A one-time miner’s saloon, Scarp Ridge Lodge still has its Wild West looks on the outside, but these days it's a luxurious lodge that’ll have thrill seekers feeling they’ve struck gold. Roaring fires and an open kitchen give things a laid-back, home-from-home feel, but look around and you’ll see wrought-iron furnishings scavenged from old mines – a tip of the hat to the town’s hard-graftin’ history. Not that you’ll have to do much of that, however: whether you’re heading out cat skiing or just plan to kick back, you’ll find the staff have already done all the hard work for you.
Six suites. Five have king-size beds, the sixth is a children’s room with seven bunks and a connecting nanny room.
10am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £2216.50 ($2,873), including tax at 14 per cent.
Guests choose from a room-only rate (includes breakfast), or the Eleven Experience, a top-to-tail programme including all meals, expert-led activities, specialist kit, return airport transfers from Gunnison, local transportation and bike hire.
The original saloon was built in 1885 for the town’s Croatian miner community – proof of the incredible pull-power of Colorado’s mines. Pushing through the glass-inlaid wooden doors, you can almost imagine a scene of brawling miners, pistol shots and painted ladies – don’t worry though, it’s more domesticated these days.
The hotel opens for the winter season on 15 December and closes on 15 April. The summer season is from 25 May to 15 October.
At the hotel
A cosy lounge area with a log-burning stove, a well-stocked kitchen and pantry, movie lounge, games room, bar room, spa with an oversized hot tub and sauna, gym/fitness room and a further hot tub on the roof. In rooms: minibar, iPod dock, an oxygen delivery system (to combat the effects of high altitude as you sleep), tea- and coffee-making facilities, and bath products by Aesop, Harry’s, SuperGoop, and Woo Bamboo.
Our favourite rooms
The Red Lady, which is the nickname for Mt. Emmons, who can be seen in all her glory from the room’s windows. The largest of the hotel’s suites, it has a high, vaulted ceiling with pale beams, a king-size four-poster bed with thick curtains, an antique wooden chest, two comfy armchairs and an ensuite bathroom with a metal bateau bath tub and a steam shower. Children will love the Bunk Room, which has smart wooden bunks with wrought-iron ladders and a connecting nanny room known as Peanut.
The pool room has a ceiling of reclaimed wooden beams, giving it a historic feel in keeping with the rest of the house. It’s family-friendly, has a shallow end, and there are loungers for those who want to keep an eye on little Smiths.
The hotel’s spa is just what the doctor ordered for the aches and pains that come from a long day’s skiing, hiking or biking. The sauna and steam room should work wonders, but if it’s an expert touch you’re after, there are various treatments like Swedish-, deep-tissue and Japanese Zen Shiatsu massage. There are several types of yoga on offer too, including Kundalini, Ashtanga and easy-flow.
Once a miners’ drinking hole, Scarp Ridge Lodge isn’t really the jacket-and-tie sort – you’re more likely to catch guests comparing the waterproofing of their ski jackets than the latest Parisian fashions. It can also get seriously cold in winter, so embrace your sensible wardrobe.
The hotel’s communal areas are wheelchair accessible, but there aren’t any specially-adapted guest rooms.
Pets are welcome at the hotel for an extra $50 a night (the Whetstone and Butte suites are dog-friendly). The hotel can also provide dog bowls, tennis balls, leads, treats and that all-important lint roller. See more pet-friendly hotels in Crested Butte.
Very welcome. There’s a dedicated children's room with seven bunks and a connecting nanny room. Extra beds can be added to some rooms on request, and babysitting is available for $30 an hour (a week’s notice is needed).
There are two dining tables in the open-plan kitchen, one as good as the other. It’s all about getting together and sharing the day’s stories over dinner.
A plaid shirt will do fine (braces optional).
The hotel doesn’t have it’s own restaurant, but that homely-looking kitchen is professional grade – and you get a private chef who knows just how to make it sing. Breakfast is a made-to-order affair: guests select from a smorgasbord of hot and cold dishes from around the globe, such as huevos rancheros, chimichurri tartine, eggs Caprese, breakfast sandwiches, crêpes, banana bread and muffins; fresh smoothies and juices are the norm, too. Lunch and dinner can be arranged on request (breakfast, lunch and apres are included if you've opted for the Eleven Experience, but you’ll often have lunch while out on activities). For dinners, the lodge can arrange in-house dinners prepared by the culinary team or poach a chef from the nearby Ginger Cafe, who specialise in Asian cuisine (both options at an extra charge). It’s worth heading out for at least one night of your stay, however, as the town’s culinary offerings are praised from the valley to the peaks of the butte.
