Maximum Interlodge at Alta Ski Area

My family was first invited to Alta Ski Area when we lived in Colorado. Though we tried to visit during Spring Break last year, we couldn’t coordinate our schedule so just opted to visit after our move. It would take several months of back-and-forth to determine a time because the kids had six weeks of ski lessons at Sundance through our recreation program. 

We finally decided staying overnight on the weekend just wasn’t possible until late in the season so opted to drive to Alta on a Sunday night, sleep at Goldminer’s Daughter and hit the slopes on Monday (the kids had a day off). There was snow in the forecast but we weren’t too worried. Were we not, after all, skiing?

Our hour-long drive was seamless. We unloaded, checked in and ate a delicious gourmet dinner at Top of the Lodge Restaurant as the wind and snow howled the only visibility the distant light of the snowcats grooming the 36 inches of snow from the latest storm…and more was expected the next day. The kids were nervous; they’ve never skied conditions like this.

Tales were flying from real-life storm chasers of epic powder and the previous day’s “interlodge” where people were required by law to stay indoors as avalanche crews blasted the hanging faces of Little Cottonwood Canyon. I wasn’t sure if we’d get snowed in but one thing was for sure: those kiddos would never forget their first time attempting Alta’s legendary powder.

We spent an uncomfortable night in our room, groggily waking up to even more snow. We made our way to breakfast, still uncertain how the day would unfold. As we were indulging in delicious pancakes with cinnamon cream cheese, it was then that we learned Alta had declared “interlodge” and Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed–no one could come or go.

The day was still not lost. There was a chance the resort would reopen and we would have all that glorious powder to ourselves.

Until we learned it got even worse: UDOT declared “Maximum Interlodge,” so not only were we quarantined indoors but we could not go near any doors or windows due to extreme avalanche danger.

Guests in other lodges were led the basement and huddled together for several hours to wait it out. Fortunately, Goldminer’s Daughter’s recreation room didn’t have any windows so we had fun ping pong and pool tournament sand mother-daughter weight room showdowns. There’s nothing like forced bonding but we had a blast!

We had bought some lunch and were trying to select a movie “The Shining,” maybe? :-) , having resigned ourselves to staying in our cramped quarters another night when, miracle of miracles, the canyon briefly opened for downhill traffic.

We quickly packed up and joined the legions of skiers trying to catch shuttles to make it back to the airport. Jamie left us to grab the car and after 30 minutes of waiting, I finally went to find him…and our car…stuck under a few feet of snow!

Jamie and an Alta staffer pushed us out while I drove and that was only the beginning of our adventures. The conditions and whiteout were among the scariest I’ve ever experienced (and that’s really saying something when you’re raised in Canada). Jamie did a great job driving and was tempted to turn back a few times but without a safe place, we were forced to resume our perilous drive. It was one craaaaazy experience.

UDOT posted this video of an avalanche near our lodge that same day.

Just a taste of the extensive avalanche results we saw from control work this am 1/23/17 LCC

A post shared by udot avalanche (@udotavy) on


We were later told that Alta regularly experiences “interlodge” but “maximum” is much more rare. What are the odds that during our family’s first visit together, that is exactly what happened?

Don’t answer that.

Family Fun at Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs

I watched as Hadley brazenly stepped into the Wolf Tail launch pad at Great Wolf Lodge. This was a slide unlike any I’d ever witnessed. She followed the staffer’s instructions to cross her arms and legs and wait for the countdown. Then just like a magician’s trap door, the bottom DROPPED out and she free-fell 20 feet before being catapulted around a 360-degree high-speed loop.

Bode was almost purple with worry and we made a pact. “Don’t worry, Bode. I’ll only go if you go.” Surely, there was safety in numbers when my cautious son was involved?

Despite the certain death that awaited us on the Wolf Tail, my family was having a fabulous time at the grand opening of Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs’ expansive indoor water park, fun-filled attractions and family-focused entertainment.

CLICK TO KEEP READING

The Broadmoor’s Bliss: Part 1,205

We first went to AAA Five-Diamond The Broadmoor when the kids were ages 3 and 1. Almost a decade later, we still can’t get enough and it’s truly our favorite Colorado vacation.

When The Broadmoor Magazine’s editor gave me my latest assignment, I was thrilled. “Growing Up Broadmoor” is to be a reflective piece about all the many wonderful memories we’ve had over the years. It’s turning out to be more difficult to write than I thought because there are so many grand gestures and beautifully small nuances that are a part of our DNA. We love and appreciate that special place like no other.

