Yet years ago, the couple came across a secluded piece of property in southwestern Colorado that would enhance their lives and ultimately lead to one of the country’s most exquisite small resorts, the Keyah Grande Guest House.
The guest house, tucked deep in the forests of the San Juan Mountains near Pagosa Springs, is one of those unique properties that merge Mother Nature’s beauty with the highest level of extravagance and pampering.
While such luxury may seem more fitting for places like Vail or Telluride, the Sackmans believe the lodge’s remote location is part of its attraction. In fact, it’s why they chose the site in the first place.
“We’re New Yorkers,” Barbara says, “and we wanted a place to escape from all that hubbub. I love the water, but Alan is a farm boy at heart. All he ever wanted was a ranch.”
The ranch includes 4,000 acres of pristine wilderness. There are acres of pine-covered peaks, lakes and rivers, elk, wild turkey and deer – everything a mountain retreat should encompass.
The couple built a vacation home on the property and slowly turned the land into a working ranch. “It became a magical spot for our family,” says Barbara. The couple has three grown children and 12 grandchildren.
While they kept their home in New York, Colorado provided a welcoming getaway. The family started out raising cattle at the ranch, something that was completely new to them. “If only we’d asked our neighbors for advice!” Barbara laughs. But Alan soon had other ideas.
The two are avid hunters. Barbara, in fact, is the only woman to have won the Safari Club International’s World Hunting Award. So it was only natural that the couple soon turned from cattle to elk ranching. In time, Alan’s hunting friends began to visit, and the couple decided to build a large cabin for visiting guests.
The “cabin” took on a life of its own – and the resulting Keyah Grande Guest House, with a more than 1:1 staff to guest ratio, gives new meaning to idea of luxury in the wild.
“We’ve created the Guest House as a place where people can come and truly escape from the rest of the world, and where the beauty of the wilderness can provide a peaceful, soothing and rejuvenating backdrop that allows our guests to truly relax,” says Alan.
Perched atop a mountain peak, the Guest House was designed as a small mountain retreat with only eight rooms. It is spacious and intimate, providing a rare level of service, cuisine and design.
The guest rooms reveal the Sackmans’ love of travel. Each of the eight rooms is designed around a certain regional style. The Japan and China rooms showcase the distinctive décor of the Orient, while “France” and “ England” reminisce on their distinctive European influences.
Spanish style is reflected in the one-bedroom suite called “Spain,” while Santa Fe echoes the Southwest legacy of the Keyah Grande. The large America room celebrates the country’s rich heritage with décor in blue, red and yellow, and offers an outstanding panorama available from the deck.
Like the other rooms, “America” reveals the Keyah Grande’s incredible attention to detail. There is a fully-stocked bar, a relaxing collection of CDs by the stereo, and carefully selected books telling of America’s past, present and future. Every possible amenity has been provided, from satin eye covers to mineral salts and bath teas for the Jacuzzi tub.
There is wireless Internet access in each suite, and for those who have to work, the Guest House has top executive facilities, including a fully-equipped high tech conference room. In truth, the Keyah Grande is perfect for private corporatemeetings, but it seems a shame to work in such a lovely location – especially when there are so many ways to play here.
The Guest House stable is home to 12 horses that are just waiting to be saddled and ridden along the forest paths. And those with a need for speed can hop aboard an ATV (or snowmobile in winter) to zoom across the property. Anglers can hook a good-sized trout in one of the property’s stocked lakes or go fly-fishing with a guide at one of the nearby rivers. Other activities include hiking, a Skeet and Trap range and a sporting clays course.
Yet the most unique aspect of the Keyah Grande is that the property is still a working elk ranch. These enormous animals are bred and raised onsite, overseen by a skilled group of ranch hands. Hunts are available in the Keyah Grande’s private elk preserves.
Those who prefer being pampered to adventurous outdoor play can indulge at the Keyah Grande Spa, which includes a sauna, workout facilities and three massage rooms. Complete spa packages are available.
The downstairs lounge provides a relaxing atmosphere for playing billiards, cards or watching movies on the plasma screen TV. There is even a small children’s arcade for younger guests.
Movies can also be viewed in the upstairs media room, the social hub of the Guest House. A 100-year-old burled walnut bar is the room’s focal point, providing a cozy atmosphere where cocktails are served each evening before dinner.
The Keyah Grande Guest House takes cuisine to new heights. A husband-and-wife gourmet chef team, Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot, cater to discriminating guests with a love of fine dining.
The couple studies food trends from all over the world, building on that knowledge to create leading-edge contemporary dishes. Culinary packages including cooking classes are offered at various times throughout the year.
Dinners are four-course, formal affairs served on Versace plates in an intimate formal dining room. (Jackets required.) Lunches and breakfasts are served on the outside patio when possible or in the smaller breakfast room, with its beautiful Zuber wallpaper.
A 3,000-bottle wine cellar compliments the fine dining experience at the lodge. The cellar includes many great vintages, with an emphasis on first-growth Bordeaux. The wines have been personally selected by the Sackmans, as well as chef Kamozawa.
After dinner, guests can gather around the outdoor firepit and sip liqueurs under a warm blanket while staring at the stars.
It is just this kind of pampering touch that makes guests feel so at home at the Keyah Grande Guest House.
“This region is truly God’s country,” Barbara says. “We’re just trying to enhance what’s He’s already given.”
And after visiting the Keyah Grande Guest House, who wouldn’t agree?
If You Go
For more information, call 970-731-1160 or go to www.keyahgrande.com. Rooms start at $395 a night, based on double occupancy.
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.