Come children, parents, gather round our campfire… We’ve a torchlit tale to tell of a new kind of luxury family holiday in Colorado’s great outdoors. *Strums guitar*
A trio of kid-friendly hotels from adventure-obsessed mini-chain Eleven Experience are all set in the most naturally beautiful bits of the Centennial State. Each one takes the fun, fresh air and s’mores of the summer-camp experience and amps up service and style while ditching those less-than-fond memories of dorm living, early starts and cleaning inspections.
These three hotels have more child-entertaining tricks than the perkiest of camp counsellors, and plenty of adult distractions too – not least daily replenished minibars with free wine, chocolate-covered pretzels, sriracha nuts, coconut water and other treats. By the time you leave you’ll have to carve an enormous heart on a tree to fit in all the things you’ve loved (but don’t, ’cause nature). So, let’s go round the circle and let each of these cosy camp-style stays tell us a fun fact about themselves…
Taylor River Lodge
Best for Juniors, tweens and teens; extended families
Set in Almont, in the Gunnison National Forest, amid the pines lining the banks of the Taylor River and close to ski town Crested Butte, this is a stay for those who want to commune with nature, without the nylon-based accessories often entailed. Little wildlings will thrill at the grassy expanses to explore unfettered (although the littlest may need reining in by the waterside).
Your gang will be snug in one of the estate’s two family-size cabins – each sleeping up to six – which have the vogue edit of a ‘rugged logger’ look (contrasting paisleys and ikat prints, craftsman chairs, antlered statement pieces and a couple of rainbow-trout mounts in honour of the river’s most abundant catch). And, if you’re travelling with any representatives of the square-eyed iGeneration, you’ll likely relish this TV- and cell-reception-free space, where the WiFi is refreshingly intermittent and the great wide beyond beckons.
Kids will love…
In Colorado’s wonderful wilds, all they need is a stick and their imagination. But, let’s be real, today’s kiddos are savvy and Snapchat-proficient from the moment they learn how to grasp. Staff here understand that, and have a blow-their-tiny-minds list of seasonal activities. At the lodge, you can swim or muck around with inflatables in the pool; fly-fish in a mini lake; play ping-pong, foosball and pool; or teeter over a slackline. There’s a croquet pitch, cornhole set (a popular US game involving bean-bags, FYI) and a private climbing wall to scale, too.
Guides (whose services are included at the top end of the rate card) are skilled at sussing out guests’ stamina levels. They’ll recommend gentler rapids and hike-and-bike trails for little legs, and arrange angling sessions, archery, BB-gun shooting or axe-throwing. Come evening, children can hang out in a teepee or gather round the barbecue to snaffle s’mores before bedtime.
Parents will love…
Fisherfolk will fall hook and line for the Taylor River’s easily caught rainbow trout; the spot is famous among anglers. Take the scenic route along the slopes on a mountain bike, or enjoy the view from the top after a spot of mountaineering. You can ride horses and hike, too. But, a stay here doesn’t have to look like a sports-drink advert – a spa cabin and a bar where the drinks are free (with the full-package rate, at least) allow for indulgent parental downtime, too.
Scarp Ridge Lodge
Best for Kids aged 6–10, ski fanatics and swimmers
This place was formerly a miners’ saloon; but where grizzled workmen once caroused stands a family home-from-home with rugged, Wild West good looks: open fireplaces; wood, wool and leather abounding; and furnishings made from mine-salvaged scrap. It’s less remote than Taylor River Lodge, set close to the main thoroughfare of charming mountain town Crested Butte.
It’s a sociable, no airs or graces, kind of stay, with cosy lounges for group gatherings and a rooftop from which you can eye-up the Red Lady (a neighbouring peak). In the loft, there’s room for an Angelina Jolie’s worth of kids (plus one) in the seven-bed bunk room. And, if you’ve brought the nanny – because why would you leave Miss Poppins at home? – they’ll have their own little anteroom, close to the kids.
Kids will love…
There may be some giggling at the name Crested Butte, where this saloon-style dwelling resides (it rhymes with ‘flute’, just so you know), but this bijou spot is the gateway to some of Colorado’s best skiing, prettiest trails and most exhilarating rafting. Beginner snow bunnies are well catered to; the hotel’s team of expert guides know the terrain intimately, so can point you towards the least-trying slopes and white-water-rafting routes with fewer bumps. Skiing and snowboarding lessons can be booked too.
Back at the lodge, there’s a sizeable private pool perfect for splashing about in; rocking horse; juggling balls; sleds; a playroom with a stash of kids’ books, Lego, board games, and a Nintendo Wii and a TV with Netflix. There’s also a second media room, for especially dramatic film screenings.
It’s possible to arrange a private chef to visit and cook family favourites, but with taquerias, plentiful cake-and-coffee stops and local-hero pizzeria Secret Stash, Crested Butte has nailed kids’ fine dining.
Parents will love…
That rooftop – it has a hot tub overlooking the mountainous surrounds; while the kids are engrossed in gaming, hop in. There’s a private bar (with free alcoholic drinks if you’ve booked the full caboodle), and a steam room and sauna. And if you’re concerned about your family adjusting to the altitude, there’s even a little button in each bedroom to pump up the oxygen – just one of many nifty touches.
Serious skiers can swoosh through powder-coated backcountry routes, go heli-skiing, or ride the lodge’s snowcat, ‘Tucker’, to out-of-the-way spots – it has a TV and stash of snacks, so there should be no ‘Are we there yet?’ moments en route.
Best for Juniors, tweens and teens; privacy seekers and small families
This self-contained house was a small part of the saloon that became Scarp Ridge Lodge; but that doesn’t mean it takes second billing (for larger families, the two can be booked together). The Old West-style flat-front building is now a ravishing four-bed family home with spaces where the clan can dine, gather round a stone fireplace or throw a games night. There’s also access to a terrace shared with Scarp Ridge Lodge.
The kids’ room is in the attic; it’s a petite space with two oversize single beds and its own playroom with a TV, board games and Nintendo Wii. Each of the bedrooms are outfitted in rootin’ tootin’ style – we especially love the antler chandelier in the master bedroom. This is a space of sweet surprises, including milk and cookies left out for kids, a blackboard announcing the day’s weather conditions, a little library and window seat; and, a team of excellent staff scurrying around in the background to keep the clockwork ticking.
Kids will love…
Within the house, they can play games of both board and electronic variety, run around on the terrace and play pool or set the mood with the free jukebox in the games room. Skiing is the biggest lure, and you’ll find all the hardware you need for each family member (there’s even active wear hanging in the wardrobes, and available to buy). If you’d like someone tro show you the ropes on the slopes, you can secure the services of a capable guide.
Come summer, when the mountains bear wildflowers, kids can hike and bike (fat bikes can be hired for snowy rides) or head to the river for a stand-up paddle-board session.
Parents will love…
Sopris House’s games room is like the local bar you wish you knew about; as well as drinks, there’s a big-screen TV, a pool table and that classic free-to-play jukebox – all contained in a cabin-style space that leads out to the terrace. The terrace itself will make parents abandon their charges with glee – at its foot sits a copper hot tub and petite sauna, and masseurs are just a phone call away….
Ultimately,however, parents find that Sopris House’s greatest asset is those who run it; one word and pretty much anything you request can be provided at the click of a spur.
Featured image is Taylor River Lodge