Category Archives: Resorts

Squaw Valley Offers Olympic On-MountainTours

1960 Winter Games at California area were simple affairs

SquawValley-Olympic-logoAs the crescendo builds toward the Opening Ceremonies for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, I am positively nostalgic for the Games of bygone years — intimate, inexpensive and athlete-focused. The investment in Sochi 2014 has been quoted as $50 million, but it’s Russia, so if the true figures were even higher, organizers are not letting on. Reports are that while the sports venues are shaping up nicely, hotels, restaurants and much infrastructure at the Black Sea resort are wa-a-a-a-ay behind schedule.

The 1960 Winter Games took place in a tight valley on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore. Compared with today, there weren’t all that many events — no freestyle skiing, short-track speed skating or snowboarding (not yet invented); no women’s hockey, cross-country skiing or ski jumping (thought to be men’s sports)and no luge or bobsled at all (eliminated because the organizing committee decided not to build a track in order to reduce expenses). The resort was built virtually from scratch for the Games and cost $80 million — that’s million with an M.

Closing Ceremonies for the 1960 Winter Olympics.
Closing Ceremonies for the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Squaw Valley is offering skiers and riders a glimpse into that past with new 1960 Winter Games Heritage Tours, three-hour private excursions of the on-mountain Olympic venues that highlight historic moments with professional guides who lead participants down the same trails that were used as Olympic venues during the 1960 Winter Games. The outdoor ice rink, ski jumps and speed skating oval are long gone.

The guides will share insider-details on Squaw’s rich heritage and the incredible story of the 1960 Winter Olympics. renowned winter sports destination. As the first fully televised Olympic games, the 1960 Winter Games had a profound impact on winter sports in the United States by sparking an interest in winter athletics that continues to grow today. For more information on Squaw Valley’s Olympic heritage, click here. To view a short film on Squaw Valley’s Olympic history, click here.

The private tours are available for individuals or groups of up to five people and cost $200 ($40 per person for a group of five). Book by calling 800-403-0206 or emailing Reservations are required for the Heritage Tours. Given the terrain used for the Olympic venues, it is suggested that participants have intermediate to advanced skiing or snowboarding skills.

Sun Peaks Celebrates Chinese New Year

Resort in the Canadian Rockies ready for the Year of the Horse

YearOfTheHorseOn the Chinese calendar, January 30 marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse, and the beguiling mountain resort of Sun Peaks , British Columbia, is celebrating  its first Chinese New Year event from January 31 to February 2. Guests and locals can usher in the Year of the Horse with fireworks, traditional decorations, Asian food and cultural activities.

Festivities begin on Friday with the distribution of red envelopes  decorated with characters representing happiness and wealth, and participating  village restaurants feature Asian-inspired cuisine to get diners in the spirit. On Saturday, guests can participate in an afternoon Tai  Chi session, watch street dancers perform and gaze at a freshly hewn, life-sized ice sculpture of a horse. Children’s activities introduce them to the cultural significance of the occasion. The  evening culminates with fire dancing, a Year of the Horse torchlight  parade and traditional Chinese fireworks, all visible from the village base.

The weekend includes a Chinese New Year Dinner on Friday evening Mantles Restaurant. The Sun Peaks Spa is offering a special treatment from January 31 to February 13, featuring a hot foot soak with sunflower petals to wish guests good luck all year, compression, tapotment and reflexology massage techniques and a hydrating mango mandarin butter massage. Capping the weekend’s celebratory offerings is a dim sum brunch (“dim yum!,” I call it) on Sunday.

40th Annual Cowboy Downhill at Steamboat

Ski Town USA retains its Western edge, even on the slopes

Billy Kidd, Steamboat's Stetson-wearing Director of Skiing.
Billy Kidd, Steamboat’s Stetson-wearing Director of Skiing.

Once a year, Billy Kidd, Steamboat’s Director of Skiing (the title bestowed on the northern Colorado resort’s congenial ambassador), is not the only one on the mountain wearing a Stetson. For 2014, that was yesterday, January 20, the day that a squadron of rodeo cowboys take off from the National Western Stock Show in Denver to put on a show on snow. This year was the 40th annual Cowboy Downhill, a hoot-and-holler race that spices the mountain with the flavor of rodeo.

I rode in the gondola with two saddle bronc riders and one rodeo clown.
I rode in the gondola with two saddle bronc riders and one rodeo clown.

