Friday, October 26, 2012

Naming our Rooms

Since we have been open, people have occasionally asked us about the eccentric numbering convention for our rooms. They're numeric, but we've left some numbers out. Currently, you can book rooms 1, 5, 7-10, 12-14.

The convention was something we inherited when we bought the place. And we are slowly working to distinguish our rooms with more than a numeral. And the numbers not shown are "out of service."

People have been telling us since we opened that we need to "name" our rooms in order to distinguish them in the minds of prospective guests. Early on, we added "Valley View Suite" to the name of Room 9, our very best room, because it was a 2-room suite and, well, it overlooked our valley. It has a lot of furniture that came out of our house from before we bought the High Mountain Lodge, including a Chinese carpet that we bought when Julie was pregnant and we went out to buy a rocking chair for the baby but came back with an oriental rug, instead. (Over the years, we've worked through our ADD issues.) There are also some nice Chinese prints in the bedroom. The name "Valley View Suite" probably isn't the most spectacular example of marketing positioning and branding ever conceived, but it has served to distinguish that particular room with many of our returning guests.

Similarly, we named the suite across the hall the "Atrium Suite" because it overlooked our enclosed pool atrium. On our website, we tell people that, in the summertime, it's just dark, because it has no view. In the wintertime, it's very popular because by the time people get back from skiing, it's dark anyway. It's also less expensive than the Valley View Suite, and that works for some folks, too. Another of our housekeepers, standing on the balcony of the Atrium Suite (yes, it has a balcony overlooking the pool), asked me one time, "Dude! Whaddaya do to keep folks from jumping from here into the pool, 'cause this could be the sickest most awesome plunge?!" I replied, "We fire any of our employees who suggest that to our guests." That seemed to work, though I briefly considered having a couple of brass plates engraved and affixed to the railing that would proclaim, "DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT."

We have toyed with naming Room 12 "the Duck Room." When an interior-designer friend "staged" it right before we opened in 2009, she found duck and waterfowl art and objects all over the lodge and concentrated them in that room. The effect really is lovely. Then my wife, Julie, and her sister found a set of brass fireplace tools with duck heads on them at an antique shop, and they bought them to "complete" the room. Our housekeeper at the time, however, freaked out when he saw it, and termed the whole room "creepy." We eventually persuaded him to clean the room, in spite of his fear of the fireplace tools, but we have held off naming the room because we realize that some people don't like birds. Indeed, one set of guests actually put a towel on top of the mallard duck decoy in the corner of the room because, they told us when they were checking out, "It looked at us when we were sleeping." This begs the question of how people know that something is looking at them when they are unconscious, but I just smiled and swiped their credit card. Moral of the story: if you don't like birds, Room 12 may not be your best choice when staying at the High Mountain Lodge.

We have considered naming Room 13 "The Train Room." It has an amazing collection of train art from the early days of transportation in the Winter Park/Fraser area. And train buff friends have given us additional train memorabilia for the room. The press of other demanding projects have kept us from renaming it--that and sheer laziness. Because, if we have that many "named" rooms, what are we going to call the rest of the rooms? The Blue Room? The Indian Rug Room? Chalk it all up to a failure of imagination.

I have made a commitment to myself and to my wife that I will get "Room 3" in service before ski season. Room 3 is on the lower level of the lodge. When we bought the place, it was "being renovated." That renovation languished until now. We have installed a pedestal sink in the bathroom, stained and finished the wainscoting. Tomorrow, I'm painting the walls and frantically searching for a sound-proofing solution for the ceiling.

Room 3 has a fireplace and will have a king-sized bed. It interconnects with The Library (Room 4). The Library is generally a public room. The furniture consists of comfortable chairs, a recliner, a sofa-bed, and a game table, surrounded by books, both popular and academic. It also has a fireplace. When Room 3 and Room 4 are rented together, we will call it "The Library Suite." It will be an amazing, comfortable space for a family. The Library has a half bath, which means less trooping through the bedroom for potty breaks in the middle of the night--that is, if Tom can get the toilet to stop leaking....

We're looking forward to adding a new, "named" room to the offerings at the High Mountain Lodge. We hope you'll come visit us and check it out!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

First Snow of the Season!

I wouldn't exactly call it a "storm." It's been gently snowing on and off all day. No accumulation to speak of, but a lot of moisture has been soaking into our very thirsty ground.

