The Michelin Guide isn’t done with Colorado. Late last month, the venerated reviewer announced its inaugural list of Michelin Key hotel winners. (The designation is similar to what Michelin Stars are for restaurants.) Though Michelin has been recommending hotels as part of its guides for decades, this is a brand-new distinction.

In the United States, 124 outstanding hotels across the country were honored—including eight in the Centennial State, spread across Denver, Aspen, and Vail. Colorado’s winners all received one Michelin Key, denoting a “very special stay.” (Two keys represent an “exceptional stay,” and three keys signify an “extraordinary stay.”)

Michelin describes its picks as “places that significantly add to your experience as a traveler.” The venues are judged on five categories: architecture and interior design, quality and consistency of service, overall personality and character, value for the price, and a significant contribution to the guest experience in a particular setting.

Below, discover Colorado’s first Michelin Key hotels—and what we love about them. Let the summer travel planning begin.

Clayton Hotel & Members Club (Denver)

What Michelin Said: “Guests find themselves members of a surprisingly diverse society—one that draws heavily from Denver’s blossoming creative communities—and are set up in impressively stylish and unpretentious luxury digs as well…. The result is as plush as any downtown luxury hotel, and a good deal more memorable.”

5280’s Top Reason To Visit: If you—or a friend or colleague—are members at this hotel meets Denver SoHo House, then you know: The rooftop pool is where it’s at. Though small, the al fresco area feels like a mini retreat, and the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows afford a break from the sun without blocking those beautiful bluebird skies.

How To Best Enjoy It This Summer: Enter the Clayton Beach Club, a summerlong weekend fiesta at the rooftop pool for hotel guests and members only (noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, starting May 26). Seasonal dishes and cocktails are on the menu, and daybed reservations are available for those 21 and older.

Read more: Denver’s Best New Hotels

Four Seasons Hotel Denver

What Michelin Said: “The Four Seasons Denver is a case in point: From this spire-topped skyscraper, with its far-ranging views of the Rockies and the plains, it would be quite a feat if you managed to forget where you were…. Rather than overdoing some old-West or mountain-lodge theme, the hotel has commissioned local artists to provide over 1,000 original sculptures and paintings to accent every room.”

5280’s Top Reason To Visit: As Denverites, we (sadly) don’t have reason to check in at the Four Seasons often. But we do find ourselves returning to its lobby eatery, Edge Restaurant & Bar. When we don’t want to splurge on a steak dinner, we swing by for a happy hour tipple or make a meal out of the sizable sides (including truffle mac and cheese).

How To Best Enjoy It This Summer: Through September 30, the hotel is offering an Urban Oasis package that includes an in-room mimosa bar, a $100 credit to the rooftop pool terrace, free valet parking, and late checkout (our favorite amenity).

The Crawford Hotel (Denver)

What Michelin Said: “The rooms are located on the upper floors in what used to be offices ringing the soaring 65-foot central hall. It took a massive renovation to make these spaces habitable, and the results are impressively luxurious, with nods to Victorian elegance, Art Deco swankiness, and contemporary post-industrial loft living, depending on the room type.”

5280’s Top Reason To Visit: We agree with Michelin: There’s “more to the Crawford than just the rooms and the lobby.” Continually evolving Union Station—both the building and surrounding neighborhood—make the hotel an ideal recommendation for out-of-towners. They get comfortable, well-appointed rooms plus access to a bevy of shops and restaurants, and you get to keep your house to yourself.

How To Best Enjoy It This Summer: You may have noticed a little dust around the Crawford recently. In time for Union Station’s 10th anniversary, the Great Hall and Terminal Bar are in the midst of a redesign, while the hotel’s 112 rooms were remodeled with new furniture and art, plus a new lobby space with private elevator access to guest rooms.

Hotel Jerome (Aspen)

What Michelin Said: “The Jerome has its own heated pool, and guests have access to the Aspen Club’s offerings, which include a full-service spa and a well-equipped fitness center. And while Colorado and cuisine don’t necessarily always go hand in hand, Aspen’s culinary options, and the Jerome’s restaurant in particular, are among the best in the West.”

5280’s Top Reason To Visit: There are plenty of places to see and be seen in celeb hot spot Aspen. But there’s something special about the Jerome’s Living Room bar, which somehow makes an old-timey shooting lodge vibe cool again and is equally as in-demand for residents and visitors (A-list or not).

