Category Archives: Colorado

Last Runs of 2016-17 on Aspen Mountain

Mountain-top skiing & riding on Memorial Day Weekend.

Most of this week has been cool and rainy in Boulder, meaning that winter is far from over in the high country.  No one quite knows when Trail Ridge Road, the country’s highest continuously paved road, will be plowed out. Arapahoe Basin has announced a bonus weekend, June 9-11, and is being coy about possible open days beyond that.  And that other rite of spring skiing continues as Aspen Mountain opens for skiing and riding Memorial Day Weekend, May 27-29.

Memorial Day skiing on Aspen Mountain in 2016.

The Silver Queen Gondola from the in-town base to the summit operates from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for skiing and riding, and the Ajax Express chairlift runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the season’s last laps on Aspen Mountain’s upper blue runs and such black runs as Summit and Blondie’s.

In addition to opening 130 acres of skiable terrain, Memorial Day Weekend marks the start of Aspen Mountain’s summer operations with access to sightseeing and food/beverage options at the Sundeck restaurant.

Colorado Springs’ Presidential Connections

Ties are relatively tenuous, but they exist for those who look.

Namesakes of the nation’s first president are legion, from the country’s capital and the Lower 48’s westernmost state to the famous bridge connecting New York and New Jersey, plus countless smaller sites. No other presidents have their names on so many places and landmarks. Colorado, in fact, has relatively few. The Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau has come with a few in the Pikes Peak Region to consider visiting this Presidents’ Weekend or beyond.

This sign affixed to the Royal Gorge Bridge railing helps visitors spot the late president’s horizontal profile.

Near Cañon City, take a sky-high walk across the Royal Gorge Bridge, North America’s highest suspension bridge. Look to the horizon and find John F. Kennedy’s silhouette along the mountain range. A sign on the bridge guides searching eyes to what appears to be his profile lying down.

In the box canyon known as the “grandest mile of scenery in Colorado,” visitors hike the road through the Broadmoor Seven Falls flanked by all manner of various rock formations. It doesn’t require a long trek to spot George Washington’s profile, which be seen in stone just inside the entrance.

There are Ronald Reagan Memorial Highways in several. states. Colorado’s picturesque portion is a section of Interstate 25 in El Paso County toward the Royal Gorge Region and Cañon City.

Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, at least one of the Bushes and Obama are presidents who addressed the graduating classes of the U.S. Air Force Academy just north of Colorado Springs.  The visitor center, sculpture garden and impressive interfaith Cadet Chapel are open to the public.  A six-mile stretch of the New Santa Fe Regional Trail running through the base opened yo civilian cyclists and pedestrians last year. Click here for details on visiting this military site in this high-security era.

The Ski Train is Back!

Amtrak running the train, reborn as the Winter Park Express.

Amtrak-logoToday marked the happy return of the ski train between Denver’s Union Station and the base of Winter Park Resort. The operator now is Amtrak, and the weekend/holiday train is called the Winter Park Express. But the route is the same — and Coloradans are cheering.

Courtesy Charles Stemen/Winter Park Resort
Courtesy Charles Stemen/Winter Park Resort

With 550 passengers, including Governor John Hickenlooper, the inaugural train was sold out, as many that are to follow.

Vail Valley’s Lodge at Cordillera Closing

Posh lodge to become drug rehab center, if lawsuits don’t stop it.

cordillera-logoI first visited the Lodge at Cordillera when it was a construction zone — a small condo building of just a few units was the first to be completed– just 28 rooms and later 56. Somewhere along the line,  the fitness center became a fantastic spa, and the property changed its name to the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera.

The restaurant initially was a fancy French eatery called Restaurant Picasso (and yes, there was a Picasso on the wall) that later became a modern American restaurant called Mirador. I don’t know what happened to the Picasso.  And a golf course, of course.