The short course is set up at the bottom of the mountain, right above Gondola Square for optimum spectating. The first part of the race involves two cowboys racing down parallel red and blue courses. Some are on skis, others on snowboards, but  all wearing their chaps and cowboy hats. They make regular helmet-topped skiers and riders seem like wimps.

In the middle of the short course is a jump. Some contenders land on their feet, others don’t. But they continue downhill, some on just one ski. At the bottom of each course are a Broncos cheerleader and a rope that the competitors use to try to lasso her. She won’t be thrown to the snow and tied up — just the target of a rope throw. Then each competitor grabs a saddle from the ground and throws it on a placid (maybe sedated) horse standing there, before racing to the finish line. There are rodeo-style rules timing and disqualifications, but for spectators, it’s just wildly entertaining — because the cowboys are both athletes and entertainers.

Even non-skiing cowboys are fearless coming down the parallel courses.
Even non-skiing cowboys are fearless coming down the parallel courses.
Broncos cheerleaders are lassoed as part of the event. The steer wrestlers and bull riders don't tend to be all that good with rope.
Broncos cheerleaders are lassoed as part of the event. The steer wrestlers and bull and bronc riders don’t tend to be all that good with a rope.
The wildest part of the Cowboy Downhill is the stampede, with all the competitors starting at the same time.
The wildest part of the Cowboy Downhill is the stampede, with all the competitors starting at the same time.
There's a big mountain above waiting to be skied, but the Cowboy Downhill is just too much fun to miss.
There’s a big mountain above waiting to be skied, but the Cowboy Downhill is just too much fun to miss.

Next year will be the 41st! Better get it on the calendar now.

A-Basin Launches Colorado Ski Season

High-elevation ski area starts with one lift, one run and happy people

ColoradoFlagI had spine surgery on January 29 and managed just one pathetic three-run ski day last April. I hope to be back on the boards this winter, and whether or not I’ll be able to ski, I’m cheering the early start to the 2013-14 season as if I will be. The North American season got underway today as Arapahoe Basin opened its Black Mountain Express chairlift. At 8:30a.m., with an 18-inch base, A-Basin became the first in North America to open this ski season with skiing on the High Noon run and a gaggle of snowsports enthusiasts waiting to board the lift. ABasin2013OpeningSeveral resorts in Colorado have taken advantage of cold nighttime temperatures and ideal humidity conditions over the past several weeks. A-Basin and Loveland Ski Area, near-neighbors on opposite sides of the Continental Divide, fired up their snow guns on the evening of Friday, September 27, and have made snow or received natural snow most days since then. New snowmaking equipment upgrades, ideal snowmaking conditions and recent natural snowfall have added to Arapahoe Basin’s base accumulation resulting in the current packed powder conditions. Loveland plans to open in a few days. Nearby Keystone, which once was a contender in the first-to-open race, plans to start operations on November 1.

Yellowstone Region’s Fall News & Views

Yellowstone area’s bargain golf, ski news & national park wonders

It is still summer in the Rockies, but there is a definite hint of autumn in the air as you go higher and farther north. This is the time of year with crisper mornings and shorter days. And as a bonus, summer’s monsoon rain pattern is no more. The greater Yellowstone area, where Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, meet offers a variety of sights and activities that, as the ads always promise, offer “something for everyone. Montana’s Big Sky Resort offers bargain golf packages and has big news for winter guests. Big Sky Resort and Yellowstone National Park are on my radar screen right now, and here’s why:

End-of-Season Golf Value Big Sky, Montana

Lone Peak is the beautiful backdrop for Big Sky Resort. This photo was taken in spring, when the greens were green, and the fairways were too, but snow still lingered on the soaring mountain.
Lone Peak is the beautiful backdrop for Big Sky Resort. This photo was taken in spring, when the greens were green, and the fairways were too, but snow still lingered on the soaring mountain.

I’m not a golfer, but if I were, I’d be looking to take advantage of Big Sky Resort’s current golf package. The price is right, the scenery is sensational and I’m told the golf is great too. It is promoted as the best golf deal in the greater Yellowstone area, and who am I to argue? I get the value, even if I don’t get the sport. A two-night package includes lodging at the Huntley Lodge, Whitewater Inn, Shoshone or Summit hotel, two rounds of golf on an Arnold Palmer-designed 18-hole course and a scenic lift ride for two people starting at $87 per person, per night. The lowest price is at the Whitewater Inn. No end date has been announced, but I’m guessing the package will be over when it gets cold and the snow starts falling. Book online or call  800-548-4486.

