Luxe Chairlift in Austria’s Tryolean Alps

Kitzbühel’s sexy new eightpack.

AustriaSkiTwenty or more years ago, many American skiers heading for Europe were put off my the lifts and the liftlines. Many lifts were either high-capacity sardine-packed cable cars or surface lifts (TR-bars and platterpulls), while in North America, skiers were accustomed to the relative comfort and ease of chairlifts. And liftlines have always been orderly.

Fast-forward to now, and European lift technology. Swiss cable cars and French and Austrian chairlifts eclipsed American uphill transport — and in fact, proved to touch for such American lift-makers as Hall, Riblet and YAN to compete against.

Here’s a new lift in Kitzbühel, Austria, to show that there’s sizzle as well as steak in the realm of European lifts.


It has been called “the world’s luxurious chairlift,” and what with ergonomic, leather seats, heated and bubble- covered, who’s to argue? Leitner Ropeways required 10 months to complete the chairlift, designed with input from  auto industry experts. Audi? Mercedes? Porsche?

Lufthansa Adding Denver-Munich Nonstops

New Airbus service to begin in May.

Lufthansa-logoI have long felt that Denver and Munich are twin cities in spirit, separated by history and time zones. Both are near the mountains but not in the mountains. Both display the energetic pulse of a young, active population. And of course, they are both famous for beer. And come May 11, they will be on either end of new nonstop flights. My husband and I were just talking about our next European trip, so we might well book this one.

A Lufthansa Airbus A330-300 will fly the five-times weekly service. The new eastbound LH 481 will operate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, departing Denver at 4:05 p.m. and arriving in Munich the following morning. The westbound LH 480 service will also operate on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, departing from Lufthansa’s Munich hub at 11:45 a.m. and arriving in Denver at 2:30 p.m.(all times local) after a 10 hour, 45 minute flight.

The Denver-Munich route is  the first time that the A330-300 has been scheduled for regular service at Denver International Airport — 177 in Economy and Economy Plus, 30 in Business and a handful in the ethereal front cabin.

Turntable Challenge is a Wager on the Rails

Super Bowl inspires railroad museum wagers.

SuperBowl50-logoGovernors, mayors, chefs and others seem compelled (or pressured) to bet something iconic from their regions every Super Bowl. Here’s a new twist — railroad museums.  The North Carolina Transportation Museum has laid down a “Turntable Challenge” to the Colorado Railroad Museum for the big game between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. Each museum is confident that its team will be dominant and has promised the following concessions, should its team lose. And this, of course, will be posted on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

NorthCarolinaTransportationMuseum-logoIf the Denver Broncos win, the North Carolina Transportation Museum will send:

  • North Carolina Pit cooked pork BBQ
  • Red Oak Brewery Beer, a popular North Carolina brewed old- style lager
  • Krispy Kreme glazed donuts, which were born in Winston-Salem
  • Cheerwine, a beloved and locally made soft drink created in Salisbury and still based there
  • Video of one of their engines on the turntable with Denver Broncos flags flying and a performed by staff version of the Denver Broncos fight song.

ColoRRMuseum-logoIf the North Carolina Panthers win, the Colorado Railroad Museum will send:

  • Colorado Native beer, made by AC Golden, (all ingredients are from Colorado, and the beer is only available in Colorado).
  • Rocky Mountain Oysters and chile sauce, prepared by The Fort. It is one of their popular signature and very Colorado menu items.
  • Video of one of their engines on the turntable with North Carolina Panthers flags flying and a performed by staff version of the Panthers fight song.  They will also fly the Panther flags on their Galloping Goose through the month of February.

Valentine’s Day Freebie from Delta

Sweets & bubbles on some transcontinental flights.

Delta-logoWho says that US airlines don’t include any extras for back-cabin passengers anymore? Of course, it’s mostly true — unless you count the little bag of pretzels on Southwest. But for one day and on limited flights, Delta is offering sweet extras.

On Valentine’s Day, Delta passengers flying to or from JFK via SFO and LAX will be treated to what the airline calls “festive delights to make their transcontinental flights…more special. Each each passenger gets a 3-pack of holiday-inspired Baked by Melissa cupcakes paired and a mini bottle of Veuve du Vernay Rosé sparkling wine, while Delta One passengers get this sparkling wine by the glass. I wouldn’t be surprised if the cupcakes are Melissa’s micro-treats, each the size of a quarter, and the wine is in a thimble-size bottle. It’s not much, but better than the usual nothing

Hot Valentines Day Package at Hot Springs

Lots of extras with Glenwood Springs “Romance Package.”

valentine chocolateI wrote this for, but want to share it with other readers too.

