Hotels Restaurants Skiing & Snowboarding The Rockies Utah: Hotels Restaurants Skiing & Snowboarding The Rockies Utah
leave a comment
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.
I might never have known about this area’s history had I not been introduced to its Swiss ties last fall. I might have just continued to cruise through Heber—on the way to the big resorts—without discovering its hidden charms and one exceptional destination in particular: Blue Boar Inn.
Just slightly off the beaten path through Heber, you find Midway, a quiet enclave characterized by a sleepy main street and surrounding neighborhoods filled with European-styled homes. (I mean Old World Europe as in Swiss chalet-styled.) I accompanied my friend, Mary Dawn, here last year when we came for (of all things) a the Saint-Bernard Nationals! Mary Dawn, owner of Alpen Schatz, a boutique specializing in alpine treasures, was showcasing her goods, particularly her handcrafted Swiss dog collars, a dog show and national gathering of Saint-Bernard breeders and aficionados. I came along as her sidekick. Little did we know that we had brought a chunk of Switzerland to “America’s Little Switzerland.”
In no time at all, we found out about the area’s history, Midway’s renowned Swiss Days and Blue Boar Inn, a destination hotel and restaurant capable of transporting you to Europe from the moment you pull up to its old-styled entranceway. Inside you’re wrapped in a warm, inviting decor punctuated by sage green walls, alder wood trim and railings and a handsome collection of antiques and collectibles worthy of the finest hunting lodges in Europe. (Castles are typically referred to as hunting lodges, so don’t think little cabin in the woods.) Fourteenth-century crossbows, antler chandeliers, Western landscape and still life paintings reminiscent of Rembrandt and more add to the authentic feel of this superior establishment.
Just like in the best restaurants in Europe, here tables, dressed in white linens draped over rich, floral table skirts, are set with an array of finery including pewter chargers and crystal glasses. (Although only one wine glass may be on the table at a time—that’s Mormon law.) Blue Boar’s seasonally-oriented menus achieve a fine balance between traditional European specialities including schnitzel and fondue along with regional offerings such as Rocky Mountain trout (from a nearby blue-ribbon trout stream, but of course). As is the tradition in a fine European inn, breakfast, lunch and dinner are served here daily along with an award-winning brunch on Sundays. Chef Eric May also presents a special Tasting Menu every Wednesday night that changes weekly.
If you’re not inclined to sit down to an elegant meal, meander to the back of the inn where you’re sure to be enchanted by the inn’s Bavarian bar, a more casual, gathering place typified by pine flooring, European farmhouse chairs and a four-hundred-year-old bar. Fair weather days see the opening of the beer garden out back, a seemingly blissful place where I’m sure many a frosty beverage is consumed.
Mary Dawn and I toured the inn’s twelve rooms, each more alluring than the other. Named after authors and poets, each room possesses an attention to detail unlike what you find in typical places of lodging in America. An abundance of pillows, fabrics, engravings, old armoires and carefully-selected objets adorn the nooks and crannies of each of the distinctly different rooms. This inn gives “inntimacy” new meaning. Mon dieu, how I would have loved to have settled into the room with the Italian leather bed!
If I make my way to this bucolic part of Utah this weekend, sadly I doubt I’ll have time to peek in at the Blue Boar. The skiing still beckons and I might not have time to luxuriate, however, I can think of no better set up than to settle in at the Blue Boar and ski Utah’s top resorts (all of which are closed now; Snowbird is about an hour drive from here). In the summer, I’d imagine the area to be like “Sound of Music” in a valley, a verdant land where you pass your time hiking, biking, sightseeing on the Heber Valley Historic Railroad or shopping for handcrafted cheeses from the neighboring farms.
Or you can just hole yourself up at Blue Boar Inn and soak up European refinement and savoir faire with someone you love.
Blue Boar Inn, 1235 Warm Springs Road, Midway, 435-654-1400 or 888-650-1400
Snake Creek Grill: Another Delightful Dining Option
Housed in an old train depot, people frequently travel to the Snake Creek Grill from Salt Lake City to dine at this country-fresh, chef-owned and operated establishment. Here amid a bright, crisp decor, surrounded by walls and wainscoting the color of this fertile land, Chef Dean Hottle has created a dining experience that wills you to feel at home. His menu is comforting and creative, offering dishes made from the finest ingredients, many of which have been sourced locally (especially in season). Main plates include grilled hanger steak with wild mushroom sauce, crispy hash browns, green beans and carrots, creamy crab penne pasta with roasted artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and arugula and maple mustard BBQ baby back ribs with mopping sauce, cabbage slaw and corn bread. Now that’s some pretty darn good home cookin’. Sophisticated, too. Be sure to save room for a slice of black bottom banana cream pie. It’s better than your mama’s, I’m sure.