Usually when I’m on assignment, we’re busy with activities related to the story. The Ranch at Emerald Valley. The White Lights Ceremony for the holidays. Outdoor adventures with Broadmoor Outfitters. This time, we were simply coming back “home” after moving away…and that will be my lead-in for the story.

We arrived on New Year’s Day, just as their 12 Days of Christmas was wrapping. We delved in head-first: Casting protective enchantments a.k.a learning to cast a fly rod, which was no less magical than at Hogwarts.

Hadley got a fancy camera for Christmas so she and Jamie attended the photography seminar held from The Broadmoor’s acclaimed photographer, Mic Garofolo. We adore this man! He has been the most delightful paparazzo as he’s followed us around the resort taking pictures of our family for years. He’s so generous that he offered them a private session the next day and she is SUPER excited to delve into learning more about photography.

It’s been four years since we’ve been to The Broadmoor around the holidays so we loved checking out their Gingerbread Village, which was actually a life-sized candy train in honor of the the 125th anniversary of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway Steam Engine, the world’s highest cog train.

We were thrilled to finally stay in the renovated West Tower and it was just as beautiful as we imagined despite the crummy lighting in this picture. And Bode’s awkward pose.

As we settled in, I heard Hadley scream “this is the best mirror EVER!”

As if she already didn’t spend HOURS getting ready, this built-in TV just made it 10 times worse.

We’d hoped to take the shuttle to see the Winter Lights at Seven Falls but it closed early due to the holiday so we drowned our sorrows at our favorite restaurant, The Summit. Hadley tried escargot for the first time, and we all indulged in Beef Tenderloin au Poivre, Slow-roasted Monkfish, Cinnamon Crème Brûlée and Apple Mille-Feuille as we discussed Jamie’s no-sugar challenge.

That began upon our sad, sad return to reality.

The next day was uncharacteristically low-key. I arose early to do my traditional solo hike up North Cheyenne Canyon. I chased the sunrise and the entire canyon was glowing when I arrived at the base but was gone by the time I’d hiked far enough for a view. 

Life lesson for 2017: Don’t blink or you’ll miss it but what remains is pretty darn spectacular.

Meanwhile back at The Broadmoor….

When you have a tomboy mom who is clueless about being a real girl, I highly recommend their spa’s introductory makeup tutorial. 

And also their 50-minute massage (Jamie) and glorious facial (me).

Following lunch at the Golden Bee English Pub, we split up. While Hadley and Jamie were at Mic’s photography session, Bode and I headed over to Broadmoor Outfitters where we went on a scavenger hunt. I’ll admit I wasn’t too enthused but as it turns out, scavenger hunts have gone high-tech and are much more fun than those of my youth. We downloaded the app, Scavenger Ox, and set about to discover The Broadmoor in a hilarious new way.

The resort is know for its upscale clientele so Bode and I aren’t proud of some of the things we did that included asking a stranger for a piggy-back ride and singing “Let It Go” whilst outfitted with my own Elsa braid graphic but it was all worth it for the win. Err…right?

That evening, we bowled to our heart’s content at PLAY. We’re out of focus in this picture and my eyes are closed but that’s just a detraction from the fact I bowled my worst game ever: 49 in the eighth frame.

And the fact that on our fun final round, Bode actually bowled BETTER with his eyes closed and with his left hand.

Somehow because it was at The Broadmoor, it all just made sense.

Monarch Mountain: A perfect family ski vacation

I learned to ski on a tiny two-lift hill within Calgary, Canada’s city limits. As much as I love exploring large ski areas, I feel drawn to these smaller homegrown resorts that are solely about the skiing without the pomp, circumstance and inflated prices. A place where everyone knows your name…and that I don’t drink beer and my name is not Norm.

Monarch Mountain is such a place. Located 150 miles from Denver via U.S. 285, this small ski resort has soaring elevations, stellar family terrain, unbeatable views and big snow (it is second only to Wolf Creek for the biggest snow totals in Colorado). Unlike Summit County’s sardine-packed resorts, Monarch has no neighbors and there’s nothing fake about it—including the all-natural snow.

Click here to keep reading about our many adventures on the mountain, as well as our glorious stay at Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort.

A frightfully fun haunted hotel memory

I was doing a write-up last week on Denver’s haunted hotels and happened upon our fun frightmare at the Curtis Hotel back in 2013. Shamefully, I never blogged about it here so thought I’d republish. Enjoy!

