Colorado’s Spin Cycle

Colorado's Spin Cycle

August 2, 2019

Colorado The Race

Characterized by high elevations and relentless climbs, the weeklong USA Pro Challenge is too epic for any one city: Ten communities play host to the race’s seven stages, which link Aspen, Crested Butte and Vail with larger hubs such as Colorado Springs and Denver. All test a champion’s mettle. “It’s one of the hardest races I’ve ever done,” says pro rider Tanner Putt of the Bissell Development Cycling team. But legions of fans motivate racers to conquer the challenges. Over the course of the week, 1 million spectators turn out to watch and cheer. “Riders race here and feel like rock stars,” says Shawn Hunter, the race’s co-chairman and CEO. “The only other race in the world that has this level of excitement and energy is the Tour de France.” 

Aspen  

Leave 12,095-foot Independence Pass to the racers. Mere mortals content themselves with the route to the iconic Maroon Bells, which serves up the state’s most celebrated mountain panorama yet demands a relatively modest eff ort (1,600 vertical feet over 10 miles). As an added bonus, the road is closed to cars from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The 20-mile out-and-back ride begins at the roundabout 1 mile west of downtown Aspen. Take the Maroon Creek Road “exit” and pedal uphill past Aspen High School. Rest assured, the hills become gentler as you pass Aspen Highlands ski area. The road climbs gradually, hugging the banks of Maroon Creek as mansions give way to the White River National Forest, where aspenfringed meadows afford glimpses of majestic, 14,026-foot Pyramid Peak. At the road’s end, dismount and walk some 200 yards along the paved path to viewpoints showcasing the Bells’ stunning symmetry mirrored in the blue waters of Maroon Lake. 

Wheel Deals: Ute City Cycles rents drool-worthy Orbea and Felt bikes for 100/day, or get a pro tune for your own ride from the repair crew. Refuel: Peach’s Corner Café tops off your fuel tank with the likes of kale salad or a chicken and avocado panini, served on the outdoor patio. Recover Check into Remède Spa (in the St. Regis) for a stint in its steam caves, stone-lined pools stirred by cascading water and treatment rooms offering wraps, facials and massages featuring local skincare products.

Vail

Like all routes out of the Vail Valley, the 12-mile Daybreak Ridge loop includes a stout climb (1,800 vertical feet) that humbled cyclists in the 2013 USA Pro Challenge. But from the circuit’s high point you overlook the soaring peaks of the Gore Range. And because the upper section of the ride takes place within gated neighborhoods, traffic is scarce. “You’re more likely to spot deer and bear than cars,” says local Brett Donelson. Start in Avon, 11 miles west of Vail, and crank up Village Road, passing through the gated entrance to Beaver Creek Resort. At 1 mile, turn right onto South Holden Road, left onto Borders Road and left again onto Strawberry Park Road. Ogle the luxury residences lining the road, pass beneath the Elkhorn ski lift and pick up Daybreak Ridge Road to top out at a high point affording those well-earned views down into Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch. Follow Daybreak Ridge Road as it serpentines down through Bachelor Gulch. Stop to refill a water bottle at the RitzCarlton and then cruise down into Avon via Bachelor Gulch Trail. Venture Sports in Avon rents bikes, organizes group rides and employs the valley’s best bike technicians. Vail Valley riders have long embraced Yellowbelly in West Vail for its all-natural chicken and veggie-laden side dishes Recover.  Spa Anjali (at Avon’s Westin Riverfront) draws from healing traditions in the Alps, Himalayas and Rocky Mountains to create three unique “journeys” that go way beyond a standard massage. 

Colorado Springs: Pikes Peak isn’t the Springs’ only scenic landmark— although cyclists do get to admire this 14,114-foothigh summit from portions of the 18-mile Garden of the Gods loop. It gains 1,200 feet of elevation and visits the city’s other “rock star”: The Garden of the Gods, a pocket of blazing red-rock spires and cliffs tucked among the foothills west of downtown. To taste this eye-candy, get an early-morning start (to avoid crowds and traffic heading into the famed Garden) and head northwest out of downtown via W. Bijou to N. Walnut to Mesa Road. Continue north past Garden of the Gods Country Club and then bike south on the bike path, which parallels N. 30th Street and offers motivating panoramas of Pikes Peak and the Kissing Camels rock, which looks exported from Utah’s Arches National Park. Enter the Garden of the Gods to pedal the one-way loop among its sculpted rock pinnacles, separated from the traffic by a wide bike lane. Exit via a plunge down Ridge Road, then left on W. Pikes Peak Ave., and right on 21st St. to connect to the Midland Trail. This former rail line slopes downhill as it heads back to Colorado Springs. Wheel Deals Criterium Bicycles maintains a big fleet of low-mileage road bikes for riders of every shape and stripe. Refuel The Irish fare at McCabe’s Tavern rewards hard effort with homemade shepherd’s pie, pretzel bread and smoked salmon served on a shady outdoor patio. Recover A Colorado icon, The Broadmoor pampers athletes with therapeutic massage and facials performed in treatment spaces fitted with chandeliers and fireplaces. 

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Amalfi Coast Italy

Make Yourself at Home:  Make Yourself at Home Aspen Inspirato’s Signature Residences put you a short bike ride from the racecourse with six homes to choose from including the striking 4,103-squarefoot Castle Creek property along the popular Ute Trail with its four bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms, and the spacious 5,793-square-foot, fivebedroom, five-and-a-half bath Roaring Fork property in the. Aspen Highlands area.  
Snowmass Village Wake up among the aspens groves that blanket the Snowmass ski area from a bedroom in the luxurious Goldenleaf property, one of three Inspirato Signature Residences in the valley. With room for 12, this mountainside retreat features five bedrooms and five-and-a-half bathrooms spread across 4,465 square feet. Ski and hiking trails are a mere 75 yards from its front door.  
Vail Vail Village will be packed with spectators for the start of the pivotal time trial race up Vail Pass. And Inspirato’s Signature Residences at The Solaris will put you in the middle of it all with three- four- and six-bedroom properties ranging from 2,260-square-foot condominums to 4,985-square foot penthouses, all located right in the heart of the village. They’re just a few of the 24 Signature Residences available to members in Vail. 

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The Sierra’s Crown Jewels

The Sierra's Crown Jewels

August 2, 2019

Look out over the north shore of glistening Lake Tahoe this August and you’ll undoubtedly squint. The vast body of crystal mountain water shines, as do the nearby snow-topped Sierra Mountains. And then there’s the impressive glare generated by sunlight reflecting off the 20 or so coats of varnish applied to many of the dozens of pristine and fabulously expensive, show-ready, wood speedboats. The boats you see are here are at the end of their annual migration to the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance, a highly contested competition, now in its 42nd year, that features some of the world’s finest and most beautifully preserved waterborne craft. While judges begin their duties on the preceding Thursday, the show is open to the public all day on Friday and Saturday, August 8 and 9. Walking the docks, as well as chatting with these prized boats’ restorers and owners, instantly transports a viewer back to an earlier era where vessels were as prized for their meticulous details and handcrafted workmanship as their size and speed.