The zinc-topped bar is in a lounge room with a beamed ceiling, thick rugs and comfy sofas. The walls are hung with black-and-white photographs of the local area, and enormous elk and moose heads, giving it that authentic mountain lodge feel. Guests tend to congregate around 5.30pm, when they return from their day’s activities for cocktails and snacks.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 9am in the kitchen; the bar is open until 10pm each night, but the bartender can stay late on request.
With a stocked kitchen and in-room minibars filled with snacks like chocolate sea salt almonds, there isn’t much need for room service. That said, we’re sure the staff would bring a snack to your room (or the hot tub).
The hotel is on Crested Butte’s 2nd street, just two blocks down from Elk Avenue, where you’ll find many of the town’s best shops and restaurants.
The closest airport is Gunnison regional airport, a 35-minute drive from the hotel. Planes from Denver and Houston (IAH) land at Gunnison daily. Flights and transfers can be arranged with the Smith24 team; call any time, day or night.
Smoke-belching steam trains used to pass through town, loading up on coal and silver to carry along the Rio Grande Railway. Sadly, the tracks were pulled up after the mining industry collapsed, so you won’t hear the train a’comin any time soon...
Driving to Crested Butte doesn’t mean endless miles of unchanging freeway; instead, you’ll pass through a landscape of deep valleys, mountain passes and snow-capped peaks. If the conditions are good, the drive from Denver takes around four hours. Smith24 can arrange car hire.
Worth getting out of bed for
At Scarp Ridge Lodge, it’s all about jump-starting your day so that you’re in the pink of condition for the slopes, trails or Crested Butte backcountry. Before breakfast, try a stint in the pre-heated sauna, or book yourself onto a morning yoga class – either one should limber you up nicely for the day ahead. Whatever activity you’ve chosen, you can be sure you're in good hands: Eleven’s guides live and breathe these mountains, so they’re experts at making sure you get the most from them.
In the winter season, powder hounds will relish the snowcat skiing in Irwin, an ex-mining site home to some first-rate backcountry terrain. Thanks to its location (and a little meteorological wizardry), Irwin gets an envy-inducing 15 metres of snowfall a year, which is two or three times more than Crested Butte. The snowcat used by the hotel has leather seats, a sound system and a flatscreen TV, too, so the 45-minute trip is made in style.
In the summer season, the mountain returns to a lush green and the valley is covered in a thick carpet of wildflowers – but that doesn’t mean things get any less exciting. The mountainous terrain has some of the best mountain bike trails and whitewater rafting to be found in North America, so there's something for all abilities. If getting high is your thing (we're talking altitude here) then a guided hike can take you up where the air is rare. On the other hand, if you'd rather fast forward to the panoramic views, you can let the chairlifts do the hard work for you.
Voted the best pizza in Crested Butte every year since they opened in 2002, Secret Stash have the market sewn-up. With their off-the-wall look – vibrant Indian wallhangings sit alongside old vinyl records – and punning menu, it’s no secret that they trade as much on their friendly vibe as they do on the food. Try the Notorious F.I.G., topped with mozzarella, blue & asiago cheeses, thinly-sliced prosciutto, dried black mission figs and a drizzle of truffle oil – in other words, its figgie, but not small. They also do a roaring trade in chicken wings, pork shanks and ‘crack fries’, which are given a dangerously addictive coating of parmesan, white truffle oil and cracked black-pepper.
The Public House does double duty as a local watering hole and live music joint; order locally brewed ales and lagers, creative cocktails – we like the gin-based Wildflow Honey Drop with lavender simple syrup – and local and international wines.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this mountain lodge in Colorado and unpacked their bison jerky, a full account of their mountain break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Scarp Ridge Lodge in Colorado…
Scarp Ridge Lodge is an outpost of adventure travel specialists Eleven Experience, whose name riffs off the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap. Rock trivia aside, all you need to know is that they don’t do things in half measures. With this hotel, they took a Victorian-era building that was once a saloon and brothel, and transformed it into a luxurious mountain lodge that’s a far cry from its spit-and-sawdust origins. Inside, you’ll find lounge rooms with leather chairs and roaring fires, a fully-stocked kitchen, a sauna, hot tubs and five suites with freestanding bateau bath tubs. What’s more, the staff are less like staff and more like old friends – very helpful, very thoughtful friends who probably know how to use a Swiss army knife to get out of a tight spot. Climb to the roof to soak in the hot tub, and you’ll discover that the jets are angled to massage the very muscles you’ve been using on the slopes. Back in your room, you’ll find a switch that pumps oxygen into the room, fighting the effects of high altitude to help you get a good night’s sleep. If those miners could see this place now...
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