After a while, Halloween memories start to blur together. Dress up, trick-or-treat, gorge on candy. Lather, rinse, repeat. But last weekend, my family experienced a Halloween event we will never forget. We attended the Nightmare on Curtis Street at the Curtis – A DoubleTree by Hilton. Each year during the month of October, the Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver, Colorado transforms its 13th floor into a haunted house for a most memorable Halloween.

Curtis – A Doubletree Hotel

This family-friendly, pop-culture hotel is dedicated to all things quirky. Case in point: last summer’s pop-up, inflatable room that rose 22 feet in the air.

The hallway of each of the 16 floors boasts a different theme, like One-hit Wonders, Big Hair, and Dance. The playful lobby hosts impromptu hula hoop contests and offers board games for check-out as well as a small book-filled library.

The 13th floor’s theme is Horror. I’m not the ghost-hunting type and at ages 7 and 9, neither are my kids. I’d think twice about staying somewhere that claimed to be legitimately haunted but I took a gamble that my family would love Nightmare on Curtis Street.

Eerie elevator operator at the Curtis Hotel's Nightmare on Curtis Street

The 13th Floor

Upon check-in in the late afternoon, the 13th floor’s transformation was already underway. We walked through hallways dripping in cobwebs and filled with creepy decorations. A fidgeting fake rat was caught in trap while a macabre black cat plotted his next move. An unearthly motorized Carol Anne from Poltergeist alternately stared at us and a television. Redrum “murder” was scrawled on our bathroom mirror and our sink was teaming with plastic spiders. The kids were curious but not overly freaked out.

After dinner in the nearby Larimer Square, one of Denver’s hippest and most delicious areas, the sun had set and we were ready to continue our spooky staycation. At the Curtis we found a cadaverous woman guarding the lobby elevator. “This elevator is only going to the 13th floor,” she announced.

Nightmare on Curtis Street at the Curtis Hotel in Denver, Colorado

We timidly boarded. When the blood-lined elevator doors opened, the 13th floor had come to life; or had converted to the death zone. A sinister-looking lady was serving treats and shots…in the head. Ghoulish characters roamed the hallway but none were more unsettling than a perma-grin clown and two ghostly little girls. We interacted with them all and squealed as we dodged around the cobwebs, finding refuge in our hotel room.

“I’ll give each of you a dollar if you run to the end of the hall all by yourself,” my husband announced to the kids. My daughter, Hadley, was the courageous first, reluctantly followed by her little brother, Bode. They quickly realized it was all in great fun and this was the impetus to a hilarious night.

Our hotel neighbors got into the spirit of the event too. At one point, I heard a man recoil in fear as he screamed, “Someone is coming out of the room. It’s so hideous!”

It was cherubic-cheeked Bode.

Then, there was a knock on our hotel room door.

Creepy playdate at Nightmare on Curtis Street

Creepy play date at Nightmare on Curtis Street

When my daughter opened the door she found a strange character had stopped by, perhaps for a play date from hell.

When the kids returned from their haunted hallway adventure, Hadley cried, “Dad, why didn’t you open the door? Couldn’t you hear us screaming?”

My husband just grinned, relishing it all and said, “Yup.”

And then there was The Clown.

Creepy clown at the Curtis Hotel's haunted Halloween event

This won’t give him nightmares, right?

Murder Mystery Solved

To wind down, we headed to the lobby to check out Clue, the murder mystery deduction game. The kids had never played before and they loved trying to solve the mystery of who done it, with what, and where, as their game pieces moved from room to room in the board game’s mansion.

Our findings? It was the Clown. With the revolver. At the Curtis Hotel‘s Nightmare on Curtis Street.

=======

Side note: The next day at church, Bode was coloring as usual. What wasn’t usual was when he later handed me his artwork…and it was all black squiggles with the repeated phrase “I’M NOT SAFE.”

The good news is he didn’t need therapy.

Top 15 Park City Adventures in the Fall

I’ve long skied Park City in the winter, cruised down the alpine coaster in the summer but have never been there in the off-season.  Park City’s fall has unfolded like a gorgeous wave, starting with the crimsons and burnt oranges of the oaks and maples, and ending with the pure liquid aspen gold.