Big Winter News at Big Sky

I have been to this area once in summer but more often in winter, so I was very interested to learn that Boyne Resorts, the owner of Big Sky,  is partnering with CrossHarbor Capital Partners LLC and Boyne Resorts to acquire the assets of Moonlight Basin, an attractive but financially shaky development whose ski facilities are contiguous to Big Sky’s.  This agreement follows the recent acquisition of the assets of Spanish Peaks, another ambitious but financially shaky luxury resort development by the same partnership. The press release calls it “the next step in the creation of one of the largest and most compelling mountain resort experiences in North America.”

Moonlight Basin’s ski operations are to be combined with those of Big Sky Resort, with seamless operations, which means one ticket/pass good for more than 5,700 acres of skiable terrain, 4,350 vertical feet, the iconic Lone Peak tram, 23 chairlifts and 10 surface lifts, expanding the reality of its “Biggest Skiing in America” slogan. And for golfers. Moonlight Basin has its own  Nicklaus-designed, 18-hole course. Meanwhile, the very lovely and very private Yellowstone Club on the other side of Big Ski Resort doesn’t play well with others. While its exceptionally well-heeled residents and their guests have access to that wide-ranging Big Sky terrain, the riff-raff isn’t permitted at the Yellowstone Club’s runs. The club has undergone its own financial and other scandals, but it seems to be solid now — under the ownership of CrossHarbor.

Autumn at Yellowstone National Park

Bison grazing across from the Roosevelt Lodge Cabins in Yellowstone National Park.
Bison grazing across from the Roosevelt Lodge Cabins in Yellowstone National Park.

I am frankly put off by the steady upscaling of rural Montana with gated communities, mountain mansions and other trappings of tasteful yet conspicuous wealth, and that makes me treasure all the more the public lands that belong to all of us. And in the context of this region, that means Yellowstone National Park. Humans and their high-powered businesses can change the landscape around a conference table, but national parks and other wildl ands continue to live on nature’s timetable. And nature determines that fall is definitely approaching. The park likes mostly in Wyoming, but its western gateway is only about an hour’s drive from Big Sky. It is home to grizzly bears, wolves, and herds of bison and elk, and the park is the core of one of the last, nearly intact, natural ecosystems in the Earth’s temperate zone. It was the world’s first national park, and it merits visiting at an time of year. Xanterra Parks & Resorts operates nine lodges within the park. Most close in winter, with late summer and fall wind-down season. All of the park’s entrances are still open, and its lodges have greater room availability and the park in general is less crowded. There are also front-country campgrounds, and while the park is a sensational backpackers’ destination, fall is a time when the wildlife starts preparing for winter, and even wilderness camping enthusiasts often fine it wiser to spend their nights surrounded by four solid walls and a roof over their heads.

Vail Dance Fest at 25

Fabled mountain resort on its toes in summer

VailIntlDanceFest-logoThis year, Vail has been celebrating its 50th anniversary of its creation as an Alpine-inspired ski village at the foot of a mountain covered with Rocky Mountain powder. The skiing kept expanding, and Vail at the base of the mountain grew into a real town Then 25 years ago, it took a grand jeté into the world of dance when it welcomed the Bolshoi Ballet Academy of Moscow made its Colorado debut at Vail’s Gerald Ford Amphitheater. Dance has been an integral part of summer in Vail for half of its existence.

Over the years, guest artists have included some of the most celebrated principal dancers from such leading companies as the Bolshoi Ballet, New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, The Boston Ballet, Zurich Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, National Ballet of China, The Royal Ballet and others.

This year, the 25th of summer dance in Vail, dancers from all over the world are convening in what the New York Times has called a “United Nations” for dance, as the Vail International Dance Festival embarks on this anniversary season by once again paying homage to its legacy as a melting pot of nations, traditions and styles, as well as the fusion of iconic classics and new works by both renowned and emerging choreographers. The season starts tonight and runs only through August 10. I hope to see a performance or two before it’s all over.

And for classical music lovers, Bravo! Vail still has about a week to go. Three of America’s great symphony orchestras — the Dallas Symphony, The Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic — come to Colorado for this fabulous festival, now in its 26th year.


