We recently started working with Timbers Resorts, which does end-to-end development, sales, marketing, and operations of luxury vacation homes and residence clubs, as well as hotels and resorts in some of the coolest locations you can imagine. My first experience with one of their properties was four years ago while in Cabo San Lucas when we stopped in for dinner at Cocina del Mar at Esperanza Resort. The food was excellent and the property was outstanding. Our table sat on a rock formation that jettied out into the ocean with waves crashing over the side of rocks, providing acoustics for diners eating by candlelight under the stars. A very special place.
More recently, I stopped into The Sebastian – Vail with some friends for a drink at Frost Bar. I took a quick tour while I was there and was impressed by how Timbers had replaced the traditional Antler and Austrian village motif you see at nearly every Vail hotel with a comfortably hip decor anchored by one of the largest original art collections in Vail. The hotel is an art gallery in the heart of Vail Village.
Popping into these properties made it clear that something special was going on at each but it wasn’t until this weekend when I traveled to One Steamboat Place with my family that I realized what it was. If you have skied Steamboat, you probably know the location even if you don’t know specifically about the property. The gondola starts immediately next to the property, the shuttles and Wildhorse Gondola pick up on the other side, and it’s in the center of all of the apres activities in the village. The ultimate ski-in ski-out location in Steamboat.
We had our daughter’s birthday party in Denver the same day we headed up so we arrived with a car full of presents and over-sugared kiddos. Matt appeared instantly and started helping us unload as we pulled up and Cheryl breezed us through check-in as if we had owned there for years.
Lobby at The Sebastian – Vail
When we opened the door to the residence, my wife and I immediately said ‘wow’. It was an authentic response that our two year old imprinted and then hilariously repeated every time we opened the door for the rest of the weekend. The place was stunning: a four bedroom luxury residence with two masters and two junior suites, not to mention a fully equipped chef’s kitchen with Viking appliances off the living room, a huge dining area, patio with Viking grill, office, laundry room, etc…
We have stayed at some great hotels and are frequent users of VRBO. We expected the residences to be top notch and they were, but as we settled in we started to really understand what the ownership experience is all about. For example, when we were initially contacted for arrival information I mentioned that we would be getting there a bit late because we had our daughter’s birthday party. As we explored the residence we found these chocolate treats in the fridge with a note wishing our daughter a happy birthday. There were also a large bunch of balloons tied to one of the chairs at the dining table for her. Needless to say, she was over the moon. It was the first example of many in how this property is designed to create private, rich, memorable family experiences.
The whole property reflects this. The common areas are beautifully designed and the function of the rooms facilitates play. That manifests literally in the game room with ping pong, billiards, game systems, and shuffleboard, as well as in the tykes room for the little ones with toys, art and games. For those less game-oriented, there is a great wine cellar and plaza sitting area. There are oversized checkers boards in random hallways, ski lockers, and a great heated outdoor pool with three hot tubs. If you need a break, grabbing a new release DVD from the automated machine and spending the night in your room is an option too. Another thing that I thought was awesome was a whole hallway lined with caricatures of each family that owns a residence, showing their personalities and things they like to do. A real celebration of the people.
The other aspect of the experience that I did not expect was the level of service. It went well beyond concierge-level services you would expect at a five star hotel. Cheryl and Joey at the front desk anticipated our needs and the Matts happily took care of all our transportation. They were all incredibly professional in each of our interactions with them. They booked last minute spa appointments, dinner reservations, and babysitting around our schedule, masterfully coordinating our odd timelines of kids’ naps and such to allow us to spend our time enjoying the experience while they blocked and tackled our itinerary. To give you a sense of what I mean, when we returned from our shuttle ride into town for breakfast we asked for a recommendation on a hike that we could take the kids on. Cheryl recommended Fish Creek Falls and while we were getting ready she had the car pulled around complete with bottled water and printed directions to the park. Always a bit more than expected in a positive way.
I find that when it comes to hospitality, the people often make the difference. I’ve stayed at resorts where everyone seems to know you and be at your service, but this is the first time where each person I met seemed to truly care. While each of them was very different from the next, they all had a similar way about them as if they were part of the family.
For our family, we could have stayed comfortably for much longer. Sure, the Molton Brown soaps, top quality linens and gourmet coffee were nice, but the space that was created for us through hospitality and the memories that we made in three short days left us longing for more.