Turn it up to eleven
Stay: Scarp Ridge Lodge
Luxury adventure company Eleven takes its name from the ‘80s “rockumentary” This is Spinal Tap. In the movie, band member Nigel tells new guy Marty that while other bands’ amps go up to ten, theirs go to eleven: one louder than ten. Staying at Eleven’s Scarp Ridge Lodge amid the Colorado high country of Crested Butte is, well, an eleven experience, full of luxurious comfort. And that’s just the way we like it.
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Eleven specializes in luxury adventure travel; specifically, they deal in custom itineraries based out of Eleven’s swank properties in the Rockies, the French Alps, northern Iceland, Harbour Island in the Bahamas and the English countryside. Want to hook a fish, but not pack the tackle? Go heli-skiing and have somebody else load the chopper? Dinner prepared by a private chef? As both proprietor and concierge, this is Eleven’s game.
We were in Crested Butte to fly fish for honkin’ big trout, and Eleven made sure we had the chops for it. They brought in internationally known fly fisherman and photographer Brian O’Keefe to give the group advanced fly casting lessons. Most of us were experienced fishermen, but everybody learned something new from working with Brian.
For the first couple of days we floated the Gunnison River in a drift boat. Day three was wading day over on the Taylor River. If I have a choice, I’ll wade every time, and the fish of the Taylor didn’t disappoint. In fact, they very nearly knocked our hats off (see photo above). The Taylor is full of fat, sassy rainbow, brook, cutthroat and brown trout — the Big Four — all in one river.
Mid-morning, I tied into a huge male rainbow. After two and a half days of constant casting and fighting fish my shoulder was tired and my hand ached. Just to make sure I knew where my pain points were, this big boy gave me a ride up and down the river a couple of times. When we finally landed him, he proved to be the biggest trout this flatlander had ever caught. I had the shakes for ten minutes. It was well worth having an arm that would ache for another three days. Elevenexperience.com
The lodge itself is gorgeous. It’s located in the middle of Crested Butte, two short blocks off Elk Avenue, the town’s main street. The large suites are equipped with deep, tall king size beds with lots of pillows and comforter fit for the mountains. All have sitting areas with soft upholstered chairs. There’s also a bunk room with queen, full and twin beds. The bathrooms feature heated floors and towel racks, shower and soaking tub, and the medicine cabinets are stocked with grooming products fit for a very well-kempt fisherman.
A typical stay at Scarp Ridge is bespoke. Our visit, though, was timed to check out a week of pre-planned trout fishing experiences, part of the lodge’s “Eleven Weeks of Summer” promotion to explore their various areas of adventure expertise, including yoga, mountain biking and driving. In general, though, you can do whatever you want: mountain bike, hike, raft, climb, ski, ride a helicopter over to Aspen, eat lavishly, have a massage or rent a jeep. Less ambitious travelers can knock out a few laps in the saltwater pool or rotate between the hot tubs, sauna and steam room… until it’s time for a massage.
The tailored experience extends beyond the itinerary, with small but important details like a proper welcome, a personal locker stocked with goodies to make our stay a little more enjoyable, and a staff that’s more like best buds than bellboys — eager to help wherever they can, but also becoming true companions on the adventure. Moose, the head fly fishing guide, was always at our elbow, telling us a tall tale of a fishing story, making a helpful suggestion about our cast, or ribbing us about the last one that hung in a tree over our shoulder. Caroline, who drives a Sno-Cat in the winter, gave us a lift between the Gunnison and Taylor Rivers. Alex and his trusty Nikon documented our fish so there was no need to lie. But if you intend to lie, just give Alex a friendly heads-up.
There’s no shortage of players in the luxury adventure business — Cheli & Peacock, Ker & Downy, GeoEx — but even in good company Eleven finds ways to crank up the volume a notch. At roughly $10,000 to $14,000 per night (for a group), the prices reflect the level of service and scope of possibility.