Bachelor Gulch: Frontier feel, top-tier service

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. -- Picture a castle made of logs and you get an idea of the look of the new, 237-room Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch here, a short shuttle ride from Vail.

Or, at least, that was our impression as we climbed out of our airport van to spend a few days at this much-ballyhooed property, which opened last November.

Part of the fuss was over the location, nestled more or less by itself at the base of scenic Bachelor Gulch mountain and surrounded by national forest, while the rest of the fuss was over its Old West grand lodge-inspired design.

Instead of crystal chandeliers, light fixtures boast massive and intricate antlers, and instead of a string quartet, folk musicians sing mountain songs in the Great Room pub.

And, as befits a grand lodge, there are fireplaces seemingly everywhere, 100 in all.

But all resemblance to a log cabin ends there. The property, despite its Wild West look, retains the same upscale ambience and attentive service as its sister properties elsewhere.

Our accommodations were on the club floor, where club lounge concierges greeted us every time we exited the elevator with questions about our day on the slopes or our experiences at the in-house spa.

Five complimentary buffets are prepared in the club lounge daily, and if you hit several of them, you almost wouldn't need to dine elsewhere.

In addition to the minimeals, beverages are complimentary, including wines and liquors, and by the second day the concierge knew which one of us liked an apres-ski merlot and which preferred a hot chocolate with cappuccino-style foam.

Ski valets store your skis and boots and even walk them to the lift for you so you can save your energy for the slopes, and the process is reversed at day's end.

Perhaps one of the most surprising elements of the property is its dining facilities.

The elegant, Western-themed Remington restaurant offers an eclectic menu that boasts such hearty dishes as chili and pasta alongside gourmet options.

As for children, they are not only welcome at the restaurant, which has a very comprehensive children's menu, but they receive loaner toys to play with at the table.

We tried room service the first night so we could have more time to enjoy our room, which came equipped with a corner fireplace and a balcony looking out at the mountains.

Kids can attend an apres-ski theater at the Ritz Kids children's programs or sign up to walk the resident pooch, Bachelor.

New this year is a Ski Nanny service where kids age 5 to 12 are picked up at their guest room in the morning, shepherded through the ski rental process and given group ski lessons at Beaver Creek Village. Private lessons also are available.

The children are picked up at the end of ski school and taken to the Ritz Kids area until their parents retrieve them at 5 p.m.

Ski Nanny service is priced at $40 for the first child, $20 for each sibling. Child care for youngsters under age 5 can be arranged through the hotel concierge, and teen programs are available at the Beaver Creek Ski School.

Meanwhile, parents can soak in the Grotto, a rock-walled hot tub, and indulge in a treatment at the 21,000-square-foot spa.

Guests at the property can also shop or dine in Beaver Creek Village or Vail, accessible by shuttle bus.

The property is open year-round. Rates for the 2003-2004 ski season begin at $375 per night, double.

For information, contact the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch at (800) 576-5582 or go online at www.ritzcarlton.com.

To contact reporter Felicity Long, send e-mail to [email protected].

Upscale digs offer package

DENVER -- Destination Rockies, a collection of upscale condominiums and hotels located at North American ski resorts, unveiled a Stay, Ski & Save vacation package for the coming season.

Valid through April, the package includes a free night's stay in combination with a six-night booking.

Properties are located in such desirable resort areas as Vail, Telluride, Aspen and Snowmass -- all in Colorado -- and Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Rates range from $99 per night at the Stonebridge Inn in Snowmass, Colo., to $690 at the Gant in Aspen, Colo.

For additional information or to book, call (800) 434-7347 or visit www.destinationrockies.com.

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