The Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley
Anyone who’s lived in Colorado for longer than five minutes understands the Broadmoor holds a hallowed place in the state’s history. Built in 1918 by gold and copper magnate Spencer Penrose, the salmon-hued Grand Dame of the Rockies has long been known as an escape for the wealthy and a bastion of opulent decor, elegant service, and well-regarded amenities such as tennis courts, golf courses, restaurants, art galleries, and a spa. But until 10 months ago, the AAA five-diamond resort was not known as a place where you could throw on a pair of hiking boots and get (a little) dirty.
Enter the Ranch at Emerald Valley. Tucked nearly 10 miles up Cheyenne Mountain behind the Broadmoor, the 16-acre, century-old ranch property was once Penrose’s personal getaway. The land has changed hands a few times since Penrose and his family used the area’s eight log structures, but just a handful of months after Denver financier Philip Anschutz purchased the Broadmoor in 2011, he bought the ranch as well. This time, however, the wooded valley cut by babbling streams would not be the exclusive domain of the owner. Instead, beginning in late 2012, the Broadmoor set about restoring the original buildings to create 10 cabins and a main lodge. Construction also included a set of horse stables, a pair of hot tubs, two small lakes, a gazebo, and an outdoor fire pit. The resulting mountain retreat opens for its first full summer of operations this July.
While Anschutz—who has always been captivated by the beauty of the American West and owns a 45,000-acre personal ranch northeast of Denver—wanted to create an outdoorsy experience for the Broadmoor’s clientele, the Ranch at Emerald Valley isn’t what you might call rustic. The ranch sleeps 32 people in remodeled cabins with wood-burning fireplaces, king-size beds with high-thread-count linens, raindrop showerheads, spa-quality bath products, Wi-Fi, and decks with nap-inducing rocking chairs. The surrounding grounds are perfectly manicured (not a blade of grass out of place and you won’t see a pile of manure anywhere); the small lakes are stocked with trout eager to bite a fisherman’s fly (you’ll almost start to feel bad after hooking so many); and there always seems to be an extremely attentive staff member ready to assist you (No, really, this glass of wine isn’t that heavy!). All of which is to say that the Ranch at Emerald Valley feels a little safe, which isn’t a bad thing—unless you were expecting a more earnest wilderness adventure. If you were, the Ranch will, of course, be happy to help you plan more audacious off-site escapades—jeep tours, white-water rafting, river-based fly-fishing—for an additional cost.
If, however, guided hikes on nearby moderate trails, easygoing horseback rides, soaks in lakeside hot tubs, morning cups of cowboy coffee by the fire pit, afternoon treats like house-made doughnut holes delivered to your cabin, and sublime meals thrice daily sound appealing, then the Ranch at Emerald Valley is the perfect kind of outdoor escape.
QUICK TIP: Secure the eight-person Hill Cabin for a small family reunion or a friends’ weekend away.
MINOR QUIBBLE: The historic building that houses the Piñon, Ponderosa, Cedar, and Aspen cabins is, not surprisingly, a little creaky with thin walls. Translation: You can hear your neighbors. If you’re a light sleeper, opt for the Copper, Bear Den, Fir, Pine, or Lakeside cabins.
COMING SOON: The Ranch at Emerald Valley will only be the Broadmoor’s newest offering until later this summer, when the resort plans to open Cloud Camp, another wilderness retreat on Cheyenne Mountain that will consist of an 8,000-square-foot lodge with six guest rooms and a honeymoon suite and 11 nearby guest cabins. broadmoor.com
RATES: All-inclusive rates at REV start at $500 per person per night; Pike National Forest, Colorado Springs, 1-866-334-3693, broadmoor.com/ranch
5280.com Exclusive: Try this recipe for the Ranch at Emerald Valley’s signature Palisade Peach Doughnut Holes.
There’s something about the sound of rushing water: soothing, energizing, magnetic. The owners of Cresto Ranch, an 11-month-old resort located about an hour from Telluride, clearly understood the magic of the Dolores River when they erected the eight luxury tents that comprise the unique retreat. From your king-size bed inside a gas-stove-warmed tent, you’ll listen to the rushing snowmelt and struggle with this critical decision: take a nap or go fly-fishing?
Fortunately, visitors to Cresto Ranch can do both—and much more. Built as the sister resort to Dunton Hot Springs, located four miles upriver, the ranch caters to a high-end yet laid-back crowd that digs everything about camping, except the lack of creature comforts. So Cresto Ranch combines outdoor pursuits (guided fly-fishing, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding) and outdoor-ish accommodations (huge canvas tents with bathrooms en suite and lounging decks) with gourmet meals and locally sourced wines served in a restored 19th-century-farmhouse lodge. The setup allows guests to feel surrounded by nature and play hard in the wilderness (visitors can experience activities on-site or nearby without guides) but luxuriate in a hot shower, a nice glass of Syrah, and an entrée of perfectly seared pork tenderloin at day’s end.
While the on-grounds fly-fishing is A River Runs Through It dreamy and the mountain biking is action-packed (each guest gets a mountain bike to use during his stay), the best part of spending three or four days deep in the San Juan Mountains may be the escape provided by the high hills themselves. Although Telluride is just over the pass—a trip to the historic town is a must if you’ve never been—cell service is nonexistent at Cresto Ranch, and there isn’t a TV in sight. If you really need to check email (which you don’t, by the way), Wi-Fi is available—but who needs it when the opportunity to disconnect is this compelling? When you finally put the smartphone down, you’ll find you can sit back in the safari-style chairs on your tent’s raised deck, listen to the sounds of nature, sip a cold beer, and simply breathe.
