Enjoy another guest post from self professed word nerd Aimee Heckel! Read about her discovery of one of one of the top Colorado Spas
Don’t limit your spring break dreams.
Many people head to the beaches for spring break. But while Colorado’s tourism is soaring like never before, instead consider planning a spring break vacation to the mountains.
Colorado’s ski resorts offer much more than just skiing. You can enjoy a rejuvenating, exciting spring break in the mountains without ever hitting the slopes.
The perfect place for a luxurious wellness retreat is the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Beaver Creek.
I confess; too many of my past vacations have centered around gluttony and the over-booking of activities, and therefore have left me feeling yucky and exhausted — needing a vacation from my vacation.
This spring break, my husband and I decided to do the opposite. We dedicated our whole vacation to relaxation, health and peace. And although short, it was one of the best vacations of our lives.
Serenity surrounds you
Beaver Creek is a world-renowned ski resort near Avon, Colo., owned by Vail Resorts, one of Colorado’s most prestigious mountain destinations.
The two-hour drive from Denver up the lush, winding canyon already begins to unravel your brain, so by the time you reach the sprawling Westin campus, you feel like you are a million miles away.
We quickly realized why the Westin Riverfront was named the No. 2 Ski Hotel by Conde Nast Traveler. The staff was as relaxed and cheerful as you would expect in Colorado. A massive stone fireplace crackled in the middle of the lobby, with a floor-to-ceiling window view of the mountains. Travelers sipped local beer around the multiple fire pits on the balconies, which overlooked an outdoor pool and three infinity hot tubs.
Ooh, that would be our first destination.
But first, we dropped off our yoga mats and bags at our spacious suite. The bed felt (and looked) like clouds, which was only fitting with the view from the bed: an oversized window and balcony gazing straight at the Rocky Mountains. We didn’t need to light the fireplace at the foot of our bed, because the weather was surprisingly warm — even though we could see the ski slopes from the hotel.
An escape within an escape
This level is home to the Spa Anjali, which was named one of the Best Spas For Ski and Snowboard by SpaFinder Wellness 265 last year. That’s not all. The spa has also been named one of the Top 100 Resort Spas by Conde Nast Traveler and one of the Top 10 Green Spas for 2013 by Organic Spa Magazine.
Nontraditional furniture is made out of reclaimed wood, light fixtures look like tree branches and statues of life-like Aspen trees adorn the hallways. The entryway to the spa is adorned with smooth river rocks and fountains.
The long hallway to the Athletic Club At The Westin is also lined with windows, so the natural splendor of the mountains is constantly in the forefront of your mind. This fitness facility has it all, from TRX classes to Zumba to a full Pilates studio with reformers. Sign up for stationary cycling classes, personal training, ski conditioning and even nutrition consultations.
My husband and I headed outside to unwind in the infinity hot tubs, overlooking the river. It felt like a hot springs, with the natural influences, such as river-rock flooring and the sound of the rushing water just over the walkway.
When we were nice and relaxed (read: my muscles felt like Jell-O), we changed into our yoga clothes in the well appointed locker rooms. I freshened up with a glass of chilly cucumber-lemon water — provided throughout this level — and we made our way to Studio Anjali.
Who needs skiing?
Although many of the participants in our yoga class were winding down from a day on the slopes, or warming up for a ski vacation, just as many were locals or travelers like us, looking to center our minds and treat our bodies.
Our Authentic Alignment class was equally as challenging as restorative, and a caliber of quality that I would have never expected in a hotel. As a decade-long fitness reviewer in the fittest (and probably Zen-est) city in America, Boulder, Colo., I have experienced some of the best yoga teachers and workshops in the world.
At the Westin, our instructor was knowledgeable, approachable and was able to cater the class to the varying yoga backgrounds. I enjoyed her detailed breakdown of handstands, which allowed me to attempt the pose in ways I never had before — and I had surprisingly great success.
But the meditation at the end of class was the highlight; my husband and I both agreed that we had rarely experienced such a deep and peaceful savasana before. The music was soothing. The soft blue lights on the ceiling cast an ethereal glow on the room. The simple lotus painting in the front of the room was calming and centering.
Everything came together to soothe my mind and body — and prepare me for even deeper bliss to come.
“Where nature nurtures”
As if we weren’t Zen enough, my husband and I next made our way to the Spa Anjali for a couple’s massage. We wore our soft (but not too bulky) white robes from our room down to the spa, as requested to save on laundry. The Westin and its spa highly values green practices, and offers travelers various ways to contribute to preserving the environment, too.
This meant a lot to me — and furthered the feeling of connection to nature. In fact, that’s the motto of the spa: “Where nature nurtures.”
Here, you will find recycled everything: amenities, soaps, batteries, even roofing materials; a paperless check-in and check-out; eco-friendly cleaning supplies; preserved wetlands outside; tons of open space allocated; energy-efficient appliances; low-flow water fixtures; and more.