San Franciscans reverently speak of the lake and its surroundings simply as Tahoe, and the term has been in the Bay Area vernacular for over a half-century. Lake Tahoe, which lies approximately 200 miles northeast of San Francisco (or about an hour’s drive from the RenoTahoe International Airport), straddles the California-Nevada border and is the second-deepest lake in the United States with an average depth of 1,000 feet. At 22 miles long by 12 miles wide, the lake is also vast, and it sits amid many small towns and communities as well as 72 miles of shoreline.

Native Americans were early Tahoe inhabitants, and by the beginning of the 20th century mining and railway industries brought more attention and people to the pristine, high-elevation (6,200 feet) waters. Many of the first Tahoe enthusiasts to build vacation homes on the lakeshore among the granite boulders and evergreens were the Bay Area’s elite and very wealthy. They also brought boats, including the wood speedboats that enjoyed a heyday from the 1930s to the 1950s. At the time the boats were costly— they could be as expensive as a house—and would ultimately become toys for silverscreen celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Brigitte Bardot. Helping fuel the boom; Tahoe’s dry alpine air proved hospitable to the wood boats, which in more humid conditions were susceptible to rotting. Time ticked by, Squaw Valley’s Winter Olympics in 1960 came and went, and fiberglass emerged as a superior material for making speedboat hulls. Then in the summer of 1972, a dozen or so owners of wood boats along the lake brought their old rigs together for drinks and a casual gathering along the shores of Homewood, a west Tahoe community.

Since then, the meeting place, the scope of the meeting and the Tahoe area have all changed. Now called the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance, the threeday affair is yet one more compelling attraction in a summer playground that nowadays tempts visitors with worldclass mountain biking, lake-view golf courses and spa treatments at the RitzCarlton. The Concours is currently held at Homewood’s Obexer’s Boat Company, which coincidentally became Tahoe’s first wood-boat dealership back in 1928. The Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation, the nonprofit organization that hosts the Concours, saw about 60 boats entered last year and expects roughly 50 entries this year. In 2013, approximately 5,000 people gladly paid $25 to $35 each to enjoy intimate looks at the exotic collection of polished wood and gleaming chrome. “We had entries that came from as far east as Florida and as far north as Seattle,” says Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation president Dave Olson. “The Tahoe show is known as shutterstock one of the most prestigious of all.”

Floating Artifacts

Spend an afternoon or two at the wood-boat show and your eyes will encounter beauty that’s as seamless as the massive lake. The Tahoe show stands apart from the dozens of other woodboat shows held annually across the country because much of the watercraft you’ll encounter are a step far beyond what are called “user boats,” or boats that may be well-loved but are also regularly used. Many of the Concours boats, courtesy of careful restoration and/or preservation, are really pristine objets d’art and are judged appropriately. Boats don’t necessarily win awards at Tahoe when they’re better than the competition. They win for having been preserved at—or more likely returned to—showroom condition, even if those boats haven’t seen a showroom for a century. Walk down to the dock during the show and the first thing you’ll notice is the deep, rich wood used on the boats’ decks and hulls. You won’t find prettier wood on a Steinway. Whether it’s Spanish cedar, Honduran mahogany or timber from the Philippines, the vessels’ wood skins glisten under layers of marine varnish. The silhouettes are equally diverse and fetching. Some boat transoms are squared off , while others are rounded or shaped like torpedoes. There are many types of boats on display, from lakers, launches and runabouts to commuters. The boats can come with one, two and even three “cockpits,” or compartments with seats. Entries run as small as 16 feet and well over 30. Spotless chrome and brass hardware and trim shine brilliant against the deep blue sky. The engines gleam, as well. In fact, it’s really the unseen and seemingly prosaic mechanicals inside the motors that command the most attention and respect from the Concours connoisseurs and judges. 

“Engines are the biggest challenge to restore. Back when these boats were built there were a wide variety of manufacturers,” says Terry Fiest, who’s been the Concours d’Elegance’s chief judge since 2008. “It’s hardest to come by the old parts.” Between the efforts made to scour docks, marinas and barns for usable parts, and the time and labor involved in custom fabrication of whatever can’t be found, Fiest says that an engine rebuild can cost upwards of $100,000. Complete, Concours-ready boats can take years to prepare and are valued anywhere from $40,000 to more than $700,000. Some boats featured at Tahoe are one-of-akind. Others might only have been made for one year as part of a limited edition, 100-unit production run.

Like Tahoe itself, some of the Concours boats seem almost too good to be true, and occasionally, in fact, they are. For all of the owners’ painstaking restoration eff orts, their boats may no longer carry the identities they once did. Sometimes engines are “overrestored” according to Fiest, with brass and copper parts that have been polished to look better than the original stock. “We always have to ask, ‘How close is it to how it left the original factory?’” Fiest says, who has competed in the Concours himself, and knows the anxiety of a snooping judge deducting points on a score sheet. “What we’re always looking for is authenticity.” The best in show is therefore the craft that best captures a very special place in time on the lake, back when it was less crowded, slower, quieter, but no less spectacular. If you’re lucky enough, you will be there when an owner fi res up the engine, and if you close your eyes, listen to the simple, throaty rumble of the engine and breathe in the crisp, clear air, you’ll transport yourself back to a simpler, and dare I say, more elegant time on Lake Tahoe.

Playground of the Fit:

Bike: Rent a mountain bike and ride the spectacular 22-mile (round-trip) Flume Trail high above the east side of the lake. 
Golf: Tee off at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, on Tahoe’s south shore.
Spa: Choose from the skin, water, touch and nail therapies available at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, located at the
Northstar California Ski Resort near Truckee, Calif.
Dine: Make reservations cat Zagat-rated Evan’s American Gourmet Café, in South Lake Tahoe, for excellent seafood entrées and its wine selection.
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ike: Local favorites include hikes around the lake’s iconic Emerald Bay and up,-foot Mt. Tallac in the Desolation Wilderness. “Gamble: The casino at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, situated along the lake’s gorgeous northeast shore, is a scenic drive from either of Inspirato’s luxury destinations in the area. 

Make Yourself at Home: 

Lake Tahoe Squaw Valley or Northstar at Tahoe? Members can take their pick. The 5,000-square-foot Apex Signature Residence in Squaw Valley hosts 10 guests spread between five bedrooms in a secluded mountain-side setting. At Northstar, three Inspirato Signature Residences with two- or three-bedroom options await members who want to be at the center of the ski area’s summer activities. Both locations are a scenic drive to the crystal blue waters of Lake Tahoe.

