R&R in Ouray: Chart a Course for the China Clipper Inn

When it comes to deciding the most gorgeous mountain setting in Southwestern Colorado, it might end up with a coin toss to see whether Ouray or Telluride would win.

If the locals have anything to say about it, the coin lands on the side of Ouray, which has earned the nickname “Switzerland of America.”

And, close to the center of town sits the China Clipper Inn, a 12-room bed and breakfast that, while thoroughly modern, looks like a throwback to the 1890s. Opened in 1995, it was designed to emulate its historic neighbors, yet retain the architectural vintage and character of the town.

The China Clipper Inn was purchased by new hosts Hans and Ingrid Vander Ploeg in August 2009, and they provide their own brand of hospitality. Both have extensive experience in the Tourism and Hospitality fields, and work hard to ensure their guests are happy.

Several of the guestrooms have fireplaces, perfect for relaxing after a long day of cross-country skiing or many other outdoor activities.

Regardless of what time of year you go — whether for skiing, hiking, fly-fishing or leaf-peeping — count on the proprietors to shower you with hospitality and culinary magic.

Arrive anytime after Thanksgiving after the sun has set and this lovely, three-story home welcomes you with an image worthy of a Christmas card cover, thanks to the backdrop of the San Juan Mountains and the hundreds of miniature holiday lights that make the inn sparkle from stem to stern.

The property is equally appealing in the summer and fall, if only for the dramatic mountain scenery and long lingering sun.

Named after the famous clipper ships of the mid-1800s by its owner, a retired Navy commander, the inn carries the nautical atmosphere inside.

As you ascend the flight of steps and open the front door, the place feels inviting and homey. Wander into the living room to the right and you’ll find a welcoming gathering place with cozy chairs and a fireplace. Feel free to read one of the many books in the library.

To the left is the dining room, where guests convene for breakfast, and a sitting room, which makes for a perfect place for afternoon refreshments and conversation.

Regardless of which room you’re in each is a showcase for replicated antique beds, dressers and end tables, most of which are crafted from mahogany. Accented with hints of the Orient, many of the rooms have lamps, wall hangings, rugs or hand-painted screens with an Asian flair.

Opened in 1995, the bed and breakfast with an antique atmosphere was designed to emulate Ouray’s historic architecture.

Rooms feature private baths, satellite TV, ceiling fans and phones with voice mail and data ports. On the first floor guests can choose from Flying Cloud, Sovereign of the Sea and Sea Witch. The first two rooms have fireplaces and each has a queen bed.

Witch of the Waves, Romance of the Seas, Captain’s Quarters and First Mate’s Quarters are on the second floor. Romance of the Seas, a “honeymoon deluxe room,” has a fireplace and a king-size bed. Captain’s Quarters, a “honeymoon luxury room,” has a fireplace and a queen bed. Both rooms have private decks and in-room whirlpool tub. The others have queen-size beds.

First Mate’s Quarters also has an in-room whirlpool tub. Golden West, a one-bedroom suite on the street level, has a fireplace, queen bed and a small patio.

A member of the Distinctive Inns of Colorado and Small Elegant Hotels, the China Clipper serves breakfasts that have helped earn the property a Mobil Three-Star rating.

Guests may enjoy their breakfast either in the elegantly appointed dining room or outside at one of the small tables on the covered front porch.

In the afternoon, the inn has a cocktail hour when guests are served wine, beer and appetizers. During the holidays hot cider, cocoa, cookies and other themed goodies are offered.

A few blocks away, the town will vanquish your shopping urges. And, if you wish to burn those cookie-induced calories during a winter visit, go cross-country skiing, skating, ice climbing or snowshoeing nearby. Or you could make a trip to Telluride for a day of skiing, snowbiking or snowboarding.

In the summer and fall, fly-fishing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and Jeep touring might occupy your time. And, anytime of year, the town’s million-gallon, natural Hot Springs Pool invites a soothing soak.

With only 12 rooms, the China Clipper Inn fills quickly during holidays and the fall leaf-viewing season.

If you have a leaf-peeping or holiday stay in mind, book your stay months ahead, as the China Clipper Inn is on many a wish list.

If You Go

Rates in the non-smoking, no-pets-allowed inn range from $85 to $210 per night, double occupancy. Holiday rates are slightly higher.

For information or to make a reservation, call 1-970-325-0565 or 1-800-315-0565, or log on to http://ouraylodging-inns.com/