Ritz: Not the Buttery Cracker, but Just as Fabulous
Staying at a Ritz Carlton makes me feel a certain sort of fancy. Maybe it’s the name that awakens the razzle-dazzle of an Old Hollywood red carpet. Maybe it’s the world-class customer service where every guest is treated like royalty even when they’ve forgotten their toothbrush or deodorant or comb and look like they’ve spent the night under a bridge. But there is one Ritz Carlton that is so stunning you’ll want to return to again and again.
A Magical Place Where No One Cries
The Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch sits at the base of the western ski slopes of Beaver Creek Resort. It is the epitome of a luxury mountain lodge equipped with its own chair lift for ski in/ski out access, 180 accommodations (including suites and residences), six restaurants, a spa with an indoor grotto, an outdoor pool with several hot tubs, and year-long outdoor seating around a fire pit From there, you can watch all the action on the mountain. Envy the elegant S turns as they pour into the bottom of the hill like a fine wine into a long-stemmed glass. Or suck the air through your teeth as the less seasoned skiers sprawl across a patch of ice and grip at the ground with their fingertips: legs akimbo, skis scattered, poles somewhere else entirely. Or, if vicarious living isn't your thing, you can listen to live music, roast s’mores, or just soak in the satisfaction of a drink well earned from your own day out carving the hill.
Our visit began with checking into our room--a 450 square foot space with two double beds and gorgeous views of Beaver Creek Mountain. Next, we hit the slopes. If you have children and have ever skied with them, you know what an absolute shit show just getting to the first lift line can be. There’s the frantic searching that leads you to crawl headfirst into the back of the car to find the boot/glove/pole/ski that has somehow managed to disappear in the time it took to find a parking space. Then, there’s the beads of sweat that come with stuffing short legs into snow pants, little feet into stiff boots, and sticky hands into gigantic gloves. Inevitably, someone has to pee at that very moment. Before you even get out of the parking lot and start to make your way to the chairlift, a ski has been dropped, a pole has rolled underneath a parked car, and tears have been shed (likely, they’re yours).
But not at the Ritz.
Nope, this wonderful palace of perfection takes all of that aggravation and kicks it to the curb of the Holiday Inn. Instead of using the back of your car like a changing room amidst the Indy 500 that is the underground parking structure, you calmly slip into your gear in the comfort of your room or suite. With plenty of places to lean, sit, and stand, boots seem to glide on effortlessly, and gloves, miraculously, never disappear. Once you’re suited up, you take a short walk to the elevator. Head down to the fourth floor, out a stretch of hallway, and step onto a glorious white carpet of snow that seems to have rolled out just for you.
You’re there. Within minutes, you’re swooped away by the chair and taken to the top of Sawbuck (an easy green run) for a warm-up or to Gunder’s (a blue) to get your legs under you.
After lapping the chair and hitting up Cabin Fever (green) and Grubstake (blue), we took a break at Mamie’s Mountain Grill at the top of the lift. The views are absolutely breathtaking on a bluebird day and it’s the perfect stop to grab a drink and light lunch. While it’s not exactly a full-service restaurant, you can get a quick bite or even grill up a burger yourself on one of their outdoor grills.
After lunch, we skied over to the Candy Cabin. To get there, you ski Sawbuck, then take the Upper Beaver Creek Express Lift to the Candy Cabin where kids and grown ups alike can get their fill of sweet treats. Hopped up on sugar, we then hit up Larkspur and Primrose--all great for little legs.
Did Someone Say, Après?
With lots of vertical feet under our belts, we headed back to the Ritz to relax. With live music at the fire pit and no shortage of drinks to be had at Daniel’s Bar and Grill, it would have been easy to stay there all evening. But, as the lift slowly started to close and the crowds began to trek back to where they came from, a pace different from the quick turns of skis against slick corduroy started to ease its way into the hotel. Conversations began wander as if no one was in any hurry to get to the end of a story. Children, tired from the day of ripping top to bottom, moved inside to sit by the roaring fire in the great room. Some people took to their rooms to rest or freshen up. Others gathered at the bar at WYLD or Buffaloes, reflecting on the day out in the snow and planning for the days ahead. But most everyone who was there was calling the Ritz home, at least for the night, and I couldn't help but feel I was among friends. Even without saying a word to one another, we all shared an experience out on the mountain, a day where we braved the elements and commanded our bodies to move with the earth. It’s sort of spiritual, in a way, to share that type of thing with total strangers.