Andie Johnson’s picks Inspirato Personal Vacation Advisor  

Eat: Drive a car or rent a boat and cruise to the dock for lunch at Sunnyside Restaurant on the lake and take in one of the best views you can find in Tahoe.
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ay Trip: The aerial tram at Squaw Valley takes you to 8,200 feet and the High Camp Pool and Spa. Take a dip, soak in the hot tub and breathe in the crisp, cool air.

Year Round Adventures; Aspen, Colorado

Year Round Adventures; Aspen, Colorado

August 1, 2019

During the year-end holidays, Aspen’s busiest week of the winter, “Campo Dave” Ellsweig works round the clock, managing Aspen’s popular Italian eatery Campo de Fiori. Tall, dark and handsome, he choreographs one of the most popular spaces in town with ease, sending plates of crispy frutti di mare to impatient patrons and decadent espresso martinis to the bar’s loyal following. Does he mind working and not skiing? Not at all. Ellsweig knows much of Aspen’s best skiing happens in March. That’s when he hikes up Highlands Bowl in a T-shirt to ski deep north-facing powder and wrap up a morning session on the slopes with a wine-saturated lunch at Aspen Highland’s mid-mountain restaurant, Cloud Nine

Back in town after lunch, he can pull up a chaise lounge at the Sky Hotel on Sunday afternoon when the poolside DJ is in full swing. Or say he decides to ski Aspen Mountain: He’ll take the slow Couch quad, ski down sun-softened bumps before joining the lift operators for a barbecue at the bottom. From there it’s a couple of steps to check out the band outside at Ajax Tavern. For dinner, there’s king crab tempura at Matsuhisa a few blocks away. Every day, Ellsweig can set out to do something different: click into alpine touring skis to skin up Aspen Mountain, Nordic ski around the town golf course or ride a fat-tire’d snow bike up the unplowed road to the Maroon Bells.

It’s springtime in Aspen and anything’s possible. No, Ellsweig doesn’t understand why anyone would go to the beach in March. There are plenty of other months perfect for sun bathing, like December. March boasts the deepest base depths of the winter and more open terrain than at any point in the season. Colorado’s snowiest month of the year intersperses spring storms that bring deep powder days with abundant sunshine that create idyllic spring snow conditions, forgiving moguls and groomed runs made for carving turns. And the atmosphere on the mountain warms with the temperatures. Groups mingle on gondola square or atop their favorite run. And the deck scenes come alive. “In spring, you don’t have to get up early in the morning to get the best tracks—the ski day starts at 10 or 11 a.m.,” says Aspen-based pro skier Chris Davenport. “It’s all about timing in the spring.” 

What Davenport means is that the snow that freezes overnight is rock hard in the early morning, perfect around midday and slushy and sticky by late afternoon. You’re looking for the daily harvest of “corn,” a granular snow surface that turns mediocre skiers into phenoms, and you’ll find it by following the sun as it warms up the snow from the southeast to southwest, lower mountain to upper mountain. And with four ski mountains—Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk—you can hunt for corn on a different mountain each day or on the same day thanks to complimentary shuttle rides between each area. 

On Aspen Mountain, Davenport recommends skiing the steep, east-facing aspen trees off the top of F.I.S. chair, known collectively as “The Dumps,” as soon as they’re warmed by the morning sunlight. “Ski a groomer like North American to test the snow and see if it’s transforming,” he says. “If your edges grip into the snow and hold a carve, take F.I.S., ski a perfect lap in The Dumps, go up the gondola and do it again.” “If it hasn’t changed,” he says, “swing into Bonnie’s midmountain restaurant for an oatmeal pancake.” 

At Aspen Highlands, longer days and warm sunshine motivate skiers to make the 45-minute hike up to the 12,392-foot-high top of Highland Bowl. It’s a long way to shoulder your skis, so bring a backpack or purchase a ski strap at the Aspen Highlands ski patrol shack near the start of the hike. While blustery conditions often limit summit time midwinter, March’s plentiful windless, sunny days allow hikers to linger atop longer and take in the most dramatic alpine views in the area. Depending on your skiing pleasure, you’ll ski down 1,500 vertical feet of wide-open steeps or flow through tree glades. When the sun has overcooked everything on the mountain, the Bowl’s north-facing G-Zones can still harbor good snow.

If it’s your first time skiing the bowl, hire a pro like local ski mountaineer and ski instructor Ted Mahon to find the best stashes. Beginners and kids love Buttermilk’s gentle terrain year round, but in spring, its two terrain parks soften up enough to make jump landings a little more forgiving. At Snowmass, where intermediate groomers reign, it’s hard to beat cruising any of the runs accessed from the Elk Camp chairlift on a perfect spring morning. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, head to the Sheer Bliss run and look for one of the gates leading to Hang On’s or Buckskin. Spring storms blast the high elevation terrain at Snowmass. After a storm, head to the top of the mountain to ski spring powder before the sun’s rays bake the snow. 

By March, conditions in the backcountry also grow safer and Aspen offers plenty of ways to ski beyond the resort boundary, no matter your experience level. Ride a luxury snowcat to the backside of Aspen Mountain with Aspen Mountain Powder Tours, where you’ll score fresh tracks down gentle alpine bowls with expansive views of the picturesque Elk Mountains. Aspen Expeditions’ guides lead clients to lift-accessed backcountry off all four of Aspen’s resorts. Ski wide-open intermediate terrain off Snowmass Mountain or black diamond steeps off Aspen Highlands. Take it even farther off the map and to a higher level of luxury with one of Aspen Expeditions’ Epicurean Hut Trips. Ski on alpine touring equipment to one of Aspen’s many backcountry cabins for a lavish meal prepared by a gourmet chef, sleep to the sound of a crackling fire and enjoy fresh powder the next morning after another over-the-top meal. 

After months of sitting vacant due to the freezing cold, the decks around the mountains and in town defrost and host the liveliest scenes in Aspen and some of the world’s greatest people watching. The famous two-tiered deck at Bonnie’s on Aspen Mountain should be your first stop. Grab a cup of white bean chili, a mug of warm red wine, a slice of authentic apple strudel with hand-whipped cream and take a seat in the sun to experience Aspen’s best patio atmosphere. At Aspen Highlands, Cloud Nine’s deck turns into a Euro disco. At Snowmass Village, Viceroy Snowmass offers ski-in/ ski-out sushi at Nest and a vodka bar steps from the pool. For something more posh and quintessentially Aspen, suss out the orange umbrellas of The Little Nell’s pop-up champagne bar, The Oasis, located mid-slope on Aspen Mountain. Once there, raise a glass of Veuve Clicquot and toast the fact that right here, right now, this is the best that Aspen gets. 