Riding Crested Butte’s New Zipline

Crested Butte gets in on the zipline craze

CrestedButteZiplineI’ve never met a zipline I didn’t enjoy. My first zipline experience in winter at Whistler, British Columbia, was a magical multi-line aerial cruise through snow-covered, old-growth conifers with short walks on the ground or across little bridges between the lines. Since then, I’ve climbed a telephone pole to ride a single line at Colorado’s Snow Mountain Ranch, ridden a temporary zipline in downtown San Francisco coincidently set up promote Whistler and visited several elaborate eco-attractions on Mexico’s Riviera Maya that feature ziplines over dense tropical jungles.

Just before my husband and I pulled out of Crested Butte, where we spent the Fourth of July weekend, I was delighted to go on the resort’s Zipline Tour. Between towering wooden take-off/landing platforms, five lines range from the shortest at 120 feet to the longest, a 400-foot line with a kicker at the end. The ziplines are at the bottom of the mountain requiring no lift ride, just a short uphill walk to the first (and shortest) line. Guests don’t return to the ground until completing the final line. Along the aerial route are a couple of suspended wood bridges that reminded me of wobbly bridges in amusement park funhouses.

I was on the first tour of the day on Sunday with a family from Dallas. The teenagers all accepted the challenges that guides Pete and Clair suggested — walking off the platform like a zombie with closed eyes and such. I did none of that. While I love zipping, I really don’t like leaving the platform and always have to persuade myself to do so. If anyone snickered about my chickenhood, they did so behind my back, and that was OK. The Crested Butte Zipline Tour took a bit over two hours, including getting into our harnesses and walking up to the start. It is a year-round adventure that takes place sun, rain or snow. If I get to Crested Butte this winter, you can bet I’ll do it again. The Zipline Tour costs $60 or $57 with a five-day advance reservation.

New Management Eden Roc Hotel

New era for classic Miami Beach hotel

EdenRocEvery traveler knows about the snazzed-up Art Deco hotels on Miami’s South Beach, but fewer know about the  later Miami Beach hotel building boom in the mid’50s, when South Beach was in decline. At that time, developers put up large, luxury properties with unprecedented amenities. The Fontainbleau with its sweeping curved exterior and the Eden Roc with a superstructure that resembles an ocean liner’s stack were the best of the best.

Destination Hotels & Resorts, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary, assumes management of this still-luxurious property beginning on July 11. The 21-story, 631-room hotel that opened in 1956 will henceforth be known as the Eden Roc Miami Beach. Overlooking world-renowned Miami Beach on prestigious Millionaire’s Row, the Eden Roc Miami Beach is a revered legend, showcasing mid-century modern architecture and contemporary glamour. Designed by famed architect, Morris Lapidus, the hotel hosted such Hollywood greats as Elizabeth Taylor, Liberace, Katharine Hepburn, Harry Belafonte, Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.

Destination Hotels & Resorts’ portfolio features more than 9,100 guest rooms, 18 golf courses and 16 full-service spas. Destination Hotels &
Resorts properties are located in key metropolitan and resort markets including Washington, D.C., Chicago, Seattle, Denver, San Diego, Santa Fe, Aspen, Phoenix, Portland, Palm Springs, Palos Verdes, Miami Beach, Maui and Lake Tahoe.

Colorado Skiing is the Best Medicine

After more than a year off skis, I was back on the boards at Copper

I skied only four days during the 2011-12 winter, the last time at Copper Mountain in February, and they weren’t fun. I had hurt my back — not skiing I must emphasize, but in a wicked exercise class. Even those four times, the skiing itself did not hurt, but walking across the parking lot in ski boots with skis over my shoulder was miserable, as was sitting on the hard cafeteria chairs. Through the spring, summer and fall months, I traveled some and hurt more, even as I tried everything I could to avoid surgery. I knew I woudn’t be able to ski this winter — maybe never. A dismal prospect.

11 of Copper's 22 lifts are operating today; 92 of 133 runs are open for skiing & riding on nearly 1,350 acres.
11 of Copper’s 22 lifts are operating today; 92 of 133 runs are open for skiing & riding on nearly 1,350 acres.

