Category Archives: Colorado

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.”

Halcyon Hotel: High-Tech, High-Touch

Boutique hotel with cool Asian eatery opening in Cherry Creek area.

Halcyon-logo. pngWhen it opens on Monday the Sage Hospitality’s Halcyon Hotel in Cherry Creek North will be the high-toned neighborhood’s first new hotel in a decade. The Denver Post’s report, “Halcyon hotel welcomes its first guests in Cherry Creek North ,” lists a bunch features — some high-tech, others high-touch, and still others pure nostalgia.  No pix yet, because I haven’t been there, and there as yet are no images on the hotel’s website, but I’m intrigued enough to post it now. Amenities include:

  • E-bikes and Vespa scooters for guest use included in the room rate.
  • Instead of a front desk, there’s  a “kitchen counter” with complimentary beverages, Intelligentsia coffee and snacks served all day long.
  • With no front desk, hotel hosts equipped with some sort of satchels and iPads check guests in quickly.
  • “Gear garage” from which guests can borrow bicycles, long boards, GoPros, day packs, binoculars, fly-fishing gear–  “even a vintage Leica M3 camera and a roll of film that the hotel will get processed and sent to your home.”
  • In-room turntable and classic vinyl records.
  • In-room Nespresso coffee machine.
  • High-tech, high-speed connectivity.
  • Basic bar set-up, including the hotel’s private-label rum, made by Laws Whiskey House.
  • On-site fitness facility and roof-top pool.

Then of course there’s food, for which Cherry Creek North has a long reputation. The hotel is offering a short-run Cherry Creek North Food & Wine Package, currently priced only through August 14.

Two restaurants are on the docket, a steakhouse and a rooftop eatery to come but opening right away is an outpost of Portland, Oregon-based Departure Restaurant + Lounge. The inspiration, the food and the décor derive from Asia. Gregory Gourdet, a with-it “Top Chef” contender, designed a menu that not only includes various Asian cuisines but also reportedly accommodates guests with gluten-free, vegan and paleo dining preferences.

Colorado Promotes Hot Springs Loop

The big five destinations for natural hot springs.

ColoradoFlagAfter I moved to Colorado in 1988, I bought a book called Colorado Hot Springs Guide that listed 51 sites that ranged from the huge and iconic Glenwood Springs Hot Springs Pool to something called the Sand Dunes Swimming Well Pool that once fed a fish farm and at that writing was on private property and not open to the public.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs in the backcountry north of Steamboat Springs.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs in the backcountry north of Steamboat Springs.

The Colorado Tourism Board is now promoting the 720-mile Hot Springs Loop, featuring well-developed hot springs in five communities, three of which have “Springs” as their last names.

Ouray

Orvis Hot Springs. Located just north of Ouray, it maintains electronic-free soaking areas that encourage guests to unplug and unwind. Visitors can book a room on the property, or bring along their camping gear for a truly authentic night under the stars. The Tourism Board doesn’t note that this is a clothing-optional facility, but that is something many visitors like to know in advance.

More hot springs: Ouray Hot Springs Pool & Fitness Center, The Historic Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings, Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs and Twin Peaks Lodge & Hot Springs

Glenwood Springs

Iron Mountain Hot Springs.  Glenwood’s newest wellness destination, with 16 soaking pools filled with pure, hot, mineral water located on the bank of the Colorado River. A freshwater family pool and jetted spa provide additional soaking options.

More hot springs: Glenwood Hot Springs and Yampah Spa & Vapor Caves

Chaffee County

Creekside Hot Springs Cabin.  A private experience — offers a vacation rental home with its own secluded soaking hot springs pool that is fed by the Mount Princeton geothermal aquifer.

More hot springs: Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center, Cottonwood Hot Springs, Alpine Hot Springs Hideaway and Antero Hot Springs Cabins. Frankly, I’m surprised that the state tourism board would select a single thre-bedroom rental home as its lead suggestion, especially in light of the far more expansive and interesting Mount Princeton Hot Springs complex.

Pagosa Springs

The Springs Resort & Spa. Located on the banks of the San Juan River in downtown Pagosa Springs with 23 naturally hot therapeutic mineral pools and a mineral water lap pool fed by the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring.