Sustenance, Well Deserved 

Spring Café: Start your day out right with a hearty and healthy breakfast, including energy packed smoothies. Warm up with a chai latté made with their homemade nut milk.
Ajax Tavern: An Aspen icon for decades, Ajax Tavern’s open deck at the base of Aspen Mountain is a must. Order the restaurant’s famous double burger served with truffle fries and kick back as local bands offer a live soundtrack to the end of your day on the slopes.
Burlingame Cabin: Once a sheepherder’s cabin, the Burlingame is a short snowcat ride away from Snowmass Village, but thanks to its secluded location tucked among an aspen grove, it seems a world apart. The menu is decidedly cowboy with barbecue pork, fresh chili and mac and cheese served family-style. Local storytellers and musicians entertain guests throughout.
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro: Book an outside table for the last seating of the day at this mid-mountain institution at Aspen Highlands. When you book the reservation, order the raclette, a melted cheese that you can slather over baked potatoes or air-dried beef. That way it’s ready as soon as you sit down. The extensive wine list and unmatched views of the iconic Maroon Bells mountains will keep you occupied until ski patrol signals last call.  
David Burke Kitchen: The celebrity chef opened a spinoff of his eponymous New York City restaurant in downtown Aspen that features locally sourced dry-aged meats (think elk, venison, wild boar) and a seasonal menu.
Richard Brasseries & Liquor Bar/Bia Hoi Southeast Asian Street Food: A Food & Wine “Best New Chef,” Tim Goodell from Los Angeles has partnered with Related Colorado to open two new restaurants in Snowmass Village this winter. Ricard Brasserie serves classic French fare such as prime steak tartare, oysters and house-made charcuterie. Bia Hoi’s draw is an extensive drink menu that puts a Colorado spin on tropical cocktails thanks to AJAX spirits and beers from local distillers and brewers.

Make Yourself at Home: 

Aspen Members can choose from one of five Signature Residences ranging from the 4-bedroom, 4.5-bath, 3,800-square foot Encore home that sits one block away from the Aspen Mountain gondola to the 7-bedroom, 7.5-bath, 7,988-square-foot Blue Spruce manse located alongside Hunter Creek on the sunny side of Aspen Valley. Aspen Highlands skiers can settle into the 5-bedroom, 5.5-bath, 5,793-square-foot Roaring Fork residence and walk to the lifts. After a day on the slopes, guests have acess to Ritz-Carlton Club spa.

Logan Taylor’s List; Personal Vacation Advisor 

Shopping: Downtown Aspen is the Madison Avenue of the Rockies—and arguably the chicest shopping town between Chicago and Las Vegas— due to its cluster of upscale boutiques. Find the latest from Prada, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Ralph Lauren and more among local faves such as Goruch.
Spa: Remède Spa at the St. Regis offers customized treatments.

Whale of a Tale

Whale of a Tale

July 31, 2019

To celebrate my 44th birthday last February, my wife and four of our friends booked a last-minute Inspirato Jaunt™ vacation to Punta de Mita on the Pacific side of Mexico, 10 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. We enjoy vacations near water, and I’ve gotten into sport fishing the past few years, so it seemed like a perfect fit for our first Inspirato trip. We arrived at our five-bedroom Vista Bahia residence at Los Veneros Resort Residences and Beach Club to fresh margaritas, martinis, beers and meat prepped for grilling. There were floor-to-ceiling accordion doors leading outside, and the whole front of the residence opened up to a patio and a private pool overlooking the ocean. There seemed to be an endless supply of chips and salsa available at all times.

Each morning we awoke to the smell of breakfast being prepared by our personal chef who started our day with delicious pancakes, waffles, quiche and huevos rancheros. During the day we enjoyed couples’ massages and specialty cocktails while looking out over the Playa de Estiladeras. The nights that we weren’t grilling and relaxing by the pool, we went out for lobster dinners along Puerto Vallarta’s famed malecón, or boardwalk, a short drive away.

They took care of everything—I was never left wondering what would happen next. We even had a rental car delivered to us with such detailed instructions on where to go and how to get there that we had no problem navigating our way around the scenic peninsula. Sometimes it’s nerve-wracking trying to navigate in another country, but everything went incredibly smooth during our five-day stay.

The highlight of our visit was day three, when we took an all-day fishing charter out of the marina at Punta de Mita on a 35-foot-vessel. There were huge swells out on the open ocean, but our captain did a phenomenal job of maneuvering us through the chop. I can’t say enough about how fantastic the captain and crew of the Banderas in Paradise (BIP) charter were that day. I’ve been on fishing boats where no one really talks and there’s no effort to connect with you. This team was super supportive and made an effort to get to know us. They seemed to be having just as much fun as we were out there on the ocean. 

When I started reeling in a fish, the crew ran around the boat making sure there were no obstructions. I welcomed their assistance since I lost a marlin after 30 minutes of serious effort during a previous fishing charter because I gave the line too much slack. I didn’t want that to happen again. I was lucky enough to snag the largest of the four fish caught that day: a rooster fish that was about 4 feet long. My adrenaline was pumping. It was quite a birthday catch. On the water later that day, we also spotted two large humpback whales and a baby whale a mere 20 yards from the boat. Our boat looked small compared to this trio of giants. They swam right by us and would breach, splash, drop and shake their tails. It was very like something out of a National Geographic documentary, one mashed up with a SeaWorld show. At one point the whales glided through the water side-by-side, jumping and weaving back-and-forth between one another and truly showcasing their playful side. It was as if they knew that we were there to watch them and decided to put on a show for us.

Back at our residence, we sat out on the balcony and spotted a few more whales and dolphins popping up out of the water. We were thoroughly impressed. While talking with locals about our great sightings, we learned that we witnessed the tail end of the annual whale migration. The height of migration is a few weeks earlier and most whales have moved on by late-February. If we’d come just a little bit earlier, we might have seen ten times the number of whales. Whenever Kim and I get together with the other couples from the trip, we always talk about our day out on the boat and our desire to head back to Punta de Mita to see the whales again. In fact, by the time you read this, we’ll have probably already returned. 

Castle of the Sea

Castle of the Sea

July 31, 2019

In a corner of the economy that few get to see and even fewer get to experience, there exists a conveyance known as the mega-yacht. Nothing short of castles upon the sea, these vessels are more than 100 feet long, 25 feet in beam, and more than 50 feet tall. Bulging with four decks and more than 5,000 square feet of living space, they are multilevel Park Avenue penthouses—that float.

Lady J, at 142 feet, is the definition of mega-yacht; and what better place to show it off than the island of Providenciales, part of the Turks and Caicos archipelago. As we walk the pier to board, Lady J’s crew of nine, including captain Steve, snap to sharp attention to welcome us. The yacht has a capacity of 12, but its passenger list seldom exceeds 10, meaning the ship’s ratio of crew to guest is roughly 1:1 so there is no wish left unanswered or, more impressively, unanticipated. A few steps up to the main deck and we are given cool towels and still cooler champagne. While the captain explains the vessel’s safety features on our introductory tour, I can’t help but eye both the collection of wines and the collection of water-born sea toys that includes two jet skis, a 32-foot, fishing/waterski/do-whatever-the-hell-you-want speedboat, and an arsenal of associated apparatus from paddleboards to wakeboards to banana boats, all accessible from a hardwood sports deck that extends invitingly off the stern a foot or so above the water.

