The Inns of Boulder and Colorado Springs
by Lester Picker
[Please note: This article originally appeared in a consumer magazine. Information in this article may be dated. Always check before making reservations or traveling.]
The Alps Boulder Canyon Inn
From the quaint painted porch of The Alps Boulder Canyon Inn, comfortably nestled in the midst of majestic Boulder Canyon in Colorado’s scenic Front Range mountains, one can be excused for smiling at Chief Niwot’s ‘curse.’ Sipping fresh-squeezed lemonade, prepared each quiet summer’s afternoon by innkeepers Jeanine and John Vanderhart, while resting peacefully on cushioned white wicker furniture, the ambience is nothing less than spectacular. You look across the canyon at the shear wall of the mountain, with its tall pine trees and exposed rock surfaces. As the sun sets, the magical sounds of rushing Boulder creek fill the night air.
Unlike their East-coast cousins, western Inns often have the luxury of space – lots if it. The Alps Boulder Canyon Inn is no exception, with its grand entranceway and vaulted foyer which showcases its walk-through stone fireplace, trophy elk head mounted on the second floor ceiling and huge bear rug draped over the third floor interior balcony.
The Alps’ twelve meticulously appointed guest rooms belie its shaded past. Once upon a time it was a stagecoach stop and bordello, catering to the hard-rock, and often hard-luck miners on their way to points north. But, four years ago, the Vanderharts began lovingly restoring the Inn, refining the style of the great lodges and camps of the Northwoods to an art form.
John Vanderhart has labored lovingly doing the stonework on the property, laying out meandering native flagstone pathways and delightful water gardens with outdoor tables so guests can enjoy the plantings with their morning coffee. Jeanine has delighted in refurbishing all guest rooms with Victorian furnishings and fireplaces. Each of the spacious rooms features a sitting area and a private bath with either a claw foot tub or double Jacuzzi tub and shower. Family heirlooms and period antiques welcome guests.
Breakfasts, featuring home-made Belgian waffles, are personally served by Jeanine and her staff in the huge dining room, decorated with rustic wood furniture. The mossrock fireplace dominates the room, adding a warmth during chill summer evenings or cold winter days. SK and Sid, mother and son Persian cats, often bask in front of the fireplace on their namesake Persian rugs, purring contentedly as guests pet them. Guests, snug in the warmly invitingly sofa or armchairs, have been known to purr contentedly over a glass of port, too.
The Alps Boulder Canyon Inn, 38619 Boulder Canyon Drive, Boulder, CO 80302; 800/414-ALPS. Twelve units, all w/private baths. Full gourmet American and buffet breakfasts, afternoon tea and evening desserts included. Cancellation policy. No smoking, no pets. All major credit cards.
Two miles down Canyon Drive, in downtown Boulder, the streets that radiate from the town center quickly turn into valleys, gorges and peaks of incredible beauty. From nearly any point in town you can see the Flatiron Mountains dominating the scenery with their imposing presence. And, in the midst of the art, culture and beauty that is Boulder sits the majestic Earl House Historic Inn.
Built in 1882 by wealthy New Yorkers who eventually settled in Boulder, Earl House radiates the warmth of its Victorian heritage. “I keep hearing from guests that it’s the nicest and most elegant inn they’ve ever stayed at,” reports Kathryn Ode, Manager, beaming with pride. From the oak, cherry and mahogany woodwork that greet you in the marvelous foyer, to the Thomas Hatfield sofas that invite you to relax for a while, Ode might just be right.
One of the keystones of Earl House are the one-of-a-kind ceramic tiles that adorn the fireplaces, each one hand-painted by Mrs. Greene, the original owner. The inn owners, Jeffrey White and Matthew Dyross, have complemented her artistic decor with a full-wall mural painted by local artist Ben Brown, who also hand painted the tiles in each of the inn’s bathrooms.
Earl House’s intimate atmosphere is embellished by rooms such as The Bird’s Eye Maple Room, elegantly finished throughout with hand carved bird’s eye maple trim, fireplace mantel and arched gothic balcony door. Victorian antiques add the perfect romantic touch. Each of the five other rooms features private baths and distinctive Victorian themes.
The pleasures of Earl House come alive each morning when Kathryn and her staff prepare a breakfast of delights fit for kings and queens, then serve it with lavish attention to the guest experience. The parlor’s three breakfast tables are set with fine linens and china, with fresh fruits, home-made muesli, pastries and yogurts, and endless pots of fresh brewed coffee, tastefully spread on the library table. Guests are free to sit in the parlor, where exquisite hand carved fruitwood butler tables flank upholstered Victorian couches and chairs. Guests relax with a cup of steaming coffee as the courteous staff bring the daily papers.
