Sandy Lane in Barbados and Vail in Colorado are two luxury destinations at opposite ends of the thermometer. Both have much to offer the first-class traveller – but require a vastly different mind-set from their guests
Vail, surrounded by world-class skiing in the Rocky Mountains, demands an active outdoor lifestyle while Sandy Lane recuperates its guests by slowing the pace to a luxurious standstill.
Both locations developed as tourist destinations in the early 1960s when international travel was the sole preserve of the rich and famous. Today, both resorts are accessible for many but affordable for only a few.
Sandy Lane Hotel and Golf Club
The Sandy Lane Hotel and Golf Club is one of the most luxurious places to stay in the southern Caribbean, as its prices will attest. When Ronald Tree, an heir to the Marshall Field's department store fortune constructed it in the 1960s, Sandy Lane enjoyed a celebrity-haunted heyday. Having fallen into neglect, it was rescued in 1997 by Irish investors who poured US$350 million into its reconstruction. Its pristine beach is arguably the most sought-after stretch of sand in the entire Caribbean.
The hotel architecture is classical Palladian with a white coral stone rotunda, Italian marble floors and period plantation-style furniture and decor.
The hotel represents the height of luxury within the Caribbean and if glorious sunshine and living the high life are on the agenda, then this resort has everything you could possibly want. Even before stepping on to the pristine beach, it is possible to have played a round of golf, indulged in any number of elaborate spa treatments or simply got lost in one of its 112 luxury bedrooms and suites, with an average floor size of 900 sq feet.
There is no need to take a single step off the Sandy Lane's marble, turf or sand. Everything required to recharge the batteries of world-weary guests is on-site.
All rooms have a plasma wide-screen television, DVD/CD player, stereo, private bar and a large private verandah. They have specially designed multi-spray showers, heated mirrors in the bathroom and parabolic speakers on verandah.
Barbados is a nine-hour flight from London and less than five from New York. Although the Concorde flight to Barbados is no more, British Airways is providing several extra flights and services including a Saturday flight from Heathrow which they started in December 2003 and the addition of full sleeper seats in Club Class on the Barbados route. The hotel is approximately 35 minutes drive from Grantley Adams International Airport and the hotel will send a chauffeur-driven limousine to ensure guests enjoy air-conditioned luxury en route.
The hotel appeals to a far wider range of guests than just pop stars and Hollywood icons. It has facilities for families (including extensive childrens' activity programmes), golf and sports enthusiasts, and couples seeking the ultimate romantic hideaway.
The focal point of golf at Sandy Lane is the impressive clubhouse overlooking two of the hotel's three courses – the Old Nine, the Tom Fazio-designed Country Club Course and the Green Monkey Course.
The Spa is a romanesque building fronted by a waterfall cascading into the large swimming pool. The facilities include VIP treatment suites enhanced with honed granites, warm woods and mood-enhancing light. Each suite offers a private shower, bathroom and changing facilities. Nine suites feature private landscaped gardens and three have hydrotherapy pools.
Additional treatment experiences include the Chakra therapy room with a heated marble plinth, the hydrotherapy room with an underwater massage bath, and a jet blitz room.
One of the most important elements of any holiday is the culinary experience and Sandy Lane does not disappoint with three restaurants and four bars.
The Lodge at Vail
Vail opened its doors to tourists in 1962. Located in the central Rocky Mountains of Colorado, 100 miles west of Denver, the resort demands an active lifestyle from its visitors.
The Lodge at Vail is a 165-bedroom luxury hotel and the most exclusive place to stay in the village. It is a European-style alpine resort hotel that caters for guests keen to indulge in the great outdoors.
Vail is located 110 miles west of Denver International Airport which is a non-stop destination for many national and international flights. Alternatively, if you want to arrive by private aircraft, the Vail Valley Jet Center can assist you with aircraft storage and services.
When Vail opened with one gondola, two chair lifts, eight ski instructors and a $5 lift ticket, the Lodge at Vail had only been in business for one month but it soon became the cornerstone property of the entire village.
Today, the hotel has 49 suites, four hot tubs, a sauna, an outdoor heated pool, on-mountain ski storage, a workout room, in-room massage, two restaurants, a piano bar, and a host of other top-class facilities.
The sun shines for around 300 days of the year, so a summer visit is not out of the question but the resort only truly excels in winter. The Vail mountain itself is the perfect place for skiers and snowboarders. With 33 chair lifts and over 5,200 acres of terrain, it has everything required by the most demanding of powder hounds.
There are many independent guides that offer telemark and cross-country and numerous snowmobile tours offered by local guides, who can help you explore the White River National Forest from a whole new perspective. A host of other activities are available, including four-hour dog sledding trips, early morning hot air balloon rides over the Rocky Mountains, ice skating and sleigh rides.
The hotel's signature restaurant is the Wildflower and is Vail's only Mobil four star award-winning restaurant. There is also the Cucina Rustica restaurant for an atmosphere of alpine winter warmth. If it's just a drink or two you're after, the place to drink is Mickey's Bar which is situated inside the hotel and hosts a pianist in the evenings. After an action-packed day on the slopes, this it's a cosy place to relax, enjoy a drink, and soak up live apres-ski entertainment.