Highmark combines five-star service with comforts of home

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When it comes to skiing, travelers generally have to make a choice between the amenities and space of private homes and condominiums and the daily housekeeping and other round-the-clock services of a hotel. But a new luxury hotel in Colorado's Steamboat Springs changes that, offering guests the best of both worlds. 

Although the Highmark operates as a full-service luxury hotel, there are no hotel rooms at this resort, only large, top-of-the-line "suites" that rival some of the ski area's best private home and condo rentals. 

The smallest units, at 1,600 square feet, have two bedrooms, three bathrooms, a study and a large, gourmet kitchen. The largest, four-bedroom units measure 2,400 square feet. 

The units are decorated in a Western style inspired by designer Ralph Lauren, with large, comfortable couches and chairs, full dining room tables and small sitting areas in each of the bedrooms.  

Open just six months, the units boast the latest technology, with flatscreen TVs in the living rooms and bedrooms and iPod docking stations that enable guests to listen to their own music in any room. 

They also have large, jetted tubs; sandstone fireplaces; private balconies; and separate laundry rooms with large, front-loading washers and dryers. 

But unlike many of even the finest traditional vacation rentals in ski areas, the resort offers the best in luxury hotel services, with 24-hour concierges; free valet parking; ski valet service, so guests never have to schlep equipment across the street to the ski gondola; and on-call, front-door shuttle service to the mountain or into town. 

Extras like private cooks, in-room massages, grocery delivery and full laundry and dry cleaning services are also available at an additional charge. 

The concept, sales director Elisabeth Mullen admitted, can be confusing to people used to more traditional vacation rentals, which usually charge extra for daily or even midweek maid service. 

"When I tell people we have daily maid service, they'll ask, 'How much does that cost?'" Mullen said. 

Indeed, I was confused after seeing some of the units. I wasn't sure if I was in a hotel or private condominium property.  

Mullen said some of the units are privately owned, but the property, she emphasized, is operated and marketed as a full-service luxury hotel. 

And owners are restricted from using the property during peak holiday weeks, to make sure all 23 suites are available for rent. 

The service rivals that of a Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons. Every time we walked into the lobby, someone, including the hotel manager, was there to greet us and offer shuttle services.  

The hotel is just across the street, and only 300 yards, from the gondola, making for an easy walk. But it's nice to not have to walk if guests don't want to.  

Rack rates for the smallest units range from a low of $149 in the fall to $899 a night during peak holiday weeks. Rates for the largest penthouse suites range from $409 to $1,799 a night. But like most ski resorts right now, the Highmark is offering a number of deals, including a third night free or packages that include lift tickets or both lift tickets and ski equipment. 

Travel agent commissions are 10%, with a rate of 15% being offered on select weeks from January through March. For more, call (877) 879-6555 or visit www.highmarksteamboat.com.

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