A New Wilderness Experience at The Broadmoor
Story & photos by Steve Jermanok
Denver mogul Philip Anschutz might not be a household name outside the state of Colorado, but make no mistake that he’s using his estimated fortune of over $10 billion to become a major player in the world of travel. This is especially true in the West, where The Anschutz Corporation has made relatively recent purchases of Xanterra Park & Resorts, the largest national and state park concessioner in the US; Montana-based outfitter, Austin Adventures; and that grand dame of the Rockies, The Broadmoor.
Since his purchase of The Broadmoor in 2011, Anschutz has poured $130 million into the property revamping the Broadmoor West tower and introducing diners to the Adam Tihany-designed Italian venue, Ristorante Del Lago. But his real coup and the reason I just returned from a week in the region is to relay what Anschutz is creating amidst the tall peaks, valleys, rivers, and waterfalls on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. Standing 9100 feet atop Cheyenne Mountain is the former private retreat of Broadmoor founder, Spencer Penrose, and, as of last summer, home to a mountain lodge called Cloud Camp. In 1923, Penrose acquired a bucolic slice of heaven, ringed by 11,000-foot peaks, which this summer has been transformed into The Ranch of Emerald Valley. Anschutz also acquired the Seven Falls, a series of waterfalls in a box canyon located a mile down the road from The Broadmoor, and has introduced the first of two zipline courses and a restaurant, 1848, featuring local specialties like cast iron Rocky Mountain trout.
Dan Austin, owner of Austin Adventures, has the enviable task of introducing guests to “The Broadmoor Wilderness Experience” by designing two 5-night itineraries for families and adults-only next summer. I met him and his daughter, Kasey, voted best guide in America by Outside Magazine (one glance at her radiant smile, which lights up a room, and you understand the accolade), as we toured the requisite Colorado Springs sites, including the fantastic sandstone formations at Garden of the Gods and Cave of the Winds, first open in 1881.
As we take the first of 16 switchbacks up Cheyenne Mountain to Cloud Camp, our driver tells us that the 75 year-old Anschutz declined the car service when he spent the night at Cloud Camp the previous Sunday. Instead he walked the 7 miles from Broadmoor West. Once at the lodge, the views of Pikes Peak to the north and Pike National Forest to the west are breathtaking, especially with aspens glowing thanks to fall foliage.
The dark wood walls inside the main lodge are filled with Western art from Anschutz’ private collection, including the Native American garb worn by Kevin Costner in his blockbuster film, Dances with Wolves. The signature piece of furniture is an extra-long communal dining table, where I would sit that evening across from a local rancher dining on Colorado-raised bison and lamb.
The next morning I rise with the sun and walk up to the two-story Fire Tower Suite, built with the honeymooner in mind, replete with hot tub and bedroom with 360-degree views. No one is staying in the suite so I grab a rocking chair on the deck and watch Pikes Peak bathe in the morning light. After breakfast, Dan and Kasey lead us on the 5.5-mile McNeil Trail descending into a forest of ponderosa pine, spruce, fir, and birch trees. Past midpoint, we connect with an old stage road that leads us to The Ranch at Emerald Valley.
The general manager tells me over lunch that the mayor of Colorado Springs spent a week here with his wife after retiring and did very little but read books on their cabin front porch. Indeed, it’s hard to tear yourself away from the vista of pasture, trout ponds, and towering peaks. Only a 30-minute drive outside of Colorado Springs, you feel lost in the Western wilderness. That afternoon, we take full advantage of the majestic scenery to take a horseback ride on a ridge close to the jagged peak of Mount Vigel. Then I soak my weary body into a cedar-lined hot tub while snacking on a favorite dessert at the ranch, peach-filled donut holes.
One quick cup of Cowboy Coffee heating on the outdoor fireplace the following morning and we’re off to sample The Broadmoor Soaring Adventure, a series of 5 ziplines that start at an elevation of 7,500 feet. Getting a bird’s eye view of the gorges, rivers, and falls is just the icing on the cake. Anschutz has a created an iconic outdoor experience in the West and all Dan Austin has to do is connect the dots. In this case, a final night or two at the iconic Broadmoor resort will do nicely.