The Lodge at Cordillera is lovely on a winter evening, but sadly for skiers and snowboarders, itis several miles from the nearest lift.
The Lodge at Cordillera is lovely on a winter evening, but sadly for skiers and snowboarders, itis several miles from the nearest lift.

The surrounding development included more and more multi-million-dollar homes on something like 3,000 acres — all perched high on a plateau incongruously over a trailer park.  Look up “Kobe Bryant” if you want to recall Cordillera’s brush with infamy.

Now, comes the next chapter (and probably some work for lawyers).  Robert Behringer is a Texan whose Behringer Harvard investment firm is under contract to sell the lodge and some surrounding acreage that was once supposed to be a village center to the Baltimore-based Concerted Care Group that wants to convert it into a pricey drug addiction treatment facility. How pricy? Reports are that the cost would be up to $65,000  a month.

Cordillera residents don’t like it. Not one bit, claiming that the plan has already cost property owners $100 million in real estate value. They filed a lawsuit which alleges that Behringer sought modification of Cordillera’s Planned Unit Development Guide. It included 34 potential uses of the lodge and surrounding land, including office space, athletic facilities, an amphitheater and medical offices. Drug rehab was not  on the list. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the website does not say in so many words that the doors close for good on February 28.  It can only be inferred by the fact that every date from March 1 on is blocked out in red on the reservations calendar.

Hotel Boulderado’s Upcoming Lobby Renovation

Boulder’s historic landmark hotel to upgrade main floor space.

boulderado-logoThe Hotel Boulderado, which opened its doors on New Year’s Day 1909, continues to reinvent itself, piecemeal. The restaurant was the Teddy Roosevelt Restaurant or Rough Rider Room (or similar) when I moved to Boulder in ’88. It was later Q’s at the Boulderado, and is now Spruce Farm Food Fish. The down-market Catacombs has been turned into a speakeasy-inspired cocktail lounge called License #1. The Corner Bar has been refreshed.

Now, the hotel at the corner of 13th and Spruce is about to embark on its most dramatic change, a makeover of the lobby. Beginning right after the enormous Christmas tree comes down on January 2, the four-month renovation will begin. The hotel initially said that the restaurants and rooms will still be operating, but it appears that Spruce Farm and Fish is, in fact, closed while the work is going on.

If I understand the plans correctly, the beautiful front desk will become a lobby bar and the gift shop will become a coffee bar operated by Boxcar Coffee Roasters. I’m not sure where the registration desk will go — or perhaps it will be replaced by several sets of tables and chairs. The beautiful staircase to the mezzanine, the stunning glass ceiling and the water fountain boasting of the Arapahoe Glacier as its source will presumably all remain.

Colorado’s Deep Snows

Mountain snowfalls measure deep, especially at Crested Butte.

crestedbutte-logoI am looking out at the wintry snowscape in my yard — five inches or so on the deck railing birds on the heated birdbath and at the feeders (right now a white-headed woodpecker is vacuuming out the seed from the feeder outside my office window). The mountains are reveling in even more snow, a very good thing as the holiday peak season approaches.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) has received over 21 inches of snow in the last 24 hours and 29 inches in the last two days. That appears to be the deepest storm totals in the state of Colorado with a two day total of 29 inches.  Here is a picture from yesterday’s snow.

 The resort says that flights are arriving into the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport with just some minor delays and Monarch Pass is currently open. And that’s pretty much the picture all over the state. Click here for current snow and lift reports from most resorts state-wide.

Wellness & Cuisine Meet at Beaver Creek Studio

Monthly packages combine luxury lifestyle elements.

beavercreek-logoIn European spa resorts, guests come to renew, rejuvenate and relax — and eat well. That concept with an American spin comes to Beaver Creek this winter. Beginning in January, and taking place monthly thereafter, the essential elements of Earth, Water and Fire inspired for the new ‘Mind, Body and Appetite’ series at this luxurious mountain resort. Each element is to be  incorporated into the series to complement movement, nutrition, and cuisine.

