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Con Games: Living the Green in Beaver Creek

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AVON, COLORADO -- With all the greenwashing out there -- with the cloak of environmentalism assumed too readily for craven business purposes -- the lingering question remains: if you are good to the environment, can it be good for business?

Nowhere is that issue more pressing than in the travel and resort industry, where consumers can act with discretion when it comes to finding a roof over their heads for business and/or for pleasure. In a marketplace chock-a-block with multiple brands -- and same-old, same-old up the wazoo -- being green might just be a great reason for decamping to one property over another.

At least one hotel in Colorado can make the case that being environmentally righteous is good for business. Green to a fare-the-well, the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa here in Beaver Creek, Colorado, was pushed to the forefront of this debate when Conde Nast Traveler readers picked it as "Top Resort, Mainland U.S." in its 2010 Readers' Choice Awards.

We have been here before. Back in April 2009, during my last visit, I wrote: "The Westin Riverfront tries very hard to walk that walk." I had one gnawing worry at the time: the twin water-sucking showerheads. Upon our return in December 2010, the Westin had come up with a "heavenly" option: your choice, one showerhead or two. The mantra of choice is visible throughout the hotel. On the door handles, for example, you "decide to decline" housekeeping or "refresh your room." Decline and and you get a $5 gift card to use within Westins -- or you can choose SPG Starpoints at checkout instead.

In the previous post I went into detail on all the things the Westin Riverfront was doing to reduce their footprint. Beyond that, what is it about the hotel and spa that made it #1 among a discriminating Conde Nast "truth in travel" crowd? There are many reasons to like this hotel, including the Riverfront Express Gondola, the ski valets, a Westin Kids Club, an outstanding fitness center, three hot tubs hard by the Eagle River, and its general dog-friendliness.

The rooms are cozy and toasty, with gas fireplaces, but what sets this hotel apart for me is actually the lobby. I know that sounds a bit strange, especially because I am not a lobby person. Through the judicious use of oversized gas fireplaces, big TVs, easy-listening music, and hop-to service, the Westin manages to make their lobby feel like home. And don't miss the circular bar encircling a fire pit in the Restaurant Avondale. While you're at it, don't miss The Larkburger, a local Eagle Valley favorite.

There are green hotels galore out there but the Westin Riverfront in Beaver Creek is the real deal. Even the environmentally unconscious will want to go back again and again.