How To Best Enjoy It This Summer: Try out the unique “Journey” menu at Prospect restaurant. Inspired by the various microclimates of the surrounding region, the lineup includes dishes such as blue corn spread, Paonia Valley chicken, and pine with mushrooms.

Read more: 3 Historic Colorado Hotels Get Upgrades

The Little Nell (Aspen)

What Michelin Said: “Little Nell is the heart of Aspen’s sophistication…. Perhaps it is the location that makes it so grand—just steps away from the status-symbol Silver Queen Gondola. With its sloping ceilings and fireplaces in each room, Little Nell is less opulent than its rival, the St. Regis, but in a way, it’s more elite.”

5280’s Top Reason To Visit: The pillows. Hear us out: Yes, the five-star rooms are spacious and cozy; Aspen Mountain is a quick walk away; and the garden-surrounded hot tub is a can’t-miss. But in all of our global travels, the Little Nell remains one of just a handful of accommodations where the pillows were plump and didn’t remind us with every roll-over that 1,000 people had slept on them before. Can you ask for more than a good night’s rest?

How To Best Enjoy It This Summer: If you’re just lounging by the pool, look forward to daily sorbet service. But the Little Nell also boasts a full calendar. A couple of upcoming highlights: Starting July 15, the hotel will host four Cinema Under the Stars events in partnership with Aspen Film—al fresco moving screenings on the lawn in front of Ajax Tavern. And the Ride & Dine Series returns; guests e-bike to a cabin in the Ashcroft Valley for dinner featuring a different winery at each event.

Read more: Where To Drink Wine In Aspen

Mollie Aspen

What Michelin Said: “There’s no rule that says a modern Colorado ski hotel has to look like a national park lodge or an alpine chalet. And in these days of ‘quiet luxury,’ there’s nothing more quietly luxurious than the sort of Bauhaus-meets-Japanese-Scandinavian modernism on display here.”

5280’s Top Reason To Visit: How often do you actually want to hang out in a hotel lobby? Aspen’s newest hotel (the Mollie opened in December) ditches the typical mountain lodge aesthetic for a hygge ambience—built upon materials sourced from Aspen and the West—that feels particularly refreshing after a quad-busting day on the trails or the slopes. Oh, and the F&B offerings come from the delicious minds behind Death & Co.

How To Best Enjoy It This Summer: The Mollie’s rooftop terrace, lounge, and spa pool—with unobstructed mountain views—make their debut on the third floor.

Read more: Aspen Mountain’s Massive Expansion is Designed to Outrun Climate Change

Four Seasons Vail

What Michelin Said: “The Vail Village location lends a certain air of accessibility, as opposed to the mountainside fortresses currently in favor among high-end resorts—it’s not technically a ski-in/ski-out hotel, though with the expert assistance of the ski concierge staff, you’ll scarcely notice the difference, and the proximity to Vail’s considerable social life is an asset to those of a festive bent.”

5280’s Top Reason To Visit: Our favorite thing about a stay at Four Seasons Vail—besides the service and ski concierge and pool—is that it understands the luxury of space. Mountain vacations require a lot of stuff, no matter the season. The rooms here offer plenty of, well, room to let gear air out and keep your night-on-the-town outfits separate from your slope wear.

How To Best Enjoy It This Summer: The hotel is undergoing a massive refresh (to be unveiled in November). But the spa’s glow-up—including an entirely new wellness program—and reimagined deluxe one-bedroom suites are debuting in the next month or so.

Sonnenalp Hotel (Vail)

What Michelin Said: “This remarkably authentic Alpine-style resort is owned by the same Faessler family that opened the original Sonnenalp hotel in Ofterschwang in the years immediately following the First World War. It’s the sort of personality that no contemporary designer could possibly fake: Almost more European than its counterparts in the Alps, it’s the perfect antidote to the commercial luxury on offer elsewhere in Vail.”

5280’s Top Reason To Visit: During your visit, don’t miss the Sonnenalp Spa. The lounge area around a fire. The indoor and outdoor pools and Jacuzzis. The oxygen bar. This Gore Creek–adjacent wellness retreat has it all, including, of course, an ample menu of facials, massages, body treatments, waxing, and nail services.

How To Best Enjoy It This Summer: Guests at Sonnenalp also get access to the Sonnenalp Club in Edwards for workouts, swimming, golf, and more. The latest addition to the venue’s class lineup: Yoga for Picklers. It’s a yoga class aimed at racket sport players, with the goal of opening shoulders and hips so you can smash the ball a little better during your next match.

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Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at