Perhaps I should begin with a multi-part disclaimer: I was born in Colorado, and that has imbued me with a special fondness for its mountains (and deserts). This is also the first place I picked up a tennis racquet, beating the cover off pressureless Tretorn balls on the cement courts in the local park. Later, I wrote a guidebook on places to stay in the Columbine State, research that took me all over its highways and byways and further cemented my passion for its landscapes and people. Although I haven't lived there since college, I return every year, often more than once, to visit family, ski, hike, bike, and otherwise indulge in outdoor recreation.
Decades later, my love of Colorado and tennis intersected when I returned as a travel journalist to explore my home state as a place for a tennis vacation. There are two obvious reasons for doing so: Colorado's tennis resorts all inhabit locations backdropped by towering, often forested peaks rising into blue-bird skies, and they share a mild, dry summer (and autumn) climate that indulges even those bent on scurrying around the court at 2 p.m. on and August afternoon. Granted, playing at altitude brings some challenges: the ball arrives on you more quickly than at sea level, and until you've adjusted, groundstrokes may tend to fly (on the other hand, your serve is more penetrating, and you're less apt to volley short). By far the greater challenge, however, is the distraction afforded by that picturesque scenery that backdrops seemingly every court. What follows is an overview of some of the best tennis resorts Colorado has to offer, beginning in the east along the Front Range.
Set in the stunning Green Mountains of Vermont, The Drysdale Tennis School at Stratton Mountain Resort offers camp options for members of the whole family and caters to all levels of play. Adult camp starts from just $100 a day during the month of June, so come out and play on the red clay courts of Southern Vermont. Kids camp begins June 11, sign up now! For more information or to make reservations, phone 802.297.4230, contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.stratton.com/tennis
The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs. The most opulent hotel west of the Mississippi, this Italian Renaissance-inspired gem, set beside a lake, backs up against the green-clad Cheyenne Mountains at the edge of Colorado Springs, the state's second largest city. An apron of lush parkland and golf fairways flow west and south, giving this somewhat the feel of a private estate—in this case one with its own zoo. Those jogging and walking around the lake in the morning often encounter deer, drawn, no doubt, by the profusion of flowers. It's an idyllic—and pet-friendly—retreat, made all the more alluring by the abundant amenities, golf, tennis, a spa, and multiple dining options foremost among them.
The tennis, on five handsomely laid-out courts—three hard, two Har-Tru (the latter two bubbled in winter)—stands out for its superior service.
"We have to have that personal relationship with every single person who comes through the door," says long-time tennis director Karen Brandner. "We get people who come back year after year."
The weekly tennis calendar during summer and early fall is rife with drills, stroke clinics, junior camps, and round robins, and supplemented by special tennis camps, some of which are bundled with fly-fishing, wine dinners, or chef-led farm-to-table tours of The Broadmoor greenhouse. A few of the camps also include pickleball, the newest rage at the resort, which has three permanent courts and a dedicated pickleball pro. Brandner attributes pickleball's popularity, especially among millennials and multi-generational families, to its social aspect. "With four people at the net, communication is easy and the sport is less about competition than fun."
Garden of the Gods Collection, Colorado Springs. The Garden of the Gods is a public park in Colorado Springs renowned for the Instagram-worthy outcrops of sandstone spires, hoodoos, and cathedrals rising against a backdrop of the 14,115-foot Pike's Peak. The eponymous resort sits not within the park but, even better, on an adjacent mesa where it takes in a sweeping panorama of jaw-dropping beauty. That location aside, the resort also has an exceptional tennis pedigree, having started out in the early 1950s as a private club—with backing from Lamar Hunt of the WCT Tennis Tour—for Hollywood elite and captains of industry. A Who's Who from that era came to stay and play, among them Robert Mitchum, Claudette Colbert, Gene Autry, John Wayne, and Walt Disney.
Fast-forward to the 21st century and what now occupies that mesa is a 56-room hotel—every one of its rooms with views of Garden of the Gods—a 27-hole golf course, a newly opened six-court tennis facility (four of which are indoors), a fitness center, sports club, several dining outlets, and, central to the resort's current focus, a brand-new Spa and International Health & Wellness Center dedicated to delivering holistic healthcare that "integrate Eastern and Western medicine with a focus on proactive health and wellbeing." Though the context has broadened over the decades, tennis remains a crucial component of the GOTGC experience. Tennis director Scott Leifer learned his tennis in Glen Cove, NY, under Tony Palafox, the celebrated coach of John McEnroe, Vitus Gerulaitis, and others. "I grew up around a pretty cool crowd," he told me. "My coaching technique was honed under Palafox." He oversees a staff of four pros and a large local membership, a boon to resort guests. He now also has the benefit of those indoor courts, which allows play year-round and, he hopes, will make it possible to lure groups and USTA teams for long-weekend, personalized clinics. Those may or may not include "the grind," a 90-minute session on the regular calendar during which, Leifer says, "we grind them hard with drills and then play games."
