Look closely: Broadmoor has elevated itself

If you went to The Broadmoor in the 1970s, when my first experiences there took place, you couldn’t help but be impressed.

The golf was superb, you could find locals all the time at the Golden Bee and Tavern, the Terrace Lounge beside the lake was great for people-watching and the old Broadmoor World Arena made for an enjoyable venue even in its decaying years. But it wasn’t exactly America’s most outstanding resort, if only because it was wearing a bit around the edges.

I remember thinking The Broadmoor must have enjoyed its best glory days around the 1950s and ’60s, when the World Arena hosted major figure skating and hockey events, and when Hollywood stars from Elizabeth Taylor to Jimmy Stewart and countless more were able to find privacy underneath Pikes Peak, safely away from the usual spotlight.

Through the years, I’ve seen a difference between going to The Broadmoor for dinner and having the chance to take a closer look, as I’ve done in recent months for several events and visits.

This week provided my first look inside the just-reopened Broadmoor West, expanded and fancied up to the European standards of the original hotel built nearly a century ago.

And soon came a realization: This isn’t the same Broadmoor anymore. Steadily in recent years, but magnified by the grand Broadmoor West renovation, the resort has ascended to a higher plane.

Now, when you hear it labeled among the finest resorts on Earth, you can believe it. No longer do parts of the hotel (such as the original West, built in the mid-1970s) look more like a decent but stereotypical brand-name property. And no longer will you see as many negative effects of aging — just the good parts, from the immaculately maintained buildings to the artwork and historic preservation.

Today’s Broadmoor, with every new remodel and flourish, is rising in stature. And there’s no better example than the just-opened Ristorante Del Lago, an Italian-themed jewel that has replaced the long-popular (including among Colorado Springs residents) Charles Court. 

Many CSBJ readers surely can tell stories of anniversary dinners, prom nights, major birthdays and other momentous occasions at Charles Court, so transforming it into something completely different could’ve been construed as a gamble — at least for the local clientele.

Instead, it’s an upgrade. The atmosphere transports you to a lakeside vista in Italy, especially this week with the picture windows open to let in the light, warm summer breezes. Then the cuisine attacks your senses from every angle, with the end effect of making you feel you’re far away from Colorado Springs. We won’t turn this into a food review, although we could, but its arrival is as dramatic as that of the Summit restaurant nearly a decade ago.

Also inside Broadmoor West is a new spot called Natural Epicurean, which fulfills the growing desire for healthy food but still with creative dishes and desserts that make for a superb lunch.

The architecture and the rooms at West, as media have reported, also have been redone, achieving the desired effect of looking both old and new. 

You can see other Broadmoor spots with their memories, from the Penrose Room and Golden Bee to La Taverne (the Tavern’s new name), the Golf Club and the Hotel Bar (formerly Terrace Lounge), all improved.

The influence and resources of owner Philip Anschutz obviously are behind much of this continuing effort to raise The Broadmoor’s own Five-Star, Five-Diamond standards. And it doesn’t stop there. Already, we knew about the new Cloud Camp, a lodge with cabins 3,000 feet above the hotel, and The Ranch at Emerald Valley, eight miles up into the mountains.

Those projects are adding considerably to The Broadmoor’s appeal and personality. And just this week we heard much more from Broadmoor President/CEO Steve Bartolin about the upcoming Broadmoor Fishing Camp, scheduled to open in spring 2015 with five miles of private fishing on Tarryall River as well as a lodge and restored miners cabins, up from Lake George in Park County.

And with all that, we’re no longer talking about a golf-centric resort. It’s a chance for guests from anywhere to experience Colorado’s scenery and outdoor recreation, something The Broadmoor’s peers can’t emulate.

What this also means is that The Broadmoor is distancing itself from many local residents who will find it harder to stretch themselves, push the limits and take advantage of the opportunities beyond the special nights out for dinner and entertainment.

The place still might be accessible and appealing, and it’s not going anywhere. But as a true world-caliber resort, trying harder than ever to be unmatched, the clientele becomes national, even global.

So in a real sense, The Broadmoor’s future is all about recapturing, and building upon, its splendid past.