What intrigued me was that Vail Valley star chef Kelly Liken is the culinary key to this new series with the “appetite” part offered at her new-ish restaurant, Harvest By Kelly Liken in Edwards. The press release describes this combination thus:

Each event begins in The Sonnenalp Club’s new Movement Studio with 45 minutes of yoga and meditation, taught by renowned yogi Suzanne Oliver, concentrating on one of the three elements. After the yoga class, guests move into The Lounge at Harvest by Kelly Liken to hear a talk from Ashley Eaves, certified nutritionist, dietitian and intuitive coach about how the element affects the body. Guests then enjoy inspired cuisine created by Chef Kelly Liken, comprised of ingredients chosen by Eaves, from a customized menu that stimulates the appetite while interpreting the components of each element through a culinary lens.

The Schedule & MoInfo

January 25. Earth Element (Prithvi), representing all that is stable and unwavering.   Mind – Yoga class includes standing postures and gentle hip openers, ending with a guided meditation and grounding breath work.   Body – The effect of grounding the body through nutrition and its application on mind/body balance . Appetite – Menu focuses on earthy, hearty winter vegetables while incorporating a healthy balance of macronutrients.

February 22. Water Element (Apah Jala), representing the force of attraction and enables flow, circulation, rhythm and fluid movement.   Mind – Using the breath as the guide and meditation to bring intention to thoughts and desires.  Body – The effects of water, hydration, nutrients in fresh juices from fruits and veggies, Omega3, detoxing and healthy digestion.  Appetite – Fresh seafood, healthy fats and umami vegetables, plus juice bar offerings from The Pantry at Harvest.

March 22. Fire Element (Agni), delivering a spark of heat, stimulation and movement, digestion and attitude.  Mind –Yoga session focuses on drawing energy up from the earth into the core of the pelvis, firing up power for arm balancing postures.   Body – Nutrition session focuses on metabolism and the effects of caffeine, proteins, carbohydrates and spicy foods on the body.    Appetite – Menu incorporates spicy foods known to boost metabolism.

Each session takes place from 4 to 6 p.m.  and starts at $65 for Sonnenalp Club members and $80 for non-members;  all three classes start at $175 for members, $215 for non-members. And for those who an adult beverage at the end of the day, “specialty elemental cocktails” are available for an additional charge during the culinary portion. Reservations are required; call 970-477-5377.

Cross-posted to Culinary Colorado.

Taos Named Top Ski Town

USA Today cites Taos as nation’s best.

USATodat-Top10-logoTaos (the town) and Taos Ski Valley (the mountain resort) are connected by a narrow 18-mile canyon road, but that didn’t stop USA Today readers from naming Taos the best ski town in the land. I like Taos as much as anyone, but it really doesn’t feel like a “ski town” — and with the recent developments at the resort, both on the mountain and at the base of the lifts, that vote seems even more far-fetched.

Taos has a fine historic plaza and a great hotel right there, good galleries, terrific places to eat and a nearby pueblo that ranks as one of the country’s longest continuously inhabited communities. But a ski town? Not really. Did someone stuff the ballot box?

Upon contemplation, I think not. The Tahoe area resorts are many miles from #2 Reno and somewhat closer to $5 Truckee. Even the town of Jackson and the resort of Jackson Hole are not contiguous. Maybe USA Today readers don’t like to ski. Just a thought.

10 Best Ski Towns

  1. Taos, N.M.
  2. Reno, Nev.
  3. Whitefish, Mt.
  4. North Conway, N.H.
  5. Truckee, Calif.
  6. Crested Butte, Colo.
  7. Jackson Hole, Wyo.
  8. Stowe, Vt.
  9. Steamboat Springs, Colo.
  10. Breckenridge, Colo.