More hot springs: Overlook Hot Springs Spa and Healing Waters Resort & Spa

Steamboat Springs

Strawberry Park Hot Springs.  Nestled in an aspen grove about 15 minutes from town, the natural spring water and stone pool surrounds offer a rustic and rejuvenating experience, including private massage huts and stay a variety of overnight lodging options including a train caboose, cabin, wagon and more.

More hot springs: Old Town Hot Springs

Colorado Trains Are Nation’s Top Two

Cumbres & Toltec and Durango & Silverton top list.

USATodat-Top10-logoUSA Today sought readers’ votes on several categories of tourist attractions, and two Colorado railroads topped the list. Number one is the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad that is owned by the states of Colorado and New Mexico and flirts with the state line between Antonito, CO and Chama, NM. Runner-up was the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad following the Animas River between Durango and Silverton in southwestern Colorado. It even operates in winter, part-way along the route as far as the Wye turnaround.

Vail Ups Its Summer Ante

Epic Discovery Center unleashes new thrills.

Vail-logoSummer at Vail is getting a whole lot more exciting, mountain activity-wise, with the phenomenal $25 million Epic Discovery Center near the top of the Eagle Bahn gondola on the Lionshead side of the mountain. Some attractions are already open, others are slated to debut in the next few weeks. Unlike low-elevation parks, the air is clear and the views are stunning. Here are some highlights:

  • Game Creek Aerial Adventure.  Seven lines plus aerial bridges  through and above the forest habitat. Guides introduce the mountain ecosystem while guiding visitors through each course. The tour takes 3 to 4 thrilling hours.
  • Golden Eagle Zipline. If the Game Creek Aerial Adventure is to much of a good thing, try this collection of 1,200-foot ziplines at the top of Eagle’s Nest.
  • Little Eagle Zipline. Even shorter (200 feet) and tamer, this zipline is geared toward the littlest adventurers.
  • The Forest Flyer. New ride that 3,400 feet down the mountain in the Simba area (skiers know exactly where that is). The elevated track follows the natural contours of the land through the forest. Click here for a Vail Daily video of a ride on the Flyer.
  • Holy Cross and Eagle’s Nest Adventure Courses. Test strength and balance on challenging obstacle areas via ropes, bridges, logs and balance elements on a choice of easy, medium and difficult levels ropes courses. The facility is safe, since everyone is outfitted with a harness and a helmet.
  • Pine Cone Adventure Course. The low-to-ground, smaller version of courses features easier-to-navigate ropes, bridges, logs and other kid-friendly obstacles.
  • Eagle’s Nest Summer Tubing. If you love winter tubing on Vail’s Adventure Ridge or elsewhere, this new 550-foot-long course is the summer equivalent. There’s music the whole way down, and the Adventure Bahn hauls  you back to the top.
  • Marmot Mini Tubing. This multi-lane tubing hill features two runs, plus an easy-access surface lift hauls little ones back up top quickly and safely.
  • Mountain Goat Climbing Tower. This 25-foot tall climbing wall is  designed for beginner to advanced climbers of all ages and abilities.
  • Scenic Gondola Ride. Anyone, regardless of age, fitness or courage, can take this scenic ride to enjoy magical views of the Gore Range and Mount of the Holy Cross. The gondola (#19) rises from Lionshead up to Eagle’s Nest above 10,000 feet — and descends too for the return to the valley.

Click here for pass options for various ages and activities.

Colorado Camping Experiences

Camping from easy-street to high-adventure.

ColoradoFlagThe other day, I wrote a post about “glamping,” a term originally coined to describe luxury camping but now has broadened considerably. One Utah outfitter even uses it for a hotel/transportation/ concierge package to the state’s five national parks.

Colorado has them all. To show the range of experiences from a very commercial family campground to an outfitter whose “campsites” are set high on canyon walls, the Colorado Tourism Office has issued this list that includes the nearest community for each. Additionally, Coloradans themselves tend to go backpacking or set up camp on our many public lands:

Discover Distinctive Summer Camping Adventures in Colorado

Yurts, Huts and Tipis

Hinsdale Haute Route (Lake City). Eco-friendly structures that provide, comfort, durability and a light footprint, also known as yurts, are accessible year-round at Hinsdale Haute Route. Each yurt can accommodate six to eight people and is furnished complete with a fireplace. The Jon Wilson Yurt is a just a short 1.25 mile hike, making it ideal for families. For more advanced hikers, the Colorado Trail Friends Yurt can be accessed by the camp trail, which is a six mile stretch and gains 2,500 feet of elevation.

Jellystone Park (Larkspur). Home to the classic Yogi-Bear, Jellystone Park is a family-oriented, private park that boasts 100-acres of unique camping options. The on-site tipis are the perfect way to experience the rustic nature of the era of America’s westward expansion. The structures sleep up to six people and campers can gaze skyward through tipi poles jutting into the night sky.

Leadville Backcountry (Leadville). Nestled behind the Mosquito Mountain Range and Mt. Sherman, Marceline and Emma yurts reach 12,000 feet in elevation. Most guests use the yurts as a base camp to explore the thousands of acres of public lands that make up this area. Empire Gulch, Empire Reservoir and Gold Basin are pristine playgrounds for those looking to escape for an adventurous weekend in the outdoors.

Pearl Lake State Park (Steamboat Springs). In North Routt County, Pearl Lake State Park has two yurts available for rent throughout the year. Visitors can snowshoe during the winter months or drive right up to the front door in the summer. The park also features 36 summer camp sites for those who prefer to pitch their own tent. This serene setting with access to a peaceful mountain reservoir is just the location for some rest and relaxation.

OPUS Hut (Ophir). The OPUS Hut is a completely self-sufficient and off-the-grid hut situated in the San Juan Mountains east of Ophir Pass. Meals for purchase include soup, dinner and breakfast. Beer, wine and a limited selection of spirits are also available for purchase from the kitchen. Outside the hut, visitors can mountain bike in the San Juan Mountains, hike around Ophir Pass, go four-wheeling and much more.

Continue reading Colorado Camping Experiences

Virgin America’s New SFO-DEN Service

VirginAmerica-logoI’m Australia, where we flew Virgin Australia between Sydney and Tasmania. Nothing at all unusual about the aircraft or the service. Still, in inaugurating service between San Francisco and Denver, its sister airline Virgin America, which a press release describes as “the Bay Area-based airline known for reinventing flying.” Mood lighting  in the cabin, above-average food, swivel TV screens, comfortable seats and such are often mentioned.

We fly back to Denver on Monday the 14th, so I am sure to be too jet-lagged to consider attending the festivities at DIA the next day. That means I’m missing out on the chance to be in the same room with Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and other notables and quotables. I’ve never flown Virgin America’s DIA-JFK service, whose schedule seems diabolically designed for bad connections to international flights.

Will, it has a loyal following of flyers for its business-friendly and tech-forward flight experience, including being the first and only U.S. carrier to offer fleetwide WiFi and power outlets at every seat.  The Denver area, which has been dubbed “Silicon Mountain” because of its own booming innovative economy, is today the number one most requested destination by the airline’s corporate clients.

Skiing a Colorado Tourism Economy Driver

Skiing/snowboarding generate $4.8 billion annually.

ColoradoFlag“I moved here for the winter and stayed because of summer” is a popular cliché of immigrants to the state — people like me who moved from the New York area. We are now part of the 9% of Coloradans who ski, and we continue to welcome visitors to share our slopes. With the strong dollar, international visitation is reportedly dropping, but ski visits overall continue strong. Take a look at these numbers from 2013-14 reported by a site called SnowBrains:

7 Facts About The Colorado Ski Economy

1. $4.8 billion is generated annually by the Colorado ski industry
2. 46,000 year-round jobs in Colorado are supported by the Ski & Snowboard Economy.
3. $1.9 billion earned by those 46,000 workers every year.
4. 500,000 Colorado residents skied in the 2013-2014 season. That’s 9 percent of Colorado’s estimated 5.2 million people.
5. 5.6 million of the state’s 12.6 million skier visits are from Colorado locals.
6. 7 million out-of-state skier visits in 2013-2014.
7.  $300 per day on average is spent by out-of-state skiers
8. 25% Colorado’s skier visits occur at Vail Resorts ski resorts (Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, Beaver Creek).

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.