From backcountry huts and wintertime glamping to poolside lounging and hot spring soaking, we’ve found more than 20 places in Colorado (and beyond!) that you should visit this season.
Kessler Canyon • Near De Beque, Colorado / $$$ (For the Outdoorsman)
Just 45 minutes east of Grand Junction, hidden within the yawning canyons of Colorado’s Western Slope, lies one of the state’s best-kept secrets. An outdoorsman’s paradise, the Kessler Canyon ranch spans 23,000 acres of rugged terrain that supports adventures in fly-fishing, hiking, ATV-ing, mountain biking, clay shooting, and, most popular in the fall and early winter, big game and upland bird hunting. The resort itself—an amalgamation of red-roofed buildings nestled next to a small lake at the base of soaring mesas—is an exercise in wood-heavy, masculine design tempered by elegant decor, attention to detail, and, almost everywhere you look, dedication to the fine art that hangs on the walls and the bronze statues that dot the property. The ranch was built by the Kessler family as a private escape in 2006; the personal touches and exclusive vibe remained even after they opened it to the public in 2007.
Who It’s For: In the fall and winter, the ranch is crawling with hunters looking to bag elk, mule deer, or a mountain lion.
Get A Room: There are three lodging options—guest rooms in the Guesthouse or the Homestead or hunting cabins that are scattered throughout the property. We’d choose a suite in the Guesthouse for the mountain and stream views.
The Best Part: The staff’s intensely consistent yet understated manner of serving its guests; you won’t encounter a sour face, a service misstep, or a faux pas from anyone.
Bonus: Chef Leonard McNab’s “cowboy cuisine” is anything but. Chef Lenny, as everyone calls him, was a true chuck wagon cook—but these days he rustles up dishes like acorn squash–eggnog bisque with nutmeg cream and coffee-crusted rack of lamb with homemade red jalapeño–mint jelly.
Book It: Rates in November and through December 15 (the ranch is closed from December 16 through April) start at $295 for room only and begin at $470 for the all-inclusive option; kesslercanyon.com; 970-283-1145
Avalanche Ranch • Near redstone, Colorado / $ (For Couples)
Nestled into the shadow of 12,953-foot Mt. Sopris, the 36-acre Avalanche Ranch Cabins and Hot Springs serves as a lovely home base for all the wintertime activities you might seek: snowshoeing, ice skating, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, ice climbing, sledding, sleigh rides, and dog sled tours. What you might not expect is that Avalanche Ranch brings a bit of warmth to the snowy season with its three beautifully terraced hot springs pools, which were completed less than two years ago.
Who It’s For: Couples looking for a reasonably priced, easy-rustic escape from the city.
Get A Room: If you’re planning to enjoy the hot springs, cabins 1, 2, 12, and 14 are closest to the pools.
The Best Part: The views of Mt. Sopris, Elephant Mountain, and Avalanche Creek Valley are postcard worthy.
Book It: Cabins run from $85 to $189 per night in the winter; avalancheranch.com; 970-963-2846
The Gant Aspen • Aspen, Colorado / $$ (For Families)
There are many fine hotels in this jewel of a town tucked into the Elk Mountains—the Little Nell, the Hotel Jerome, the Sky Hotel. But sometimes, especially if you have kids in tow, a low-key (and often lower-priced) condo feels more comfortable. The Gant, a 140-condo-unit resort, offers nearly anything you might want for a lovely yet practical ski weekend: fully equipped kitchens, wood-burning fireplaces, swimming pools and three hot tubs, saunas, shuttle services, daily housekeeping, ski storage, overnight tuning services, and a helpful concierge.
Who It’s For: Families wanting to experience the beauty of Aspen and its three ski mountains without staying in a ritzy hotel.
Get A Room: The Gant has one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom condos.
The Best Part: A superb location. Just three blocks from the ski lifts and the heart of downtown Aspen, this unassuming ski condo enclave is a compelling—and different—way to stay near the famous slopes at Ajax.