Morning begins with a breakfast of smoked salmon, eggs Benedict and cappuccino as we cruise toward our anchorage off a lovely coastline on the west side of the island. Once there, the crew squires us aboard the tender for a day on a deserted beach where upon arrival we find beach chairs arranged, umbrellas unfurled, and champagne on ice. The beach itself is beyond pristine, having been raked by the crew hours earlier.

The staff of Lady J operate in a manner that combines the most important elements of white glove service (in some cases even including white gloves), the U.S. Secret Service (each wearing an earpiece to assure that a guest’s mildest requirements can be promptly met) and of traditional hospitality (“Is there anything at all I can get you?”). When one evening a guest decides to have an unannounced midnight swim, it seems as if two of the crew arrive with waiting towels even before he hits the water. “We have a swimmer!” is quietly heard over the radio to a listener being poured some chamomile in the main parlor.

We spend the morning speeding on jet skis, falling off paddleboards, and snorkeling on the reef. Given the choice of lunch on the beach or back at Lady J, the guests agree to return to the ship for chef Nate’s ministrations, which this time included a lovely quinoa salad and some perfectly seasoned grilled chicken. While some of our group elect to spend the afternoon on the sun deck replete with a hot-tub and comfy chaise lounges, Captain Steve suggests we try our hand at some game fishing. Thirty minutes later, we are off in Lady J’s powerboat equipped with tackle well suited for Moby Dick. Steve, who’s an angler by heart, put us on fish almost immediately, and we return with both fresh mackerel and some very tired arms.

Fatigued from a full day of indulgence, we assemble in the formal dining room for a carefully crafted sauté of diver scallops, shrimp, and lemon flounder.  It is delectable, as is the freshly baked bread, in which Nate takes particular pride With the exception of some unexpected rain which the crew handles with the deftness and coordination of a race car pit crew, our cruise on Lady J is a mix of luxury, excitement, relaxation, and service that leave us thinking only of the next time we might be aboard.

Providenciales: Jewel of the West Indies 

The gleaming, reef-enclosed island of Providenciales sits at the northwest corner of the Turks and Caicos island chain, yet it’s neither Turk, nor Caico. It’s not technically part of “the Caribbean” either according to purists who claim that the Turks and Caicos, along with the Bahamas, are not Caribbean islands. Whatever the case, to most visitors the warm, gentle and gin-clear water that explodes in turquoise and surrounds Providenciales is a decidedly Caribbean experience. What’s not Caribbean about it? That Turks and Caicos appears to be relatively underdeveloped with respect to other islands, which are both farther away from the United States and no more beautiful. “Provo”—as the locals call Providenciales—lies a mere 500 miles from Miami, and the airport’s 9,000-foot runway can serve the largest jets in the world. The islands are also possessed of the earth’s third-largest barrier reef (behind Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and that of Belize) and offer some of the best diving and fishing in the Americas.

Unfurl the Sails in the seas of the Caribbean

Unfurl the Sails in the Seas of the Caribbean

July 30, 2019

On the morning of Friday, April 4, the waters of the Sir Francis Drake Channel, which runs through the heart of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), will be teaming with cruiser-racer and bareboat sailboats, all waiting for the blast of an air horn and wave of a flag that signals the start of the 43rdAnnual BVI Spring Regatta. The captains aboard the boats will have their sails set and bows pointed to cross the starting line and gracefully carve through the Caribbean’s stunning cobalt waters.  Several races will stretch over the next three days but for many, the fun starts five days earlier at Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola when the 12th annual Sailing Festival begins and the party scene kicks into gear, fueled by a generous helping of painkillers, the signature rum-based drink of the BVI. 

As sailing events go, the regatta and festival may just be the most democratic and accessible in the world. It has something for everyone from America’s Cup and Olympic sailors to neophytes who want to give competitive sailing a try and even for people just looking to enjoy those painkillers and hitch a ride on a boat. The attraction: The BVI’s geography makes it a veritable theme park for the sailing set.

Warm Water, Hot Sailing 

The British Virgin Islands’ archipelago consists of 60-odd islands nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, about 70 miles east of Puerto Rico. Christopher Columbus came across this collection of long-dormant volcano remnants in 1493. Notorious pirates such as Sir Francis Drake, Blackbeard and Black Sam Bellamy, credited with capturing 53 ships in his day, all sought refuge in the numerous coves and anchorages hidden throughout the BVI during their careers.  Fast forward to 1972 when members of the BVI Hotel and Tourist Association decided to put on a regatta to bolster the growing recreational sailing community. One of them, Peter Haycraft, served as the regatta’s chairman for 25 years and has the distinction of sailing in every race to date. It started off small, consisting of roughly 20 boats; mostly tiny one- or two-person boats such as Squibs and Sunfish racing between islands over the course of a weekend. This year more than 3,000 people will flock to the Sir Francis Drake Channel for the Regatta and Sailing Festival, with 125 boats expected to participate. What draws them? Phenomenal sailing in an incomparable setting.

“We’re very fortunate to have constant trade winds and fair seas,” says Judy Petz, director of the BVI Spring Regatta. In late March and early April, when it’s still frigid in much of the northern hemisphere, the BVI enjoys days with temperatures in the 80s (F), but the sea breeze keeps it comfortable. That same breeze blows steady through the islands, which form a protective circle around the waters between St. John to the west, Tortola to the north, Virgin Gorda to the east, and a string of close-together islands to the south. The Drake Channel, a deepwater straight that’s roughly nine miles long and four miles wide, runs between Tortola and the southern chain and bisects the territory. In all, the BVI offers nearly 60 square miles of nautical paradise. For the week of March 31 through April 6, the spiritual home of island sailing sets up on the docks of Nanny Cay Marina, just west of Tortola’s main city, Road Town. By 6 p.m. on that Monday, the docks will be shaking from the good vibrations of a reggae backbeat, as the first Mount Gay Welcome Party kick-starts the week’s festivities.   On Tuesday morning you can participate in the Round Tortola Race, which doesn’t earn points in the regatta but is a cherished part of the weeklong festival. Boats that enter are trying to win the Nanny Cay Challenge for the fastest sailing time around the island. (The current record is 3 hours, 29 minutes, 41 seconds.) There’s another “pre-race” race for fun on Wednesday that ends in a beach barbecue. On Friday, with the start of that first official regatta race, it’s game on.

Sailing’s Caribben Open 

Fortunately, you don’t even have to know your spinnaker from your jib to take part in the BVI Spring Regatta. “There are all kinds of people involved, from Olympic and America’s Cup competitors to people who have never been on a boat before,” Petz says, going on to point out that the event has drawn competitors from as many as 17 different countries including the U.S., Canada, Italy, China and Croatia.

