By the Mountains or the Sea: Three Great Luxury Resorts

Go beyond generic and experience the unique with stays at one or more of three distinctive Spire Hospitality properties: The Leta in Santa Barbara, CA, Topnotch Resort in Vermont and High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid New York. 

The Leta

If your idea of the ultimate Southern California retreat is longboards, poolside cocktails and coastal cuisine, we’ve got the place for you. The Leta is the kind of place with the ultimate Golden State of Mind/California Living attitude. So chill and enjoy the California groovy touches such as the surf-inspired décor, and eclectic accommodations, live music scene and VNYL record shop.

Ideally located, 158-room resort is prized for its cool, hip, carefree Californian personality along with it’s artful, quirky, unexpected, open and soulful chemistry. Local art, music, food and wine are at home here and the hotel boasts 6,000 square feet of meeting space welcoming locals and out of town guests alike for one-of-a-kind meetings and events.

Designed with an easygoing, California-cool aesthetic, The Leta’s artful guest rooms and suites channel the radiant spirit of SoCal featuring earthy, eccentric textures and fabrics with a nod to surf-culture nostalgia. This charming beach chic hotel in Goleta also welcomes pets. 

High Peaks Resort

High Peaks Resort in the heart of Lake Placid is the perfect home base for exploring the Adirondacks. Guests can choose from three unique lodging experiences overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondack mountains: The Resort, a traditional hotel featuring 105 newly renovated guest rooms; the modern retro-vibe Lake House with 44 guest rooms; and the private and serene Waterfront Collection, featuring 28 guest rooms including 10 suites on the shores of Mirror Lake. 

Amenities available to all guests include two indoor and two outdoor heated pools, an indoor Jacuzzi, an on-site fully equipped fitness center, the Spa & Salon at High Peaks Resort, and Dancing Bears Restaurant, consistently ranked one of the top restaurants in Lake Placid.

Guests also enjoy private access to Mirror Lake with complimentary use of kayaks, paddle boats and stand-up paddleboards, special activities such as yoga at the waterfront and birds of prey demonstrations, an outdoor barbecue, a fire pit (with complimentary s’mores), lawn games, sweeping views of the Adirondack mountains and close proximity to the region’s top attractions and activities such as the Lake Placid Olympic Sites, Whiteface Mountain, The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, High Falls Gorge, Ausable Chasm, and numerous hiking trails, kayaking, boating and more in the Adirondack Park.

High Peaks Resort is also within walking distance to shopping, dining and entertainment in downtown Lake Placid. Dogs are welcome, with special canine-friendly treats and amenities. 

Topnotch Resort

The AAA Four-Diamond Topnotch Resort is a glorious place to stay. Set on 120 acres of woodland at the foot of Mount Mansfield, it’s located between historic and charming Stowe village and Stowe Mountain Resort as well as within 35 miles of four other popular ski resorts: Smuggler’s Notch, Sugar Bush, Mad River Glen and Bolton Valley. Topnotch includes 68 guest rooms and 17 two- and three-bedroom resort homes that allow for a private and very socially distant experience. 

Guests enjoy Vermont fresh farm-to-table dining at The Roost, the Topnotch Tennis Academy (ranked one of the top 10 tennis resorts in the country offering more than 30 programs for all ages and levels of play on six seasons outdoor and four indoor hard courts), the 35,000 square foot award-winning Topnotch Spa, three indoor and outdoor heated pools, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis, the Equestrian Center at Topnotch (offering English and Western trail rides, private and group horseback riding, carriage rides and sleigh rides), Mountain Ops Outdoor Gear (an on-property outfitter which can arrange and outfit for any activity year-round, including mountain biking, hiking, kayaking and fishing in the summer), outdoor fire pits with s’mores kits, shuffleboard and other games, specialty cocktails, access to the Stowe Recreation Path and more.

Dog friendly, Topnotch provides Fido with the finer things a canine deserves such as dog beds, CBD treats and special canine-friendly turndown service and spa treatments. Just a short drive from Topnotch, Stowe Village is worth the trip. Peruse the many locally owned shops (a personal favorite is Laughing Moon Chocolates) and art galleries, check out the locally sourced offerings at village restaurants, admire the 18th and 19th century architecture, explore the outdoors in a variety of ways such hot air balloon rides and kayaking, and take in a show at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center

About Spire Hospitality

Spire Hospitality, led by CEO Chris Russell, is a third-party operator of 7,033 room keys and over 350,000 square feet of meeting space across 20 states. The Spire portfolio, with a focus on large, full-service hotels, includes unique independent properties and premier branded assets across Hilton Hotels & Resorts (HLT), Marriott International (MAR) and InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), including 29 hotels and resorts. Spire Hospitality offers expertise in all facets of hospitality management and is committed to preserving, protecting and enhancing the value of hotel real estate. www.spirehotels.com.

Hauntings, History, Chocolates & Cheese: In Vermont’s Green Mountains

          I follow the aptly named Covered Bridge Road which winds and twists its way to Emily’s Bridge that spans Gold Brook in Stowe Hollow not far from Stowe, Vermont where I’ll be spending the week. It’s an old bridge, built in 1844 and I wonder, as I park my car and grab my camera, about Emily. As I go to shut my door, I suddenly hesitate, listening to an internal voice telling me not leave my keys in the ignition. That’s silly, I tell myself as I put the keys in my pocket, who would steal my car out in the middle of nowhere. Who is even around on this narrow road? Even Emily has been gone since 1844.

