High-Country Hot List

Planning a trip to the mountains this winter? Here's where to go and what to see.

TODD REED’s jewelry boutique on Boulder’s Pearl Street is like a grown-up’s version of Santa’s workshop. Cases sparkle with glittering baubles and through a glass window, master jewelers sit at their workbenches, hand-crafting one-of-a-kind designs in 18-karat gold, palladium, platinum and silver. It’s clear each piece is the product of Reed’s vibrant imagination—raw, sculptural, perfectly imperfect adornments that show off the beauty of natural stones. toddreed.com 

Ski-in/ski-out restaurants tend to be means to an end: places to quickly fuel up and warm up before heading back out for more fun on the slopes. But at THE 10TH RESTAURANT at Vail Mountain, chef Vishwatej Nath gives diners a reason to linger with his elevated takes on cozy alpine cookery. From the heirloom chicken-and-pheasant pot pie to the Valrhona chocolate fondue, it’s one of the best meals you’ll ever eat in your boots. the10thvail.com

When Aspen’s HOTEL JEROME first opened its doors in 1889, New York City socialites, Chicago beef barons and European aristocrats journeyed west to see the magnificent hotel that offered running water and electricity. These days, the newly renovated Jerome appeals to modern travelers with interiors that feel at once rich and traditional, fresh and fashionable, with a mix of rustic yet refined furnishings: ribbed leather beds inspired by wide-wale corduroy pants, mini bars disguised as campaign chests, and leather writing tables. “It’s relevant and timely,” interior designer Todd-Avery Lenahan says of his work, “but it’s still very clear that this is a historical building.” hoteljerome.com

What does it take to be named one of the most romantic restaurants in the country? For Salt Lake City’s LOG HAVEN, it started in 1920, when a steel baron built the hideaway as a gift for his wife. That original log house still sparks romance today with its forest setting, cozy fireplace, live music and rustic dining room—and a menu of comforting classics, like duck confit and cider-brined pork chops, to match. log-haven.com 

This is no ordinary hotel spa. At DUNTON HOT SPRINGS, a Colorado ghost town turned luxury resort, guest rooms are hand-hewn log cabins, drinks are served at a bar where Butch Cassidy carved his name, and hot spring waters flow into bathtubs on demand. While the spa offers traditional services, the focus here is on taking the waters, which bubble up into a 19th-century bathhouse, secluded pools and even a private cabin. But if we had to choose, we’d soak out under the stars, just as Dunton’s weary miners did more than a century ago. duntonhotsprings.com

The most memorable cup of hot chocolate we’ve ever tasted wasn’t served in a slopeside yurt or on a horse-drawn sleigh, but in a small adobe building in the heart of Santa Fe. The folks at KAKAWA CHOCOLATE HOUSE are serious about their chocolates, from their truffles and caramels to their famous elixirs. Here, each cup comes with a bit of history, as many of Kakawa’s recipes date from 1000 B.C. to the mid-1900s A.D. Try a dark and spicy Mesoamerican elixir; the “Marie Antoinette,” preferred by the French royal court; or a semisweet concoction copied verbatim from Thomas Jefferson’s list of favorite recipes. kakawachocolates.com

Looking for a hat that even a real cowboy would admire? Mike Hodges at H-BAR HAT WORKS in Billings, Montana, is the man to see. He’s got a big handlebar mustache, a big personality and a real talent for handcrafting custom hats and restoring vintage toppers (you’ve seen them atop the head of television sheriff Walt Longmire). His is no one-size-fits-all approach: Each detail is designed and fitted just for you—so be prepared to stop back in for a fitting or two. 406-254-7126 

Set aside the better part of a day to explore Phoenix’s MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MUSEUM, home to more than 6,000 instruments from nearly 200 of the world’s countries and territories. State-of-the-art audio and video technology includes wireless headsets that “know” where in the museum you are and play recordings of each instrument as you pass it on the exhibit floor. You’ll also see fascinating video footage of many of the instruments being played in their original contexts. mim.org 

Like a bit of history with your luxury? Book a room at the WASHINGTON SCHOOL HOUSE HOTEL in the heart of Park City, Utah, and you’ll get both. One of three schools built along Park Avenue to accommodate silver miners’ children back in 1889, the structure is one of the oldest in town. A recent renovation transformed the old schoolhouse—which stood empty and derelict for nearly 30 years—into the ultimate boutique hotel, decorated with a serene palette of icy white, blue and dove-gray hues, patinated oak floors reclaimed from Western barns, gilded antiques and colorful, original Midcentury Modern oil paintings. washingtonschoolhouse.com

Just 12 miles north of Lake Tahoe, TRUCKEE, CA, manages to fit more fun into a few blocks than some towns have in a few square miles. Don’t miss Dark Horse Coffee Roasters for a cup of local small-batch joe, High Camp Home for rustic-chic home goods, and Moody’s Bistro (pictured above) for a house-ground burger and truffle fries (and stick around for the live jazz). Stay just down the road at the eco-cool Cedar House Sport Hotel or splurge on a swanky suite at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. truckee.com

It’s only fitting that this farm-to-bottle craft distillery would have a tasting room as thoughtfully designed as its spirits. WOODY CREEK DISTILLERS grows its own potatoes and sources local fruits, grains and spring water, which all pass through a custom-made distilling system. Its stylish tasting room in Basalt, Colorado, decorated with beetle-kill pine and industrial lighting, offers an up-close look into the barrel room and fermentation areas—and the chance to taste Woody Creek’s vodka and other spirits in an array of creative cocktails. woodycreekdistillers.com

In a storied town like Aspen, it takes more than a historic location and Victorian-era bar to draw a crowd to your watering hole. JUSTICE SNOW’S has got both of those (it’s located in the old Wheeler Opera House), but what sets it apart is what’s in your glass: surprising combinations of rare and house-infused spirits, tinctures and spices that go down all too easily. The décor—hip and historical, with a mix of salvaged materials and old treasures, from the original Wheeler Bank vault door to a chandelier that lit the Columbia University library more than 100 years ago—makes it all taste that much better. justicesnows.com 

Categories: Mountain Travel