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Michael Conniff

Michael Conniff

Posted: July 15, 2010 09:37 AM

City Slicker Does Beaver Creek

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I'm from New York City, and nobody "hikes" in New York City. They might take a walk crosstown, or skip the subway here and there, or wander along the West Side Highway by the Hudson.

But nobody hikes in New York City, not really, so for a city boy like yours truly to be hiking at all at Beaver Creek Resort made me a bit of a novelty item. Not that the wife, from Ohio, would be faring much better. She had to be coaxed out of her Crocs and into hiking boots and the Leki polls practically had to be thrust wholesale into her hands before she would budge.

And yet, thanks to our guide, Nick Fickling of the Beaver Creek Hiking Center, and our host, Katie Adamson of the resort, we managed to gainfully hike a modest two hours or so, without once screaming "Uncle" or even "Mommy." Fickling--a former diplomat, military man, and Sandhurst graduate from England--was a biathlete and is still in cracking good shape through a variety of endeavors, a font of all things natural and not: a truly amazing man of the world who just happened to land in Beaver Creek after saving the Queen. For good measure, he leads multiple hiking trips to Europe every year.

As for Adamson, all she done in her young life is hike 26 of the 52 Fourteeners that Colorado holds dear. A mere piker, you might say, but then her boss at Beaver Creek, Jen Brown, was once a member of the United States Ski Team and got a full boat from the University of Colorado to strap on the slats in NCAA competition. That was her riding Saturday up to the Ruedi in a tribute to her late great teammate Bryan Sax.

You get the picture. At Beaver Creek, on this particular press junket, you are surrounded by Polarioids of good health, and that would include Katie Fiedling, the fly fishing guide who helped me land my first real fish in oh, say, fifty years. (A brown trout in the Eagle River, for the record.) It would also include those leading my wife's horseback riding excursion high atop Vail Mountain, where she sat astride a horse for the first time in 25 years. "Pontiac" was the steed, just about perfect for the Midwestern girl I married. Riding across the West, she roped happy at Vail.

To be hiking and fishing and riding just an hour from our house in Colorado had a dream-like quality to it, and these adventures were punctuated by phenomenal food at Toscanini's by the Beaver Creek skating rink, and 8100 in the Park Hyatt, with an "Epicburger" thrown in for good measure at The Tavern at the Arabelle at Vail Square. We also got special treatment at the Game Creek Club high atop Vail, where $50,000 might just get you a membership.

But the most memorable thing of all on our trip was the service. We stayed at The Charter in Beaver Creek and it was five-star all the way, with friendly thrown in everywhere we turned. Unlike Aspen, where spotty service is considered superlative, everyone at Beaver Creek seems to be schooled in customer service, with a consistency Aspen has to envy.

The best thing I can say about Beaver Creek is that we'll be back, but only if there's still room for a city slicker who would not one bit to let it all become second nature.