Rustic meets refined: A review of The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch
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When searching for a points-friendly ski resort, you can’t miss The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch in Avon, Colorado, which seamlessly blends the high-end attributes of the Ritz-Carlton brand with an on-mountain location.
While this is a can’t-miss ski hotel on paper, it’s actually quite easy to overlook. It’s tucked away from all the crowds (that’s a good thing), and Bachelor Gulch itself carries slightly less name recognition for those not familiar with the area, despite it being skiable with an Epic Pass and connected to the more-known Beaver Creek mountain.
First opened in 2002, The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch looks like it has always belonged on the mountain. It is crafted in the log cabin style you’ll see at many national park lodges across the country. But inside the wooden beams, you will hardly be roughing it, as you’ll have all the trappings of a high-end hotel housed within those rustic-looking walls.
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Bachelor Gulch is a part of the Beaver Creek mountain and area. The terrain is connected and all accessible from a lift in Bachelor Gulch, assuming you’re not a brand-new skier. That also means the area is about 30 minutes east of the Vail-Eagle airport (EGE) and about 20 minutes west of Vail.
However, Bachelor Gulch isn’t just Beaver Creek by another name; it’s an area all its own. First founded in the early 1900s by — you guessed it — several bachelors, the area has maintained an exclusive-yet-slightly-rugged vibe. It’s sort of like a secret club for those who know it exists (and have the means — or points — to stay there).
The Ritz-Carlton serves as the centerpiece to this unique area that hosts a mix of ski-loving visitors and Bachelor Gulch residents.
This hotel is ski-in and ski-out, with a small caveat. While Bachelor Gulch has a large number of green runs toward the base of the mountain, many of these are not truly beginner-friendly as they can get a bit steep. If you’re looking for easy green runs for kids to enjoy on their very first ski trip, this may not be the best ski-out location. (Stick with taking Stirrup down the Bachelor Gulch Express if you are looking for the easiest way down with new skiers or boarders.)
However, once your party feels confident enough on skis to tackle tough greens, The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch is as ski-in-and-out as it gets with the lift line just a snowball’s throw away from the back of the property.
During the ski season, you can expect to find room rates starting around $1,000 per night and points prices will usually range from 85,000-100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. If you stay during the ultra-peak Christmas to New Year’s week, paid rates for a standard room start well over $2,000 per night. As is standard with Marriott, if you book five nights on points, the fifth night is “free,” which could be a good play for a ski vacation.
In the off-season, especially in the fall and spring months, paid nights drop to around $225 per night and off-peak awards can be found for 70,000 Marriott points per night.
If you’re looking to increase your Marriott points balance, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
Just know that on top of the points or cash rate, there is a $50 resort fee per night and a $60 parking fee per night for resort guests. The somewhat terrifying sign displaying $400 parking as you arrive is blessedly not the price for resort guests, but rather is to deter drive-in skiers from parking at the resort for the day.
We were greeted outside by a very friendly man in a cowboy hat who helped with our bags and directed us to the front desk. It was a warm greeting that carried over into the check-in area, located just to the left of the fireplace inside the front doors.
The check-in area, like the rest of the hotel, features a mix of natural materials such as wood and stone and earth-tone colors. Due to the ongoing pandemic, there is a plexiglass barrier between the guests and the staff, but it otherwise feels like you are arriving at your (wealthy) family members’ ski cabin.
Unfortunately for those traveling with Marriott elite status, it won’t get you many tangible perks at Ritz-Carlton properties. Unlike when staying at a St. Regis, there’s no such thing as a Marriott Platinum free-breakfast option at a Ritz-Carlton. Nor does it get you club-lounge access, waived resort fees or really anything beyond two vouchers for an item from a “secret menu” at one of the hotel’s restaurants.
But, none of that was a surprise. What was a pleasant surprise was being able to check in to our mountain-view king room early at 1 p.m. We were also able to get our checkout delayed one hour, until noon, on our last day.
The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch has 68 rooms with a fireplace, 82 with a walk-out balcony and 35 rooms with both. We had a room with a balcony on the fifth floor that overlooked the heated pool, lift and mountain.
The room itself was a decent size for a standard room, but it immediately struck me as a touch plain given the going nightly rates.
It wasn’t bad, mind you, but just keep reminding yourself you are paying for location and amenities, not a super fancy room. That said, the bed was above-average for comfort and the blackout drapes more than did their job in letting us sleep in a little.
We did appreciate the decently sized work desk and mounted TV that could be controlled by your phone if you like.
Also in the room was an upholstered chair with an ottoman, coffee pods and machine, minifridge and a very useful coat rack to help keep some ski gear at the ready.
While the main portion of the room wasn’t especially remarkable, the bathroom did feel a little indulgent. There was a deep soaking tub, in addition to a toilet in its own closed-off area and a separate walk-in shower.
A minor note to be aware of if you plan to head down to the pool is that while there were robes provided in the room, there were no slippers.
