Long breath in, long breath out. In, two, three, four, out, two, three, four. In, out.
I try to focus on counting to distract my mind from my tingling fingers and the sensation of sharp pins pricking my back. It’s around 30 degrees on a bluebird day, and I’m lying in the snow. In my bathing suit.
Following my third round of (supposedly) calming breaths, I hightail it back inside Taylor River Lodge‘s antler-bedecked bathhouse and into the inviting warmth of the hot tub. Blood rushes back to my extremities, and I feel surprisingly rejuvenated. I’ll cycle through this routine—sauna, snow, hot tub—twice more during my hourlong thermal therapy session, and by the final time I won’t struggle to slow my heart rate while out in the cold.
Jumping between hot and (very) cold is supposed to have numerous benefits, from increasing circulation to improving skin’s appearance—and it’s my first stop on a whirlwind journey of self-care at Eleven Experience‘s luxe, off-the-grid retreat on the banks of the Taylor River in Almont, just outside of Crested Butte.
Known primarily as a home base for fly fishing, the eight-cabin venue is typically only open between May and October. But sensing that people might be in need of more vacation and downtime, the adventure-focused travel company—which operates a dozen high-end accommodations in various locales, including the Bahamas and Iceland—opened the venue for its first winter season in mid-December. Centered around Eleven Life, the brand’s wellness program, winter guests can expect bespoke itineraries that combine spa therapies, outdoor adventures, and lifestyle offerings; bookings are open through April 5. (If you can’t swing a visit in the coming weeks, don’t fret: The staff expects to operate again next winter.)
I’m here for 24 hours of relaxation and fresh air—a brief respite from the grind of working, eating, and working out in the same 1,700 square feet every day for nearly a year. I know I’m going to like it here almost immediately upon arrival when the staff welcomes my husband and I with still-warm chocolate chip-molasses cookies and turmeric-ginger tea.
Following our water therapy session, we eat some sandwiches and then sidle up to the wood, horseshoe-shaped bar in the main lodge for a cocktail-making class. Gavin, a former bartender at Montanya Distillers, has set out all the necessary ingredients for us to mix the local tipple-makers’ Smoke Show cocktail. We muddle the chai spices (cardamom, cloves, black peppercorn, and cinnamon) using a mortar and pestle before Gavin heads to the kitchen to boil them with simple syrup. We measure out and shake the finished chai simple syrup, Camp 4 Coffee cold brew, and Montanya Oro rum together with ice. Though I’m not a coffee drinker, it’s a well-balanced drink imbued with the flavor of coffee but none of the bitterness.
Next, it’s off to meet chef Austin Hornsby (formerly of Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar) for a cooking class. He walks us through the steps to make the charcutière sauce that will top our chicken at that evening’s dinner. Hornsby is kind enough to print out a copy of the recipe so I can recreate it at home.
But before it’s time to eat (again), we head outside to a small tepee for sound therapy. Ashley King, a local movement and massage therapist, makes sure we’re comfortable and warm under blankets and then guides us through a short meditative experience during which she uses singing bowls, a gong, and a drum to produce different vibrations and frequencies intended to soothe our stress. Our eyes closed, we focus in on the sounds; for a few moments, I envision waves gently rolling over me, while my husband “sees” the sound waves spiraling up and out of the tepee’s peak. It sounds woo-woo, but it does seem to have an effect—and research supports some of the benefits.
I feel lighter, as if the generalized anxiety that has built up over the previous months has lifted slightly. We head back to our cozy, one-room cabin—replete with a steam shower, a heated towel rack, and a minibar stocked with Colorado goodies—for some downtime. The only thing that gets me out of bed is the promise of more of Hornsby’s cooking. Tonight’s dinner menu features pumpkin bisque, arugula salad with thyme vinaigrette, crispy-skinned chicken with green beans, wild rice, and the sauce we learned to make earlier, and lemon sorbet topped with crumbled pistachios. We feel like royalty; my husband and I are the only two people on the property tonight and the staff is friendly and accommodating, attuned to anything we could possibly need.
The next morning, we jumpstart the day with a yoga class led by King in the bathhouse. I blink my eyes open from shavasana (or final resting pose) to find snow falling outside the window. It clears up by the time we’ve finished our breakfast of kale-avocado-citrus wellness smoothies, house-made granola with yogurt, and egg sandwiches. Satiated, we walk to my car to find Gavin has set two pairs of snowshoes and a cooler filled with drinks and snacks. We drive two miles up the road to the Summerville Trailhead and follow the packed-down trail out-and-back for an hour, stopping often to quiet the crunching of our snowshoes and take in the silence of the Fossil Ridge Wilderness.
If I could, I’d tack on more days in this wild, remote place. But home beckons. We head back and sink into the hot tub one last time before we hit the road, warm peanut butter cookies in hand.
If you go: Taylor River Lodge is open for winter bookings through April 5; accommodations start at $800 per cabin per night, based on double occupancy. (Buyout rates start at $10,500 per night based on 24 guests.) All stays include daily wellness activities, food (breakfast, lunch, après, and dinner), and house drinks.