Welcome to One Night In, a series about staying in the most unparalleled places available to rest your head.
When friends of mine mention they’d like to “get into skiing,” I warn them: it’s expensive, dangerous, and a logistical nightmare. If you aren’t already hooked, don’t try to get hooked. Save yourself, because I’m already past saving. However, this doesn’t mean I don’t try to rope friends who already love snow sports into trips with me. And so, in late March, I recruited two of my favorite other snow rats to join me for a few days in Winter Park, Colorado, to close out the season.
I associate skiing with well-worn, cookie-cutter condos and salt-stained carpets—whatever is functional and as cheap as I can find to get the job done and let me eke out a full eight hours on the slopes. Indulging in a more elevated experience hadn’t occurred to me until I heard about the A-Frame Club, a new ’70s-inspired property in Winter Park’s Old Town. Designed by Skylab Architecture, a lauded Portland firm (delightfully responsible for the famous Hoke House, featured as the Cullen family home in Twilight) and opened by Zeppelin Development, the 31 A-frame cabins are rounded out with an on-site saloon and bar. The hotel had been open less than two months when we booked our trip, and only a few of the cabins were ready. We were excited to be getting in on the ground floor.
Evening: We arrive at the tail end of a storm that promises a bluebird ski day and blankets the property in snowdrifts. The cabins, constructed in knotted cedar and birch that will weather grayer, peak out above the powder. The metal roofs with their wing-tipped eaves are set at a dramatic slope in congruence with the surrounding evergreens.
I am immediately surprised by the club’s modest footprint. Set on a four-acre property, the cabins are not spread out, but instead clustered together and nearly overlapping, connected by a labyrinth of raised wooden paths that feel almost like tunnels when cocooned in snow. My friend Kevin, an architectural designer and obsessive of high-density housing, adored this feature. Rather than feeling claustrophobic, the effect is a cozy one. It allows for privacy but efficiency of space: no sharing condo walls or hearing an upstairs neighbor tramp above your head.
We enter our cabin to earth tones—muted, midcentury-style furniture, a Malm fireplace in yellow, wooden walls half-painted black—the effect is both soothing to the eyes and blends comfortably in with the surrounding nature, visible through the long sliding door at the back of the cabin. Patterned rugs and art lean toward the geometric, fully embracing the club’s ’70s aesthetic inspiration. A smart TV cycles through vintage black-and-white photos, now displaying two men catching air on a ski jump.
The star of the cabin (other than maybe the heated bathroom floors) is indisputably the upstairs loft area. The narrow, steep staircase is not for the faint of heart (nor for my large dog, Basa, who tried in vain to scramble after me and promptly tumbled down—she’s fine!), but we are rewarded with a king-size bed set underneath the signature triangular windows and vaulted ceiling. I’d read about the soaking tub, but I hadn’t realized where it would be: right by the foot of the bed. Talk about an easy commute.
Morning: I’ll be gone for eight hours of skiing, and though my dog will happily snore the day away, I take her for a long walk when we first wake up. A stone’s throw from our cabin is a trail winding along the Fraser River. It snowed copiously overnight, yet the path is already groomed for cross-country skiers and walkers, with plenty of untouched drifts off-trail for Basa to burrow and bound into.
I return to the smell of sizzling eggs. The kitchenette is equipped with a simple induction stove, small fridge, and microwave, perfectly adequate for us to make breakfast and sandwiches for a packed lunch, but not geared toward particularly elaborate meals. All fine—a great excuse to indulge in some delicious meals out.
The hotel’s infancy is evident not just in the cabin’s unweathered exteriors, but also in some of the hiccups natural for an establishment still finding its sea legs. We are admittedly somewhat shook upon discovering that the only way to make coffee is with the provided ‘artisanal’ instant coffee—no Mr. Coffee or Keurig in sight. (My hunch, and hope, is we won’t be the last to notice this and that, at the very least, a simple pour-over device will appear sometime in the next few months.) There’s a bench with a designated ski slot, a snazzy ski-boot warming device, and a small doorless closet by the entryway, but the cabin is otherwise spare and not equipped with extensive storage. We were ambitious, with three of us and a dog in the 475-square-foot space, and while it never felt particularly cramped, the cabins are probably geared more toward couples and solo travelers. Luckily, we all like each other plenty.
Dave, the innkeeper, has arranged to drive us to the ski resort and pick us up in the club’s stylish ’89 Jeep Wagoneer. On the drive, he tells us the goal is to set up regular shuttle service for guests, not just to the resort but around town. The challenge, he says, is hiring. Winter Park, like many ski towns, is dealing with a labor shortage. Mid-range and luxury accommodations like the A-Frame Club are not entirely inculpable in the lack of affordable housing that plays a role in the matter. This was one of the main reasons I was impressed and heartened by the hotel’s modest footprint. And, judging by the packed saloon every night, the town was hungry for a cozy yet upscale spot to eat and drink.
Afternoon: The club has put together an aprés-ski party with an overflowing charcuterie plate and several cocktail and liquor purveyors handing out beer, wine, and pomegranate martinis under a pergola attached to the restaurant. We snack and drink happily, our muscles rubbery from a day of moguls and steeps. The afternoon air is warm and the snow is melting quickly into slush and dirty water, but spirits are high: the DJ spins records, dogs frolic on the patio, a taxidermied deer keeps watch over the appetizers. An influencer crowd arrives, posing for photos next to the Wagoneer in their bright snowsuits. By contrast, I patched a hole in my ski pants with duct tape earlier in the day. Every once in a while, it’s important to be humbled.
Evening: We have dinner reservations at The Saloon, the hotel restaurant helmed by chef Nic Weber, who has an impressive list of James Beard and Michelin-starred credentials. We enter to an eclectic array of seating options. Pothos hanging under a skylight frame one long table. One group lounges on a curved couch in front of a fireplace. We are seated at a circular table on plush cushioned seats, a perfect balm for our sore muscles. We order widely: a spread of roasted feta and pickled vegetables, bruschetta, French onion soup, and an enormous “dino-bone” short rib, the leftovers of which my dog delights in for days. Everything is delicious. My friend Emma and I each have one, then two, of the house take on a Manhattan, while Kevin sticks with a refreshing champagne spritzer.
Back at the cabin, we barely make it through an episode of Love Is Blind before we’re out cold (don’t worry, I’m caught up now).
Evening: We settle into a routine, spending three days throwing ourselves down the slopes, walking Basa along the river, carbo-loading at dinner. On our last night, we have a nightcap at The Saloon, seated on high leather stools along the long wooden bar, and toast to a successful trip.
Morning: The good weather holds until the day of our departure, when we wake up to a steady snowfall. Spring is coming—you can see it in the muddy puddles forming in our tire tracks, the snow running in rivulets down the cabin’s metal roofs—but the fresh layer is quickly hiding all evidence of the melt.
We dig out the car, pack the trunk. I’ve got miles to drive, they’ve got flights to catch, and so we say goodbye to the cabin and to the ski season—ours at least. After all, the lifts are still turning and someone’s still up there, laying fresh tracks.
Top Image: Courtesy Stephan Werk
More from this series:
One Night In a Kaleidoscopic, Snake-Shaped Apartment Complex Near Mexico City
One Night In Joshua Tree’s Multicolored, Cubist Monument House