For every Eminence Organic Skin Care product sold in the spa’s boutique, a tree has been planted. Since 2012, more than 550 trees — equal to 21 football fields worth — have been planted on behalf of Spa Anjali customers. This is a spa that practices what it preaches.
I was impressed with the locker room’s spaciousness and bright and cheery atmosphere, which reflected the Beaver Creek vibe. I sat down in the waiting room with a glass of delicious lemongrass tea, munched on some chocolate-covered raisins, and looked out at the outdoor swimming pool through through glass doors.
In no time, my therapist greeted me and brought me and my husband to the large, open couple’s massage room, with two heated beds. The treatment began with the soft scent of rose essential oil, and in 50 minutes, she fully transformed my body from an overworked, busy modern mom to a clean slate. I could tell she was expertly trained and knew just what to do to work the knots out of my shoulder blades. She was attentive and hard-working.
The spa has a variety of other unique treatments, including chakra blessings, remedies borrowed from Native American tradition, an Ayurvedic facial and an organic coffee pedicure, using coffee exfoliant to soften and nourish.
When our treatment was over, my husband and I laid side by side and stared at each other, laughingly daring each other to be the first to get up. I wanted to stay there all night — but I knew a special treat awaited us in the lounge: two flutes of champagne and a small taste of sweet strawberry sherbert.
Officially the best way ever to wrap up a massage. Sherbert and champagne!
My husband and I toasted to the exquisite experience and I may or may not have sneaked another handful of chocolate-covered raisins.
That was my appetizer before an appetizer before an appetizer. It was time for dinner.
A new spin on Mexican
We settled down for a late dinner at the in-hotel modern Mexican kitchen, Maya. I was curious to try this award-winning restaurant and tequila bar, with its massive wall of tequila bottles, popular $35 bottomless margarita brunch and unique guacamole menu, made fresh at your table.
Guacamole is my weakness. Like if I were on a desert island and had to pick one thing to bring with me, I’d pick an avocado. And if I had to eat only one food for the rest of my life, it’d probably be Maya’s tuna tartare guac, shoveled into my face with crunchy wonton chips.
Staff rolled a cart to our table and began mixing and chopping the fresh avocados in front of our eyes, topping them with flavorful, delicious fish — in a combo that somehow felt Asian (think: sushi avocado rolls). It was accented with serrano, chipotle, sesame seed (again, that provided a sushi echo) and jicama salad. As a guacamole connoisseur (addict), I can without question say this was the best guac I’ve ever had, and I would make the two-hour trek from Denver again just to get this.
Then there were the margaritas. I had a house marg with salt, which I used as a fair barometer to gauge the restaurant’s ability to make drinks. I quickly understood why Maya is known for its beverages and tequila expertise. Our server was brilliant, cheerful and made top-notch recommendations.
In fact, his advice led my husband to order the Maya Margarita, a slightly more bitter and much less sweet spin on the classic drink, made with agavales blanco, tamarind (the key!) and citrus, with a perfectly complementary, spicy chile pequin rim. It wasn’t my husband’s fault that he had to order a second. He said this was the best margarita he’s ever had, because it wasn’t too sweet and it had just the right pop of spice to bring out the spice in our meal.
As a second appetizer, we tried the chile relleno, which we inhaled before we could know what happened. What made this unique was it was filled with juicy shrimp and not fried, and it made me wonder why other Mexican restaurants would ever fry and therefore ruin such a dish that already stands so delicious.
For the main course, I enjoyed the chipotle camarones: tequila-flamed shrimp served over a black bean purèe with gouda huarache and incredibly flavorful chipotle sauce. My husband had the mahi mahi a la talla, which I nearly arm-wrestled him for. The chipotle aioli, combined with the adobo marinade, left us both speechless.
For dessert, we ditched the sweets (remember, we were trying to have a healthy weekend) and ordered traditional Mexico City-style corn on the cob, rubbed in mayo and chili powder. This may be the only snack that could ever mute my sweet tooth. We both left satisfied, impressed and full enough to retreat straight to bed.
One last taste of peace
Before we headed home the next morning, my husband and I decided to indulge in one last sliver of heaven. We took an early-morning guided meditation class, which started out our day with a blissful calmness that we carried with us for the rest of the day.
After class, we walked to the in-hotel Starbucks and ordered our favorite coffees. We took them with us outside to the free gondola ride, which carried us up over the towering pine trees and up the side of the mountain, to the base of the ski lift. It was unexpectedly romantic to sip our warm coffees side-by-side and watch the mountains move below our feet.
If we had more time, we may have signed up to hit the mountain, but we were completely satisfied walking around the resort’s natural grounds and taking in the crisp morning air.
We were reluctant to leave, so I made myself a tea, provided in our room, rubbed some green tea lotion from the bathroom on my dry, Rocky Mountain hands and stretched back on our cloud bed while I sipped the tea and gazed at the mountainside.
I didn’t want to return to real life. It felt like it had been an eternity. I felt like a new woman.
The experience really put the “break” in spring break — from mind to body to spirit.