Eleven Taylor River Lodge Is a Best-in-Class Winter Getaway

Secluded enough for true R&R, luxurious enough to offer an indulgent bathhouse

February 24, 2023 6:21 am
Taylor River Lodge, located in Colorado, pictured here at night covered in snow during the winter
Whether you're a ski bum or spa aficionado, Taylor River Lodge has you covered.
Taylor River Lodge

Facts: I don’t like to ski. I don’t even like slippery sidewalks, like those where I live, in Iowa City. “This is illegal! I will shout from December through April, roughly in the direction of the homeowners who have neglected to salt their sidewalks. Come summer, I will hike and bike and canoe and kayak and swim and surf and lay under the sun in a state of deep contentment. The rest of the year, I am a despairing Persephone, walking around my apartment with my duvet hanging from my shoulders like a cape. 

Unless…. Could be the year that I finally grasp the allure of winter sports? There’s nowhere better to give that the old college try than at Taylor River Lodge. 

Eleven Taylor River Lodge sits astride the Taylor River, midway between Crested Butte and Gunnison in Colorado. (Aspen, a four-hour drive during winter, is a sub-30-mile, single-day hike in summer.) I had previously visited Eleven’s Deplar Farm property on the Troll peninsula in Iceland — a spectacular four-season resort that, one non-affiliated guide told me, ranked as “Justin Timberlake’s favorite toy box in Europe.” Like Deplar Farm, Taylor River is small, with only six private queen cabins and two single-family homes for available accommodations. Ours, the Royal Wulff, was one of the largest, with two queen-bed guest rooms on the ground floor, each with their own bathroom, and four full-size beds in the loft, accessible via a metal spiral staircase.

Also like Deplar Farm, Taylor River trades on deep customization and the personal touch. In the winter, cat-skiing adventures to off-the-beaten mountain runs are the primary draw; warmer months bring anglers and rafters to Taylor River and its associated waterways.  

Bedroom at the Taylor River Lodge
Bedroom at the Taylor River Lodge
Taylor River Lodge

I’d brought one of my best friends, Katie, a social worker at a middle school in the Bronx. I needed to learn how to snowshoe; she needed a vacation. Magnificently, Katie and I were, for most of our time on-property, the only guests at the lodge. (Our timing was excellent: immediately after the holiday rush and just before everyone started traveling again for Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.) Neither of us ski, so we opted instead for a snowshoeing tour along the 21.3-mile Summerville Trail in Gunnison National Forest, just a few minutes’ drive from the resort, and Nordic skiing in Crested Butte.

First, though, came a tour of our quarters, with a fireplace, snack bar and Spindrift selection, steam shower and — best of all — a perfectly sized Christmas tree, still lit for the holiday. Even better was the spectacular, hugely photogenic bathhouse, with a saltwater pool, lined with dramatic Belgian blue stone, a steam room, a sauna and a hot tub, perfectly situated so that you could hoist the garage door-style glass-paneled wall in front of it and soak in the 90-degree water while watching the snow fall. I could easily have constructed a weeklong itinerary, traveling from the pool to the steam room to the shower to the lounge to the hot tub and back again.

“We should just sleep here,” Katie said, as we reluctantly moved on, to an après-swim of French cheese, olives and gluten-free crackers. (“Please be sure to tell them,” Katie wrote in an email after we’d gone home, “how much I appreciated their sensitivity to my wheat allergy.”) 

For guests who actually want to leave the property (I don’t get it, but fair enough), winter activities abound, and the staff here are eager to match those activities to participants’ desired level of risk. For actual skiers, the optimal situation might be to combine a stay here with one at Eleven’s Scarp River Lodge in downtown Crested Butte; from either property, guides will escort guests up and into the surrounding mountains, including “1,000+ acres of exclusive ski terrain” in nearby Irwin, which typically expects 450 inches of snow a year; once transported there by custom-designed snowcat, guests will find two on-mountain cabins and their attendant fireplaces. Katie and I, being winter-sports novices, opted for the less intensive, but as it turns out extremely fun, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing, led by guide Aaron Peterson.

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Peterson, it turned out, was not just an exemplary and patient instructor, but a member of the American Avalanche Association, too. (In addition to all that, he runs a private practice offering chiropractic services to animals — mostly to performance horses, but also, incredibly, to cats and dogs, the latter of whom, he says, are too service-minded to accept the focus on themselves and their own healing. Dogs are the best.) 

While we dabbled in the outdoors, Katie and I were more focused on the wellness side of the offerings menu: swimming, yoga (offered above the pool in the aforementioned bathhouse), sitting, reading and lounging, as well as sitting and lounging in the steam room and sauna. Happily, guests who agree with this perspective have the option of a new, intensive wellness program, which debuted during our stay. The immersive Live Well Retreat includes outdoor adventures daily, plus Tata Harper-centric treatments, plant-based meals, cooking and mocktail classes, breathwork and journaling. Like all guests, those on the retreat also have the run of a small but well-equipped gym (including two Pelotons), located in the same cabin as the treatment rooms. My own massage transformed into a functionality-minded session focused on my new and aggravating tennis elbow, which was, it turned out, just what I needed. 

“Just what you need” would function as the working brief for Taylor River Lodge, whether what you need is a long weekend of skiing or a few straight days in front of nothing more complicated than a roaring fire, or games and movies in a cabin seemingly constructed with the sole purpose of delighting children. Even at this very upper echelon of five-star resorts, it can be hard to find this sort of dedicated goodwill: The dominant vibe is that everyone truly hopes you are having a great vacation.

In a world where so much can go wrong, and so much is riding on our few days of relaxation, Taylor River Lodge may be the closest you can get to a sure thing, and a spectacular trip. 


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