But I’d also had a couple cocktails, so that could have been it, too.
Once we were ready to peel off of our coats and snow pants, we went back to our room to shower and make ourselves presentable for dinner. Although we longed for Spago’s (the Wolfgang Puck restaurant that formally called the Ritz home), we opted for the family-friendly Buffaloes. The flatbreads are delicious and the burgers are all you’d expect from a Colorado gastropub. After dinner, the outdoor fire was all ablaze and we roasted marshmallows for s’mores--one of Skinny Jeans’ favorite memories.
To wind down from the evening, we ventured to the hot tub and relaxed in one of the several outdoor pools. The indoor grotto is an especially indulgent treat if you have a spa treatment booked or just wish to use the sauna, steam room and/or plunge pool. (I dare you to try the circuit of all three and not scream.) Kids are allowed in the grotto only on certain nights of the week, so be sure to check before you rally the troops. (Oh! And ask for the tiny Ritz robes for the little ones. They are cute and functional, but mostly cute.)
So Nice, We Did It Twice
The next day started off with breakfast at the club lounge where Skinny Jeans could get her fill of pastries, yogurt, and fruit and Peter and I could swig back cappuccinos and mimosas (because, vacation) before hitting the slopes again. Food presentations happen at 7 to 10 a.m. for breakfast, 12-4 p.m. for light snacks, 5-7 p.m. for hor d’oeuvres, and 8-10 p.m. for dessert and cordials. We found that splurging for the club level was SO worth it when traveling with kids. Instead of buying a $20 burger only to watch them take one measly bite before the server takes it away, you can bring your kids to the club lounge as often as you’d like and let them nibble their way through the buffet without feeling like you’ve literally crumpled up a $100 bill and thrown it in the trash. The club concierge is also fabulous and can arrange practically any (legal) activity you desire.
Wasting no time, we got back onto the slopes and explored the rest of Beaver Creek’s 1,800 acres of terrain for the day. Tired and hungry, we hit up Cookie Time and grabbed some homemade chocolate chip cookies served daily to all skiers and snowboarders at the base of Beaver Creek at 3:00 p.m. We then took the shuttle back to the Ritz where we changed and hung out before making our way to another delicious dinner. This time we tried out Grouse Mountain Grill, just a short shuttle ride away. With it’s “smart casual” dress code, it was nice without feeling stuffy and Skinny Jeans enjoyed the options on the children’s menu.
As we rode the shuttle back to the Ritz to call it a night, the snow softly fell all around and the quiet forests again welcomed us home, the bare branches buffering us from the world we’d go back to in the morning. But, instead of feeling sad that the goodbyes were inevitable, I was grateful to have ever been there at all.
This Place Fits: Families looking for that rare mix of ultra-luxury and the active outdoors.
Where to Stay: The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, Avon
Where to Eat:
WYLD: Fine dining meets classic Colorado cuisine.
Buffaloes: Family-friendly gastropub.
Daniel’s Bar and Grill: Slopeside lunch and apre dining.
Grouse Mountain Grill: New American fine dining.
What to Do:
Beaver Creek Mountain: 1,800 acres of terrain for every type of skier. In the winter, a Ski Nanny is also available at the Ritz. Drop off is at 8 a.m. and pick up is between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. The nanny will take children to and from group ski lessons (those meet in Beaver Creek Village, not at the Ritz) so parents can get the most out of their ski day. Lessons, lift tickets, and rentals (all available for purchase at the Ritz) not included. Light breakfast and afternoon snack is. $75 for the first kid, $50 for each additional child.
Bachelor Lounge: While the kids are at Ritz Kids, check out the 21 and older cigar lounge where you can pick your poison: hookah, fine cigars, and/or a Vaportini. Smoking is all outdoors on the beautiful patio with mountain views so it doesn’t smell like your grandpa’s garage. Open from 6 p.m. daily.
Beaver Creek Village: high end shopping and both casual (e.g., Blue Moose Pizza) and fine dining.
Vilar Performing Arts Center: In the heart of Beaver Creek Resort; year-round performances and lots of kid-friendly shows.
Snowshoe Tours: Offered every day from 10:30-12 p.m. to Ritz guests 12 and older. $50 per person and includes snowshoe rental and tour.
Ritz Kids: Morning half days, afternoon half days, and Kids Night Out (6 p.m.-10 p.m.) will set you back $100. Full day (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) is $150. Outside games, swimming in the grotto, and lunch or dinner prepared by Ritz chefs included.
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