The scenic drive from Denver to Vail takes you directly into the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain ski resort country. I rested my forehead against the window and watched as hills transformed into mountains, rivers raged, eagles soared and old mining towns popped out here and there reminding me of the Wild Wild West films I watched as a kid.
I was excited to be spending my weekend at the 7th Annual Beaver Creek Resort Wine and Spirit Festival presented by Wine Spectator Magazine. Beaver Creek offers a playground for wealthy couples and families keen on experiencing the creme de la creme in fine dining, resort accommodation, winter alpine skiing and summer mountain bike and hike adventures. During my visit many people commented, “Aspen is where Hollywood stars go on holiday to be seen, Beaver Creek is where Wall Street rests and relaxes.” The resort is pristine and moments after arriving I was comparing it to a “Oakville on a Mountain,” a wee town outside of Toronto which sits on Lake Ontario and plays home to Canada’s super rich.
Days before my trip to Colorado Air Canada announced, “Non Stop Winter Service from Toronto to Vail/Eagle Airport” which means Ontario based ski bums now have an opportunity to conquer new North American moguls and mountains in 2014.
My home for the weekend would be The Pines Lodge a cozy alpine property in the heart of Beaver Creek. My suite offered a stunning view of the mountain dotted with luxury condos and hotel properties with chairlifts that shot into the sky like party streamers. An indigo blue heated pool and hot tub shimmered from my balcony, surrounded by fresh flower gardens and coniferous canopy.
I was thrilled to be covering the Beaver Creek Wine and Spirit Festival as a Canon Canada Ambassador via their #blogtography program. This would be my first sponsored trip with my new Canon EOS 6D SLR and was excited to fiddle with its new features. I’ve been a Canon lover since I was a wee one, purchasing my first film camera in Grade 6 and upgrading throughout the years as my skill level skyrocketed. In the last 12 months I graduated from a Canon G10 to my first SLR the Canon Rebel T4i… Before rushing to the airport bound for Denver I had an opportunity to meet one-on-one with a Canon photography expert who filled me in on a few SLR tips and tricks to ensure I captured the beauty of the Colorado Rockies juxtaposed against one of the regions most beloved wine and spirit festivals.
The following are my personal tips and tricks when shooting with your SLR in the Colorado Rockies based on my experience at Beaver Creek:
1) Photography on horse back can be a challenge as you have to toggle holding the reins, focusing on your subject and framing your shot while hoping your butt stays safely in your saddle. While riding along rivers, across cliffs and up steep mountains I found it helpful to use a faster shutter speed (1/1000th) and steadied my camera against my shoulder to reduce blur from inevitable horse hoof induced shake.
2) My first few days in the mountains were unfortunately overcast and cloudy. I was adamant about capturing beautiful views of the surrounding rugged terrain regardless of the weather. Be sure to set your light balance to the cloudy setting which will help optimize the colours in each shot. Also be sure to set your aperture to around 11 which will ensure your landscapes come out crisp and clear.
3) The Beaver Creek Wine and Spirit Festival was a perfect opportunity for me to work with my 24-70mm lens on up close food and beverage photography. Lock in your macro lens and don’t be scared to get up close to your food. Manually focus on the pretty on your plate (an edible flower, BBQ’d peach or crispy bacon) to perfectly capture your culinary experience.
Getting around Beaver Creek is a piece of cake as Dial-A-Ride service offers complimentary shuttles throughout the resort. These slick green buses offer plush leather seating and were always a short 5 minute wait away while I rushed from one Wine and Spirit Festival event to the next. The following are the highlights from my weekend in Beaver Creek:
Horseback Ride to Beano’s Cabin: My first restaurant visit in Beaver Creek would be at top notch Beano’s Cabin and my most memorable culinary adventure in Colorado. I enjoyed a one hour tour which had me prancing about the mountain on equine which offered stunning views of the Rockies. A truly unique and memorable arrival for a mountaintop feast in a cutesy yet grandiose alpine cabin in the woods.
Scenic Lift Ride on Centennial Express Chairlift and Jeep Tour: The sun was shining while the surrounding views took my breath away. I shot up to the top of the mountain with my legs dangling and arms waving in the fresh mountain air. Once at the top I hopped in a Jeep for a one hour tour of the mountain with lots of great commentary on local history, flora and fauna from my driver.
Lunch at The Golden Eagle Inn: I enjoyed a quick lunch at The Golden Eagle Inn after running around the mountain on four wheels at this cutesy pub located in the heart of Beaver Creek Village. I sat on the patio while a portly man dressed as a Swiss yoddler performed on an alp horn! Highlights included a board topped with local Colorado cheese + wild game charcuterie and a bowl of hearty Elk Chili.
Allegria Spa at Park Hyatt: After lunch I ran to the Park Hyatt for a memorable “treat yourself” moment at luxurious Allegria Spa. Signature treatments include the Ginger Peach Cure and Slumber Massage. Be sure to end your visit at the relaxing Therma in Aqua Sanitas.
Manhattan’s in the Mountains by Marker’s Mark: The Wine and Spirit Festivals sophisticated kickoff event was hosted this year at the Park Hyatt and featured a delicious Southern-style buffet (BBQ pulled pork sliders, cajun breaded shrimp and a taco station) as well as four Manhattan inspirations from the team at Marker’s Mark.
Wine and Tapas Social at The Met: Filled with the glee one only feels after sipping through several Manhattan’s I hopped on over to The Met for an evening of wine and tapas pairings. The funky space features cowhide stools, self serve wine by the glass and a share plate centric menu. I had a great night sipping on vino and chatting with a lovely group of woman who proudly call Beaver Creek their home.
Vino Viaggio Sponsored by Marchesi Antinori: The following morning I was up at the crack of dawn and spent two hours hiking along mountain trails through stunning Aspen forest. The sun was shining, air was crispy and clean and exercise was refreshing. I can not tell you how warm my heart felt when we concluded our hike at Strawberry Park where Chef David Gutowski from Grouse Mountain Grill prepared a 5 course farm-to-table Italian feast. The feast featured picturesque white linen canopy, fresh flower filled vases on white linen covered picnic tables. An unforgettable al fresco treat. Lunch highlights included sweet and smoky olathe grilled corn, Palisade eggplant caponata, slow roasted Boulder porchetta and caramelized peach tart with local goat milk ice cream.
Spirits Seminar Sponsored by Peach Street Distillers: This one hour spirit seminar took place in the By Nature Gallery which is decorated with stoic dinosaur skeleton and framed fossils. Peach Street recently won the 2012 Distillery of the Year for its craft collection which includes straight bourbon, trio of agave, vodka, gin, oak-aged brandy and grappa.
Walk-Around Grand Tasting: The festival concluded in style under a big white tent which had been hoisted over the skating rink in the centre of the village square. Hundreds of culinary aficionados spent the evening sampling dishes from top local chefs while sipping on beer, spirits and wine. A jazz band from Denver entertained while smug mugs mix and mingled under elk antler chandeliers. A perfect fini to a celebration of Colorado food and beverage feasting.
Brunch at The Osprey: My final morning in Beaver Creek was spent at The Osprey boutique hotel. I enjoyed a latte, grapefruit juice and plate of puffy buttermilk pancakes as well as toast, poached eggs, bacon and hashbrowns. I opted to sit outside in the sun on cutesy wooden patio furniture which sits directly beside a chairlift. Fun Fact: The Osprey is the closest hotel to a chairlift in North America. Only 26 feet away!