Otherwise, housekeeping was very proactive in refreshing towels, toiletries, etc.
And while the bones of the bathroom are very strong, it could also use a light freshening up at some point to align with slightly more modern trends and away from the heavier brown tones.
Our room was serviced by housekeeping daily and even had a turndown service offered in the evenings. One note — especially during the pandemic — is there are not very many elevators that guests can use at this hotel. At peak times, the elevators would fill even though the signs say one party per elevator. This policy simply wasn’t feasible. You could wait a very long time and truly never get an elevator to yourself during the morning and afternoon ski rush.
Also, know that the hallways can be a bit dark and winding, so pay attention to where you are heading or it’s easy to take a wrong turn.
Food and beverage
A standout feature of the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch is the variety of onsite dining options. In addition to room service, the hotel features Wyld, a fine dining restaurant; Sakaba, a high-end sushi restaurant; Buffalos, a casual gastropub; Espresso Chair 16, a morning-only quick-service cafe; and some additional outdoor lunchtime options.
I did my best to eat my way around the hotel’s various options while managing my own COVID comfort levels.
Room service here was not cheap, but it wasn’t as painful as it could have been given the price of everything else.
The continental breakfast was $19 and came with delicious yogurt and berries, a chocolate-infused croissant, juice and coffee. We added some sides of bacon and sausage and made a pretty great breakfast for three out of those contents.
What was especially fun was that the room service arrived on a legitimate cart, just like in the pre-pandemic era.
It was on time, tasty and not that much more expensive than many of the other dining options in the hotel.
Espresso Chair 16
The other easy (and more affordable) breakfast option is Espresso Chair 16, which can be found on the lobby level. Here you’ll find breakfast burritos ($11), muffins ($3.50), yogurt parfaits ($7), breakfast sandwiches ($9) and croissants ($3.50).
Just know that this isn’t an all-day option and does close before lunch, so get while the getting is good in the morning.
Buffalos was a casual restaurant, but it gets busy. Be sure to make reservations if you want to dine here. We ordered takeout one evening as it was a bit too crowded for my tastes and it took a while to get our order in and receive the food, so plan ahead.
On the menu are items such as a buffalo burger, chili, mac and cheese and an amazing, warm, cowboy cookie served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
While we did not dine inside Wyld on our trip, we did experience the outdoor lunchtime version, Wyld Terrace.
For lunch, there are menu items such as salmon cones ($24), pepperoni pizza ($25) and a lobster roll ($40). I highly recommend the Wyld flower cocktail made of vodka, fresh lemon and Champagne. It was light, delicious and pretty powerful. It’s normally $24, but you can use one of the Marriott elite vouchers given at check-in if that applies to you.
The kids menu features $12 items such as pizza, chicken fingers with fries and a hamburger with fries.
Sakaba is truly amazing and not to be missed. It’s probably my favorite meal out in the last year. Of course, we haven’t eaten out much in the past year, but this open-air dining area was the perfect solution to pandemic-era dining. Reservations are a must here and you should make them before your trip.
In fact, that was a pain point as most of the hotel’s restaurants were booked up for the duration of our stay before we arrived. I was able to snag an early dinner table at Sakaba on OpenTable after being told it was fully committed, but it would be easiest to plan before your trip.
There is an indoor dining section to Sakaba if you prefer that to the open-air seating.
Regardless of where you sit, you’re in for a treat with the meal — just know in advance this place is very expensive.
This crispy rice with tuna appetizer ($30) was something I will crave forever; it was that good.
We also had an assortment of sushi rolls, seaweed salad and ramen noodles for the littlest in the family, all of which were fabulous.
If you are a sake drinker, they have an extensive selection. I found out after the fact that one of those Marriott elite thank-you coupons you may get at check-in could score you a sake flight at this restaurant, which would be quite the steal to get at no extra cost.
If you just need to grab a Gatorade or bag of chips, you can do so in the hotel’s market. Fair warning, things here are also pricey, to the tune of about $7 for a bottle of Gatorade. It’s also only open until 7 p.m., and after that time, there are no grab-and-go outlets open at the hotel.
There was a small assortment of sandwiches and salads in the market, but frankly, they didn’t look great and were priced at $17 to $26 each, so I’d rather buy a burger for about the same price.
If you’re paying ski-season rates, I’ll assume you’re staying here because you want ski-out access in Bachelor Gulch. And if that’s the case, the hotel is rich with ski amenities.
First, there’s the ski valet that will hold your skis or board overnight and make it available outside each morning. However, unlike at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, this ski valet does not store your boots, so you will need to take those to your room. However, there were boots there, so it seems they do hold boots for Bachelor Gulch Club members, but not hotel guests.
In addition to the ski valet, there’s also a ski shop where you can rent equipment and a Beaver Creek lift ticket office, all within the hotel.
That makes this property pretty much an all-in-one ski stop.