          That’s where I’m wrong. Emily, it seems, despite her sorrows, has a mischievous streak. She wouldn’t take my car for a joyride—after all back in her day it was horse and buggy not Rav-4s. But she might have locked my door with the keys inside. That, it seems, is one of the mischievous tricks that Emily likes to play, though others have reported more vindictive acts such as shaking cars with passengers in them and leaving scratch marks, first upon the carriages that once rode over these boards and now cars.

          Who was Emily and why has she spent almost 180 years doing these things? In Stowe I learn there are several tales, all with the same theme. Jilted or maybe mourning her dead lover– Emily either hanged herself from the single-lane, 50-foot-long bridge or threw herself into the creek below. Whatever happened, it ended badly for Emily and now, at night, people sometimes hear a woman’s voice calling from the other end of the bridge—no matter what side they’re on–and see ghostly shapes and sometimes, Emily obviously being a spirit who has 21st technological knowledge, maybe their keys will get locked in the car. As for the romantic name of Gold Brook, the answer is prosaic enough–gold once was found in the water.

          But those who live in Stowe, Vermont, a picturesque 18th century village tucked away in the Green Mountains, don’t let a ghost, no matter how fearsome she might be deter them from selling Emily’s Bridge products such as t-shirts, puzzles, paintings, and even tote bags. Etsy even has an Emily’s Bridge Products section. I wonder if that makes Emily even angrier.

There are no ghosts as far as I know at Topnotch Resort in Stowe where I’m staying. It’s all hills and history here and each morning, I sip on the patio, sipping the locally roasted coffee named after the nearby Green Mountains.

Located on 120-acres in the foothills of Mount Mansfield on what was once a dairy farm, the sleek resort still has traces of its past in the silvery toned whitewashed barn and vintage butter tubs found in the resort’s public rooms counterpoints to the sleekly designed furniture that manages to be both cozy and comfy at the same time.  

The local and locally sourced mantra is stamped on this part of Vermont like the differing shades of light and dark greens mark the mountains. Organic animal and vegetable farms and small cheeseries, chocolatiers and dairies dot the countryside.

But before heading into town, I have the resort’s experiences to explore.

Though I haven’t played tennis for many years, I take a private lesson at the Topnotch Tennis Center, ranked by Tennis Magazine as No. 1 in the Northwest and among its Ten Best U.S. Tennis Resorts.

As we work on general ground strokes, the pro, one of about 10, all of whom are USPTA/PTR certified, helps me correct an awkward backhand.

“It’s all about muscle memory,” he tells me noting that I need to reintroduce myself gradually back into the game, as my muscles relearn lessons from long ago.

Retraining muscles makes me sore, so my next activity — a gentle horseback ride on one of the experienced trail horses at the Topnotch Equestrian Center— seems perfect.

We an hour-long path that meanders across a wooden covered bridge—one that isn’t haunted–spanning the West Branch of the Lamoille River, climbs Luce Hill past patches of shamrocks and weaves through wavy grasses dotted with pink yarrow and painted daisies.

Then it’s on to my own self-created food tour. At Laughing Moon Chocolates in downtown Stowe, I watch as salted caramels are hand dipped into hot chocolate and ponder the difficult decision of what to buy. It’s a delightful place, in a century old building, with wooden display cases and such yummy and intriguing chocolate fillings such as blue cheese using an artisan blue cheese made by a local creamery.  Who could resist?

Following the winding Hill Road, I stop to chat with Molly Pindell, who co-owns, with her sister Kate, the 27-acre Sage Farm Goat Dairy. We walk amongst the Alpine goats that look up from the sweet grass and fall apples they are munching on to watch us. Goats, Molly tells me, are friendly and loyal. Think dogs with horns.

          After watching the goats frolic, we head to the creamery where Molly needs to pack up her latest cheese, Justice, a 100% raw goat’s milk, bisected by a layer of vegetable ash, and aged just over 60 days. It’s truly a family farm with Molly’s husband Dave and their two children and Katie’s partner Bob, the couples live I think how great would this life be? Cute goats, great cheese, and a chance to get back to the land.

          Though, on second thought, milking goats everyday early in the morning when it’s cold and snowing may lose its appeal pretty quickly. Better just to buy goat’s cheese at wonderful places like this.

          To relax after my endeavors, I head to Topnotch’s spa for their signature massage and then a swim in the slate lined outdoor pool. Slate being another Vermont product. I have just enough energy to end the night as I began my morning, sitting on the patio near the outdoor fire pit with its flicker of flames highlighting the garden art on the grassy hillside, while watching the Green Mountains fade into dark.

The following recipe is courtesy of Laughing Moon Chocolates.

  • ½ pint heavy cream
  • 1¼ pounds Yucatan chocolate chunks
  • 1½ ounces sweet (unsalted) butter
  • 1½ ounces vodka
  • ⅓ ounce or 500 milligrams Elmore Mountain Therapeutics CBD oil or other CBD oil

Pour the cream into a saucepan, stirring over medium heat until it begins to steam (190 degrees). Turn off heat and add the chocolate, butter, and liquor, stirring with a wire whisk until mixture is blended smooth and no pieces of chocolate remain. Add CBD oil and whisk well. Pour mixture into shallow baking dish and let cool overnight. When ready to prepare, scoop chocolate mixture with a spoon and roll in cocoa powder.

Additional flavor options are endless! Some favorites include:

Chamomile and Lavender: Steep ⅛ cup tea with the cream on low heat until it steams. Strain into a larger pot to remove herb or tea. At Laughing Moon, they use Vermont Liberty Tea Company’s Moonbeams and Lavender.

Maple: Add Vermont maple syrup to taste.

Substitute vodka with raspberry liqueur, peppermint schnapps or a liquor of your choosing for a subtle additional flavor.