Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d utter: I just spent three nights at the Ritz-Carlton.
Granted, the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, rises from the base of Beaver Creek Mountain in Avon, Colorado. Hiking, mountain biking, and aspen trees lie just outside the back door, so it’s a better match for me than, say, a luxury hotel in downtown New York City or Abu Dhabi.
But me at the Ritz-Carlton?
I’ve never considered myself a luxury traveler. It’s normally not my style, although I did appreciate the 80-minute spa treatment and the late-night delivery of a puff of green cotton candy atop the twisted trunk of a chocolate tree (more on that later). Actually, I appreciated a lot about the posh lodge, tucked in the trees high above the main village of Beaver Creek.
Without further ado, here are the best things about my stay in Colorado…
A morning hike on Beaver Creek Mountain with hotel naturalist Tyler Reynolds and the Ritz’s resident mascot, a St. Bernard named Bachelor, just sets your head right. We nibbled plants, learned that the powder from aspen bark doubles as a basic sunscreen, and stopped in silence just to appreciate the view.
Rafting the Upper Colorado River
The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, in Beaver Creek, works closely with Sage Outdoor Adventures, which offers an array of outdoor activities. I signed up for a river rafting trip on the Upper Colorado River. The two-hour, beginner-friendly trip is more of a float than a wild ride on a frothy highway of rapids, but if you’re looking for a relaxing trip, this might fit the bill. (It’s perfect for little kids.)
We had ample opportunity to jump in the chilly water to cool off along the way. Red-tinted hills set a nice backdrop, but much of the route parallels a two-lane highway, which takes away from the ambiance.
Riding a horse
I also signed up for a trail ride with Sage, and unlike most commercial trail rides, this one went rogue. Our group of four, including the guide, ventured into fields of yellow flowers, then wound off-trail into close-knit aspens.
Swimming laps in the outdoor pool
The Ritz has an outdoor pool, and by that, I mean a pool that you can swim laps in, not one just for floating. I got up early two mornings and logged a workout. When I caught my breath at the edge of the pool, I looked up to the mountain. Dreamy.
The Great Room of the hotel reminds me of the interior of Old Faithful Lodge at Yellowstone National Park – all huge timbers, stone fireplaces and the occasional stuffed and mounted elk or bighorn sheep. Known colloquially as Parkitecture, the style is chic and rustic, cozy and stately.
It’s the kind of place where you want to snuggle up with a book and a bourbon.
The personal service
Everybody on staff seemed to know me. They greeted me by name in the hallways, as I pirouetted past the front desk, and when I sat down to meals. Was my photo hung somewhere like a wanted poster?
You know the free continental breakfast offered at mid-range chain hotels? The Ritz’s version is like that on steroids. I stayed on the eighth floor of the hotel, where a room comes with access to the Club Lounge. There, I ate bagels with capers and lox, home-made muffins, and the best blackberries I’ve ever eaten. I also sipped hot tea on the balcony each day. A stash of candy is always available, plus snacks, lunch, and booze whenever you want it.
The hotel, which hosted me for the trip, scheduled me for a spa treatment, another thing I rarely experience in real life. Alex, the massage therapist, laid me out on a table, scrubbed me with salts, then rotated a giant “Vichy shower” over me to rinse off the minerals. Then he spent an hour working out knots in my shoulders, from months of swimming and paddling.
I felt like overcooked pasta (in a good way) when he finished. While you’re at the spa, make time to do the circuit in the grotto. First, sweat it out in the sauna or steam bath, next, plunge into the cold pool, and finally, unspool in the piping hot whirlpool.
My phone rang after dinner one night. The front desk called to ask if they could drop something off for me. A few minutes later, a bellhop swept into my room wielding a cantaloupe-sized cloud of green cotton candy, perched atop a twisted tree trunk and branches made of chocolate. A heap of macarons, truffles and jellies lay at the base of the edible tree, and all of it sat in a dish of “dirt” made of ground chocolate bits. Along with that came an ice-filled bucket containing a bottle of bubbly – plus a pair of champagne flutes (did they think I’d snuck someone into my room?).
I’d already eaten dinner and dessert, so I sampled a few wisps of the cloudy stuff, then set it aside for the next day. Note to self: Cotton candy doesn’t hold well. By morning, the tree looked like something out of a Tim Burton movie. The green billows had melted and drooped onto the chocolate branches like Spanish moss. Still, it was kind of cool.
Hotel guests can order similar creations, with 48-hour notice.
The free ride
The Village Connect is a free shuttle service in Beaver Creek Village. It picks you up at the hotel and takes you down to the main town, with its shops, restaurants, and entertainment.
The restaurants are top-notch. From fire-roasted cauliflower to Colorado lamb shoulder and bison ribeye, the food at Wyld will ruin you for eating anyplace else.
If You Go
Fly into Denver and drive two and a half hours to Beaver Creek, or take a direct flight into Eagle County Regional Airport, 30 minutes away.
If someone delivers a cotton candy and chocolate tree, eat the greenery right away. It’ll droop by morning.