Delivering a super-exclusive ranch experience in the western wilds of Colorado, Aspen Valley Ranch is the new bucket-list bolthole for unbridled adventure and opulence
“It’s all in the rhythm. And the vibe you’re casting out – that makes a difference, too. They can definitely pick up on your vibe.” I’m fly fishing for trout on a pristine 813-acre ranch, the blazing midday sun studding a ribbon of diamonds into the sapphire lake in front of me. Our pro anglers Jennie and Joe are so confident we’ll catch, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot is resting on ice under a tantalisingly nearby bank of oscillating emerald-green aspens. Later, we’re heading out on horseback to take in some of Colorado’s most picturesque trails and mosey through meandering rivers while golden hour floods through the valley and wild elk watch on. It’s fair to say my vibe is something akin to euphoric right now.
Indeed, it would be unjust to feel anything else. Surrounded by majestic mountains and perfectly manicured pasturelands, my base for the week is The Residences at Aspen Valley Ranch – an exclusive, picture-perfect gated community with all the contemporary trimmings of a luxury, five-star retreat. Think private chefs, award-winning wranglers, a 24-hour concierge team, and more equipment in the ‘Toy Barn’ than you could possibly hope to corral. ATVs, e-bikes, dirt scramblers, snowmobiles – if it’s expensive and exhilarating, you can count on it being stored in here somewhere.
For something a little more sedate, the nearby pool house hosts an obligatory day-bed encircled open-air swimming spot, a Jacuzzi with a Bond-lair-esque sliding roof, and a chic-looking gym that I admire but neglect to ever actually use. There’s also a plush games room and bar, replete with retro pinball machines, foosball, skee-ball, air-hockey and pool tables.
And then, of course, there’s Sopris House itself – my elegant rental homestead that boasts five bedrooms and bathrooms, a boot room, dedicated wine cellar, and more dining areas than I dare eat at if I have any hope of getting on a plane again (which would suit me just fine if I could afford to buy the place, but sadly I can’t stretch to the cool $20m price tag).
Expertly envisioned by two renowned local design visionaries, Michael Fuller and Poss Architecture, the Aspen Valley Ranch aesthetic is next-level-luxury lodge, with lashings of natural wood, floor-to-ceiling stone fireplaces, and peak-framing windows playing off against lofty interiors accented with feature lighting and original pieces of modern art (we spot a neon Tracey Emin in the Ranch House – a stylish space at owners and renters’ disposal that’s purposefully designed for entertaining). Frankly, I’d be happy to bed down with my trusty stead Freckles in the stables – a festoon-lighted structure so cooly reimagined it reminds me more of an industrial-style New-York loft than an outhouse for the estate’s resident goats, donkeys and pedigree ponies.
Yet it’s the wild, soul-enriching activities on offer – and the lure of dazzling downtown Aspen for tender tomahawks at buzzy Catch Steak or elegant fish dishes at Mediterranean-inflected Duemani – that truly transport this holiday firmly into bucket-list territory. Whether you fancy hitching a gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain, hiking to Crater Lake (a gin-clear pool in nearby Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness) or white-water rafting your way down Roaring Fork River, there’s an authentic Western adventure to be had – and a well-earned s’more to toast on your return after capping the day off with yet another culinary feast served fireside.
“It’s all about losing yourself in nature here,” Joe explains back at the lake, while patiently untangling the line for me again (a fishing virgin, it seems I’m particularly adept at hooking foliage before my bait has even hit the water). “Fishing is meditative; you have to feel your way to a bite.” So, this time when I cast out, I take a moment to fill my lungs with the crisp scent of mountain air before slowly reeling in line and tipping the nose of my rod down so as not to spook any potential passing trout.
I feel mindful. Considered. ‘At one’. I catch myself enjoying the gentle breeze that’s rustling through the long grass hugging the waterline and observing a pretty red-breasted bird dip and dive its way across the surface of the reeds. I note the heat of the sun pricking at my neck and study the shadows beneath a small outcrop of rocks further down the bank, walking steadily towards them to investigate a possible new spot to cast into. And that’s when I feel it snap: the tip of my rod suddenly bent sideways; my serenity simultaneously succumbing to pure exhilaration. I’m “playing” my very first fish: a kaleidoscopic rainbow trout that I land minutes later, all 3lbs of his sparkling scales sliding through my jubilant fingers for the money shot before a celebratory round of bubbles is quaffed. (Readers: I feel slightly smug to announce two more trout followed suit.)
Life on this fertile land might have undergone a stylish respin since The Residences at Aspen Valley Ranch were constructed on the site last summer, but it’s clear that the region’s Old Ways still reside in the former working farm’s ancient tracts. And if this is what reconnecting with the wild looks like in contemporary Colorado, go ahead and measure me up for a luxury Stetson – because, like the trout, I’m already hooked.
How to book
A two-week stay in Sopris House starts at $59,500 USD. View The Residences at Aspen Valley Ranch’s full collection of rental properties at www.avrresidences.com for further details. United Airlines offers daily connections from London Heathrow to Aspen via its US hubs, with return economy fares (including taxes and checked baggage) starting at approximately £990. See www.united.com or call 0845 607 6760 to book.
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