Vail Racquet Club, Vail. Tranquilly set at 8,300 feet in East Vail, 6 miles from the bustling village of shops and restaurants in Vail proper, the Vail Racquet Club affords an escape from the summer crowds in a setting of trees and flowers and mountain air, hard by a forested slope sporting a waterfall. Its eight courts—five hard, three Har-Tru—spread out from a lodge containing a restaurant, health club, two hot tubs, massage rooms, and heated swimming pool, the anchor for a neighborhood of accommodations ranging from kitchen-equipped one-bedroom condos to three-bedroom townhomes. All of these are within an easy walk of the courts, where since 2006 Greg Wanner, a lefty, has run a June-to-mid-October program consisting of clinics, private lessons, junior programs, and customized group camps.
Though baseball was his first passion, Wanner played junior tennis in his native New Jersey. It was skiing that originally brought him to Vail—he teaches that in winter—but he returned to tennis as an adult, pursuing teacher training at the IMG Academy, Evert Tennis Academy, and Sanchez-Casals in Barcelona. He's joined by head pro Danny Colten, who played for Azuza Pacific University near Los Angeles, and thus can handle the really heavy hitters. Between them they deftly see to the needs of everyone who turns up, and that includes some not staying at the club, since the programs are open to all (though only guests get free unlimited court time).
Though the climate is conducive to playing tennis all day, chances are Vail's other attractions will lure you away, whether for a gondola ride to the top of the mountain, ziplining over forests and meadows, and hiking and mountain biking, to name only a few of the options. Tennis is far from the only reason to be in these mountains.
Snowmass Club, Snowmass. With 11 outdoor hard courts and two indoor Har-Tru courts, the Snowmass Club leaves no doubt about its passion for tennis. The hard courts, grouped in pairs, spill down a grassy hillside, their perimeters lined with evergreens and aspens, while the view to the southwest takes in the grass-covered ski slopes of Snowmass. Activity funnels through a small pro shop with a small TV lounge inside and a viewing deck with chairs and tables outside. The courts are just one aspect of this exceptional property, which comprises a picturesque if demanding 18-hole links-style golf course, a 19,000-square-foot athletic club, several swimming pools, a spa, two restaurants, a 2-to-5-bedroom residences, the last mostly available only on weekly rentals, though some shorter stays may be possible.
The tennis programs and courts are, however, available to those staying elsewhere (though members and guests have priority). With so many outdoor courts, finding an available court is not a problem in summer (it's the indoor courts in winter that are hard to come by). Scott Dorais is in his first summer as director, but has a long history with Aspen tennis, having previously worked at the private Maroon Creek Club and the Aspen Club and coached the Aspen high school girl's team. For the busy mid-June to mid-August high season, he has carpentered together a schedule of adult clinics every morning except Sunday, several additional drill sessions, and three levels of kids' camps ages 4 to 17 grouped by age and/or ability level. Pickleball, too, is an option: one court has lines and temporary nets. Not that you'll spend all day on court, not with all the other recreation Aspen offers in the way of hiking (to Maroon Bells, if you've never been), biking, and fishing or the summer festivals for jazz, music, ballet, food and wine, among them free summer concerts in Snowmass Village.
Aspen Meadows Resort, Aspen. Aspen may be a synonym for skiing, but it is never more beautiful in summer and fall, when the snow is gone from all but the highest peaks. The rich and famous keep coming, drawn by the Aspen Food and Wine Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, not to mention festivals for arts, ballet, and, of course, fall foliage. One of the venues that plays a role in these and other gatherings is the Aspen Meadow Resort, which is owned by the Aspen Institute and stages its own summer forums that bring together national figures from government, industry, and the press to explore crucial issues facing the nation. This year it is national security.