In all, there are 16 classes of boats that race in three different areas throughout the islands. Because the water is so protected—and land is almost always on the horizon—sailors rarely find themselves in adverse situations.  Experienced sailors without their own vessel typically charter a raceready bareboat, which is the equivalent of renting a car from the airport: You pick it up, sail off and return it when you’re done. It’s a family sailboat, with no crew or captain provided, and no spinnakers (the big billowy sails that are used to sail downwind). Most charters start on Tortola, the most populous island and the home of the international airport. 

“The BVI is a great place to try your first regatta,” Petz says. “It’s very relaxed and many of the boats are a lot smaller, maybe 40–50 feet.” With an experienced captain, it’s a safer endeavor, and you can bring along some of your own crew and participate as much as you want, from learning how to work the sails and man the tiller to simply moving from one side of the boat to the other to maintain the proper keel angle (the way the boat leans as it glides through the water).  

Depending on the boat’s size, a crew consists of anywhere from two to 22 people. If you don’t want to charter an entire boat, there are ways to sign up to be a part of someone else’s crew, with spots available for any skill level from novice to expert. After the last race on Sunday, everyone makes their way over to Regatta Village on the beach at Nanny Cay for the awards ceremony where the winners pick up their trophies and relive their experiences, while the revelers try to remember theirs.

 With first-, second- and third-place prizes given out for all 16 classes, there’s plenty of love to go around, starting with the winners who pick up bottles of champagne or top-shelf rum and quickly disseminate it to their crews. It may be the only time all week where a captain’s shout, “Bottom’s up!” is met with a cheer instead of fear.

Sailor’s Paradise 

The same characteristics that make the BVI ideal for a regatta make it easy for newbies to give cruising a try. For one, it’s hard to get lost. “It’s mostly line of sight sailing,” says Bob Friel, the former editor in chief of Caribbean Travel & Life magazine about the friendly confines of the Drake Passage. “It works for sailors of any experience level.” “Every day you’ve got a pretty straight forward plan,” Friel says. “You wake up in a gorgeous anchorage with a beach bar and sail to another gorgeous anchorage with a beach bar.” Many charter companies such as Palm Yacht Charters offer three-day sailboat charters that give you a taste of the island cruising life. Or opt for a day-cruise outing that involves snorkeling, island hopping and a stop at a popular restaurant or beach bar.

The bars of the BVI are stuff of legend, starting with the Soggy Dollar Bar in White Bay on Jost Van Dyke. Set back from the white sand beach in a canopy of palm trees, the Soggy Dollar earned its name from patrons paying for their drinks with wet money from swimming in or falling off their dinghies—there’s no dock so you have to anchor off the beach. The Soggy Dollar lays claim as the home of the original painkiller. Just around the corner in Great Harbour, there’s Foxy’s Bar. The key is to go in the daytime and hope the legendary proprietor, Foxy Callwood, is performing. Callwood has called himself the laziest man on earth, but his bar and musical performances have attained cult status. “He’s the most famous raconteur in the BVI and will make up a song about you and your crew on the spot,” Friel says. Those lucky enough to earn an original composition leave with some of the same sailing street cred attained from a weathered Mount Gay hat. 

If bar-hopping BVI style isn’t your style, book one of the best dives in the entire Caribbean, the wreck of the Rhone, a British mail ship that sunk during a hurricane in 1867. Pirate enthusiasts and literary types can investigate Norman Island, the place that reputedly inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write Treasure Island. Or cruise over to the natural wonder of The Baths on Virgin Gorda, where giant boulders along the beach trap secluded pools of water. And there’s the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda, perhaps the most well known sailing destination in the  BVI with its sheltered North Sound, an ideal playground for small boats.

Jill Neumann’s list Personal Vacation Advisor

Beach: The best is going to be the sugar-white sand and aqua-blue waters of Cane Garden Bay on Tortola. 
Eat:  You can’t beat the local flavors of the Banana Keet Café located in the hills above Cane Garden Bay  
Spa: At Serenity Spa inside Sopers Hole Marina, they’ll pamper you with everthing from massages and facials to yoga and acupuncture. 
Day Trip: Hop over to Virgin Gorda and explore The Baths, a collection of giant boulders along the beach. It’s the BVI’s signature natural wonder and photo op.

Into the Wild

Into the Wild

July 29, 2019

When we flew into Nairobi last December, a host greeted my family and ushered us into two Jeeps stocked with cold beers and safari-style wide-brimmed hats. My husband and I booked the African safari as our first Inspirato trip, bringing along his parents and our three children. Our route to the hotel cut straight through Nairobi National Park. 

As soon we entered the park, my kids poked their heads out of the top of Jeep to snap photos of a lioness a mere 2 feet from our vehicle. We were still close enough to Nairobi to see the backdrop of the city, yet we were suddenly immersed in a jungle setting with a rhino and a pride of lions in the distance. It was completely wild and surreal. 

The next day we flew to the Chyulu Hills area and landed in the middle of the bush. Our driver and guide, Seki, a tall man with a big grin and calm and gentle presence, met us in a Land Rover with elevated seats and drove us through the flat, dusty plain to Ol Donyo Lodge. On the drive we saw zebras, elephants, and giraffes.

 At the hotel, you could see the watering hole used by the area’s elephants. Our rooms had a view of Mt. Kilimanjaro, private swimming pools, and a rooftop bed for sleeping under the stars. Two of the nights Seki took us out for “sundowners,” where he drove us out into the savannah and pulled out pewter cups for cocktails and a table for hors d’oeuvres. 

A surprising perk of the trip was having everyone unplugged from cell phones and iPads. My son Wilson, 22, made friends with the staff and went out to play volleyball in a rigged-up court out back. We read books by the pool and played cards as a family at night. There were horse stables right off the property, so we spent a day on horseback, viewing giraffes in the distance. 

My husband and I went mountain biking and saw a Maasai man dressed in red warrior-looking garb herding cattle across the plain. Young children ran alongside the cows and stopped to wave to us. We toured a Maasai village with mud huts. Women and children sold wares and my children bartered for knives and spears, which they somehow managed to get through customs on the way home.

On our fifth day of the trip, also Christmas morning, we boarded a charter flight to the Bateleur Camp. Our pilot flew low over the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, giving us a spectacular aerial view of hippos, elephants, and giraffes. It was one of the most exciting parts of the trip and something I will never forget. 

Just off the airstrip, our hosts set up a table with cookies, juice, and champagne. It was such a special greeting. Bateleur Camp was mostly wood and had an open-air living room and bar. Our fixed tents had thatched roofs and stone showers. I felt like I was on a movie set. Monkeys hung out in the trees and warthogs wandered across the lawn. 

Each day we headed out on game drives, traveling along bumpy dirt paths over rolling green hills. We witnessed a lion trying to chase down a zebra (the zebra got away), other zebras lingering near a river with more than 50 visible crocs, and two cheetahs eating the remains of a recent kill. We saw hundreds of elephants and got so close to giraffes that we could have touched them. 

