04/06/2012 12:21 pm ET Updated Jun 06, 2012

Con Games: Beaver Creak, Colorado, Beams Up Westin's Energy

If you are lucky enough to do some travel writing, every once and a while you come upon a discovery before the whole world gets the wake-up call. That's the way it was for me and my wife at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek.

We first got a chance to escape from Aspen to Beaver Creek back in 2009, just after the hotel opened, and my angle in those early days was that The Westin Riverfront seemed to be the greenest of green hotels, at a time when the cheap talk of greenwashing was everywhere. The Westin, dedicated to "pampering our guests and the environment," lived up to that promise in spades.

The travel industry caught on quickly: within a year the hotel had won designation as the #1 "Top Ski Hotel" in North America by Conde Nast Traveler. That kudo points to the convenience of the Riverfront Express Gondola to Bachelor Gulch, the friendly ski valets, and a lobby you might want to live in with fireplaces, books, and music. Many of the rooms come with the full fractional monty -- full kitchen, washer/dryer, gas fireplace, flat-screen TV, spa-like bathroom -- and the hot tubs along the Eagle River constitute one of the great location plunges in the West. Skiing aside, The Riverfront Westin has also won the Conde Nast Traveler bauble for #2 of the "150 Top Resorts, Mainland U.S."

All of that explains why my wife starts to beam the minute we get through the Avon, Colorado, rotaries and get into the glam ski hotel. But this time there was a new twist -- a new restaurant called Cima that we hoped might a great hotel that much better.

Cima -- Spanish for "peak" -- is positioned as "a contemporary Latin kitchen" created by Chef Richard Sandoval, who operates 30 restaurants across the United States and in three foreign countries. Sandoval is well-known to those in Denver for his Zengo, Tamaya, and La Sandia, and for Venga Venga in Snowmass Village.

The food at Cima was every bit as good as The Westin Riverfront experience writ large, but even the restaurant delivered something special. About halfway through our meal I said to my wife: "The service here is really good." I noticed that our chatty waiter from Australia was not burdened with delivering the food, and that meant that every course seemed to arrive lickety-split, right on time.

I mentioned this alacrity to the waiter and he brought over Fletcher Harrison, who had just arrived weeks before to upgrade the service at Cima. The emphasis on service was not accidental, Harrison said, because he had been brought in by Richard Sandoval Restaurants to match the promise of Cima to the actual delivery of the goods. Mission accomplished.

At the end of the weekend we of course did not want to leave The Riverfront Westin -- not when we were just getting used to the life we would like to be living at Beaver Creek.