While not available at the moment, I’ve heard that during normal times, the hotel also offers a ski-nanny program that can help get your kid(s) to and from ski school each day for you. There are also available supervised children’s activities throughout the day during normal operations. I got the feeling that this hotel had a lot more to offer families during normal times than it did in this particular moment.
But as you can see from this photo from the back of the hotel, you are about as close to the lift as possible when staying at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch.
I went into the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch spa with very high hopes and expectations — but it turned out just OK.
Treatments here start at about $205 for a 50-minute massage or facial, plus all of the tips, taxes, fees, etc. The spa is located essentially in the hotel’s basement, so there’s no natural light to speak of.
The dark, cave-like environment may have been very cool for the grotto pool that is usually a hallmark of this spa, but it was drained and closed during our visit, presumably due to the pandemic. However, once it reopens, it likely elevates the whole experience of this spa. I would try it out again once the amenities have fully returned — especially as I hear the grotto area hosts a family swim night a few times per week.
That aside, my treatments in the spa were fine but not exceptional for the price paid.
There was also a strange communication gap where I was left in the waiting area for 25 minutes between treatments after being told at check-in they were immediately one after another. This wasn’t awful, but it went on long enough that I did go back to the front desk to inquire if I was in the right place.
Again, not terrible, but maybe not what would be expected for the price.
Pool and hot tubs
The Ritz-Carlton’s outdoor pool is undeniably gorgeous.
It is heated, though not warm enough for the Texas family’s tastes in the winter. The kids did try taking a dip, but it lasted only for a brief moment before they came out shivering. We did see some other families lasting longer though, so it’s highly possible we are just used to warmer water than some.
The three hot tubs, however, had no shortage of toasty water.
While it is easy to snag an empty hot tub during the middle of the day, expect them to be pretty heavily used in the apres-ski hours. The pool and hot tubs also promptly close at 7 p.m., so there’s not really a chance for an evening dip after the crowds clear out.
But whether you dive in or just dangle your feet, there’s no question this area is a gem of the property.
The hotel has a pretty extensive gym facility, including a couple of the popular Peloton bikes. There was also a complimentary snowshoeing excursion available in the mornings that is included as part of the resort fee.
If you’d like to enjoy some s’mores by the fire pits, you can ask the front desk for some included s’more kits.
The hotel also hosts live entertainment in the evenings. Each night we were there, there was a musician who would perform in the late afternoon hours. It was truly a joy to hear live music by the firepit as the snow fell from above.
Whether you’re ready to cozy up indoors with a beverage or brave the outdoors after your ski runs, this hotel has mastered the art of the apres-ski.
The food we had was quite good (and the sushi was outstanding), but being a hotel guest and having a hard time finding a place you can actually get a reservation at within the hotel was a surprise. What was perhaps more surprising was being told nothing was available, but then immediately thereafter finding a reservation myself on OpenTable after being put on a waitlist by the hotel.
Perhaps I just got lucky with that find, but I would have thought those on a hotel waitlist for dinner would be served before a random success on OpenTable. Just consider yourself forewarned that you may need to plan out your meals at the hotel and make reservations before your arrival, especially right now.
There was also another food-related request to the hotel that also wasn’t met with success. And while it alone was inconsequential in the grand scheme, it was an example of how the resort was sometimes quick to give a “no” answer instead of working to find a solution.
I wanted to purchase a Gatorade for my kiddo one evening, which proved impossible. Both the market and grab-and-go had closed for the day. And after that time there were no options the front desk was aware of, which wouldn’t be a shock at a budget brand, but was admittedly a head-scratcher at a Ritz-Carlton. They had the drinks in the building; we just couldn’t buy one after 7 p.m. There is a small selection of essentials you can purchase at the front desk; it would be nice if a few drinks were added to the list. Again, this was minor by itself but was indicative of a few times that a five-star resort was sometimes quick to not look for a way to come through on a pretty simple request.
There’s no denying the five-star location of the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch for those who can take advantage of its ski-out opportunities. The hotel itself has an attractive design approach called “parkitecture” that gives an obvious nod to the look of traditional national park lodges (and even Disney’s Wilderness Lodge). It makes the hotel look as if it has always belonged at the base of the mountain.
I went into the stay wanting to absolutely love the ski-friendly resort, and while we certainly did enjoy it, there were a few quirks that hopefully improve post-pandemic.
If I was to be picky, the rooms themselves are probably due for a refresh given the $1,000 or 100,000 points-per-night prices.
All that is to say, if you stay here, at least in the near-term, don’t go in expecting perfection. Some of the amenities and services that may have made the stay feel a bit more special and over-the-top are still paused for the pandemic. And while the location is close to perfect, and the style of the hotel is endearing, there is some wear around the edges in places, especially in the rooms.
But if you have the points or cash to spend and you can focus on the elements of the hotel that are outstanding — and there are several — you can have a pretty dreamy ski vacation living on the mountain for a few days at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch.
Featured photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy
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