Each day after the tours, we returned to the tents for a delicious family-style meal. I was a little concerned at first since my son and I are vegetarians, but our hosts were extremely accommodating and always made sure to offer us a meat-free option. For our Christmas dinner the tables were covered in rose petals and lined with candles and crystal, a beautiful experience. 

After arriving in Kenya, we learned about hot air balloon rides and decided to add it to our itinerary. Toward the end of our trip, we floated over the spectacular landscape at sunrise. Besides the noise of the balloon inflating, it was completely quiet and peaceful. I highly recommend it. 

I have my mother-in-law, Sally Knapp, to thank for giving us the idea for the trip. She’d previously attempted to organize a family safari about a decade ago and it never panned out. Now that she’s in her mid-70s, my husband and I really wanted to make it happen for her. We’re so glad we did. She loved it. It was the trip of a lifetime.

High Speed Quad

High Speed Quad

July 29, 2019

While dining on breakfast in your sprawling mountain lodge or spacious suite in Telluride’s mountain village, you hear the telltale whup-whupwhup of a copter’s rotor blades throbbing through the mountain air. Seconds later the graceful Bell 407 alights right outside the mountain village, a short drive or walk from your breakfast table. Telluride Helitrax, founded in 1982, was the only heli-ski operation in the state till 2008, and remains one of the only spots in the continental U.S. where a helicopter picks up guests right outside the town’s luxury resorts and homes. Savor it. This doesn’t happen in Vail or Aspen. When you climb into that Bell 407, prepare to kiss your sense of detachment good-bye. The second your Plexiglas bubble lifts off the deck, you’ll love heli-skiing. And you’ll love it even more once the turns begin.

Telluride Helitrax not only accesses fresh, untracked mountainsides; it reaches some of the highest ski terrain on the continent, 10,000 to 13,500 feet above sea level. Its permit area encompasses more than 200 square miles of high alpine basins, cirques, and summits surrounding Telluride to the north, south and east. Almost all the terrain is above tree line, allowing effortless, wideopen turns down unobstructed slopes.

Because contemporary powder skis turn intermediates into experts and experts into skiing gods, you don’t need elite skills to enjoy Helitrax. You simply need to be, as the company puts it, “an advanced intermediate or above, with a sense of adventure and in reasonable physical condition.” While the slopes are ungroomed, they fall at moderate angles, resembling a double blue or single black run at Telluride Ski Resort. So relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the San Juan Mountains, Colorado’s closest resemblance to the Swiss Alps, including views of iconic Wilson Peak, which might seem familiar: It’s the perfect pyramid one sees on the label of Coors beer.

The view from the copter is fantastic, but once you touch down on a remote ridgeline with thousands of untracked powder below you, the real fun begins. Leading the way is a high-altitude, all-star roster of guides. There’s Joe Shults, who’s spent 30 years in the Telluride area working as a professional ski patroller, snow safety director, and heli-ski guide. There’s Matt Steen, who recently worked as an avalanche forecaster for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. And let’s not forget Angela Hawse, one of only eight women in America to attain the prestigious certification from the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association. Rounding out the crew is Brian “Speed” Miller, who co-founded Helitrax back in ’82 and is renowned as the area’s consummate avalanche forecaster. As Hawse says, “Most heli-ski guides are the best in the industry because it’s such a sought after job.”

At the landing zone, you step out onto what feels like the top of the world, the guide grabs your skis and waves off the helicopter. Once it’s gone, the peak becomes startlingly quiet and pristine. You click into your bindings, then shoot down virgin fluff to the lower landing zone where the copter will meet your group. The guide will normally go first, asking you to stay either left or right of his track, yet the snow you ski will be fresh, unmarred by other human beings. You’ll make as many turns as you like, but feel free to fly straight down. The sensation of high speed without friction is mind-altering, bucket-list stuff. When you reach the bottom, you’ll be grinning madly and fired up to do it all over again. Helitrax normally provides skiers with six runs a day, which usually translates into 10,000 to 14,000 vertical feet of descent. In contrast to the massive helicopters of British Columbia operations, Helitrax’s Bell 407 limits the experience to a small, agile group of four close friends or family plus the guide. Translation: no waiting for strangers. You’ll spend the non-skiing time shooting photos, eating snacks and lunch (included), and raving about the turns and scenery.

Expert skiers can choose to take it up a notch. If enough talented people can form a suitable group, Helitrax will fly them to test pieces such as Upper Waterfall, a wide-open, undulating roller coaster of a run that funnels into five little couloirs known as the Waterfall Chutes. Or, better yet, Sheep Chute. Lacing its way between imposing walls of rock, Sheep Chute pinches down to a width of 30 feet before opening to a more manageable, less claustrophobic 70 feet. The entire chute falls steeply (40 degrees) for 1,500 exhilarating vertical feet. Ski that, and no one will doubt your abilities anywhere.

 
Such options argue favorably for heli-skiing the Lower 48. Sure, British Columbia is where the sport was invented, and its mammoth operations are ever impressive. But their heli-ski lodges are incredibly isolated, with no charming Victorian town like Telluride to see or visit. They may serve incredible food, and offer downtime yoga, but you always know the nightlife highlight will be more cribbage games with the boys. Alaska can be even more trying. The finest Alaskan skiing happens out of Valdez, a dreary sea-level oil town. Because Valdez receives maritime weather (as opposed to Telluride’s continental systems), gray clouds can cancel flying for days, even weeks, at a time. As such, there’s a name for the misery that envelops a soul when dreams of the perfect ski trip wither away under day after day of low ceilings: Valdisease. But at Telluride, there is no chance of Valdisease; your flight home ends right at the mountain village, where you can walk back to your room (or drive back to your house), freshen up, and then meet your family for dinner, maybe pointing out the window at the remote high alpine mountains that you skied today, carving lines no one else at the table—or the restaurant for that matter—could.

Adventure with Altitude

Adventure with Altitude

July 26, 2019

If you’re looking for a departure from beaches and boardwalks this summer, consider an unconventional mountain escape that’ll have you oohing and ahhing over expansive vistas. Fill your lungs to the brim with fresh air, and feel your heart pound with exhilaration. However you prefer to balance exercise and adventure, your family will cherish these unforgettable experiences forever. 

Get Here: Trips depart from Aspen Paragliding’s downtown Aspen office mornings at 6:45, 8:30 and 10:30. Arrive 15 minutes early, and plan two hours for the experience.  
Be Prepared: Bring a wind jacket, sunglasses, walking or running shoes, and your camera.  
Suitable For: Children 3 and older, and adults who can run 20 steps. aspenparagliding.com $225 per person.

You’d think soaring through the crisp, mountain air mere feet from the peaks as the sun peers over 14,000-foot summits is an experience exclusive to red-tailed hawks, golden eagles and the occasional helicopter or small jet. But when you sign up for a ride with Aspen Paragliding, you too can take flight on the Rocky Mountain thermals. This is as close as you can come to truly flying as you step off a cliff, arms spread, to catch the updraft and ride the breeze. In Aspen, the experience begins when you pile into a four-wheel-drive truck for a winding drive up the Aspen Mountain service roads as marmots and deer and even the occasional bear or elk scamper out of the way.

