All Peaks, No Valleys: The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch

I'm not a skier. Or a boarder. Or any sort of cold-weather sport-er. I don't even own a legitimate winter jacket. So the idea of embracing my adventurous side in snow-covered Colorado never really appealed to me. Needless to say, a trip to the Centennial State was the last thing on my mind. Until, of course, I received an invitation from Beaver Creek and the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch. Four days and nights of eating, drinking, and spa-ing in the lap of luxury? I suppose I could manage. I hopped on a four-hour Frontier flight and headed for whiter pastures.

For the 13th consecutive year, Beaver Creek hosted Bon Appétit's Master Chef Classic, a three-day epicurean affair celebrating the finest in wine, spirits, and cuisine. So with my appetite and Ugg boots in tow, I left a blustery NYC to report on the fabulous foodie festival. And did I mention that I also got to stop, sleep, and savor the surroundings at the Ritz-Carlton's rustic Rocky Mountain resort? (No one likes a braggart, Lauren.)

Nestled in the exclusive mountain enclave of Bachelor Gulch on Beaver Creek Mountain—just a stone's throw from Vail and Aspen and two hours outside Denver—the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch is located between Beaver Creek Village and Arrowhead.

Inspired by the grand lodges of the National Parks, the parkitechtural hotel boasts 180 handsomely appointed guest rooms, including 40 suites and the grand Ritz-Carlton suite. My fiancé Dan and I were fortunate to shack up in a gorgeous eighth-floor room reserved for guests of the Club Level; it boasted a feathery king-size bed and a romantic stone fireplace. Accessible via elevator-key only, the club lounge offers the ultimate VIP experience, with plush sofas, a private concierge staff, and five daily culinary presentations. We enjoyed chocolate croissants and cappuccinos in the morning, tea time in the afternoon, and a champagne toast in the evening. And the picturesque panoramic mountain view was the proverbial icing on the cake.

Rustic and Ritzy
Upon arriving at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, Dan and I instantly fell head-over-heels in love. (Not with each other. That already happened. I was talking about the hotel, duh.) With its unassuming yet elegant ambience, the majestic mountain resort is at once intimate and intimidating. I went straight for the steamy pool and hot tub. And Dan, my athletic opposite, made a beeline toward the ski lifts like he was late for the Olympic trials.

After huffing about puffing through the lobby with our luggage (I was so not used to being 9,000 feet up in the air!), Dan and I decided to grab a (few) cocktail(s) from the bar at Spago, Wolfgang Puck's renowned restaurant. After all, they say that hydration is the key to avoiding altitude sickness. (Well, I did eat the ice cubes!) Scotty, our friendly bartender, shook up a bounty of delightful drinks for me to sample. One cucumber agave margarita and a Peartini later and I was breathing easier and feeling good. We were soon lured outside by a cowboy crooner singing to a crowd huddled by a fire pit and drinking Coronas. Ah, the sweet après-ski life.

‘Pucker Up' at Spago
A little later in the evening, I put on my loosest pants for a decadent dinner at Spago. We started with the famous sesame-miso tuile cones—stuffed with crab meat instead of the usual tuna. Sweet, savory, salty, and slightly spicy, this is how I want to start every meal. Next we sampled the organic roasted golden- beet “layer cake,” which was almost too pretty to eat; and the ricotta and Kobe Bolognese gnocchi “fra mani” was heaven on a plate.

For my main course, I feasted on steamed bass “Hong Kong style,” with stir-fry bok choy, snap peas, baby carrots, cilantro, garlic, and lemongrass-jasmine rice. Light and flavorful, it had a spicy kick that hit the spot. A few glasses of wine later, I tried the much-buzzed-about Kaiserschmarren. The crème fraîche soufflé pancake was sautéed with organic strawberries. Fluffy and subtle, it was like eating air—delicious, delicious air.

The Post-Ski Spa Trip
After a peaceful night's sleep with the humidifier humming, I tried my luck on the slopes for the second time ever. And while I can't quite claim it was a successful venture, I am proud to say that search-and- rescue was not needed. I did feel like a contestant on the Biggest Loser though. I couldn't catch my breath (holy altitude) and begged Dan to “leave me and for the bears.” The only thing that motivated me to move was an upcoming appointment at the Ritz-Carlton spa.

Located on the third floor of the hotel, the 21,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, which features 19 treatment rooms surrounding a rock-lined grotto with a lazy river hot tub, is the ideal location to slip into serenity after a day of play in the mountains.

My 60-minute Bachelor Gulch signature massage was absolutely incredible. Molly, my soft-spoken therapist, breathed life into my sore muscles and left me feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. If this is the reward for a tough day on the slopes, then sign me up for more ski lessons. Next time I'm there (and believe me, I'll be back), I've got to try the “Hot Toddy for the Body” scrub. If it's anything like the warm boozy drink, I'm already a fan.

After my treatment, I relaxed in the spa lounge with a book by the fireplace and sipped my fresh citrus water. I opted for an additional 20-minute oxygen treatment, which had me feeling energized and perky—a highly necessary thing. I had a big night and an even bigger weekend ahead of me! Stay tuned: Tomorrow you'll get all the tasty scoop from the Beaver Creek Master Chef Classic. I'll be getting active (snowshoeing!) and tapping my inner gourmand (eating goat's belly!).