My brother, his wife and their two children went skiing in Colorado for the first time this year. After hearing their amazing tales of how beautiful Beaver Creek was, I was determined to visit there myself.
An online charity site just happened to be offering three nights at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek for an amazing rate, so I bid, not really expecting to win. Imagine my surprise when I got an email confirming that I had indeed won a long weekend at the beginning of May!
In order to make the trip worthwhile, I decided to add a day or two in Denver to the vacation. Of course, my best friend Lynne Firth was coming along for the ride. It could be the fact that she was going to get a room to herself in the Beaver Creek condo that really pushed her over the edge.
I may have visited Colorado when I was a child and I certainly loved me some John Denver, but this was going to be the first time I was going to the city as a (semi) adult.
We had to fly through Houston on the way there and back through Charlotte (the direct Cayman Airways flights starting next May will significantly simplify this route). I had already got some advice from people who lived in Denver about where to stay for the best shopping.
The JW Marriott at Cherry Creek (they like their creeks in Colorado) was the recommendation, and so we went that route.
The travel portion of the trip was smooth, although getting the rental car was interesting. It was pretty cold by the time we stepped outside the airport around midnight and Lynne immediately started layering her clothes, ignoring the clash of patterns and colors. Unlike other airports that have gone the way of a central rental car depot accessible by monorail or train, Denver still uses buses to transport customers to individual rental car companies.
Once we had the car, it was about 30 minutes into central Denver and Cherry Creek. If there was nightlife going on, it was well hidden. The streets were nearly deserted as we pulled up to the hotel.
The next day, we realized just how well positioned our hotel was. A stone’s throw away was Cherry Creek Shopping Center – an upscale mall with all our favorite stores.
In the distance, we could see the mountains; we would be there the next day.
Cherry Creek is a great area for wandering around, with bars and restaurants aplenty, but I could have spent all day sitting in front of the fireplace at the hotel. It was nice to be somewhere so different.
That same night, a Friday, we met up with friends for dinner at Del Frisco’s, obviously a popular venue, based on the number of tables that were full.
One thing you need to be careful of when visiting Denver is your consumption of alcohol, compared to the amount of water you drink. They don’t call it the Mile High City for nothing – Denver is 5,280 feet above sea level, and with Cayman basically at sea level, that’s a big difference in altitude. Altitude sickness is a real thing, so beyond possibly being prepared with medication, you need to stay hydrated. It can hit anyone, fit or flabby, and you won’t know until you get there.
After just over a day spent in the city, it was time for us to head to Beaver Creek, which would take us on a glorious two-hour drive through the mountains.
The snow was starting to melt on some of the hillsides, but there were plenty of white-capped peaks to see on the way.
Ski season had already ended at most resorts, which was fine by me – I am no athlete and strapping on skis would probably have been a suicide mission. The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek is a really gorgeous resort, with rooms that face the ice skating rink in the center of the property.
Our two-bedroom condo had large bedrooms, both with en suite bathrooms, a full kitchen with stainless steel appliances, a dining table and a living room with its own fireplace. I was in heaven.
The main lobby is what you would expect from a quality ski-in/ski-out lodge, with vast comfy couches, a large fireplace, windows that stretch the width of the room, high ceilings and wood and stonework. It was a very quiet time of year here, so we really got to appreciate the place without lots of people around.
That being said, if you are a skier and want to go to Beaver Creek, you’ll be wanting to head there in season, which is about November to mid-April.
Our kind of therapy was of the spa and shopping type. We both got massages at the Park Hyatt’s spa, and on another evening, we drove to Vail to walk around its shopping village and watch a film.
The CinéBistro at Solaris is a fancy little place (which really should come as no surprise, with it being in Vail) where there is in-theater dining as well as luxury seating like the VIP theater at Camana Bay Cinema. I will say that the seats in our cinema here are slightly nicer, but it was still a very comfortable way to watch the latest “Avengers” film.
Unfortunately, by the time the next day began, I was definitely fighting a cold and I wasn’t feeling terribly marvelous besides. I blamed leaving the windows open at night while I slept – hadn’t I learned anything from watching “Little House on the Prairie”?
Nevertheless, I rallied so we could stop by The Ritz-Carlton’s Bachelor Gulch property. A friend of mine who had worked in the Grand Cayman resort had moved to Bachelor Gulch for a while and recommended we take a look if we could. The whole resort was a buyout, we discovered when we got there, meaning one group had the run of the place, but we were still given a brief tour.
This Ritz-Carlton has the honor of being one of the largest freestanding log “cabins” in the contiguous United States, and those logs up close are an impressive sight. It is also pet-friendly and even has its own mascot, Bachelor, in the form of a Saint Bernard.
The evergreens around the hotel were much as they were at Beaver Creek – green with no snow upon them; I could only imagine how magical these places were in the winter, particularly around Christmas. Time to start saving the shekels.
That evening, I really felt dreadful, and knowing I had to drive us back to Denver the next day to fly back on the red-eye made me pretty nervous. In the morning, I decided I was going to have to see a doctor. The hotel recommended an office nearby and it wasn’t long before I was being checked out by a doctor who, by coincidence, was an avid diver and often visited the Cayman Islands for his scuba trips.
Diagnosed with a cold and altitude sickness (told you it was a real thing), he gave me some medication and recommended fluids with electrolytes.
We weren’t flying out until about midnight, and the Park Hyatt very kindly let us stay past our checkout time until my meds started kicking in.
We drove back to Denver and checked back into the JW Marriott for the rest of the day so I could sleep and Lynne could do some last-minute shopping.
I would have liked to have stopped at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, as recommended by our Denver friends. Apparently, it is something to be seen, even if there isn’t a concert on; I just wanted to get back to the city quickly while I still felt okay.
Another place on my bucket list to see in Colorado would be the Stanley Hotel, which was the inspiration for the Overlook in “The Shining.” It would have been a two-hour drive out of our way, so maybe next time.
One piece of advice I will give about returning your car at Denver airport is to know well in advance exactly where you need to go. We had directions but at nighttime the signage was difficult to see and not well placed; we seemed to be driving for miles along backroads in the industrial area, desperately trying to find Dollar. As we passed UPS and DHL with still no sign of where we had to go, we finally found someone we could ask directions from. It probably took us at least 20-30 minutes to find Dollar, and by that time, still not feeling great and with bitter cold outside, my good humor was draining out of my body.
The red-eye flight took us into Charlotte, and we arrived looking and feeling like zombies. Thankfully, Charlotte is one of the few airports that is home to a Minute Suites – simple rooms designed for passengers who need to get some kip between flights.
After a couple of hours’ sleep, I felt much better. Time to go home!
Even though I had been ill on our trip, I have to say I really enjoyed the vacation and Colorado. In fact, as I look through pictures for this article, I immediately want to go back there.
After taking those two flights to and from Cayman to Colorado, I have to say that the direct flights being offered by Cayman Airways will be a great way to travel to Denver. No red-eyes and no layovers? Start packing your skis.