Straus Home Ranch: A New Take on a Family VacationSep 23, 2014
Straus Home Ranch, just north of San Francisco in West Marin, CA is an innovative artisan/organic/sustainable food and farmland that you and your family can rent
DAY ONE —
LUCKY ME! I have one day to ski at Snowmass, and not only is it considerably warmer than it has been but the sun is shining—a perfect blue bird ski day.
Snowmass, nine miles from the famous town of Aspen is by far the largest of Aspen Ski Company’s four mountains. With the country’s biggest lift-served descent –4,406 vertical feet—that translates to 94 trails, 21 lifts, 3 terrain parks and new this year 230 acres of natural parks. All that gives skiers and riders the back country feel while staying safely inbounds.
I’ve always thought Snowmass was terrific for families with younger kids—its Treehouse kids’ learning facility is a standout in the industry complete with indoor climbing wall. There’s a climbing room, teen activities like movie night, and six interactive themed rooms for infants 8 weeks and older. Younger kids will love the puppet show stage and pint-sized tables, chairs, sinks and toys. But the best thing about the Treehouse is the industry-leading ski and snowboard school for all ages.
Everyone loves the ski-in ski out lodging. I’ve always loved the wide open groomers that go from the top of the mountain to the bottom and you can’t beat the mountain views from the top—especially on a bluebird day. Wow!
But with all of this terrain and the opening of two renovated hotels, it’s clear Snowmass is coming of age for everyone. First, there is the Westin Snowmass Resort (for those of you who have been here before it was the Silvertree Hotel) right in the middle of Snowmass Village—ski in ski out with a 21-Century vibe, a new spa, workout fitness center overlooking Snowmass Village, outdoor hot tubs and a first-rate restaurant, Snowmass Kitchen,
My favorite is the adjacent 151 Wildwood Snowmass with rates as much as half of the Westin.
Think chairs made out of old skis in the lobby or a knitted elks head in the lounge. Think classic ski movies playing and a bar that serves Colorado craft New Belgium beers on tap.
The renovation was done by Reunion, a new NYC design firm that set out to create a “state” where people could come together. And I think they’ve done that admirably — from the classic board games in the lounge to the collection of mustache and beard paintings in the Wildwood Bar to the rooms complete with vintage lithographs of nature scenes, montages of old-fashioned ski shots and Wayne White’s picture that instructs you to “Look Out the Window” in each room.
The decor is fresh and fun with bright colors. There are themed suites as well — I loved the ski radical — the theming and décor will make you smile. The suites are ski-chalet chic with European furniture, subtle color pops and photographic murals of mountain scenes. The other four suites each offer their own distinct theme. More “extreme” guests can check out the Ski Radical suite which is ready to rock with wild furniture and a neon wall mural. The Bohemian suite embraces 1960’s style peace and love themes. Lastly, the Color Blocking suites, His and Hers, which can be connected, bring the Pop Art paradigm into present day design.
The Bar at Wildwood, collaboration with Colorado’s New Belgium Brewery, serves lunch, dinner and late-night menus while pouring from 10 taps of New Belgium’s most popular brews.
The Living Lounge and Living Room offer great public spaces for guests to gather. The Living Lounge off the reception area offers comfortable banquets and chairs where guests can visit, relax with a book, play a board game, check up on email or sit by the fire. On the other side of The Bar at Wildwood, guests can gather in the Living Room. Reunion-designed interchangeable modular furniture allows guests to create their own seating arrangements. There is also a screen for movie nights and food and drink services from The Bar are available.
The new slope-side outdoor heated pool, hot tubs and fire pit set in a modern day courtyard are complemented by a poolside snack shack serving food and drinks throughout the summer season. The fitness center offers state-of-the-art exercise equipment and a new recreation room, dubbed The Arcave, includes a curio of throwback arcade video games and pinball machines. And it is sure to be the teen tween hang out as soon as the pool table and ping pong table arrive
This is a place 20-somethings and families could love. Of course the Westin is luxurious. And it has everything you would expect from a full-service slopeside hotel with 254 slopeside rooms and 18 suites and even a kids club designed for kids five and older who might not want to go to ski school.
But if money is an object or you are looking for something different, you couldn’t do better than Wildwood. Even your most critical teens will love it. And you can’t beat the location. Plus because the two are considered a complex, you can use the Westin Facilities—even drop your skis at the Westin Ski Valet—just as Westin guests can sign bar an d meal purchases (great burgers) at the Wildwood.
Speaking of great burgers, meatloaf, mac and cheese, freshly-baked stone oven pizza’s, amazing salad bar and more, I have to mention the new Elk Camp Restaurant. All over ski country, we’re seeing better and healthier options with an emphasis on what is locally sourced. In fact here at Snowmass’s new on mountain restaurant there is a big blackboard that declares “We Buy Local!) That means if you order a burger it comes from a Colorado grass fed beef. The chicken serve on a baguette or over a Caesar salad comes from a Colorado farm. Order a mushroom pizza with fontina cheese and white truffle oil or a plain pizza for the kids. The day I was there, they also had meat loaf and smashed potatoes, hearty chicken soup and a salad bar that besides the usual fixings had faro salad, Israeli cous cous with pesto and cooked lentils.
Snowmass of course has lots of fun après activities for the entire family—s’mores and music by the fire , a local magician who entertains at the Stonebridge restaurant and now there are Ullr Nights—every Friday night at Elk Camp in honor of Ullr, the god of snow. Families come up to play in the snow castle, check out the Viking Sledding hill, have hot chocolate by the giant bonfire and skate on Rayburn’s pond, There’s live music, dancing, and kids’ entertainment downstairs. Even better, the price is right–$10 for adults and $5 for kids. Take a snowshoe tour with ACES –the wonderful Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (check name) at $35.
Stay tuned to see what summer activities will be at Elk Camp as Snowmass plans to offer more for families than ever before.