Though I’ve wanted to adventure daily, I’ve been limited on time between chauffeuring kids, household chores and work but I’ve made a point to get out at least a few times a week. Near the end of our stay, I stopped in to White Pine Touring for a map of area trails and was pleased to discover I’d managed to hit all the major hubs. Not bad for a rookie!

Here’s a recap of my Park City adventures:

1) Biking around the base of Park City Canyons Village did not suck. Their $21 hamburgers did. 

2) Biking the Millennium Trail from the townhome to Gorgoza Park. This paved trail system provides connectivity throughout the Snyderville Basin and Park City and goes for miles.

3) Willow Creek Trail. This was a fun one to unearth. I was planning to explore the trail that winds down to Historic Main Street when I discovered the Willow Creek trail system that winds around 66 acres of undeveloped open space under a conservation easement with Utah Open Lands. Willow Creek Park is one of the best in Park City.

4) No worries, I took the trail to downtown Park City another day and was not disappointed.

5) Nighttime strolls up to the base of Canyons Village and fun photo filters. This was taken literally right outside our door.

6) Shoe Tree Park. This one was a delight to uncover during my bike ride along the McCleod Trail/ Willow Creek/Hwy 224 Connector  that extends from Kimball Junction to Downtown Park City. You know a town is cool when it has a funky park with shoes, cowboy boots and even ski boots in the trees.

And strange red moss nearby.

7) Deer Valley is a splurge but for girl’s night, we had a glorious time exploring the trails adjacent to the St. Regis. Luxury ain’t free but these fall colors were.

8) If you’re going to do just one exploration in Park City, I highly recommend following the paved trail to the picturesque white barn known as the “McPolin Farm.” Heaped in history, this 100-year-old barn received national status as an Historic Landmark.

Launching kids in the air en route: highly recommended.

9) Most of my mountain biking expeditions had been on paved or easy trails but this was my foray into singletrack and it might be my favorite fall ride ever! Skid Row: I highly recommend it. #ThingsINeverWould HaveSaidBeforeMovingtoParkCity

10) One of my longtime bloggers connected me with her sister Sheri who moved to Park City last year. You’ll never find me in her hot yoga class but a friendship was borne as we climbed Ecker Hill.

11) Trailside Park. I took a different route home from dropping off the kids and stumbled upon an irresistible network of trails and bike park. When I got out of the car to explore in the rain (without the proper gear, of course), the song “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder” played on the radio. No chance of that with wonders around every corner in Park City.

12) My friend Kristen lives in my dream home in Jeremy Ranch. Literally right at her fingertips is the Glenwild Area’s expansive network of trails. She, Lexi and I had so much fun exploring one day…

…that I had to return a few days later to explore the Flying Dog Trail. 

13) Guardsman Pass Scenic Byway connects Heber to Park City to Salt Lake City. I have only three words for this view of the Heber Valley: Oh. My. Gosh.

14) Round Valley wasn’t particularly scenic (unless you like sage brush and scrub oak) but for the novice mountain biker, it’s a pretty amazing place. I tackled a couple of different trailheads: hiked from The Cove (and got a bit lost before meeting Jamie for lunch) and mountain biked Silver Quinn–the paved trail from Quinn’s Junction–to City Park and then hopped on the adjacent singletrack for a wild ride on Rambler. 

14) The Rail Trail is a highly-touted abandoned railroad corridor-turned-non-motorized path that travels 28 miles out of town. I biked 6 miles from the White Pine Touring trailhead to Prospector and it was so underwhelming (unless you like cows that run in front of you) that I did a big loop by biking along the Old Highway 40, crossing to the other side, following Silver Quinn through City Park and then reconnecting with the Rail Trail. At least the ride back was considerably more scenic. Sorry, bovines. You needed to MOOOOVE over.

15) Mid-Mountain. My friend Dave has been raving about his love for mountain biking the famed Mid-Mountain trail at Park City resort for years. An intimate and spectacular trail that sits at about 8,000 feet, it spans 28 miles. There are many options for places to start, one of the most popular being Silver Lake Lodge at Deer Valley. Since we lived at the “finish line” a.k.a. Canyons Village, I planned to do it backwards…but didn’t realize it’s quite a trek just to reach mid-mountain. And so I did a couple of mini-treks that started right in our Sun Peak neighborhood at Rob’s Trail. The problem: I was always short on time so could only hike a couple of miles. 