The resort itself covers 40 acres, which back up to the Roaring Fork River. Its 98 rooms, in Bauhaus design, occupy two-story buildings grouped around a central green and anchored by the hotel restaurant, lounge, and health and fitness center. Artwork dots the property. It's an intimate retreat, which also has a small, somewhat unprepossessing tennis center, with four hard and one Har-Tru court. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in personal attention. Karen Lutz, who back in the day played junior Wimbledon, has run this summer-fall operation for the last 15 years, assisted by Petra Crimmel, a former top 100 ranked WTA player from Croatia, and her father. Together they offer clinics, junior development camps, private lessons, and drop-in doubles on weekends, often to sounds emanating from the tents of the Aspen Music Festival, which takes place here over much of the summer. Court time is free if you're a guest of the hotel, but otherwise the courts and programs are open to anyone. Lutz takes a hands-on approach to satisfying anyone who comes through the door, including those looking for a game. Say Lutz: "I've always got someone I can find for them."
Two big changes have taken place at Total Tennis, the long-running tennis camp in Saugerties, NY. The first is a complete renovation of more than three-quarters of the rooms, turning what had been rather rustic accommodations into spiffy digs dressed up with new furniture and rugs, hardwood floors, and upgraded bathrooms. Those weren't the only improvements: a new outdoor swimming pool and deck stands between "The Barn" and the indoor tennis courts, the latter sporting a new cushioned (and slower) surface and bright LED lighting. WiFi is now available throughout the rooms and public spaces, one more amenity to go along with the hot tub, day spa, fitness center, game room, and outdoor tennis, pickleball, and paddle tennis courts. And that's on top of three sumptuous meals prepared by a CIA-trained chef. At last, those who've loved Total Tennis but longed for more comfortable lodging have had their wish fulfilled.
Total Tennis founder Ed Fondiller is using those enhancements as a springboard to launch the 73-acre property as a resort, calling it Kaatsbaan Lodge.
"The idea is to lure people up to take a lesson or clinic, or hit on an open court, and then go hiking, biking, or rafting," he told me. "We're no longer talking about just tennis. They can stay here, take advantage of the amenities and meals, and then use it to explore the Hudson Valley and historic towns like Saugerties and Woodstock."
If you arrive in St. Michaels on Maryland's Eastern Shore by boat, as I did, you'll skirt the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and its flotilla of historic crabbing and oystering boats. Just to the right behind a broad lawn and marina stands the gabled, white-clapboard Inn at Perry Cabin, which dates to 1816. Now substantially expanded to 96 rooms and modernized, it has morphed over the centuries from a stop for wayfaring seamen to a luxury hotel with an extensive array of amenities, among them a spa, 18-hole P.B. Dye golf course, and, as of last weekend, a handsome complex of three Har-Tru tennis courts managed by Cliff Drysdale Tennis.
Cliff Drysdale himself showed up for the ribbon cutting, praising the look of the tennis complex and the statement it made about the inn's faith in the ability of tennis to attract guests. White fencing, its posts topped by copper-colored caps, surround the three courts, all of them with lights and subsurface watering. A small pro shop stands at one end, next to a patio furnished with tall teak tables and chairs, the better to view the action on court. Trees rise behind the fences to either side, most prominently a row of lindens along both sides of the long red-brick roadway leading to the inn. There is more landscaping yet to come. After a wet spring, which delayed the opening, Robert Wright, an Englishmen who had previously been the head pro at the Drysdale-managed Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa, is only too happy to finally be on court teaching. And to judge from the turnout of hotel guests and members, there is a solid core of tennis enthusiasts eager to keep him busy.
Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes its latest research on sun protection products. This year, in examining 650 products they found, alarmingly, that two-thirds of those tested either failed to provide adequate protection or contained products that raised health concerns. Among the latter are oxybenzone, an allergen that disrupts hormones and contributes to the bleaching and death of coral reefs; and retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that far from protecting skin may actually harm it. Despite those known side effects, the EWG reports that "the government allows most sunscreens to claim they help prevent skin cancer." The U.S. continues to lag behind Europe, which requires that UVA protection rise in proportion with SPF, since SPF only reflects protection from UVB rays. Again, the EWG findings are troubling: although nearly every sunscreen they reviewed passes the FDA test, "about half of them would not offer enough UVA protection to be sold in Europe." The EWG is also troubled by the rise in the use of spray-on sunscreens, which both pose an inhalation risk and may not provide a thick and even coating. Read the EWG's 8 Little-Known Facts About Sunscreens and then check out how your favorite sunscreen fared in this year's testing at Best Beach and Sport Sunscreens