Friday, June 22, 2012

Ski Tip Lodge in Keystone, Colorado

I didn’t make my lodging reservation in Keystone for the TBEX conference in a timely fashion. While TBEX was advertising a discount on conference lodging, I couldn’t figure out how to get the discount when registering online (as it turned out that was because you couldn’t get it online, you had to use the phone), so most of the designated lodging was booked by the time I got serious about finding a place to stay.

This turned out to be a good thing, since I quickly grew frustrated with the rather fungible options that remained and started looking elsewhere. That search led me to the Ski Tip Lodge Bed and Breakfast.   

The lodge itself is a not particularly lovely architectural mishmash: Part Swiss chalet, part Italian villa, part log cabin. It was a stagecoach stop in the 1880s and part of a ranch for years after. In the 1940s the now-decrepit ranch was purchased by Max and Edna Dercum who opened it to guests as the state’s first ski lodge.

All that history shows in the disjointed expansions the building has undergone - the pieces look almost as if they were just glued together.
Inside, however, it is simply a glorious log cabin, with hand-hewn log walls, picture windows overlooking a mountain pond, and huge fireplaces. . . the multiple additions obvious only in the odd corners and continually changing level of the floor. It is everything a mountain retreat should be.
This is still the spiritual heart of Keystone and one of the benefits of staying here is the nods of approval I got from resort staff when they find out where I was staying. The bus drivers that ask if it is ok to drop me off last take on a conspiratorial tone once the other guests have been deposited at their condos as they relate the history of Ski Tip and it's role. Clearly this is a secret place that can only be shared with those who appreciate it. Being in on the secret makes me feel like a smart insider, instead of just another tourist.

Of course, the real reason to stay at Ski Tip is probably the acclaimed restaurant.

Breakfast is not to be missed, with a broad selection of items available, including a couple gourmet options cooked to order.

The restaurant does not serve lunch, but it is worth the wait for the evening four-course fixed-price menu. The night we ate there the menu included two soup choices, two salad options, 4-6 meat and fish entrees, and another half dozen desserts. The beautifully prepared and presented meals consisted of mostly traditional entrees with a fresh, modern flair. 
Everything was delicious.

The restaurant has a unexpectedly extensive and interesting wine list and we took full advantage of sommelier Megan Morgan's knowledge. Her recommendations led us to some really nice wines we would not have tried without her guidance. 
Dessert can be served in the dining room or in one of the sitting rooms. Of course we chose a spot by one of the fireplaces in a sitting room. 
Guests would be fools not to eat at the restaurant if they can afford it (with quality innovative food and a fixed price menu, it isn’t cheap), but even the ever present cookies (usually chocolate chip, but other flavors as well) are divine. A drink by the fireplace in one of the public rooms is romantic in June and must be enough to make one swoon during a winter snowfall. (These rooms must have hosted countless marriage proposals.) And then there is that breakfast. So all is not lost if you can't find time for dinner in the restaurant, but it really is worth it.

The downside of staying at the Ski Tip Lodge is that it is old, with small, somewhat quirky rooms that are in need of updating. Old plumbing and outlets (and the lake of internet access) can make things interesting. For example, I suspect our hot water was shared with the kitchen. Each morning, halfway through an otherwise perfect shower, the water would turn sizzling hot and stay that way. There was no changing it. My husband, showering in mid-morning (after the kitchen had closed and most other guests were off for the day), never had this problem. (I think the diverter was broken, limiting the amount of cold water reaching the shower, as the water temperature in the faucet below could easily be controlled.) Other quirks included a cabinet (the only place to put clothes) that would only stay closed when completely empty, leaving us dodging the edges of the door every time we needed to cross the room to, say, use the bathroom. The tiny window had an uninspiring view of the roof and the parking lot, which was a disappointment in such a beautiful location.

However, those things don’t really matter. Staying at the Ski Tip is an opportunity to live a piece of history. It’s rare for travelers to be able to so easily connect with the heart of a place. . . . and an hour or two by the fireplace in one of the sitting rooms with a glass of wine and a good book is worth a lot of inconveniences!


Details
Rates vary with the season. With the conference discount (which we didn’t know we were getting until we checked out) we paid just under $130 per night. Guest rooms are clean and practical, but small (at least ours was small) and in need of updating.

The Ski Tip’s small, rather plain-Looking restaurant serves a wonderful breakfast for guests each morning, with cooked options that change regularly.

The restaurant is open to the public in the evening for dinner (reservations are required), but lodge guests get a 15% discount. (This should be reason enough to stay here.) The restaurant only serves a four-course fixed price meal, with several options for each course. (There is a three-course menu for children.)  Portions are ample - too ample for us (staff reminded us that they need to enough for hungry skiers in the winter). There is also a wine pairing available. It isn’t as good of a value as the price fix menu (and the 15% discount doesn’t apply), but the pours were generous and the wine choices interesting, unusual, and well-suited to each dish.

During the afternoon and evening there is a full bar service (including an excellent wine list) in the public sitting areas. There is also a pleasant patio with views of the pond.

The lodge is served by the resort shuttle on an on-call basis. From the lodge it is an easy, pleasant walk to the gondola at River Run Village. Otherwise the lodge is relatively isolated.

Service throughout the lodge and restaurant is personal and attentive. Staff will do their utmost to accommodate guests at any time of day, including rounding up beverages and table settings for the light lunch we brought with for the first day.

Information on the history of Ski Tip is rather hard to find on the web, although Edna Dercum’s book about her life at Ski Tip, It's easy, Edna, it's downhill all the way, is available in print.

There are a couple of nice stories about Ski Tip at:
•    Snow
•    Around the Bend 


Related Posts: Blogging Colorado (Denver and Keystone)















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