Step out of the Jeep onto one of two well-manicured grassy runways—high-altitude greenbelts that in the winter are Walsh’s and Ruthie’s ski runs. Enjoy the sights while your pilot lays out the paraglider and helps you into your harness, which doubles as your seat while you’re in flight. The pilot attaches himself to the paraglider and to you with Kevlar straps called risers. When the wind is right, he says, “Go,” and you sprint 10 to 20 steps downhill. Seconds later, you feel the tug of the wing above you, you run faster, and then your legs are moving but they’re not touching the ground. You lift off and you’re floating above a maze of snowless ski slopes.

The wind is brisk but not overly so, and the smell of earth is quickly replaced by fresh air and ozone as the ground sinks below you. The pilot scoops you onto a wooden plank seat, and your hands are free to snap photos as you meander and serenely glide 3,000 feet down to Aspen Valley. Spot a hawk playing in a thermal, and your pilot will steer you to join the bird as it hovers in the sky. Panoramic views in all directions let you pinpoint Aspen’s famed Wheeler Opera House, the craggy Maroon Bells, the cleft of Independence Pass and precipitous Highlands Bowl, which still hides snow in its gullies.

Alex Palmaz, owner of the company and its lead pilot, learned to paraglide in Aspen 20 years ago from the school he now owns. Since then he has flown more than 4,000 tandem flights, and 6,000 flights in all. If you’re game, he’ll let you steer. Brake toggles control the wing overhead. Lean left, look left and pull the left toggle, and the wing sweeps left. It’s the same to the right. Lean; look; brake. Best of all, you needn’t worry about the landing as each passenger harness has a bottommounted airbag to make your return to Earth gentle. You may not spend more than 20 minutes in the air, but the memory will last a lifetime.

Get Here: Tyax will pick you up in Vancouver or Whistler and fly you via float plane to the start of the trip.
Time Commitment: Ride for one to seven days. For the true hutto-hut experience, we recommend spending two to three nights.
Equipment: Bring your own hydration pack to carry water, snacks and an extra layer, and a sleeping bag liner for the huts. Tyax provides breakfast, lunch and dinner, and transports your bags each day.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced riders, teenage and older.  $1,980 per person, two-night trip.

As the float plane skitters to a splashy stop on Lorna Lake, or perhaps one of the other puddles sprinkled throughout Canada’s South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park—150 miles, and a 90-minute flight, from Vancouver—your skin prickles with delight at the silence and serenity of having millions of acres of virtually untouched wilderness seemingly to yourself. There is no hum of other planes or cars; not so much as the braying of an odd farm animal. You’ve flown here because there are no roads or rail lines into the park. Lorna’s waters lap gently at the shore as you wait for your guide to retrieve your bike from the bowels of the five-seater Dehavilland Beaver. Helmeted and ready, you mount your trusty steed and ride off into the mountains. 

Wind your way over shale-littered passes with sweeping views of the jagged Coast Range, snow occasionally crunching beneath your bike tires. Then race downhill through sprawling meadows—a rainbow of endless azalea, Indian hellebore, arrowleaved groundsel, Indian paintbrush, Sitka valerian and lupine quivering as you whiz past. You’re in the capable hands of the Tyax Wilderness Resort & Spa’s expert mountain bike guides, and you’re pedaling toward the first of as many as six simple and comfortable huts—each with its own personality, but all with soft beds, hot showers and hot, hearty meals—that will be your home each night. Bike for three, four or seven days, three to eight hours a day. Awake each morning to snow-capped peaks reflected in a mountain lake, with a lone heron gliding silently by. If you’re truly adventurous, skip the shower and take a frosty dip in the glacier-fed lake. After breakfast, it’s another quad-burning climb to the top of a pass followed by the sweetreward of a sweeping descent through mineralstained soils, the crumbling remnants of old lava flows and breezy groves of iridescent aspen. 

You might see a string of packhorses delivering your bags to that night’s cabin or possibly a faraway grizzly digging for grubs or chomping on fireweed. The single-track isn’t technical—it was beaten in by gold-seeking prospectors and their stock animals, and First Nations hunters in pursuit of deer, bear and mountain goats. But the adventure is remote and hard-charging—the kind of experience that creates an iron bond between you, your fellow travelers and a special place few people get to experience.

Get Here: Drive 90 minutes from Park City to Ogden to meet your guides, who provide harness, helmet and lanyard.  
Be Prepared: Bring sunscreen, a small backpack, light snacks and lots of water; and wear light hikers, approach shoes or running shoes.
Suitable For: Children 8 and older. Pass on this adventure if you’re afraid of heights. mountogden viaferrata.com $100 per person. 

Have you ever imagined yourself scaling a cliff Stallone-style, your fingers pinching barely-there ledges as you athletically slither your way to the summit? If it sounds exciting and ruggedly romantic, yet you lack the skills, (rock) face time or Sly’s catlike reflexes, don’t sweat it. You can book an afternoon at Mount Ogden Via Ferrata in Utah, a 90-minute drive from Park City, and experience the thrill with much less risk. Italian for “iron road,” via ferrata is a semiassisted way to traverse rock walls using fixed iron cables and ladders that let you StairMaster your route up a cliff; no technical rock climbing skills, knots or ropes required. The technique originated in the Italian Dolomites during World War I as a way for troops unskilled in mountain climbing to move quickly and efficiently through Italy’s peaks as they fought the Austrians on ever-higher ground. In the U.S., via ferratas are purely recreational. The Mount Ogden routes are some of the best in North America, designed by American alpinist, climber and Ogden resident Jeff Lowe. If you’re fit enough to climb a long ladder, agile enough to clip a carabiner to an iron rung and comfortable with heights, you’ll scamper up mountainsides with relative ease whether you’re 5 or 65.

Ogden’s Waterfall Canyon, at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, can be steamy hot in the summer. It’s a short and dusty walk to the shady grove at the base of the demonstration wall, where your guide fits you with a climbing harness and helmet and issues you via ferrata’s signature hardware: a shock-absorbing Y-shaped lanyard that connects your harness to the route’s metal rungs. Your shoe rubber grips the rock as you carefully choose slabby foot holds and navigate from rung to rung. You work one side of your lanyard then the other up the iron ladder so that you are always attached at one point or the other. Once you have the basics, it’s a 15-minute hike through a boulder field to the waterfall for which the canyon is named. Cool off with a splash in the water; then it’s time for your first ascent. Your focus is sharp as you carefully pick your way around loose cobbles, reach your foot for the next rung and pull your hips toward the next secure clip. Three routes meander 350 feet up craggy Mount Ogden. The rock is hot and dry, but a light breeze cools you as you wrestle your way to the summit, where you’re greeted by bird’s-eye views of the Great Salt Lake basin and the jagged Wasatch Mountains.