Summer Sipping 2014

Chloe Wines

Chloe Wines

Summer is the season for wine festivals throughout much of the United States, especially in Colorado. June is particularly big in our Rocky Mountain state since the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is taking place this weekend and the Telluride Wine Festival—under new direction—is happening next weekend. They’re both long-established events, terrific for sampling and savoring food and libations among the pros. Typically one walks away from these festivals with a go-to list of wines, spirits and restaurants to experience in the upcoming months. They also offer wonderful opportunities for socializing among fellow foodies and wine lovers in beautiful mountain settings.

For me, however, summer sipping feels best outdoors while gazing at a gorgeous mountain vista or inside relishing a delicious dinner of grilled meats and vegetables after having done a big hike. I’ve also been known to pack a good bottle and snacks and share a near-sacred moment with someone special out in a remote place. These treasured times create memories that last the longest for me.

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Terrific Spa Experiences in Colorado’s Mountain Towns

Spa Anjali at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain

Spa Anjali at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain

Mother’s Day makes many of us think of pampering. I read somewhere that a gift certificate to a spa was one of the most popular Mother’s Day gifts offered. So keep that in mind next time you’re traveling with your favorite mom, even if that mom—or nurturing person—is you. Ladies or men—who doesn’t enjoy having their body and soul nourished by a soothing spa experience?

Here in the Rockies, spa going has become a big part of every mountain vacation year round. Whether you’re looking for just one fantastic therapeutic massage after a long day on the slopes or a big hike, or you decide to make a day of it, spa-going should be a necessary part of every mountain resort stay. Some of the spas are so fabulous that you’d be forgiven if you let the rest of your family or friends ski, ride, hike, bike or fish while you logged major relaxation time within such calming enclaves.

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Closing the Ski Season in Aspen

Relaaax...It's Aspen

Relaaax…It’s Aspen

Smooth, silky, soothing, sultry, relaxing—that’s Aspen. And that’s how my ski season ended this year, and it was lovely. Just what I needed, too.

All kinds of celebrating from pond skimming in bikinis to dancing in ski boots typically take place on closing day at most ski resorts. Skiers and boarders in fun and crazy outfits cut loose as a way of toasting the end of a long ski season marked by few or many turns and often lots of hard work (in the case of those that work in ski towns). I celebrated Telluride’s closing day a month ago and enjoyed closing week festivities on the Front Range mid-April, so I had my share of end-of-the-season partying.

With the closing of its four mountains (Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk, Highlands and Snowmass), Aspen has certainly seen a lot of colorful merrymaking these past weeks. So it wasn’t surprising that this bonus weekend of skiing on Ajax was marked by a bunch of folks—mostly locals—primarily interested in cruising the slopes of their beloved mountain for the last time. Sure there was a smattering of tutus, tiger costumes and wacky wigs along with a vibrant assortment of flowered shirts and shorts, yet the scene was pretty tame. The emphasis was on the skiing; in this case beneath azure blue skies on what were surely the warmest days of the year thus far. (It hit 70 degrees in the town of Aspen on Sunday.) more »

Skiing with Rock Stars: Schussing with Telluride’s Synchronized Ski Teams

Southern Synchro Skiers Practicing in Telluride, Colorado

Southern Synchro Skiers Practicing in Telluride, Colorado

My View of the Ghostriders Last Run Just as the Sun Was Peaking Over the Mountain

My View of the Ghostriders’s Last Run Just as the Sun Was Peeking Over the Mountain

OK, well I wasn’t exactly skiing with these elite snowsports professionals. I was actually tagging along to watch them perform. I’ve been telling many of my fellow Telluride Ski and Snowboard School friends these past couple of months that I’d come out and watch them do their stuff. But I admit that the idea of getting on the slopes before the sun rises over the mountain hasn’t thrilled me, especially since I’ve been working as a ski instructor myself almost nonstop since mid-February. But I set my alarm earlier yesterday and greeted members from theses two teams—Telluride Ghostriders and Southern Synchro Skiers—in the locker room and at the top of the gondola before I had time to have my second cup of coffee. A few  warm exchanges were shared but from the get-go, I could tell they were all business. The task at hand was to charge down the mountain three times, accomplishing a total of six expertly coordinated formations, within a half hour before Telluride Ski Resort officially opened for the day and before they had to go to work as ski instructors potentially teaching every level of student from first-time beginners to level eight all-mountain skiers. Wow, what a way to kickstart your morning.