I took the dogs for "walkies" earlier today. You would think that, with all the acreage we have around the High Mountain Lodge that the dogs could explore the place on their own, but noooo, they insist that we take them. You would think they'd been shut up in an urban apartment all day the way they go nuts when we put on outdoor boots--instead of being in the country in doggie paradise.

But anyway, walking along country roads and in the pasture in the snow was a delightful experience. The aspen leaves have all fallen, and you can smell the leaf mold on the wet ground. A Dan Fogleberg song from my adolescence begins, "The end of October, / the sleepy brown woods seem to / bow down their heads to the winter." That's sort of what it feels like today.

We're really slow right now, though reservations are starting to pile up for the winter ski season, as well as Thanksgiving. Winter Park opens on November 14. In the meantime, we are participating in a Professional Association of Innkeepers offering of two free nights to active military and veterans over the Veterans Day weekend. We filled up within 48 hours of posting the offering, and have a respectable wait list, as well.

Some friends whom I used to play in a bar-band with are coming up to provide entertainment for the weekend. Should be an awesome time.

While the summer activities are winding down and the winter ones have yet to gear up, there is plenty still to do in the mountains in the fall. Hikes, bike rides, fishing, golf. Shoot, all the merchants are having sales getting read to flop their inventory for the winter.

Good times in the mountains. Come visit.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall is the Best Time of Year

The crush of summer guests has moderated now that it's almost October, but the work is no less intense. We are looking for a new housekeeper; anybody want a job?

The aspen color is past its peak now, but there's still a lot of beauty to be seen. Just this morning during breakfast, I looked out the dining room windows to the west, and light from the rising sun hitting the trees on the far side of the road made the leaves positively glow. Annie Dillard, in her spectacular book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, wrote a chapter on "the tree with the lights in it." I read it in college; in spite of her splendid prose, I didn't understand what she meant until I moved to Colorado and saw the aspens.

It's as if the sunshine hitting the leaves all summer was somehow sequestered in them. Now that the chlorophyll has faded, the slightest bit of light hitting them makes them explode with color.

It's quiet at the High Mountain Lodge right now. Instead of ten or more couples on a weekend, we have two or three. This makes for a lot of cooking fun. Just this morning, I made herb scrambled eggs stuffed in popovers and roasted asparagus with lime-chipotle hollandaise because one of the couples staying with us were repeat guests who had had that dish before and specifically requested it. I was happy to oblige. We don't have the staff to accommodate table service if we have more than six or eight people staying with us, so it's nice to be able to cook for just a few people.

If there is one thing that doesn't change with the seasons at the High Mountain Lodge, it's the quiet. We have little traffic noise regardless of the season, but in fall, it seems as if the peace just doubles down. We're far enough from the train tracks that on the rare occasion when we here the train horn, it sounds romantic instead of something that "makes you want to stick an ice pick in your ear"--as a Trip Advisor review of one of our competitors--who have the train tracks running virtually through their back yard--noted.

This is a quiet and peaceful time. There's not much going on. It's a perfect time for hiking in the Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park, for fishing in the Fraser and Colorado Rivers, for horseback riding, for a last few rounds of golf on fairways surrounded by snow-dusted peaks. The winter ski season is a few months away (please, God, send us good snow!)

Lots of "locals" leave town for a quick vacation before the ski season gets busy.We prefer to stick around. We're getting additional rooms ready for winter, as well as fixing the hot tub (yet again!). But it's all good.

Come visit us during this magical season.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Fall Color

Golly, has it been a year since my last blog post? Uh, I guess so. Only excuse: we've been busy!

After a disappointingly snowless winter and a very dry spring, mid-summer saw the weather turn around and the pasture green up quite nicely. In spite of the "bad" weather, we have enjoyed a flood of wonderful people to the High Mountain Lodge recently.

We also had an amazing summer for hummingbirds. The little guys went through a fifty-pound bag of COSTCO sugar in July and August, alone:

Improvements to the High Mountain Lodge include a pergola on the upper deck, replacement of the deteriorating deck railings, and the renovation of another room at the Lodge.

But that's beside the point. The aspen are turning early this year, and we want to see some friends visit us.

Of course, if the early aspens are any indication, then we're expecting an epic winter. Make your reservations soon.