the allure of a lot of those places—you just have to be prepared to “unplug.”
But if you happen to find yourself in a well-developed area within the U.S. on a four-night stay in a large hotel—one that regularly holds conferences to boot—I find it pretty normal to expect that I’m going to enjoy flawless high-speed Internet access as soon as I fire up my laptop. Not. That was most definitely not the case during a trip to Utah last week and instead, I spent four agonizing days trying to do something as simple as logging onto a website or sending an email with an attachment (a very small one, mind you).
When most people think of Moab, Utah, they imagine red rock landscapes the likes of which you see in some of the best westerns. Indeed, many great movies, TV shows and commercials, featuring the rugged scenery of the great American West, have been and continue to be made here, It is the land of two wonderful national parks: Arches and Canyonlands. But those in-the- know—and especially those that have traveled to the sweetest spots of Moab along the banks of the Colorado River—are aware that there’s many an oasis within this russet-red land.
Surely one of the most lush, the greenest piece of well-irrigated earth—long ago homesteaded by adventuresome settlers—makes up the Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa, a veritable paradise where fine living meets the great outdoors. I first stayed here nearly eleven years ago, shortly after the ranch was transformed into an elegant resort and here I am happy to find myself once again. It’s the kind of place you want to settle into for an entire week, but sadly I’m just passing through. Who ever said the life of a travel writer is marked by long periods of rest and relaxation?
Colorado Hotels Telluride The Rockies Travel: Colorado Hotels Telluride The Rockies Travel
Wow! What a week it has turned out to be! The colors are really going off here in Telluride and from what I hear, most of Colorado—especially at the higher elevations—is exploding with a spectacular show of gold, orange and even a bit of red (more unusual for the West). This autumnal festival of colors came upon us fast and furiously this year. Less than a week ago it was still very green and summer-like—come to think of it, it was summer.
I’d say we’re pretty much at peak now and all over you see people oohing and aahing about this extraordinary riot of colors which has arrived almost ten days early this year. I might go so far to say it’s the most beautiful fall foliage season I’ve seen yet in Colorado although in truth, I think we all tend to forget how drop-dead gorgeous it is here in the Rockies this time of year.
And I’m optimistic it’s going to be great way beyond peak. It hasn’t started snowing much yet. Aspen, Vail, Telluride and Beaver Creek—all the stunning high-mountain resorts—have been blessed with a few dustings, however, our autumn vistas are not yet backdropped by snow-capped peaks (another unusual occurrence for this time of year). This is when the fall foliage viewing really takes your breath away; sure, the snow knocks some of the leaves off the trees but it’s worth it to see the striking contrast of golden aspens flanking the mountainsides of bright-white peaks.