Earl House Historic Inn , 2429 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80304; 303/938-1400. Six rooms in Inn, all w/private baths. Rates $139 to $179; Gourmet continental-plus breakfasts, afternoon tea and evening port included. Two carriage houses, 3 bedrooms each. Cancellation policy. No smoking, no pets. All major credit cards.
Gold Lake Mountain Resort
If the Earl House is the quintessential example of a city inn, then Gold Lake Mountain Resort, just twenty minutes northeast of Boulder, is surely its country cousin on a grand scale. Of all the majestic vistas in the Rockies, this is the very site where Chief Niwot chose to do his vision quests. And no wonder. The scenery simply takes one’s breath away.
Gold Lake Mountain Resort is the dreamchild of inn-trepreneurs Alice and Karel Starek. From the tastefully decorated cabins, guests have magnificent views of Gold Lake and the Continental Divide, their snow-capped peaks alluring even in summer. Guests can fish, swim, boat, mountain bike, ride horses, snowshoe, ice skate or cross-country ski, depending on the season.
The Starek’s have created a first-class resort worthy of the regal natural setting in every conceivable way. The eclectic yet elegant cabins reflect architect Alice’s sense of style and function. Tubs in the cabins include hammered copper surrounds, crafted by two local artists, which are sure to exact oohs and aahs from first time guests. Colorado slate bathroom floors are heated. Each cabin has a pot-belly stove, which guests may forego when they see the singular treats waiting for them in the bedroom. Puffed up a full sixteen inches or more are down comforters that mirror the expansive spaces of the West.
The Starek’s are visionaries when it comes to environmental impact. They have a full-time “restoration ecologist” on staff, whose job it is to steadily bring all aspects of the operation in synch with the God-given beauty of the area. Aside from composting all kitchen wastes, heavily trafficked areas are being restored to native grasses. Future plans include meeting electrical demands with solar arrays.
But, it is on the culinary side of the ledger that Gold Lake Resort ‘takes the cake,’ so to speak. Chef Nicholas Petti has advanced the state of the culinary arts, blending organic ingredients with just the right herbs in an artful presentation that is the equivalent of gastronomic heaven. Pan Seared Duck Breast with Blackberry/Sage Sauce and Sweet Potato Spaetzle share the menu with vegetarian dishes such as Savory Green Lentil Cake with Grilled Portobello Mushroom and Wild Rice.
Alice’s Restaurant, with its high ceilings and exposed wood, is the perfect complement to Petti’s creations. The restaurant’s romantic ambience blends locally made wood furniture and huge stone fireplace into a rustic sophistication that reflects the Starek’s loving restoration.
As if the setting and décor aren’t enough, guests can indulge themselves in a full array of spa services, from dual massages, to aromatherapy and herbal wraps. The indoor hot tub is only outdone by the two outdoor spas that are idyllically located on the shore of 35-acre Gold Lake, with a you-can-die-for panoramic view of the Continental Divide.
Gold Lake Mountain Resort & Spa, 3371 Gold Lake Road, Ward, CO 80481, 800/450-3544. Seventeen units, all w/private baths. Swiss-style continental buffet breakfasts. Cancellation policy. No smoking, no pets. Visa, Discover and MasterCard only.
Room at the Inn
Ninety minutes due south of Boulder is Colorado Springs, the second largest city in the state. As a cultural and scenic hub, visitors are enamoured with historic names that are indelibly etched into our American consciousness. Names like Pike’s Peak, Cripple Creek, and the enchanting Garden of the Gods, revered by our Native American brothers and sisters, come to mind. As you approach the city, the modernistic spires of the Air Force Academy greet you in all their spiritual splendor, securely nestled against their mountainous backdrop.
Apropos to its name, Room at the Inn proprietors Jan and Chick McCormick welcome guests with an openness that is at once refreshing and sincere. Having grown up on a farm, Jan is the perfect hostess, greeting guests at the door, handling special requests, and serving her specialty multi-course breakfasts. “I enjoy making sure our guests have everything they need,” Jan says with her enchanting smile. “I love the activity in the Inn and people milling about relaxing and having a good time.”
