World Cup Adventures: from Yoga to Yowza

Birds of Prey World Cup at Beaver Creek

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.

The Westin Riverfront’s Yoga Studio

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.

Skis & Gates in The Westin’s Lobby: Sure Sign of World Cup Doings

“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.

Cima’s Curvaceous Decor

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Shopping, Dining and Spa-Going Small in Breckenridge

Breckenridge by Night

I love the idea of Small Business Saturday, the latest shopping initiative added to the Thanksgiving weekend holiday shopping kickoff. Thank you American Express. I’ll take that any day over Black Friday and grey Thursday (which sadly looks as though it’s here to stay). It should come as no surprise that I’m a huge fan of boutique-y places. Where would we be without our small businesses? We’d certainly live in a charmless world. I love places with personality and soul. I think you most often find those characteristics in something small.

In Colorado, we are well served, especially in mountain towns such as Aspen, Telluride, Crested Butte, Vail and more. This past summer I discovered Breckenridge, Colorado for the first time, yet another Colorado mountain town that offers picture-postcard views at every turn. Even their Starbucks is adorable! Breck’s main street is filled chock-a-block with a plethora of small boutiques and restaurants. I also discovered a spa that won me over by its intimate, relaxing feel.

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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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Stein Eriksen Lodge: A Rocky Mountain Classic Where Sunday Brunch Astounds

An Arrival Circle Fit for an Olympian at Stein Eriksen Lodge

Since I moved to the Rockies nearly ten years ago, I’ve been cultivating a short list of renowned resorts that I’ve wanted to discover. (Anyone that reads this blog with any frequency knows that I love fine hotels and more importantly, the ambiance they create.) Let me see. There’s The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Sonnenalp in Vail and Sundance and Stein Eriksen Lodge in Utah. These are what I consider to be the crème de la crème of the old, established Rocky Mountain resorts and by the time I post this story, I will have experienced all of them. (Feel free to let me know if I’m missing any from this grouping! Yes, I know there are some great lodges in Montana and Wyoming, but I’ll save them for another day.)

There’s a reason these establishments have been world-renowned for decades. Actually at each, you can count many reasons, the biggest one perhaps being that it’s easy to create memories at these properties, unique moments that remain with you forever thanks to the overall feel of the resort. Details such as fresh flowers, hand-carved furnishings, a saloon with a creaky wooden floor and the uniforms sported by the people that work there also help to transport you to a different place.

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Pick a Spa, Pick a Ski Destination

Outdoor Pool at The Peaks Resort & Spa

You’re missing out on a good chunk of fun and relaxation if you think your whole mountain experience has to be all about hitting the slopes. Sure, there’s nothing like spending day after day in the fresh air, carving perfect turns on buttery snow or picking through exquisite, diamond-shaped moguls. Yet even the most die-hard skiers and boarders need a day off. Or maybe just a half day. Or how about a couple days off? It’s supposed to be a vacation after all. You don’t want to feel like you need a vacation after your vacation, do you? How about après-ski—don’t those moments represent some of the best of your whole ski vacation? Those delicious hours of the day don’t have to be all about drinks at the bar.

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Glenwood Hot Springs: Swimming and Soaking Year-Round

Summer Fun Year-Round at Glenwood Hot Springs

It’s been a great summer for hydrotherapy. With record-breaking temperatures hitting much of the country, people have been discovering more than ever the healing benefits of getting in the water. Out in the West, we’re spoiled since we have access to swimming and soaking all year long at many exciting destinations in our Rocky Mountain state. Colorado has some of the best hot springs in the country and certainly the granddaddy of them all is Glenwood Hot Springs, a natural geothermal spring with a flow rate of 143 liters per second. That’s a lot of fresh, hot mineral water for easing the stress out of your tired bones and muscles.

Best of all the Glenwood Hot Springs outdoor pool, which measures over two city blocks long, is always kept at a comfortable 90 to 93 degrees. Kids and adults love this temperature, ideal for playing on the water slide or swimming laps in the pool. For more therapeutic dunks, head to the other end of the pool where this mineral-rich water hovers around 104 degrees. Here in Colorado we’re blessed with a dry climate that renders even the hottest days perfectly pleasant. But oh, those Colorado nights. As soon as the sun slips down in the sky, there’s a chill in the air that makes soaking all the more enjoyable. And, of course, when fall and winter hit, you can really strike the right formula between hot and cold, especially if you’re lucky enough to find yourself at Glenwood Hot Springs with the snow falling down gently around you.