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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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Bike Race Spectating, Colorado Touring, Book Promoting, Travel Adventures Galore Oh My

Taking a Break from Book Promoting Along the Barriers at the Vail Time Trial of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge

Taking a Break from Book Promoting Along the Barriers at the Vail Time Trial of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge

“Have you decided what you’d like to order?” the server of Spencer’s, the signature restaurant of Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge, asked me.

“I’ll have the snake,” I said.

When he looked at me in a bewildered manner, I realized my words weren’t matching my thoughts and then I corrected my order. “Oh, I meant to say steak.  Yes, steak. I’m sorry, I’m just so weary.”

“No problem,” he replied and seemingly just minutes later I was served one of the most succulent steaks ever. I gobbled it down along with a heap of Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, fresh green beans and a big gulp of red wine. I felt exhausted and much in need of sustenance and this unassuming restaurant delivered.

My Travel Memoir/Love Story that Features France and Highlights Colorado

My Travel Memoir/Love Story that Features France and Highlights Colorado

I had been on the road a few days by the time I reached Breckenridge and realized that following a major sporting event, especially one that changes locales daily required a lot of hustling about, but then adding a book promo tour to it was like doubling town. I had been busy much of the summer promoting my new book, A Tour of the Heart:  A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France, although I saved the biggest push for the end when I’d scheduled a number of events and publicity opportunities in conjunction with the USA Pro Challenge, a major bike race which was marking its third year in Colorado. It seemed like a good fit, so why not give it a go? My core audience seems to be made up of outdoor enthusiasts and discriminating travelers, just the kind of people you find showing up for this big cycling event, especially in Aspen, Beaver Creek and Vail.

I set out in Misty, my old 1993 Subaru with over 250,000 miles to her credit, late Sunday, August 18, for Redstone, Colorado, a delightful little mountain town just under an hour from Aspen. From Telluride, the drive ranks as one of the finest in Colorado, punctuated by bucolic farmland scenery in and around Paonia and dramatic mountain vistas up and over McClure Pass. I arrived at the warm and cozy Redstone Inn to find its bar and restaurant bustling with Sunday evening diners. more »

Great Dining Experiences in Aspen and Snowmass

Corn Soup at Element 47

Corn Soup at Element 47

On a recent visit to Aspen, Colorado I had the pleasure of discovering two of its newest restaurants:  Element 47 at The Little Nell and Snowmass Kitchen at The Westin Snowmass Resort. I also carved out the time to revisit Venga Venga Cantina & Tequila Bar, another one of my Snowmass favorites. What a gastronomic trip this turned out to be! All three of these establishments rank tops on my list for ambiance and for providing exceptional culinary moments in a variety of forms.

Aspen, indisputably the swankiest of all our Colorado mountain towns, now offers one of the most sophisticated dining experiences in the Rockies with Element 47 at The Little Nell. I must admit, I felt trepidacious about this renowned hotel’s new signature restaurant. Being the Francophile that I am, I of course loved the classic and oh-so French dining experience offered at La Montagne, The Little Nell’s original restaurant and a landmark of sorts to people from all over the world—just like the hotel’s sunken lounge. Fortunately the lounge was remodeled enough so that it looks fresh and in step with the times, yet not so much that you wouldn’t recognize this “old friend,” a familiar meeting place for the tony crowd of Aspen. The look, however, of Element 47, was changed up completely and the end result is one of sleek, timeless elegance.

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Mountain Travel News and Spring Blizzards

Aspen/Snowmass Spring Blizzard: The Pow Just Keeps on Coming

How do you book travel? Do you go directly to websites such as Expedia.com to check out any alluring offers they’re showcasing? Or perhaps you’re more destination or theme oriented and and you sift through info. at sites such as Ski.com and On the Snow.com? Do you troll the Internet for stories from travel publications and blogs to read about places from a firsthand perspective? Or maybe you flash on video and photo postings your friends have put up on Facebook?

All the above are valid ways to research and book travel and it should come as no surprise that people are turning even more to the Internet and social media for all, including travel planning. This is some of what I gleaned last week from the Mountain Travel Symposium (MTS) I attended in Snowmass, Colorado. The largest gathering of mountain travel professionals in North America, MTS also marks the beginning of the sales cycle for the next ski season. Attendees come from around the world to conduct business and to learn about what’s new and happening in the snowsports industry. This year’s 38th annual MTS brought together leaders and innovators from the ski and travel tech industries to provoke conversation and solution-seeking ideas for the1,200 professionals gathered at this dynamic event.

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