The Hot Springs Resort in Glenwood Springs does not confine its Romance Package just to February 14 but makes it available for any two-night stay during the entire month of February.  Upon arrival, guests receive two free plush Mansfield spa robes to keep (value $85 each), chocolate truffles and a bottle of champagne.

The package also includes a $30 gift card toward lunch or dinner at The Pullman or Glenwood Canyon Brewpub, both near the hotel. And it goes without saying that lodge guests have unlimited access to the fabled Hot Springs Pool, where soaking under the stars is a magical experience. Each registered adult also receives a $100 spa credit to use on any spa service at the award-winning Spa of the Rockies, including a couples massage (but excluding retail products). Complimentary daily hot breakfast is served in the poolside grill. To reserve, click here or call  800-537-7946 (SWIM).

Five New ‘Ethical Destinations’ Recognized

Ethical-Traveler-LogoIn the view of Ethical Traveler, Grenada, Micronesia, Mongolia, Panama and Tuvalu “are making impressive strides to conserve natural resources, support human rights and protect animals.” As such, they are first-time winners of the annual Ethical Destinations Awards, joining destinations recognized in previous years.

Each year, California-based Ethical Traveler researches and publishes a list of what it considers art the 10 most forward-thinking countries in the developing world. In addition to “performance” in the areas of human rights, social welfare, animal welfare and environmental protection, winning countries must be appealing as travel destinations.

The 2016 winners, in alphabetical order (not in order of merit), are:

  • Cabo Verde
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Micronesia (Federated States)
  • Mongolia
  • Panama
  • Samoa
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • Uruguay

Ethical Traveler is a project of the Berkeley-based Earth Island Institute. The goal of the Ethical Destinations Awards is to encourage developing nations to do the right thing, and to reward destinations where policies and actions protect human rights and the environment.

The Rebranding of Yosemite

Outgoing concessionaire trademarked landmarks.

Yosemite signI was flabbergasted to learn that such iconic features of Yosemite National Park are being renamed. As of March 1, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls will become Yosemite Valley Lodge; The Ahwahnee Hotel will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel; Curry Village will become Half Dome Village; Wawona Hotel will become Big Trees Lodge, and Badger Pass Ski Area will become Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area.

It seems that DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc., the Delaware North subsidiary that has been the concessionaire running the lodging, food service, bus service, activities and so forth since 1983, trademarked historic names when it learned that its contract was not to be renewed. DNC valued the famous names at $44 million, a sum the Park Service is either unable to pay or prohibited from paying. To me, it’s a hostage situation with one of our treasured parks.

Yosemite Hospitality, a subsidiary of Aramark, is the new concessionaire. This mammoth corporation (270,000 employees provides food, facilities and uniform services to schools, convention centers, hospitals, large workplaces, remote workplaces (think off-shore oil rigs), correctional facilities  and more across the country and internationally.

I know it’s all about the money, but this stings. And I’m guessing that loyal visitors will continue calling the hotel The Ahwahee,  the ski area Badger Pass and so on, regardless. And I’m guessing that John Muir is rolling over in his grave.


Marvelous Memoir of Extended Honeymoon

Newlyweds’ epic adventures chronicled in new book.

CrocodleLove-coverI met Josh Berman at some writers’ event a number of years ago. We went through the usual “what do you write about?”, “where are you from?”, “where do you live?” pleasantries. I learned that he had written a couple of guidebooks to Nicaragua and Belize, that he was wrapping a up a gig as a book editor and, most interestingly, that he and his wife Sutay had traveled around the world for something like two years under the auspices of the Peace Corps and American Jewish World Service. He was planning to write a book about their adventures and experiences.

Then came a few gigs as a fixer for Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain filming in Nicaragua, a book about the Maya calendar that “predicted” the end of the world in 2012 and a transition to teaching Spanish — and he and Sutay, a nurse, childbirth educator and doula, had three little girls. Hop ahead to the end of 2014, when the book came out. It is called Crocodile Love: Travel Tales from an Extended Honeymoon, and it is a very good and lively read about the couple’s experiences in Asia and Africa.