I had minimally invasive spine surgery on January 29 — instant pain relief. I was back to walking several miles a day right away, had physical therapy and then returned to Pilates, have done some light hikes and went snowshoeing at 10,000 feet once. When Copper Mountain invited me to a media day on Saturday, I jumped at the chance for a few easy runs. I’ve been aching for the mountains and for snow under my feet. I made just a handful of easy runs — for those who know Copper, off the Eagle, the Flyer and the Super Bee chairs. My skiing felt weird, but I figured for the first day of the season and in more than a year, weird was OK. I was happy to whoosh up the mountain on a high-speed lift, feeling the bit of windchill from the ride. I was happy to glide over the snow and to link half a run’s worth of turns before stopping — even if the turns weren’t pretty. I was happy to share the runs with strangers and with friends Reed and Stephanie. I was happy to shuffle through the maze at the base ready to ride up again. I was happy to stop for a congenial, filling and tasty lunch.

Generously portioned pub food rules at JJ's Rocky Mountain Tavern in East, Village, but the biggest, baddest sweetest of all is this ginormous whipped cream and sauce-bedecked chocolate mousse. Several of us shared.
Generously portioned pub food rules at JJ’s Rocky Mountain Tavern in East, Village, but the biggest, baddest sweetest of all is this ginormous whipped cream and sauce-bedecked chocolate mousse. Several of us shared.

But mostly, I was beyond happy that nothing hurt. No less than the recuperation comination of walking, physical therapy and Pilates, it turns out that skiing is very good medicine for my body and my head. I’m looking forward to a full 2013-14 ski season. On day one, I think I’ll take a lesson to purge what might remain of the weird. Maybe that day will be at Copper.

News from Colorado Tourist Destinations

ColoradoFlagLiving in a destination state, I find myself writing about travel within Colorado as much as out-of-Colorado destinations. The Colorado Tourism Board just released some snippets of Colorado travel news thay I present here with minimal changes:

Food and Beverage

  • The Source, a highly curated European-style artisan food market  and retail space in Denver’s River North (RiNo) district, opens in July 2013. The Source, housed in an iconic 1880s ironworks building, will boast  specialty shops such as Proper Pour, a liquor store   offering private wine lockers; Mondo Food, a gourmet cheese/spice  shop; Babettes, a French bakery by renowned Boulderite Steve Scott; Crooked Stave, a craft brewery and tap room;  a tasting room from Hotchkiss-based craft distillery CapRock;  a roastery and a coffee shop from Boxcar Coffee RoastersComida, a cantina specializing in Mexican street food;  and Acorn, sister-restaurant to Boulder’s acclaimed Oak  at Fourteenth. Other offerings include a whole-animal butchery with a meat counter and a general store.
  • Woody  Creek Distillers has opened a 10,000 square-foot,   state-of-the-art distillery and tasting room in Basalt. Woody Creek  Distillers is hand-picked, hand-crafted, and hand-bottled, making it the first  and only craft distillery in the country with total control over every  element of production “from seed to sip.” The distillery also grows its own alpine potatoes and sources mountain spring water to produce its  ultra-premium American spirits completely grown, distilled and bottled in the Aspen Valley. In addition to its two vodka offerings, the distillery will release four specialty spirits in 2013 including Baby Bourbon, Gin, Apple Brandy and Pear Eau de Vie.
  • Two  Guns Distillery opens in Leadville this spring. The distillery is an homage to Leadville and its long heritage of whiskey  making by whatever means necessary, harkening back to the days of  prohibition. Two Guns’ spirits include Wild West Whiskey, Single Six Rocky Mountain Moonshine,and B.A. Dallas Black Label Whiskey.
  • El Moro Spirits & Tavern is slated to open June 2013 in Durango’s historic downtown. El Moro will be led by executive chef Sean Clark, an expert at pairing fine foods and craft beers, Clark seeks to  create a farm-to-table restaurant, working with regional farmers and creating new dishes even daily, celebrating what is fresh and in season.  The restaurant’s beverage program will feature a variety of craft beers,  an extensive wine list and premium craft spirits.
  • The Chautauqua Dining Hall in Boulder re-opens this summer  following an extensive overhaul. The 115-year-old building remains the same, with its famous wrap-around porch offering spectacular views of the Flatirons. A lovingly renovated interior features hardwood floors, two  stone fireplaces and a lounge. The menu has been redesigned and offers options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Note: The Dining Hall actually reopens this coming Wednesday.) Continue reading News from Colorado Tourist Destinations