On another day, I set out to walk around the Sun Peak neighborhood when I discovered a higher access point for Rob’s trail so did a big loop but was frustrated not to have time to reach Mid-Mountain. I came home and ranted to Jamie [without taking a breath]: “I started to take a neighbor walk but then discovered even more trails and I had to take them even though I didn’t have any time, water or supplies and there are even more trails I have to go back and explore because I couldn’t hike them all today and I’ll NEVER be able to hike them all and…curse you, Park City!”

Jamie [without flinching]: “I don’t know if you’re lying to me or you’re lying to yourself.”#TheEntireDynamicOfOurMarriageSummedUp

A week later, I set out to hike that higher access point for Rob’s Trail off Bear Hollow Drive. I was pressed for time: we had our house’s walk-through that afternoon so I needed to make it quick. From the very beginning, it was absolutely my favorite hike in Park City.

I was having a grand ol’ time minding my own business when, for the first time, I saw the turnoff for Mid-Mountain. Could the Holy Grail of Park City backcountry be near? I checked my watch; I was running out of time. I was determined to get as far as I could and, if needs be, turn around. I ran into two women who’d just returned from Mid-Mountain and I breathlessly asked how much farther. They checked their altimeter. “You have about 1 mile to go.” I kicked it into high-gear with a faster hiking pace and nothing, NOTHING could have prepared me for what awaited me when I turned the last bend to see the very cradle of the mountain in a pathway of golds and greens.


Mid-Mountain was everything I’d dreamed of…and so much more. I could have explored for hours but I was on deadline. For the first time in over a year, I ran. At first, I was tentative to spare my knee but after a few minutes, the familiar rhythm returned to me and I blissfully raced down the mountain, rejoicing how much I missed this freedom of flight and I NEEDED to get back into it.

Until I woke up the next morning and realized I had twisted my uninjured knee and it took me a full week to recover. But you’d better believe Mid-Mountain was worth it.

Serendipitous Deer Valley

ser·en·dip·i·ty
ˌserənˈdipədē/
noun
the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
“a fortunate stroke of serendipity”

Have you ever had an evening of happy little coincidences? Welcome to our first Girl’s Night Out since moving to Utah!

Let me back up a bit. I was in a bit of a funk. Fall is usually my favorite time of the year and that very week was usually our big pumpkin party and weigh-off when we were surrounded by fun and friends. I was missing our wonderful life in Colorado.

The boys had a father-son campout with our new ward so I determined I was going to invite some of the ladies and Hadley’s new friends over to our Park City townhome for swimming and dinner. The problem: I only got around to inviting Sarah, who has been my lifesaver with watching Bode in the mornings before school. So we decided rather than staying in, we would go out! The week prior, my Kristen (the wonderful gal from whom we’re renting the townhome) took me on a tour of Park City and included in that tour was Deer Valley. I determined that was where we would go.

Deer Valley is the Aspen of Utah, tucked amongst forested slopes with luxe accommodations. Hadley, Sarah and I had dinner lakeside at the Deer Valley Grocery~Café, a casual yet delicious eatery (the turkey panini with roasted rhubarb chutney, Cabot white cheddar, tarragon aioli, fresh arugula, housemade wild rice harvest bread was delicious).

From there, we rode up the free funicular (mountain rail-car) to four-star St. Regis Hotel, nestled above Snow Park in Deer Valley, and hit the trails. Lo, did we hit the trails.

As we marveled at the gorgeous fall colors, Sarah (an ace photographer) gave Hadley some tips as gawked northward towards Park City and Deer Valley and eastward to the Jordanelle Valley.

We continued our explorations back to the hotel and saw a glowing firepit in the distance. We headed toward the light and settled by the fire and acknowledged a young woman selling s’mores but we were still full from dinner. When some hotel guests arrived (with whom Sarah had common friends in Chicago), we gave into the temptation and that is when our lives changed forever. The staffer, Michelle, was a s’mores sommelier who taught us the art form of stuffed chocolate s’mores. Dripping peanut butter cup smores. And s’mores cakepops.

All this while our boys were at the father-son campout eating half-cooked hot dogs.

Nothing like girl’s night out for the win!

The Best Place to Spend Labor Day in Utah

Every Labor Day weekend, our little town of 4,000 literally welcomes the world for Swiss Days! What started as a local harvest festival has grown to 100,000 strong as Midway celebrates the Swiss Mormon pioneers who settled the valley. To put on a production of this magnitude takes hundreds of volunteers and thousands of hours.