Located in the historic center of Colorado Springs, Room at the Inn retains all the Victorian charm of its 1896 origins. All five guest rooms in the main house include private baths, queen size beds and a collection of period antiques that the McCormick’s have personally chosen to add touches of elegance or functionality to every nook and cranny. The third floor High Tower Room, for example, boasts an airy octagonal turret sitting room overlooking trees and garden, a French Walnut queen size bed and antiques tucked into corners that lend the perfect finishing touches for curling up with a good book. Not lacking in modern conveniences either, several rooms have whirlpool tubs for two.
Perhaps the most striking attention-getter at Room at the Inn is what guests notice is missing – dust and dirt. The McCormick’s pride themselves on the cleanliness of their inn. Guests are hard-pressed to find even a cobweb strand anywhere in this immaculately clean house.
The McCormick’s create an atmosphere of warm hospitality which revolves around their gourmet food. Each morning Jan and Chick prepare a full gourmet breakfast for guests. On a recent crisp summer morning, guests dined on the porch tables which were covered in white tablecloths and fine china. Inn staff started guests with a scrumptious dish of Hot Baked Pears with Oatmeal-Cranberry-Blueberry Sauce, delicately balanced between lightness and sweetness.
Next on the menu were Raspberry Streusal Muffins, followed by Baked Peach Pancakes with Honey-Raisin Sauce, complemented by endless cups of specially roasted coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice.
Afternoon tea includes an astounding seventy different varieties from around the world, accompanied by Jan’s homemade pastries and cookies.
Room at the Inn, 618 North Nevada Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80903; 719/442-1896. Five units in Main House, and two units in Cottage, all w/private baths. Full gourmet breakfast, afternoon tea and evening desserts included. Cancellation policy. No smoking. All major credit cards.
Cheyenne Canyon Inn
Just blocks away from downtown, one approaches the majesty of South Cheyenne Canyon and its natural wonder, Seven Falls, both of which are visible from the eclectic Cheyenne Canyon Inn. The huge 13,000 square foot house, built in the 1920’s, was formerly a bordello and gambling casino in its shadier days. There are even secret tunnels radiating from the basement, where patrons could disappear into the night woods in case of a police raid. Today, innkeepers Barbara, John and Josh Starr have turned the inn into a bed and breakfast showcase.
But, before entering, be forewarned. The kindly ghost of a petite young lady of the night, dressed in white, has been seen by guests walking down the wide main staircase, disappearing as she enters the cavernous Great Room, with its seven foot windows and spectacular views of Cheyenne Mountain. There are still impressions in the oak floor where the original gambling machines earned their keep.
Each of the seven rooms in the inn, and the secluded chateau, reflects a different country theme, from hacienda to cabana, from Swiss chalet to African hut, all connected to the worldwide living experiences of the Starr’s, while John worked for a chemical company.
Guests of Cheyenne Canyon Inn tend to rise early to take advantage of the region as the hummingbird capital of the state. Feeders on the property and directly across the road at the nature center attract them, providing hour upon hour of viewing pleasure. A hummingbird stained glass window in the inn buoys the spirit when the morning sun illuminates its playful birds.
All the major renovation work was done by John, who blames Country Inns for his passion for the genre. “Country Inns is responsible for us being in the B & B business,” John says smiling. “But we’re happy with the end result, creating an atmosphere where people can relax within hours of arriving.”
And relaxing, according to the Starr’s, is enigmatically tied to the dining experience. Each morning, Barbara and her son, Josh, serve guests a full breakfast featuring a different country theme. “When people are on vacation they’re not dieting,” Barbara says as she prepares a luscious batch of malted waffles, “so our food is indulgent and full of choices for our guests.”
With Barbara cooking behind the scenes, John and Josh pamper their guests with a Parsley Cheese Quiche featuring aromatic herbs from their garden. Individually prepared malted waffles with homemade Caramel Pecan Sauce are eagerly anticipated by repeat guests. A bowl of refreshing Cold Cantaloupe Soup clears the palate, followed by Barbara’s Two-Layer Blueberry Cake.
Hiking and bicycling paths leave the inn property, winding their way through the adjoining natural areas, a good thing to do when you finally push yourself away from Barbara’s indulgent treats.
Cheyenne Canyon Inn,2030 West Cheyenne Boulevard, Colorado Springs, CO 80906; 719/633-0625. Seven units in Main House, and one Chateau, all w/private baths. Full gourmet breakfast, afternoon tea and evening desserts included. Cancellation policy. No smoking, no pets. All major credit cards.