And for what it’s worth

10 Best Ski Resorts

  1. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows – Olympic Valley, Calif.
  2. Sugarbush Resort – Warren, Vt.
  3. Big Sky Resort – Big Sky, Mont.
  4. Alta – Alta, Utah
  5. Crested Butte Mountain Resort – Crested Butte, Colo.
  6. Deer Valley Resort – Park City, Utah
  7. Revelstoke Mountain Resort – Revelstoke, British Columbia
  8. Killington Resort – Killington, Vt.
  9. Steamboat Resort – Steamboat Springs, Colo.
  10. Whistler Blackcomb – Whistler, British Columbia

 

Vail CEO’s Epic Generosity

Ski company boss writes BIG checks to worthy causes.

Vail-logoVail and Aspen, the most glamorous names in American skiing, are the linchpins of the communities where their ski mountains are located. Rob Katz, the mega-resort operator’s head man, and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, have opened their checkbook with unprecedented generosity.  From Vail Resorts’ press release:

Vail Resorts, Inc. CEO Rob Katz and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, founder of Elana’s Pantry, made personal contributions totaling $2 million to 12 local non-profit organizations in the communities where the company operates, including Eagle, Summit, Denver and Boulder counties in Colorado; Summit County in Utah, South Lake Tahoe in Nevada, North Lake Tahoe in California; the Municipality of Whistler in British Columbia, Canada; Afton in Minnesota; Brighton in Michigan; Kenosha County in Wisconsin (near Wilmot); Cooma in New South Wales, Australia (near Perisher); and Jackson in Wyoming (near Grand Teton Lodge Company). Each of the contributions will be directed toward programs that support the welfare and education of children in these local communities.

“The success of our local communities brings a number of unique challenges that require our focus and attention – none more important than helping kids and families who are most vulnerable. Elana and I feel fortunate to be able to provide this support to these outstanding non-profits to allow them to continue their great work,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.

This announcement follows last year’s $1.5 million contribution by Rob and Elana to the Epic Promise Foundation, which provides grants to employees of Vail Resorts who are in need or are looking for additional educational opportunities…[There are] non-profit organizations receiving funds from this $2 million gift and the impact these funds will have on children and families in the local communities they serve. 

Think about this next time you buy VRI resort pass or buy a lift ticket.

All National Parks Free to Celebrate Centennial

Visit, appreciate and protect our National Park lands.

NatlParkServiceLogoThe centennial of the National Park Service as been promoted and written about and covered in the broadcast media for months, but the agency’s celebratory freebie long weekend is Thursday, August 25 through Sunday, August 28. On those days, all 412 National Park Service units (Parks, Monuments, Historic Sites) are open to the public for free.

That means no charge for entrance fees, commercial tour fees and transportation entrance fees. Other fees collected by concessionaires (lodging and food service, camping, tours and outfitters such as fishing or climbing guides) are still in effect.

Expect normally busy parks like our nearby Rocky Mountain National Park and communities just outside park boundaries (Estes Park and Grand Lake adjacent to RMNP, for instance) to be crowded. But even as we celebrate, we should be aware of the increased development pressure directly at the edge of popular parks. The 1916 legislation that created the Park Service had a mandate to leave park scenery and wildlife “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” That was then and this now.

Celebrate by Protecting

The Los Angeles Times recently wrote an op-ed exposé, “Can America’s National Parks Defeat Developers at Their Gate?“, pointing out the detrimental proximity of wind farms in the Mojave to protected land and other projects. Grand Canyon Escalade is a frightening plan to construct a huge resort and a tramway that would ferry up to 10,000 people a day to the bottom of the Grand Canyon at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers, just outside of National Park boundaries. The developer tries to make a case for how wonderful it would be for the land, the river, the wildlife and the Navajo Nation, while its opponents, including the Grand Canyon Trust, document the abuse of those very same interests of that would result. My feeling is that it is preferable to stop a questionable or outright undesirable project than to “un-build.” Let’s give the parks a big birthday present and put the brakes on rampant development in the neighborhoods of “America’s Best Idea.”