The Broadmoor’s Cloud Camp: Recreating a Southern Colorado Landmark

In 1918, Spencer Penrose—one of the major creative forces behind Colorado Springs—envisioned and built the historic Broadmoor Hotel, a world-class resort destination. Soon after, he built a road up the side of Cheyenne Mountain. This 6-mile road wound its way along 16 switchbacks and gained more than 3,000 vertical feet, finally reaching a place called The Horns on Cheyenne Mountain. There, Penrose built Cheyenne Mountain Lodge—sometimes called Honeymoon Lodge.

Penrose opened his Pueblo-style inn in 1926 to host guests in an alpine environment with sweeping views of southern Colorado’s plains and mountains, including Pikes Peak. Cheyenne Mountain Lodge operated for decades, then fell into disrepair. It was demolished in 1976.

Then along came Philip Anschutz—a Colorado visionary entrepreneur who purchased The Broadmoor in 2006. He refurbished Penrose’s Cheyenne Mountain Road and built a mountain-top retreat called Cloud Camp, which will begin its second full season in April 2016. His goal is to bring the outdoors to a whole new generation.

“[Philip] cares so deeply about the American West and loves our country,” said Sasha Burke, Cloud Camp’s resident manager and a long-time member of the Broadmoor’s management team. “He wants people to get outdoors and experience the amazing resource we have in our wilderness.”

At Cloud Camp, Sasha and her staff welcome guests at the Grand Lodge—a spectacular great room adorned with some of Anschutz’s art and western artifact collections, along with fires roaring in 2 giant stone fireplaces at each end of the lodge. A large wrap-around deck serves up views to the east.

For the Grand Lodge, Philip chose a style reminiscent of National Park Service-rustic—sometimes called “Parkitecture,” as design architect Mark Nelson explained. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to come out with it being such a dark interior with minimal lighting,” he said. “I was amazed when it was done. You become in awe with that kind of lighting. You can lose yourself in just looking at the art for an hour.”

Guests can settle into rooms either in the lodge or private cabins. Each room and cabin is unique, but two are exceptional. The Honeymoon Suite features a 2-person brass tub and private overlook. The Fire Lookout Cabin is recreated on a previous site where fire watchers once scanned 360 degrees from the highest point on the property. It’s a Broadmoor-style opportunity to stay in a fire lookout, including 122 steps that wind their way to the perch.

Trails provide pathways to explore the property, connecting to forest service trails for longer hikes. Two large whiskey-barrel hot tubs with mountain views serve as stops along the trail, as well as an archery range overlooking Colorado Springs. