Category Archives: Resorts

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.

Huge New Artificial Reef at Pompano Beach

17th vessel being sunk today off Florida coast.

ShipwreckPark-logo.jpgEven as I write this, “Lady Luck,” the 324-foot sludge tanker from New York City formerly known as “The Newtown Creek,” is being sunk to become one of the biggest components of South Florida’s artificial reef system and an easily accessible major dive site. Now redone with an underwater casino theme and known as “Lady Luck,” promoters are billing it as “the world’s only underwater faux diving casino, complete with interactive art exhibits.”

In anticipation of the sinking 1½ miles off Pompano Beach’s shore,  the ship was, of course, cleaned of oil, sludge remnants and other substances harmful to the marine environment. A live auction earlier this month featured such unique memorabilia as the engine order telegraph, passageway lights, portholes and ship’s horn.

I imagine that locals, visitors and area officials are gathering on shore and on surrounding boats to watch the sinking of “Lady Luck” in 120 feet of water to become the centerpiece of Shipwreck Park, a unique underwater arts park. It will be the 17th  wreck there. The Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa (whose name is almost as long as the ship) promoted itself as a great place from which to watch. A lifetime ago, I attended the sinking of the first, a much smaller vessel once a floating restaurant called “The Ancient Mariner” off the Fort Lauderdale shore.

Diving that new, unadorned wreck was a trip, and now, with interactive features and underwater sculptures, has got to be that much more interesting. Fish are quick to investigate a newly sunken ship, and it doesn’t take long for algae and soft coral to cover the vessel.

Devil’s Thumb Ranch Adds Charging Stations

Tesla and other electric cars can “fuel up” at guest ranch.

DTR-logoDevil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa, known for minimizing its carbon footprint and a commitment to other eco-friendly practices to provide sustainably focused vacation, recreation, spa and dining experiences, is adding two Tesla and one universal electric car charging stations, free to overnight guests and also to day visitors if available.

The Tesla chargers, which the car company provided, take approximately four hours to fully charge a car. A fully charged Tesla gets an average of 300 miles before it needs to be plugged in again.  The Universal Charger, which is being provided by the State of Colorado, is expected to be available later in June and will be able to accommodate Chevrolet, Honda and other electric vehicles. It takes approximately four to eight hours to fully charge a car. Both are offered free-of-charge to overnight guests and guests on a space-available  basis to day guests.

Outlet for Tesla charging station.
Outlet for Tesla charging station.

Dave Houston, the ranch’s director of facilities says,  “While still a small segment of car owners, we want to remain as accessible to the traveling public as possible and that includes offering alternate energy resources for them to use.” Applause to this Tabernash, Colorado, ranch resort for being so forward-thinking.

The Ides of December Bring Snow to the Rockies

Big snows foretell great skiing over the holidays.

Nineteen inches of new snow at Winter Park make it the snowfall leader du jour.
Nineteen inches of new snow at Winter Park make it the snowfall leader du jour.

Here in Colorado, seven resorts welcomed more than a foot of new snow within 48 hours, with Winter Park leading the way with 19 inches of fresh powder. Monarch and Steamboat each measured 17 inches of new snow, Telluride reported 15 inches, Snowmass recorded fourteen inches, and Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort and Copper Mountain each received about a foot. Elsewhere in Ski Country, Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk and Ski Cooper each accumulated 11 inches of new snowfall, Aspen Highlands and Eldora welcomed 10 inches, Wolf Creek reported 9 inches, and Loveland received 8 inches. Arapahoe Basin and Ski Granby Ranch each reported 6 inches, while Crested Butte, Sunlight and Howelsen each measured 4 inches of new snow. The CSCUSA snow report is updated by the resorts themselves. Vail and Beaver Creek,  not CSCUSA members, also received 11 inches each. The Summit Country resorts of Breckenridge and Keystone were in the single digits, as did Loveland. Their snow reports can be accessed through Vail Resorts’ website.

In Utah, unsurprisingly, the Little Cottonwood Canyon resorts of Alta and Snowbird received the most snow out of the most recent storm, 5 inches in 24 hours and 12 inches in 48 hours. And in Montana, the small ski area of Lost Trail Powder Mountain, in the southwestern part of the state near the Idaho line, snagged 15 inches of new snow. Wyoming’s Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee hit the snow jackpot two or three days ago, with just a few additional inches in the last 24 hours.

New Mexico’s reported snowfall totals were literally all over the map. Impressive 14-hour snow totals were logged at northern ski areas (8 inches at Angel Fire, 10 inches at Ski Santa Fe and 14 inches at Taos, plus 15 inches at the Enchanted Forest Cross-Country Center).  That, barring a warm spell, should set it up splendidly for the holidays.

Luxury ‘Camp’ High Above The Broadmoor

 Luxury & comfort without opulence at 9,200 feet.

020The Broadmoor, the Five Star, Five Diamond luxury resort in Colorado Springs, has developed its rustic side. Cloud Camp is a new mountain aerie at 9,200 feet occupying one summit of Cheyenne Mountain. It opened on August 15, and I was lucky to be one of the first guests.

Its main lodge has but six guest rooms on the second floor. Eleven intimate cabins are tucked in among the trees, and some are cantilevered over the steep slope, giving guests the feeling of floating. The last accommodation to be completed will be the Fire Tower Suite, requiring an ascent of 153 steps. The bedroom occupies the entire top floor of the tower, with a living room below. It is an aerie above an aerie.

Intimate cabins among the trees and rocks. The landscape has been left as natural as possible.
Intimate cabins among the trees and rocks. The landscape has been left as natural as possible.

The 8,000-square-foot main lodge recalls the grand historic timber and stone lodges of the American West, with massive public spaces, soaring ceilings and rough-hewn beams. Designed for both relaxation and contemplation, it manages to feel both baronial and intimate. Comfortable sofas, armchairs and rockers encourage conversation, board games, reading and general socializing. Stone fireplaces on each end, enormous ceiling fixtures overhead and Western art and Indian artifacts on the walls create an ambiance of relaxed elegance. The enormous table in the center can seat 30. Smaller tables for two or four are in an adjacent dining area, and there are additional tables outside as well.

Opening staff on the stairs of Cloud Camp.
Opening staff on the stairs of Cloud Camp.

Continue reading Luxury ‘Camp’ High Above The Broadmoor

Colorado’s First Summer Tubing Hill

Snow Mountain Ranch debuts summer joy ride — I mean, joyful summer ride.

SNW-SnowMtRanch-logoSnow tubing is an increasingly popular adjunct to skiing and snowboarding at ski resorts across the country. Now Colorado’s Snow Mountain Ranch, a huge YMCA-run facility in Colorado’s Grand County, has inaugurated the state’s first summer tubing hill — and the third in the country after Sunrise, Arizona, and Red River, New Mexico. The hill mimics a snow surface using SnowFlex technology and has been an 11-month build-out.  A tow ferries tubes and riders up the hill.

Colorado's first summer tubing hill at Snow Mountain Ranch/YMCA of the Rockies.
Colorado’s first summer tubing hill at Snow Mountain Ranch/YMCA of the Rockies.

Guests staying at Snow Mountain Ranch can slide down the hill at no cost, while members of YMCA of the Rockies or any other YMCA (with proof of membership) buying day pass can use the tubing hill for $15 per person. Fees for other day visitors are $35 for age 13 and older; $25 for ages 6 to 12, and $15 for ages  3 to 5. It includes access to the mini-golf course, tennis courts, indoor pool and sauna, hiking and biking trails, free family programs and much more. The facility is just off US 40 between the Winter Park Resort and Granby at 1101 County Road 53,  Granby, CO 80446;  970-887-2152.

The Broadmoor is Buying the Seven Falls

Honored resort is adding the Seven Falls to its Colorado Springs portfolio.

Broadmoor-logoThe Broadmoor, Colorado Springs’ greatly honored resort hotel, has a rare timeless quality. On the surface, it never seems to change, but beneath the sense of immutable image, it is constantly adding, upgrading and developing into an ever more wide-ranging property. In the past few years, the resort has developed or is in the process of developing two significant outliers: The Ranch at Emerald Valley (“a unique retreat offering refined luxury with the rustic charm”) reopening this summer after September flood damage. Also, Cloud Camp debuts later this summer at 9,200 feet atop Cheyenne Mountain on the historic site of Broadmoor founder Spencer Penrose’s Cheyenne Lodge, an adobe-style structure with 360-views that was demolished in the 1970s. Click here for a video with details about these developments.

Also in the works, a complete remodel of Broadmoor West, which has splendid views of historic turret-topped Broadmoor Main but in itself was not quite so lovely. In addition to all new guest rooms, Broadmoor West will get its own tower as well as upper-level penthouses. Diners will enjoy three made-over restaurant spaces (La Taverne, Le Jardin and intimate Entre Deux).

The Seven Falls, while a dramatic attraction, are in truth not very photogenic. This old postcard, with each of the individual cascades labeled, is a better depiction.
The Seven Falls, while a dramatic attraction, are in truth not very photogenic. This old postcard, with each of the individual cascades labeled, is a better depiction.

The latest news, as reported by the Colorado Springs Gazette, is that the resort has agreed to purchase the Seven Falls, long a popular local tourist attraction on 1,300 acres in South Cheyenne Canyon and adjacent the Broadmoor’s own vast spread. No closing date or sale price was revealed, but the resort is already looking at a major reclamation project. The attraction, consisting of a daisy chain of seven cascades, was devastated by the floods of 2013 and has been closed ever since.

First developed as a tourist attraction in the 1880s, the falls drop in stages 181 feet into a natural box canyon. Access to the top of the falls has been via a walkway with 224 steps or an elevator within the rock wall. The night-time illumination is a major draw for visitors. The Gazette reported that The Broadmoor will spend $1 million in repairing the flood damage starting with debris cleanup and including replacement of lighting systems, repair of the elevator, strengthening of walls, and rebuilding of parts of the access road and parking lot. If history is a guide, it will all be very well done.

Ski Free at Grand Targhee This Spring

Powder pocket in the Tetons offers season-end bargain.

GrandTarghee-logo,jpgThere are few ski resorts in the country that have better and more abundant snow than Grand Targhee, which has been graced with 400+ inches so far this season (including 4 inches last night) and is measuring its snowpack at 130+ inches — that’s more than 10 feet. Combine a small resort village and a remote location (it’s in Wyoming, but you get there from Idaho) and you don’t get crowds — not ever. Great deals abound across the snowbelt at the end of the season, but very few match and none exceeds Grand Targhee, which is operating through Easter, April 20.

This small resort village on the west slope of the massive Teton Range has rolled out an unbeatable lodging package that includes free skiing with at least four nights of lodging. Grand Targhee’s  headliner package includes four nights lodging and four days of lift tickets starting at $82 per person per night based on double occupancy in Targhee Lodge.

A tiny resort directly at the base of the lifts means you can almost roll out of bed and hit the slopes -- for free with 4 nights of lodging in spring.
A tiny resort directly at the base of the lifts means you can almost roll out of bed and hit the slopes — for free with 4 nights of lodging in spring.

Also, since children to age 12 stay, ski free anyway when staying at Grand Targhee Resort, this can be the cheapest family snow vacation imaginable. One child skis/stays free per paying parent. Also, kids eat free off the kids menu at the Branding Iron Grill with the purchase of one adult entrée from the dinner menu from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. (offer  for lodging guests only).

Silky groomed trails as well as untracked powder make for sweet skiing -- and the views of the Grand Teton and nearby peaks add to the joy.
Silky groomed trails as well as untracked powder make for sweet skiing — and the views of the Grand Teton and nearby peaks add to the joy.

Use those savings to splurge on a Snowcat Adventure on Peaked Mountain, which is adjacent to the lift-served terrain. Just two groups if no more than a dozen skiers and riders eacg play in a huge powder reserve of more than 600 acres, where 14,000 to 20,000 vertical feet per day await. Targhee’s professional guides lead small groups through expansive bowls, gladed cruisers and steep tree pitches. The bonus is breathtaking views of the Tetons — unless it’s snowing again. This outstanding sidecountry experience is $349  per day (including lunch and snacks), $249 for a morning half-day or $199 for an afternoon half-day (both including snacks). I’ve done this a couple of times, and a half-day was plenty.

Idaho Falls and Jackson are the two closest airports. Shuttle service is available. FoMoInfo or to make reservations. 800-TARGHEE.

Greenbrier’s ‘Old White’ Celebrates a Centennial

Golf milestone for storied resort’s most famous course.

Greenbrier-logoI’m not a golfer, but I am an admirer of historic hotels that maintain the classic heritage while keeping up with the times. In that spirit, I congratulate The Greenbrier on the 100th anniversary of its most legendary golf course. An unnamed guest of The Greenbrier will step to the tee of the “Old White” course and launch a golf shot marking the end of the first century of continuous play and the beginning of the second. The centenary of “Old White” will be formally marked on Saturday April 19, when The Greenbrier’s owner and chairman, Jim Justice III, will strike a ceremonial ball from the tee using a 1914 driver.

The Greenbrier's  famous golf course is called Old White, but that could be the name of the historic, luxurious hotel itself.
The Greenbrier’s famous golf course is called Old White, but that could be the name of the historic, luxurious hotel itself.

In 2011, with The Greenbrier’s admission to the PGA Tour’s TPC Network, “Old White” joined the exclusive group of 32 of the most prestigious golf courses in the nation and is now formally known as “The Old White TPC.”  The Greenbrier Classic, played The Old White, is the oldest course on the PGA Tout to continually host an annual tournament. In the world of golf, this is a very big deal. So is the list of those who have golfed there, which reads like a who’s who of golf, celebrity, society and political power: Ben Hogan, The Duke of Windsor, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Joe DiMaggio, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tiger Woods and U.S. Presidents including Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Perhaps more than any other individual, however, it was legendary golfer Sam Snead who put The Greenbrier on the map as one of the world’s foremost golf destinations. During his years at The Greenbrier, Snead shot “60” six times on the Old White course and climaxed his career with a historic final hole-in-one on Hole 18 in 1995.

The Greenbrier was established modestly in 1778 near a natural hot spring and has been in continuous operations ever since. Dolly Madison was one of the early guests. During the Civil War, it served as a hospital. Today, it has 700 rooms, all manner of public spaces and amenities — and has won just about every hospitality award.. In addition to the huge hotel, the resort 10,ooo acres include five golf courses, a championship indoor and outdoor tennis facility (including five outdoor clay courts and five indoor courts), what they like to call “a mélange of sporting activities,” swimming pools, a spa, a casino, a state-of-art medical facility, shops and fine dining, of course. The Greenbrier is so huge that it reportedly can been seen from outer space.

The Greenbrier is offering its Century of Golf play-and-stay package ($175 to $300 per person per night based on double occupancy and requiring a two-night minimum). Not a budget vacation, to be sure, but a very special one at a luxurious and historic property for avid and well-heeled golfers. The Greenbrier, 300 W. Main Street, White Sulphur Springs, WV 24986; 855-453-4858.

Winter Park: Spring Sun & Winter Snow

Happily on the boards at a popular Colorado ski resort.

WinterPark-logoMy friends know that I had two years of excruciating and escalating back pain. During the early winter of 2011-12, I skied three times. Then after trying everything to avoid spine surgery, I gave in and had a minimally invasive and super-successful procedure in late January 2013. I skied one day last April.  While I couldn’t ski last winter, even as my back was healing, I was happy to take a walk or a mild hike with a little snow under my feet. All better now, and I’m back on the boards this wonderful winter of frequent storms and deep snow.

I started skiing tentatively and nervously — even though my injury came from an overly ambitious exercise program and not from skiing — with every day on the slopes better than the previous one. This week, I went to Winter Park, and finally with benign conditions, I finally feel natural on the lovely winter snow — no late spring corn yet.

Much as I like to hike, cross-country ski and snowshoe, nothing but nothing compares with the joy of moving down mountain slopes. The joy is immeasurably magnified in spring when the sun is warm, the snow is soft and earlier discomforts have faded from memory. A midweek ski getaway to Winter Park was heaven with white slopes, deep green trees, cornflower blue sky and a multi-colored tapestry of skiers and riders in winter sports apparel.  I’m happy.

Lots of trail choices
Lots of trail choices.

Winter Park’s terrain appears straightforward on a trail map, but a topo map shows what an immensely complex piece of mountain real estate it is. This year, the resort has tried to clarify to complexity by segmenting the terrain into seven separate but interlocking “territories” that it promotes as The Season of the Seven. Click here for a page on the website that features an interactive map and also a YouTube video that’s worth watching.

With Jim Vance at the top of Parsenn Bowl.
With Jim Vance at the top of Parsenn Bowl.

With 143 trails and 26 lifts laced over four distinct mountains, you just don’t want to return to the bottom when you get hungry. The resort’s best known on-mountain restaurant is the commodious and monumental Lodge at Sunspot at the top of the Zephyr Express chairlift offers self-service and table-service dining and fine outdoor terrace, and Lunch Rock at the 11,200-foot top of Mary Jane is a cool casual spot that specials in variations on the theme of tube steaks and incredible views of Parry Peak from the outdoor deck. But I have special affection for Snoasis, built in the early ’70s on the bottom of the Cranmer slope. The food is pretty standard, but the mid-century style is a fine throwback.

Popular Cranmer run reflected in soaring windows of the iconic Snoasis mountain lodge -- still one of the cleverest names in skidom.
Popular Cranmer run reflected in soaring windows of the iconic Snoasis mountain lodge — still one of the cleverest names in skidom.

When I’m skiing, I pay attention to where I’m going and try to stay alert to skiers and snowboarders around. But I always take time, especially on the top of the mountain, to look at the majestic scenery.

Oh, the views!
View across the valley to the Parry Peak’s enormous cirque.

There’s at least another month or more of the season left at most ski areas within easy striking distance of Boulder — significantly longer at Loveland and even longer at Arapahoe Basin. It’s still not too soon to plan for next ski season. I wrote a post about 2014-15 season pass deals available now. Click here for information on some of these values at Winter Park and elswhere, and get ready for next winter even as you enjoy the wind-down of this one. I am.