QUICK TIP: Book the Cutthroat, Rainbow, or Brown tents for the best views of the river.
MINOR QUIBBLE: Likely because the resort had just opened, the Cresto Ranch staff wasn’t as knowledgeable about the resort and its offerings as it should have been for a vacation destination of this caliber. Questions about where guests could fish on-site; if the hot springs at Dunton were available for Cresto Ranch guests; and where easy mountain biking trails might be located went mostly unanswered.
GEAR: If you don’t want to spend extra cash on guided fly-fishing, you’ll need to bring your own rod, reel, net, and flies (waders aren’t a bad idea either). You can fish right on-site, or there are public-access areas along Dunton Reoad. If you’d like to check out the hot springs at Dunton, which are available to Cresto Ranch guests so long as Dunton is not privately booked, bring a bathing suit.
RATES: Double occupancy, all-inclusive rates at Cresto (not including guided activities) start at $1,400 per night; 52068 Road 38, Dolores, 970-882-4800, duntonhotsprings.com
5280.com Exclusive: Learn to make Cresto Ranch’s “Damn Good Granola” at home this weekend.
Scarp Ridge Lodge
For much of the year, the two-year-old Scarp Ridge Lodge, a seven-bedroom Victorian building in downtown Crested Butte, takes reservations only from price-is-no-object private groups looking to enjoy the all-inclusive property’s guided cat-skiing in the Elk Mountains or customized fly-fishing instruction on the Gunnison River. But for eight weeks during the summer, the outdoor-experience-focused property—which comes with concierge staff, a personal chef, and a team of world-class guides—presents a roster of multiday themed vacations for which anyone can score an individual room.
Unlike booking the lodge as a rental home for a single group, the so-called Eleven Weeks of Summer (named in honor of Eleven Experience, the travel company that owns the lodge) morphs the spacious, Western-elegant Scarp Ridge Lodge into more of an inn, where like-minded strangers become fast friends during specialized adventures and over community meals in the lodge’s casual dining area. The summer programming, which begins its second season this June, capitalizes on all that Crested Butte has to offer during the warmer months—hiking, biking, fishing, paddleboarding, wild flower viewing—and complements it with other activities such as yoga, gourmet cooking classes, and photography workshops. Bringing in multiple experts from all over the country to lead each session’s escapades, Scarp Ridge creates flexible daily itineraries guests can choose to fully take part in—or not.
A typical day during a “yoga week” might include an 8 a.m. yoga class in the lodge’s great room; a light breakfast of fresh fruit and granola around 9:15; an easy hike along the nearby Slate River followed by sandwiches for lunch; a tai chi lesson held in the meadow just a short walk from the lodge around 2 p.m.; another yoga class—this one paired with chocolate!—at 4; and a cocktail hour followed by dinner in the dining area beginning around 6:30. If a » guest doesn’t feel up to tai chi, she can skip it in favor of a nap in her room, a stroll around downtown Crested Butte, or a swim in the lodge’s indoor saltwater lap pool, or she can ask one of the front office managers to schedule a different activity—fishing, rock climbing, a massage, acupuncture—just for her.
This bespoke experience is what Eleven Experience, which also has properties in the French Alps, Iceland, and the Bahamas, does so well. Both the guides and the lodge’s staff make guests feel as though no request is too much (“I forgot a rain jacket—do you have any extras?” Of course!), no preference is too picky (“I’m a fruitarian.” No problem!), and no ability level is too difficult to accommodate (“I’ve never tried yoga before.” You’ll love it!). They somehow do this without being sickly sweet or coming off as phony, which only adds to the genuinely good time guests are having.
QUICK TIP: These retreats are perfect for solo travelers; the dynamic created by shared adventures makes everyone feel like an integral part of the group.
MINOR QUIBBLE: If you’re looking for a relaxing, read-a-book, laze-around vacation, this isn’t it. While guests are more than welcome to skip certain activities, it’s difficult to say no to adventures that sound like—and are—so much fun. The result: You may need a vacation after your vacation.
ELEVEN WEEKS OF SUMMER 2014:
June 11–15: White-water rafting adventure
June 17–22: Yoga and wellness retreat
June 25–29: Early season float fishing adventure
July 15–20: Learning to mountain bike adventure
July 22–27: Advanced mountain biking adventure
August 12–17: Technical mountain biking adventure
August 26–31: Technical fly-fishing and photography
September 10–15: Fly-fishing for salmon adventure
COMING SOON: In mid-June, Eleven Experience will open the Taylor River Lodge, an intimate, all-inclusive riverside retreat comprised of a main lodge, six guest cabins and two larger guesthouses, outdoor dining facilities, a custom-built tree house, and a bathhouse with a saltwater pool overlooking the river and spa. Much like Scarp Ridge Lodge, this property will provide guided adventures such as fly-fishing, rafting, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, and hunting.
RATES: DAll-inclusive rates at Scarp Ridge Lodge begin at $2,500 per person per week; 512 Second St., Crested Butte, 970-349-7761, elevenexperience.com/scarp-ridge-lodge