Book It: Rates vary depending on dates and size of condo; gantaspen.com; 1-866-956-6317
Amangiri • Canyon Point, Utah / $$$ (For the Adventurer)
If the landscapes of the Western desert speak to you, Amangiri should be your next destination. Huddled at the base of a towering mesa, the 34-suite resort blends seamlessly into its environment. In fact, the designers of this exclusive hotel were so mindful of the scenery’s allure they built the swimming pool around a finger of rock that juts into the 600-acre property. The interior decor also takes the surrounding natural wonder into account: the clean, right angles, varied textures, and neutral color scheme mimic what guests see out the floor-to-ceiling windows in their suites. Amangiri’s maxim of peaceful relaxation is perfectly complemented by its comprehensive outdoor adventure offerings, which take advantage of the Four Corners region. Surrounded by attractions like the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Lake Powell, and Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks, guests can sign up for guided hikes, float trips, climbing, canyoneering, cycling, ballooning, boating, and horseback riding trips.
Who It’s For: Outdoor enthusiasts who want to break up their adventures with a spa massage and a day at the pool.
Get A Room: Sunset views from the Mesa View suites are unsurpassed.
The Best Part: The on-property hiking is second to none; grab a trail map when you arrive.
Book It: From November 1 through March 15, 2013, the Season of Adventure & Rejuvenation special includes all meals, two daily guided group hikes, and one daily yoga class. Package rates start at $1,050. amanresorts.com; 1-877-695-3999.
Gateway Canyons Resort • Gateway, Colorado / $$$ (For the Adventurer)
Although this Western Slope resort was initially opened by Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks in 2005, Gateway Canyons Resort finally became exactly what Hendricks originally envisioned after a $130 million expansion that began in spring 2012. Located in the mesa- and canyon-lands near the Colorado-Utah border, the adobe-walled resort reflects its stunning geographical surroundings—and takes advantage of them with a variety of winter activities like snowshoeing in Unaweep Canyon and guided trail rides through the frosty scenery. Or, if you’re jonesing to downhill ski, make a reservation with the resort’s Air Tours, which will pick you up in a helicopter and whisk you to Telluride for a powdery day of in-bounds schussing or heli-skiing. End the day in the spa or with a late meal of Colorado lamb at the resort’s Entrada restaurant.
Who It’s For: Adventure-seekers with healthy wallets and curious minds.
Get A Room: The signature rooms with hot tubs in the Kiva Lodge are near the pool, have gas fireplaces, and offer stunning views of the mesas.
The Best Part: The resort is infused with Hendricks’ love of…well…discovery and intellectual pursuits. You’ll find that educational movies are often running in the resort’s high-def theater; there are multiple resort-prepared but self-guided walking tours on the property; and Hendricks’ auto museum is worth an afternoon of wandering.
Book It: Ask about the Gateway to Romance package (starting at $399 per night), which includes a night of accommodations in the Kayenta Lodge, $100 of resort credit, a bottle of local wine, and discounts on other resort amenities; gatewaycanyons.com; 1-866-671-4733
The Saguaro • Scottsdale, Arizona / $$ (For Hipsters)
Sometimes a winter escape is more like an escape from winter. If Colorado’s cold begins to wear on your sunny outlook, book a weekend at Scottsdale, Arizona’s, newly remade, 1970s-era motel, the Saguaro. Manning a corner in the center of Old Town Scottsdale (the trendy restaurant, bar, and shopping district), this five-decade-old, 194-room building got a $10 million facelift courtesy of California-based Joie de Vivre hotel group. The bright color scheme of oranges, pinks, purples, greens, and yellows is supposed to imitate the hues of Arizona’s vibrant desert flowers. We’ll admit it takes the eyes a few minutes to adjust, but the cheerfulness of the design quickly wins you over, as will the modern Mexican menu at Distrito, the spa, and the reasonable price tag for a room.
Who It’s For: Although the Crayola-box-gone-wild look might suggest child-friendliness, the Saguaro definitely has a swank factor that might not be compatible with, say, a screaming toddler.
Get A Room: The normal guest rooms are a little tight; book a king-bed suite for a bit of extra space.
The Best Part: The location. The Saguaro is just blocks from everything: galleries, restaurants, bars, shops, and even Scottsdale Stadium—making it a great home base for Cactus League baseball.