Highlights include Sutay’s unique family legacy in Pakistan that open many strange and unexpected doors, experiencing the world’s great religions through a traveler’s lens, three months of volunteering on an Indian tea plantation in India, two months with the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana and most poignantly, their unannounced arrival in the mud-hut Gambian village where Sutay had lived as a Peace Corps Volunteer ten years earlier.

I couldn’t wait to read it, so I wove it into the busy holiday period, but it is also the kind of book I like to read when traveling.  The short chapters are further divided into sections, which means it is easy to start, put down and restart without losing the thread. The inspiration for the unusual title doesn’t come until the end, and it’s worth waiting for. I hope you read the book, so I won’t spoil it for you.

Deer Valley’s Stein Eriksen Dies at 88

Norwegian ski champ & American ski legend left his mark.   

SteinEriksen2The passing of Stein Eriksen, 1952 Olympic champion and 1954 three-time world champion from Norway, will be mourned by the entire skiing community. He was part of the growth of skiing in the U.S. in the go-go ’60s. He was ski school director or director of skiing at  Boyne Mountain, Sugarbush, Aspen Highlands, Heavenly Valley, Snowmass, Park City and perhaps others I can’t recall.

In 1981, he joined Deer Valley, a new resort on the outskirts of Park City, Utah. No one will ever know what part his association with the resort played in its success, but it must have been considerable because the two were made for each other. The resort’s namesake Stein Eriksen Lodge is perpetually ranked as one of America’s top hotels for its location, elegance, service and cuisine. Stein remained as classy as the hotel named to honor him. He never wore a hat (and perhaps never a helmet either), and images of his full head of blond hair, Scandinavian sweaters and gracefully angulated, feet-together ski style epitomized his “Nordic god” image. He remained an elegant, gracious and classy icon of the sport.

The Stein style of yesteryear.
The Stein style of yesteryear.

In 2007, a day after celebrating his 80th birthday, he was injured in a collision with a 9-year-old resort visitor who reportedly “popped out of the trees” into Eriksen’s path. After surgeries related to that incident, he grew gaunt, and I frankly don’t know whether he continued to ski. Sadly, in 2013, he was hospitalized with some neurological issues. Even more sadly, Eriksen died on December 27 at the age of 88. He is survived by his wife  Françoise and children Julianna, Ava, Anja, and Bjørn. Stein, Jr. predeceased  his famous father. RIP.

A Small, Elegant Inn on Lots of Land

Keyah Grande near Pagosa Springs reopening.

KeyahGrande-gateMy son has lived in Durango for 14 years, so I have passed the elegant Keyah Grande gate innumerable times.  Yesterday, we drove through the gate to the end of the drive where the lovely 8-room lodge is located. We were invited to the reopening after being closed for two years.

Greeting visitors at the lodge entrance is a wall sculpture of Dale Chihuly glass.
Greeting visitors at the lodge entrance is a wall sculpture of Dale Chihuly glass.

Originally conceived of as a hunting lodge, it also become a wonderful wedding venue and is being reborn as a luxury resort on 4,000 acres where elk hunting is just one of the activities. Shooting clays, hiking and fishing are offered in summer. Ski touring and snowshoeing are winter options.  The big outdoor hot tub and the indoor game room and fitness center are year-round facilities. Not being a hunter myself, I wondered what happens to the meat. It goes to disadvantaged local families.

The reopening was celebrated with a lovely cocktail reception featuring champagne, wine and gorgeous hors d’oevres and happy locals that the Keyah Grande is back. It will remain open until the end of February, then close for two months for some fine tuning then reopen in early May with a relaunch of the popular restaurant and bar. Here are a few images:

Each guest room is named for a different place. My husband and I stayed in America.
Each guest room is named for a different place. My husband and I stayed in America.
Sunset from our room.
Sunset from our room.
Cheese and charcuterie.
Cheese and charcuterie.
Celebratory champagne -- French, New World and alcohol-free.
Celebratory champagne — French, New World and alcohol-free.
Spicy Cape Cod oysters in their own juice served in shot glasses wereaamong the passed horse d'oevres.
Spicy Cape Cod oysters in their own juice served in shot glasses wereaamong the passed hors d’oevres.

Award-winning travel blog. Colorado-based Claire Walter shares travel news and first-hand destination information from around the corner, around the country and around the world.