For years, Colorado's Keystone Resort had relied upon its fine Ranch Course, a Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed layout(stretching across a former cattle ranch and lettuce farm at 9,300 feet), to satisfy the needs of visiting players. It's a respected hombre now in its 24th season, but a tough piece of beef for most golfers, with narrow fairwaysand numerous forced carries. The resort's River Course, which opened in 2000, is a much more palatable entree.
The layout, set at a lower altitude near the base lodge area, meanders beside the beautiful Snake River on the front nine before disappearing into a thick forest of lodgepole pines on the back, with 200-foot elevation changes along the way. Wide corridors up to 60 yards across accommodate errant shots, while staggered tees that play as short as 4,762 yards give everyone a chance.
Fairways are framed by sagebrush, native grasses and wildflowers, while towering peaks in the Continental Divide and the Gore Range loom into view during the round. Ranch and River are the best yin-yang combo in the Colorado Rockies.
The River Course encompasses paved biking trails in its routing, but mountain bike enthusiasts will want to explore Keystone's off-trail options. The resort, surrounded by hundreds of miles of singletrack, backs up to the Colorado Trail, a massive network that runs from Denver to Durango. The possibilities are limitless.
In addition to the longest mountain bike downhill course in the nation and summer racing events that attract international competitors, the Mountain Bike Headquarters in River Run, staffed by friendly gearheads, welcomes pedalers of all persuasions. From late June through early September, Keystone operates two ski lifts to transport bikers to the summits of Keystone mountain and North Peak. The view from these ridgetops is spectacular, the downhill plunge even more so. Keystone has embraced the mountain bike culture and continues maintaining steep trails for die-hards, along with gentler trails for the uninitiated.
New Mexico: Taos Ski Area in New Mexico can lay claim to some of the lightest, driest, fluffiest powder snow in the West. But long after the powder melts, the Land of Enchantment still enchants. For example, the tallest mountains in the state rise majestically to the northeast of Taos. High desert mesas and the shadow of the Rio Grande Rift delight the eye to the southwest.
Taos County has five distinct ecosysems, and more than half of its vast acreage is managed by Carson National Forest. Mountain bikers journey to this scenic setting to hit the singletracks, such as the 44-mile-long South Boundary Trail. In addition, the West Rim Trail traces the Rio Grande Gorge for nine incredibly beautiful miles.
The golf offerings are not plentiful, but they are ultra-scenic. The top track is Taos Country Club, a well-groomed semi-private club that has hosted numerous state championships and permits outside play. A burly test stretching to 7,302 yards, this links-style course has gently rolling fairways framed by native sagebrush. Towering peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Range loom into view throughout the round.
On the outskirts of Taos in the beautiful Moreno Valley is Angel Fire, a 22,000-acre resort where guests can play tennis, swim or ride horses. The course, a high-altitude wonder at 8,500 feet, is heavily wooded and hilly. The signature hole is the par-three 15th, which drops 200 feet to a green encased by aspen and pine. You'll get plenty of distance in the rarefied air, but with water on 10 holes, the game at Angel Fire is all about placement and control. Early-morning and late-afternoon campaigners will likely see herds of elk grazing in the rough.
At the end of your stay, you're positioned nicely to bring the crew back next summer. Sell the the trip as a family mountain vacation-one in which you just might find the time to play a few rounds of golf.