Snake Creek Grill, 650 West 100 South, Heber City, 435-654-2133
Colorado Hotels Restaurants Skiing & Snowboarding Telluride The Rockies: Beaver Creek Breckenridge Colorado Hotels Restaurants Skiing & Snowboarding Telluride The Rockies
leave a comment
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
leave a comment
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).
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.
Colorado Food & Wine Hotels Restaurants The Rockies: Aspen Colorado Food & Wine Hotels Restaurants The Rockies
- If you find yourself dining alone on your birthday, you better hope that you land in a lively place that serves up excellent food. I lucked out a month ago when I claimed a spot at the Chef’s Table at the oh-so style-y Chefs Club by FOOD & WINE at The St. Regis Aspen Resort. Although I had my back to most of the diners, six fastidious chefs held my attention throughout an evening filled with fabulous food and drink. Why, I didn’t feel alone at all and I didn’t even mention it was my b-day. (That was highly unusual, since I’m not one to shy away from a fuss.)
I luxuriated at the black marble bar that faces the open kitchen for almost three hours. At one point an elegant woman and her teenage daughter savored coffee and dessert a few seats away, but otherwise I had no interest in glancing around at the tony crowd around me—I was totally consumed by the scene in this bustling beehive of culinary savoir faire. Executive Chef Thomas Riordan, a young man (or am I just getting old), managed his team with nuance and grace. I picked up on a nod here, a word there, subtle directives that facilitated the quick and steady movements of preparing refined cuisine for a room full of diners. I watched as he drizzled extra virgin olive oil over my beef, a Grilled Prime Bistecca Fiorentina served with porcini mushrooms, arugula and fava bean. Chef then finished off this divine piece of meat with a squeeze of lemon. It was perfect.
Art & Culture Cycling Food & Wine French Life French Provinces Girl Talk Hotels Paris Restaurants Romance & Relationships Travel Writing & Books: Art & Culture Cycling Food & Wine French Life French Provinces Girl Talk Hotels Paris Restaurants Romance & Relationships Travel Writing & Books
Last year around this time, I celebrated a milestone birthday. I was grateful that I was feeling healthy and well, the most fit I’d been in ages and ten pounds thinner (a rarity for me since my weight never fluctuates). Here I am a year later having perhaps gained back five of those pounds—I don’t really know since I stopped weighing myself (a good sign of maturity). And now I’m two days away from another b-day with something far more significant to celebrate—a new book!
Twelve years. Yes, twelve years. I can’t believe it myself. It was twelve years ago that I began to plan a trip that would forever change my life. I actually took that trip in the fall of 2000. We all have transformative events and travels in our lives. I just happen to take a lot of notes on mine. “A Tour of the Heart: A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France” is the fruit of all that note taking and so much more.” Click here to see a preview and download excerpts. I hope you’ll enjoy the read. Books are rolling into bookstores now; be sure to ask for it if you don’t readily see it on the shelf. You can also purchase it as a paperback through amazon now or as an eBook on kindle.
Since it’s KOTO fundraising time and I love my NPR-station here in Telluride, Colorado, you can receive a free e-book with every $20. donation and a free paperback with every $30. donation. Books sell for $8. and $20. respectively. Contact me directly through this site to make your donation. Also, if you enjoy Travel Fun, my talk radio show on travel, and the podcasts of those interviews I post here on this blog, please make a pledge or donation to KOTO as well. For that also, it’s best to contact me directly. Community radio is a rare breed in the U.S. and ours is almost entirely supported by caring people like you.
I will be talking about “A Tour of the Heart: A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France,” on Travel Fun tomorrow, August 21, at 6 p.m. mountain time. You can also tune in on the Internet at KOTO.org at the time of the broadcast. I hope to post that interview as a podcast on this blog within the upcoming week.
One more thing: Click here to become a fan of A Tour of the Heart on Facebook.