Non-Stop (From IAH) Fun In Beaver Creek, Colorado
Mission: To fly from Houston to Eagle County Regional Airport in the Colorado mountains on United’s new summer non-stop flight.
Status: Twist my arm.
Mission: To enjoy the cool mountain air (50-80 degrees F) for four days/nights at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek. Hike, bike, swim, ice skate and golf at 8100 feet above sea level. Eat, drink and broadcast my radio shows back to Houston and the rest of the world.
Status: I manned up.
Mission: Report back to my listeners, readers and viewers on my experience.
Status: Where do I begin?
Colorado has always been one of my family’s favorite spots to visit and vacation. Skiing and winter sports are always fun but experiencing Colorado in the summer is paradise for any outdoors person. We’ve done Breckenridge, Aspen, Keystone, and even a horse ranch in Granby.
Each trip found us flying through Denver and then renting a car for the 2+ hour drive west to the mountains. DIA is a great airport but the kids (and me) could do without the long drive.
So I was glad to learn of United’s new non-stop flights from Houston’s Intercontinental to Vail/Beaver Creek’s Eagle Airport. The non-stop flight operates five-days-a-week through August 26. The flight took just over 2 hours. Boom. We were there.
Status: I want to go again. And again.
Our arrival at Eagle Airport was a wonderful throwback in time to a simple, single terminal airport. We loved walking off the airplane onto the tarmac and then retrieving our luggage within minutes. Colorado Mountain Express is the most efficient ground transportation from the airport – especially in the winter. Our driver dropped us off at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek in a comfortable 30 minute ride.
The Hyatt is a resort and spa and we certainly know that now. The Allegria Spa has an innovative water-based treatment that pampers to adults. Our suite-style room opened up to a balcony overlooking the 11,444 foot tall mountain. I can only imagine staying there in the winter swooshing down the mountain directly into the resort.
The beautiful setting in the cool summer air allowed us to play outside most all of our trip. For starters, there is very little humidity (Houstonians take note). The Park Hyatt is family friendly which is obvious from the outdoor swimming pool and hot tubs, Ping-Pong table, horseshoe pit, bean bag toss and a huge fire pit. Each summer night the resort hosts a S’mores party. This same party occurs in the late afternoon during the winter.
Coloradans are some of the healthiest people in the country. Probably because they leave the eating and drinking to visitors. Breakfast each morning at the Hyatt’s 8100 Mountainside Bar & Grill was a treat, especially the weekend brunch. The kids loved the made-to-order eggs and pancakes and bacon and biscuits and cereal (you get the idea) while the adults tried to keep it light with fresh fruit, smoked salmon roll and stuffed avocado. Note: definitely try the cinnamon sugar doughnut holes. You’re welcome.
While the Hyatt offers many places to dine, we enjoyed exploring the small village of Beaver Creek just down the resort’s grand staircase. One of the more unique experiences was dinner at Beano’s Cabin. Getting there is half the fun…choose from a 10 minute shuttle ride from the village; a one hour horseback ride; or a 20 minute ride on wagon pulled by a John Deere diesel tractor will transport you to dinner and a fantastic evening.
Be prepared for a stellar 5-course dinner prepared by Executive Chef Bill Greenwood, live musical entertainment and a view that is unbeatable.
The village was the nightly gathering spot for us and seemingly everyone else staying at nearby hotels and condominiums. We enjoyed meals at The Dusty Boot Saloon with its unique western décor, inviting family menu of burgers, fries and a great selection of local craft beer.
One hidden gem is The Metropolitan Wine & Tapas Bar, just a few yards from the outdoor ice rink. The focal point of this cozy spot is its enomatic wine dispenser – only one of three in Colorado. This electronic machine holds a random selection of sixteen wines that are perfectly stored using controlled temperatures and Argon gas. Insert a pre-paid card to pour your own wine in a 1.5 oz taste, a 3 oz 1/2 glass or a 6 oz full glass.
Did I mention the ice rink? While Houston was sweltering in a 107 degree heat that June afternoon, we were gliding on a full-size sheet of ice while looking up at the cloudless sky.
After eating and drinking we tried to find ways to work off all the food. That wasn’t hard as we looked to the top of the mountain. We hopped on the Centennial Express lift just outside of the Hyatt and rode up to the Spruce Saddle Lodge (ok, we had lunch up there also). The views of the Gore Range and surrounding peaks are magnificent. People were strolling around the mid-mountain area, hiking along one of the half dozen nearby trails, or just sitting down to relax in comfortable lawn chairs.
There was no way I was leaving Colorado without playing golf. Swinging a club at that high altitude and thin air allows the ball to travel farther. I was impressed with my 300+ yard drives though the bad part was trying to duplicate that yardage when I returned home to Houston. Not happening.
Beaver Creek Golf Club is within walking distance of the resort and one of the most picturesque courses I have played. The first 9 holes go down the mountain and the powerful carts had no problem bringing us uphill for the last 9.
There are, of course, many other things to do in the area during the summer months. White water rafting trips are nearby. Horseback rides and fly fishing are on my list when I make my return. And there are at least a few hundred local beers I did not have the chance to try.
For those that imagine Colorado as a place to only enjoy the winter, my simple advice is to GO WEST, young man. Thanks to non-stop flights directly into the most beautiful parts of the state there is no reason to swelter and sweat in your hometown this summer. I’m thinking specifically of mine here in Houston.