My hotel room at the Game Creek Chalet was pretty posh. It had four bedrooms, five bathrooms, and slept 10. It includes a cutting edge chef's kitchen, complete with a six-burner industrial stove and a digital fridge that measured fluid output. The vaulted living room had a multi-channel satellite TV and a beautiful electric fireplace. Outside on my deck was a hot tub, gas grill and telescope.
But none of these things are what make the Game Creek Chalet one of Colorado -- if not the world's -- most exclusive hotel rooms. It's that Game Creek Chalet is located almost eight miles from the nearest town. Eight miles and, oh, 2,000 vertical feet.
The Game Creek Chalet is located in the middle of the expansive Vail ski resort which itself is nestled within the White River National Forest. The chalet is an exercise in extreme exclusivity. The only way down is by horse or four wheel drive in the summer and by skis or snow cat in the winter.
Talk about a mountain getaway that is really away from it all.
I had the great fortune to stay at the Chalet earlier this summer and I can tell you it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It really is a full service hotel room, complete with maid service (every morning) and room service (from nearby Game Creek Club restaurant). They'll even bring amenities to you, like personal chefs and masseurs.
Early in the morning we would take advantage of being the only ones on the mountain and hiked through neighboring Game Creek Bowl with only deer and chipmunks to keep us company. And late at night, when the only thing we could hear was the wind, we watched the Milky Way from the comfort of our hot tub.
(Sunset at Game Creek Chalet)
On top of it all, Game Creek Chalet is one of the highest-in-elevation hotel rooms in the country. Second to only the hotels of nearby Leadville and Colorado's 10th Mountain Hut system.
And so it was that a week after staying at Game Creek Chalet, I find myself on a hike to one of the 10th Mountain Hut System's 34 backcountry lodgings. I would go from high-end to rustic in a matter of days. I couldn't help but wonder: how might they compare?
The 10th Mountain Huts, a non-profit collection of wilderness structures named in honor of the WWII-era 10th Mountain Division, are open to any backcountry explorer in summer or winter. While not exactly a hotel -- they don't come with the amenities of Game Creek let alone plumbing, running water, or private bedrooms -- you can't get a more remote vacation than in one of these wilderness lodgings. The only way to get to most of these huts is to ski or hike.
We stayed in the 10th Mountain Memorial Hut at the base of Homestake Peak just outside of Vail. At 11,370, we were 1,000 feet higher than Game Creek and even more isolated. (No room service here!) In fact, in the 48 hours we spent hiking to and around the hut, we didn't spot a single other soul.
Though one can rent an entire 10th Mountain Hut for just themselves, most huts are shared amongst hikers or skiers. This set up leads to a special kind of backwoods camaraderie. Together a group shares meals and stories; years worth of games and puzzles hint to the kind of group activities that often transpire.
Yet, this highlight is perhaps what makes both remote lodgings so special. When you're all alone in the wilderness, it's all about the time you spent together with friends and/or family.
Regardless of whether you prefer outhouse or hot tub, these two Colorado gems will both provide the isolation your vacation requires -- without sacrificing the high-end amenities or wilderness authenticity your mountain adventure requires.