I was excited to learn each ward has a booth and ours was in charge of the extremely popular Swiss Taco booth, which looks suspiciously a lot like Navajo tacos (but don’t tell anyone I said that). Since we arrived just before school started and are commuting from Park City, I wasn’t as involved in the preparations as I would have liked but volunteered with food prep in the mornings–just call me the tomato slicer extraordinaire.

I attended my dear friend Lisa’s son Mitch’s wedding in Salt Lake City the day before and we were thrilled when they agreed to let their daughter Alex spend the night with Hadley and attend. Jamie’s sister’s family joined us from Salt Lake City and we had a grand time taking in our first Swiss Days, starting with the charming hometown parade (with plenty of candy) and floats.

Headless Horseman of Soldier Hollow

 

There were oodles of the most darling craft booths you’d ever seen (Utah Mormon women are homemaking goddesses) and those Swiss Tacos. I majorly failed on taking pictures because, quite frankly, it was all a little bit overwhelming. We waited to visit the booths until after the parade and congestion was wall-to-wall. We were so busy battling the crowds that we missed out on the huge line-up of Swiss entertainment so I’ve vowed to make better use of my time next year.

One of the cutest things ever was stopping by the Swiss Miss booth for my nieces to meet the five “royalty.” Bode would have NOTHING to do with them (he walks to the bus stop with one of the hotties) but my nieces were enraptured when they autographed pictures and posed with them.

From there, we attended the Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Championship where the world’s best border collies competed in a competition to heard sheep.

It was downright fascinating to watch these brilliantly patient dogs guide those sheep through a series of gates and the finish line. When the sheep went astray, it was a painful reminder of motherhood and crazy kids!

On Monday, Bode and I attended the Park City Miner’s Festival where the highlight was the Running of the Balls, one of the town’s biggest fundraisers of the year.

Running of the Balls? I expected a lot more blood and gore but no complaints. Our little corner of the world throws the best Labor Day celebrations ever!

A Night Under the Stars at Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA

“Mom, can you believe these stars?!” My son Bode raves as he peers through our friend Bryan’s telescope while standing on his back. Riding low in the summer sky is the constellation Sagittarius, looking like a teapot and containing some of the finest deep sky objects in our 360-degree panorama.

yurtvillage2Plunk a city kid into Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA’s new yurt village near Granby, Colo. and an entirely new universe is unfolded to him. Literally. The Milky Way’s eruption of stars shooting out of the Rocky Mountains isn’t the first time we are awestruck that weekend.

Bode and I are numbered among the first lucky visitors to stay in the Schlessman Family Yurt Village, a smattering of 12 canvas yurts that include such amenities as Wi-Fi, electric outlets, interior lighting, windows with screens, ceiling fan, retractable skylight, lockable doors and outside decks. Each yurt sleeps up to six people with one queen bed and two bunk beds, a microwave, mini-fridge and prep tables. This is “glamping” at its finest.

I have had only one previous yurt experience–a backcountry structure near Sun Valley, ID that came equipped with stellar views of the Sawtooth Range, along with derelict conditions and plenty of mice turds. I haven’t been in a hurry for a repeat experience but quickly learn not all yurts are created equally. Though we’re still in a campground setting, our Colorado Yurt Company structure feels more like a weather-tight cozy cabin.
yurt2a
When we arrive, Bode transports our suitcases and sleeping bags in the luggage carts to our yurt about 200 feet away.  The exposed framing and heavy-duty canvas shell provide a soft blend with the natural surroundings as we settle into our home away from home. Nearby is a shade shelter with with two gas grills and fire pit–the perfect gathering place for friends in the evening.

We spend the weekend conquering a sliver of what 5,100-acre Snow Mountain Ranch has offer.  We enjoy a new program, Lollygagging with the Llamas, where we learn how to pack and hike with the llamas. We careen down the Summer Tubing hill made of Snowflex®the first ever in Colorado.

We race across the Forest Zip Line, channel our inner Merida in Archery, conquer the aqua climbing wall at the indoor pool, come in way over par at miniature golf, fish at Gaylord Reservoir and explore the myriad of trails around the property.

llama5a

tube2a

We top off our day with Sombrero Stables’ hay ride.  As our draft horses leisurely lope along, the sweeping views of the Continental Divide reflexively cause a deep, whistling intake of breath. Our descent into the postcard-perfect Rowley Homstead is effortless, the mountains growing larger until we are swallowed by their shadows as we stop to enjoy a campfire, s’mores and cowboy humor.