Book It: Rooms start at $189; thesaguaro.com; 1-877-808-2440
OPUS Hut • Near telluride, Colorado / $ (For Skiers)
Balanced on the southern face of 13,661-foot Lookout Peak, the OPUS Hut (the acronym stands for Ophir Pass Ultimate Ski) looks like it’s straight out of the high Andes. Not just because of its wooden exterior and sharply angled roof, but also because of the surrounding jagged peaks, the unbelievable snowfall, and the isolation. Owner Bob Kingsley built the cabin after years of backcountry hut experience working in Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division hut system. His cabin, however, is a serious step up from most huts you’ll find in Colorado. In every way, OPUS Hut is a backcountry skier’s dream. Of course, with an option to have a “hutkeeper” who will keep the fireplace stoked and hot meals on the table, available hot water, and indoor toilets, anyone can enjoy a stay at this 11-month-old lodge. In the summer, guests can hike into OPUS; in the winter, skis or snowshoes will be necessary to reach the solar-powered hut. The 3.5-mile journey is an intermediate-level ski (of the alpine touring variety) or a difficult, deep-powder snowshoe.
Who It’s For: Powder hounds, tree skiers, and anyone else who loves to play in untracked snow.
Get A Room: Guests can reserve a single bed in the Bunk Room ($35 per night), choose a private room ($105–$175 per night), or reserve the entire hut ($560), which can accommodate up to 16 people.
The Best Part: The terrain here is epic and wonderfully varied, but having a morning cup of coffee on the deck—drinking in the unparalleled views of the San Juan Mountains—is beyond compare.
Quick Tip: Kingsley says a good time to visit the hut is from late October through mid-December; any later than that and the snowpack can become unmanageable for beginner skiers and sometimes dangerous due to unstable conditions.
Pioneer Guest Cabins • Crested Butte, Colorado / $$ (For Skiers)
We have extolled the virtues of this cluster of cabins near Crested Butte in the past, but the lovingly restored accommodations are just too cozy to pass up. Originally a part of the base area for the old Gunnison-Pioneer Winter Sports Area, the eight historic log structures are sprinkled throughout the seven-acre property that lives inside Gunnison National Forest. Complete with wood and/or gas stoves, fully equipped kitchens, and adorable rustic cabin decor, these compact living spaces have everything guests need for a romantic getaway or a ski weekend with friends. From the front doors of their cabins, guests can hop on snowshoe and cross-country skiing trails that wind through frosted spruce and fir trees. In early winter, deer and elk are sometimes spotted along the paths. For the downhill skiing inclined, Crested Butte Mountain Resort is just a 15-minute drive away and offers beginner slopes as well as a huge amount of lift-accessible extreme terrain.
Who It’s For: Ski-weekenders who might not be quite as enthused with your typical ski town condo rental.
Get A Room: The Alpenglow, Doubletop, Oh-Be-Joyful, and Cottonwood cabins are closest to the trails.
The Best Part: The solitude. Crested Butte is only eight miles away, but it might as well be a thousand.
Bonus: In 2011, Crested Butte Mountain Resort opened an on-mountain Zip Line Tour, which is one of the few winter-available zip lines in the state.
Book It: Rates range from $131 to $171 in the winter; pioneerguestcabins.com; 970-349-5517
Adobe & Pines Inn • Rancho de Taos, New Mexico / $$ (For Couples)
Romance is not dead. It’s just hiding out at a bed-and-breakfast in a tiny town outside of Taos, New Mexico. Built around a 178-year-old Spanish hacienda, the Adobe & Pines Inn exudes warmth and charm, and through the smallest of details—private hot tubs, wood-burning fireplaces, candles everywhere—nurtures a dreamy ambience that’s ideal for a weekend away from the kids. And while you’re away from the everyday grind, take advantage of the inn’s feather beds and the utter silence and sleep in—until about 9:15 a.m. At that point you’ll want to throw on some clothes and make your way to the dining room for a full breakfast of homemade biscuits with peach and rosemary jam or a veggie frittata with feta. Fully sated, you and your significant other can spend the day exploring the hacienda, the nearby San Francisco de Asis Mission Church (you’ll recognize it from Georgia O’Keeffe paintings), and the galleries and bistros in Taos.
Who It’s For: This little B&B welcomes families, but has a decidedly adult ambience.
Get A Room: Puerta Rosa has a private entrance from the courtyard, a candle-burning kiva fireplace, and a two-person soaking tub.
The Best Part: Sitting around the fire ring, taking in the view of this historic hacienda, is one of the more peaceful settings you’ll experience.
Book It: adobepines.com; 1-800-723-8267