No wonder people have been flocking to these hot springs along the Colorado River for centuries. Originally referred to as “Yampah,” or “big medicine,” by the Ute Indians, the first known visitors to these springs, the site has always been revered for its great healing power. In 1888, the world’s largest hot springs pool was created in the newly established town of Glenwood Springs and since then, people have been traveling from all over the world to this healing wonder of the Rockies. I love how the original sandstone bathhouse and lodge, built in 1890, have been beautifully preserved and that the pool is kept nice and clean with a state-of-the-art ozone purification system.

The Beautiful Old Bathhouse

Checking into the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge is the best. Situated across the street from the pool, it’s spotless, attractive and very much oriented toward providing the visitor with the easiest and most frequent access to soaking possible. This is when living in modern times feels especially appealing since today people freely bop across the street whether in their robe or swimsuit for an early morning soak or an evening dip. You can bet there was more decorum a century ago!

Even if you’re not staying the night, a stop at Glenwood Hot Springs provides a great opportunity for relaxation and a break from driving to other popular Colorado destinations such as Aspen or Vail to or from Denver, for example. I’ve done this several times during ski season and it has always furnished a fun, convivial and relaxing way to break up a trip. With a pool this size, you rarely have to worry about crowds.

Yes, swimming and soaking year-round represents a good prescription for all no matter what age.

Glenwood Hot Springs, 800-537 SWIM (7946) or 970-945-6571, www.hotspringspool.com

The town of Glenwood Springs is cute, filled with nice shops and great dining. You might just have to plan on spending the night!

Read Travel Lightly:  Something to Remember During the Busy Holiday Season and Always for another mention of Glenwood Springs and tips on how to be more relaxed during your travels.

Chipeta Sun Lodge & Spa: Spirit of the Southwest in the Rockies

Chipeta Sun Lodge & Spa

Chipeta Sun Lodge & Spa

Can’t decide whether you want to vacation in the Southwest or the mountains? How about choosing a place of lodging where you enjoy the spirit and landscapes of both? Check out Chipeta Sun Lodge & Spa, a lovely southwestern-inspired adobe retreat set within the majestic San Juan Mountains, just an hour from Telluride, Colorado. Situated in the charming little town of Ridgway (featured in John Wayne films such as “True Grit”), I often recommend Chipeta as an excellent base for visiting the many interesting sites and towns that pepper southwestern Colorado and southern Utah.

If you travel further into the mountains from Ridgway, you can easily explore the historic old mining towns of Telluride, Ouray and Silverton. If you head toward Montrose, you can hit the Ute Indian Museum, a well-worth-the-stop attraction that showcases one of Colorado’s most complete collections of Ute ceremonial and traditional artifacts. Just on the other side of Montrose, plan to spend at least a half day at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, a stunning and somewhat spooky site that provokes nearly as many oohs and aahs as the Grand Canyon. And within a two-hour drive you can find yourself amidst the striking red rock of Moab and other parts of southern Utah in addition to Arches National Park and Canyonlands.

Since there’s so much to visit in the area and most of the lodging at Chipeta includes condo-type units, you’ll likely want to check in here for a week. Plan at least a couple of relaxing rest days where you can stay put at this warm and welcoming lodge just to loll by the pool or enjoy a treatment in their spa.

View from the Porch of Chipeta's Four Corners Cafe

View from the Porch of Chipeta's Four Corners Cafe

Whether you’re staying at the lodge or just passing through, a stop at Chipeta’s Four Corners Cafe for dinner or drinks is a must. Here you’ll be enchanted by the striking vistas provided from the top-floor location of this casual restaurant and bar. Inside, the scene serves up heaps of southwestern charm within its desert rose-colored interior. As the sun sinks beneath the mountains, you’re bathed in pink light most evenings whether you’re seated inside or out.

The Sunny Interior of the Four Corners Cafe

The Sunny Interior of the Four Corners Cafe

Indeed this heartwarming lodge is aptly named. It’s called Chipeta, in honor of the lovely wife of Chief Ouray, head of the Ute Indians that once inhabited this land, a gentle woman that eventually became “queen” of both the whites and the Utes of the region. Embracing the rich diversity of this part of the country is what Chipeta, the lodge and the beloved Native American figure, are all about.

