Back in 1923, Spencer Penrose bought a 16-acre camp in Pike National Forest, eight miles from his beloved Broadmoor, and built some cabins there to create an outdoor vacation experience.
He planned to sell memberships, but instead had a great time entertaining his friends for summer getaways. He called his personal retreat Camp Vigil.
In his letters, which are owned by El Pomar and reviewed by The Broadmoor’s archivist Beth Davis, Penrose told friends about the parties at Camp Vigil and listening to The Broadmoor’s orchestra play for him and his pals.
“The cabins had running water, electricity — it was never roughing it,” Davis said. “He wrote to his friends, ‘Don’t worry, you can call New York, you can reach your stockbrokers.’”
After Penrose died, his wife Julie offered the site to local organizations. The Girl Scouts made their summer camps there until the late 1940s when the property was sold. In the 1980s, Mike and Katie Turly bought the property and opened it for weddings and corporate retreats.
Last year, The Broadmoor’s new owner, Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz, bought it back. Now he has his own plans for a summer getaway at the camp he calls The Ranch at Emerald Valley, on Old Stage Road headed toward Cripple Creek. He plans to refurbish the cabins and offer visitors the outdoor experience that Penrose dreamed up 90 years ago, plus the 5-star dining experience for which The Broadmoor is known.
“I have to give credit to Phil Anschutz — he has a vision,” said Steve Bartolin, The Broadmoor’s president and CEO. “He looked around The Broadmoor and he looked at the idea of adding things for guests that are experiential — things that make us unique.
“He really believes people want something more in their travel experience.”
Bartolin did not disclose the purchase price of the ranch, but the Turlys had listed the property for $2.5 million. The cabins are surrounded by two lakes, and the property has an equestrian facility.
The ranch project is part of a two-year, $60 million renovation and new construction project under way now at The Broadmoor, which includes doubling the size of the Golden Bee, expanding the West building lobby, adding an Italian restaurant and building a bowling alley. It is one of the largest renovation projects the hotel has undertaken at one time.
Part of the project includes making the West building, constructed in the 1970s, look like the historic main building, which was built in 1918.
Anchutz is passionate about preserving The Broadmoor’s history, Bartolin said. After learning Penrose had built Emerald Valley Ranch, Anschutz wanted it back in the fold.
Renovation work has begun on the cabins and The Broadmoor expects to open the ranch in August. The ranch, surrounded by 100,000 acres of forest, will be marketed as an all-inclusive package with outdoor activities ranging from fly fishing to rock climbing, hiking and horseback riding.
“Reconnecting the history of The Ranch at Emerald Valley with The Broadmoor is a perfect complement to our heritage,” Bartolin said.
The Broadmoor and the U.S. Forest Service have signed off on a long-term lease.
“Our plan is to restore it. We are really working with the U.S. Forest Service; we have a historian and an archeologist involved to make sure we are doing things according to historic standards,” Bartolin said.
Today’s leisure travelers, especially Baby Boomers, want experiential vacations, said Brent Green, founder of Brent Green and Associates, a Denver-based marketing firm.
The Broadmoor has a history of offering experiential vacations, said Green, who was The Broadmoor’s advertising director in the 1980s. He noted the Stables at The Broadmoor, which offer horseback riding. Now, adventure, heritage and educational travel experiences are all the rage in the travel industry, he said. Hotels and resorts across the country are trying to figure out how to develop experiential vacations and market to Baby Boomers.
“Clearly The Broadmoor is staying current with the trends and addressing adventure travel,” Green said.
Baby Boomers want more than golf and lounging by the pool, he said. They want active vacations, where they have a chance to explore history or learn something new.
“There is certainly one group within the Boomer generation very interested in adventure travel,” said Green, author of Marketing to Leading Edge Boomers. “They judge their vacation by how active their vacation is.”
The Broadmoor’s sales team also will market the ranch for executive retreats and board meetings.
“Think of people coming from Chicago, Atlanta or Phoenix — there is nothing like that there,” Bartolin said. “It offers a point of difference and point of uniqueness.”
The Broadmoor’s chef will prepare meals served at the ranch’s grand lodge. Shuttles also will bring the ranch vacationers to The Broadmoor hotel, where they can use all of the hotel’s amenities, Bartolin said.
“If you look all around Colorado and Wyoming, there are fabulous guest ranches,” he said. “The point of difference at the ranch is that those guests can do all things in the forest and they have access to all the range of activities — shopping, dining — at The Broadmoor.”
The 10 cabins are expected to be luxurious and stylish, each featuring wood-burning stoves. But there still is room for a little Penrose character, Bartolin said.
In the main lodge, Penrose had a number of trophy animal heads. For fun, he wired up the heads so their eyes lit and he added tiny microphones, which allowed him to play jokes on unsuspecting guests.
“There is a legend that all those animal heads talk to you,” Bartolin said. “There was one story I read, in our archives, about a family out there and they had an 8-year-old. One of the animal heads (rigged with a mic) said to her, ‘If you don’t settle down, you don’t get dessert. She settled right down.’
“We plan to restore that.”
1904-1910 — Grace Episcopal Church creates church retreat camp, land is leased from U.S. Forest Service.
1921 — Girl Scouts purchase the camp and continue the lease.
1923 — Spencer Penrose creates “Mountain Trails Association” and a subscription membership club. He buys the ranch and builds cabins, adds electricity, phone, water and septic system.
1924 — Penrose’s two cabins are complete. Construction begins on additional cabins. Joe Lind and wife are hired as caretakers.
1926 — Boxing champion Jack Dempsey arrives for training.
1939 — Spencer Penrose dies.
1942 — Camp Vigil is provided to the community for the use of nonprofits, such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.
1946 — Dan Danvers of San Antonio purchases the property and renames it Emerald Valley.
1982 — Mike and Katie Turly acquire the ranch and open it for weddings and corporate retreats.
2012 — Phil Anschutz purchases The Ranch at Emerald Valley, makes plans to revamp and reopen it as part of The Broadmoor hotel and resort offerings.
2013 — Broadmoor plans to open the Ranch at Emerald Valley in August, then make it available from May to October.
For details, go to www.broadmoor.com/Ranch-Emerald-Valley