I blame Michael Miracle for the last 10 years of my life.
Michael, now the editor of Aspen Sojourner -- and a good friend here in the Roaring Fork Valley -- was one of the editors at Ski magazine who painted such an appealing prose poems about skiing out west while I was still back east. I was living in Underhill, Vermont, the hill on the other side of Stowe, and teaching skiing at Smugglers' Notch as I read the magazine month after month back in the waning days of the 20th Century. But all the while I was dreaming about places out west like Park City and Vail and Beaver Creek.
Now that I have been living outside Aspen for these ten years, I have been out west long enough to know the ski town dream comes with its own set of baggage -- the kind without wheels -- but that's a story for another time. In this story, a story of skiing dreams realized, if only for a moment, my wife and I find the fantasy every winter during a weekend at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain, a ski-on, ski-off extravaganza little more than an hour from where we live in Colorado.
First of all the mountain: Beaver Creek is pretty damn near perfect, big enough to deliver on trails from the greenest of the green to the famous, infamous Birds of Prey. Unlike mega-mountain Vail next door, you never feel like you are lost in space or longing for a whisper of intimacy. That personal touch is perhaps best exemplified by Beano's Cabin, a restaurant accessible only by sleigh.
The mountain is set up to serve up luxury on all levels but I personally think it's one of the best places in the country to learn to ski, for the simple (if inexplicable) upside-down reason that most of the green runs are actually at the top of the mountain. Unlike any place I've ever been, the beginner at Beaver Creek is never confined to the backwaters of the bottom-feeding mountain experience.
As for The Westin Riverfront, the initial appeal journalistically was a greener-than-green construction approach when it opened in 2009 as a leading-edge LEEDS property. Since then I've come to appreciate that LEEDS need not stand in the way of luxury.
Let me put it this way: every time we come to The Westin Riverfront my wife tells me (a) that it's her favorite hotel; and (b) that she loves me for bringing here there. Need I say more?
Well, maybe, a little bit more. We've stayed in rooms of all sizes in all part of the hotel, and the sleek, super-modern feel is consistent throughout. The hot tubs overlooking the river bring the heat, and a first-rate health club is a quick run from the tub. And there is the lobby to consider: one of the great après places on the planet, in part because it serves both the coolest of the cool and the uncool with equal alacrity.
In other words, there's a reason why The Westin Beaver Creek Resort was picked as the #2 Western Resort for 2013 by Condé Nast Traveler. The hotel has won other baubles from the beginning, including Condé Nast Traveler's "Hot List 2009" as one of the 140 hottest new resorts worldwide, and a #2 ranking for the "10 Best Snow Resorts for Families 2010" by Parents magazine. The only surprise for me is that it's not ranked #1 every year.
One caveat: try to come when the Riverfront Express Gondola is running; otherwise, you can find yourself at the mercy of the local bus system -- and this is not a weekend you want to spend on the bus.
So I guess you could say my friend Michael Miracle is off the hook. If only for a weekend, my ski fantasy out west is alive and well.