Luxe lodges redefine 'roughing it' when you're in the great outdoors
Does skiing some of the country's best powder snow, and having it almost all to yourself, appeal to you? How about casting in one of the world's top-ranked rivers for trout fishing?
If these activities get your juices flowing, but you also appreciate luxury, keep your eye on a high-end lodging and adventure-travel company called Eleven Experience that caters to affluent outdoor enthusiasts like yourself. The company currently has just two lodges in its home base of Crested Butte, Colo., and one in France, but it has suddenly shifted into rapid-growth mode. It plans to open at least five more lodges during the next two years, including two more in Colorado and Europe, and others in the Caribbean and South America. Still more projects are likely, with company execs continuing to scout for additional sites.
Eleven has flown mostly under the radar since Chad Pike, a senior managing director with the Blackstone Group in London, launched the company in 2011 to tap into a small market he deemed underserved. As someone who often escapes to the outdoors, especially for fly-fishing, the native Ohioan experienced firsthand that high-worth travelers like himself often must give up the comforts of their luxury homes for outdoor pursuits in off-the-beaten-path areas. Think rustic cabins and camping tents.
Not so at Eleven's lodges, which deliver the type of five-star experience you don't typically expect in remote locales, not only making them more accessible to adults who don't want to rough it, but also families. Scarp Ridge Lodge and Sopris House in Crested Butte, and Chalet Pelerin in Le Miroir, France, in the French Alps, are all small, intimate lodges that seamlessly mix homey with elegant. Their luxurious bathrooms, for example, come with Catchpole & Rye bathtubs, Volevatch faucets and fixtures, and Sbordoni toilets and sinks. Their impressive amenities include cozy living areas decked out with the latest high-tech entertainment equipment, heated lap pools (with music piped in under water), steam baths, saunas, custom bunk quarters for the kiddos, and more. Sometimes, you can even arrange to drive new Bentleys on scenic roads with a veteran race car driver giving you driving lessons. On the human side, private chefs whip up sumptuous meals daily, while an experience manager works with you closely to plan activities and ensure every aspect of your trip goes according to plan.
Most of the same luxuries will come with Eleven's properties now in development: Bahama House Inn in the Bahamas; Deplar Farm in Iceland; Rio Palena Lodge in Chile; Taylor River Lodge in Almont, Colo.; and Canal House in Amsterdam, the company's first urban project.
Despite Eleven's focus on luxury, Pike considers his lodges' major draw the exceptional outdoor activities they offer. In winter, the company pampers guests at the two Crested Butte lodges with private snow-cat skiing adventures on a mountain where they seldom see other skiers. An added bonus: The mountain averages 600-plus inches of snow a year. Winter guests at the French chalet can ski at six area resorts. Guests at all the lodges can also go snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, dog sledding, and ice climbing, among other activities. In warm-weather months, the many outdoor experiences available include mountain biking, fly-fishing, hiking, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting.
The company prides itself on the 30 seasoned guides at Irwin Guides, Eleven's in-house service, who lead these adventure-packed activities. This stat telegraphs their high level of expertise: In the U.S., only 96 outdoor guides have earned full certification from the International Federated Mountain Guides Associations - a process that can take up to five years and cost nearly $30,000 - and four of them work for Irwin.
This combination of luxury, outdoor adventure, and personal attention spawned the name Eleven, if you're wondering how Pike picked it. He rates the experience the company delivers to guests an 11 on a 1-to-10 scale. Book one of its lodges and judge for yourself. You'll soon have plenty more to choose from.
DETAILS: Eleven's brand of outdoor living starts at about $1,500 per person per night in low season, about $2,500 in high season, which includes most activities, as well as breakfast and lunch or dinner, depending on the property. Guests often must book an entire lodge, though they can book individual rooms at some properties in low season, with rates from about $650 to $850 per room, but with only breakfast included and no activities. 970-349-7761; elevenexperience.com