Most winters Amanda and I make a weekend getaway to Estes Park, Colo., the eastern gateway town to Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s only an hour away and doesn’t require driving on congestion-prone I-70. Room rates are cheap, especially Sunday through Thursday, because it’s the slow season. And it offers quick access to big mountain terrain and backcountry skiing, neither of which we have in Boulder.
On Superbowl Sunday the rates were especially good at The Stanley Hotel, a prominent landmark in Estes perhaps best known as the inspiration for The Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s The Shining. It was just $89 on Groupon before taxes, so we jumped on it. We’ve stayed at The Stanley a handful of times, and on a blustery night in February 2012 we got engaged on the front steps.
I didn’t read the fine print on the Groupon deal, and learned when we arrived that our reservation was actually for the Aspire Residences, not The Stanley proper. The woman at the front desk tried to offset our visible disappointment: “It’s a nice facility, built in 2016. It lacks the historic charm but I think you’ll like it.”
She was spot on, and Amanda and I both agreed that we prefer the Aspire to the main lodge. The main floor has a casual lobby with multiple seating areas, plus a well equipped fitness area. Our suite room was small but comfortable, featuring a dreamy feather-top mattress, thick feather comforter, Nespresso machine, new television, and a snazzy bathroom with a deep soaking tub and modern shower.
The Aspire felt more like a run-of-the-mill Hilton or Marriot than The Stanley. But I can’t say that we missed the historic “charm” — the creaky floors, thin walls and doors, never-hot-enough water, slooooowwww elevator, and drafty single-pane windows that rattle in the wind (and it’s always windy in Estes in the winter).
Plus, Amanda and I still got our historic fix: After a late-afternoon hike near Fern Lake, we watched the Superbowl and had dinner in the main hotel at the Whiskey Bar, which makes a killer cheeseburger and has yummy drinks and beers on draught.
Disclosure: We paid for our room with personal funds and have never been in communication with managers of The Stanley.