Chipeta Sun Lodge & Spa, Ridgway, Colorado, 800-633-5868, www.chipeta.com

July is a wonderful time to visit Chipeta Sun Lodge and its Four Corners Cafe, especially this year with such a rockin’ Ridgway Concert Series lineup. Free concerts take place every Thursday throughout the month from 6p.m. ‘til dark in Ridgway’s Town Park. What a great way to kick off the weekend!

Gateway Canyons: One Big Discovery

The Kiva Pool:  My Own Special Oasis

The Kiva Pool: My Own Special Sanctuary

I returned to Gateway Canyons recently and became even more enchanted by this magnificent site than when I first visited this resort two and a half years ago. Clearly they’d been busy at Gateway throughout this period, cultivating and refining the soothing oasis that has been created within the awe-inspiring red rocks of this unique southwestern Colorado location. Indeed, Gateway Canyons is well on its way to being a world-class resort. And certainly Gateway Canyons owner and founder of the Discovery Channel, John Hendricks, must feel proud about how his burgeoning resort has more than added to the beauty of this already spectacular setting.

Although just a two-hour (and quite scenic) drive from Telluride and Grand Junction, getting to Gateway can require a bit of an effort. But to me, this only adds to the appeal of this lovely resort. I can’t ever imagine it overrun by tourists and that certainly wasn’t the case when I stayed here a couple of weeks ago during peak time. This enabled me to while away peaceful hours by the Kiva Pool, sipping lemonade and eventually a prickly pear cactus daiquiri as I leafed through magazines. A quick dip in the pool’s cool, saline water allowed me to lounge in the desert heat until the surrounding rocks soaked up the sum of the day’s blistering sun. Ahhhh, that’s what I call relaxation.

Panoramic View of Gateway Flanked by Their Landmark Palisade

Panoramic View of Gateway Flanked by Their Landmark Palisade

Each evening, however, provided other opportunities for fun. I selected a different spot as the day ebbed on the resort’s beautifully manicured grounds to sip a glass of wine from my private stash. Here I marveled at the changing display of light on the rocks and in the sky as I chatted with friends. We enjoyed a bite one evening on the patio of the Paradox Grille, the resort’s more casual restaurant. But I fell truly under the spell of Gateway grandeur as we dined on the patio of Entrada, the resort’s fine dining establishment. I often say that fine dining is part theater, and outside at Entrada, you sit upon one of the most glorious theater sets of the world. Here, you’re just high enough to take in the best views the resort has to offer: the vast stretch of green lawn punctuated by giant cottonwoods, the interplay of light on the palisade, the towering monument that marks Gateway and the sky-blue pink sunset as the day morphs into night. Opera, twinkling lights and a fire pit made for smore-ing added to my “I feel like I’m in a movie/play” sentiments. A crescendo was hit as I savored a perfectly prepared piece of filet. And as fireworks were set off for a group of South Americans here on a Discovery Retreat, I remarked to myself that it wasn’t surprising that the man behind one of my favorite T.V. channels would fashion such an unparalleled experience.

The Entrada Stage, Or Rather Patio

The Entrada Stage, Or Rather Patio

In addition to taking in the resplendent grounds and superlative car museum of Gateway, there’s also lots of outdoor adventure to be enjoyed. This time I floated down the Delores in a duckie, an hour and a half fun-filled expedition that provided me with even more extraordinary vistas and giggles galore. I also ventured up into the canyon on an energetic hike that made me want to come back some day and go even farther. But it was my time in the new Spa at Gateway Canyons that lulled me into total reverie the most. As throughout the entire resort, the warm, earth-toned decor of this luxurious space eased me into deep relaxation. My highly-skilled esthetician gave me a facial that left my skin feeling plumped and pampered, well toned and hydrated. Here—as well as throughout the rest of the resort—the service was excellent.

Entry to Paradise

Entry to Paradise

I left the Spa and all of Gateway Canyons feeling like I had embraced the many healing benefits of this surely sacred place. I felt like the sun-drenched energy of the red rocks would live in me forever. And not surprisingly, I vowed to add to that red rocks vibe as often as my schedule would allow.

Read about my first trip to Gateway Canyons, a wondrous adventure I did with a girlfriend, at Going to Gateway.

Know that you can enjoy many of the amenities of Gateway Canyons—such as the Spa, the Auto Museum, the Adventure Center and the restaurant—without spending the night.

You Can Never Get Enough Views of the Palisade

You Can Never Get Enough Views of the Palisade

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