What started as a stunningly sunny day turns into a crisp, clear evening. As we settle into our comfy yurt later that evening, we fall asleep gazing through the domed skylight at the stars, marveling at the vast nocturnal paradise that almost seems close enough to touch.

I’m sure even Galileo would have approved.

 Know Before You Go

  • Yurts are $99/night are are available year-round.
  • yurtvillage1The exterior of each yurt includes a fire ring, a charcoal grill, a picnic table and a 2-person tent pad.
  • The structures are not heated. Linens and a light blanket are provided in the summer but bring a warm sleeping bag.
  • Pets are allowed with a minimal pet fee of $15/per night per pet.
  • The Mac and Shirley Burgher Yurt Village is adjacent to the new Schlessman Family Yurt Village and offers an additional 12 yurts that opened in 2010. Each yurt village has one handicap-accessible yurt with a ramp and each village has a central bathhouse with private restrooms, showers and sinks for drinking water and washing dishes, including a handicap accessible restroom/shower.
  •  Most of the activities at Snow Mountain Ranch are free or require a nominal fee, making this an affordable family vacation. Thank you to the YMCA of the Rockies for hosting.

The Broadmoor’s Bliss

I’ve long stated how much we love AAA Five-Diamond  The Broadmoor and I feel honored to write for the resort’s magazine. For every visit I make on-assignment, we are spoiled to receive another trip just for pleasure. For the fourth Memorial Day weekend in a row, we returned to what has become our favorite place in Colorado.

Saturday morning, Hadley and I woke up early to conquer the Manitou Incline. The holy grail of extreme trails, this beast climbs 2,000 feet in 1 mile and we joined the rank of Colorado crazies who have done it. And never will again.

The Pool

The rest of our Broadmoor vacation was full of rest, relaxation and lots and lots of eating. Their pool is a lesson in luxury with poolside service and we even rented a cabana one of the days.

A Taste of the Good Life

Our BFF Cabana Boy feeding our virgin Miami Vice addiction

May we just take a second to talk about this man of mine? After a few hours at the pool on Saturday, he wanted to go back to the room to rest. We only had one key between us and the kids wanted to stay and play so he needed to go to the front desk to get another. The problem: he was in his swimsuit and didn’t have his wallet so he came up with a brilliant plan. When he walked up to the front desk clerk, she predictably asked for identification.

“I don’t have any. I left it in the room.”

“I need some ID from you, Sir.”

“Do you have a copy of The Broadmoor Magazine? There is a picture of me with my name in it.”

Talk about name-dropping.

The clerk looked at him, startled. And ended up sending someone with him to open up the room where he then needed to prove his existence apart from magazine evidence. So much for his “don’t you know who I am?” approach.

The Gourmet Food

Jamie made us diet the week prior to The Broadmoor, which was particularly difficult because we had an endless stream of graduations parties and a reception with gooooood food. His reasoning? Lose a few pounds so we can gain back 10 at The Broadmoor.

We made sure to hit all our favorite haunts, starting with bowling at their upscale alley Play, stuffing our faces with milkshakes and retro Americana favorites. I even played passably well and bowled a couple of strikes while Jamie had a gutterball on almost every turn…and yet he still somehow pulled off a win in the 10th frame.

I’m not bitter.

A trip to The Broadmoor would not be complete without room service.

The Summit is our favorite restaurant at The Broadmoor and their crème brûlée is worthy of the very best belated birthday celebration.

But not to be surpassed: The Brunch with the most amazing spread of gourmet food I’ve ever seen, easily the best brunch in Colorado.

Following Colorado’s destructive floods a few years ago, The Broadmoor acquired the popular tourist destination Seven Falls and in typical 5-star fashion, restored it to to an even more glorious condition. There are seven beautiful falls that cascade 181 feet down a solid cliff of naturally-carved Pikes Peak granite. We climbed the steep stairs, relishing in the refreshing spray and views, followed by an indulgent dinner in their new Restaurant 1858 at the base.

So Long, Farewell

With all that eating, I needed to burn off some calories and energy. On Memorial Day before dawn, I set out for my traditional trek up North Cheyenne Cañon, easily my favorite hike in Colorado. I relished being completely alone in that special place that, in a few hours, would be overrun with outdoor enthusiasts. I thought the views along the lower trail could not be surpassed.

Until I climbed higher and higher.

I touched magic that day, just as we do every time we are privileged to stay at The Broadmoor.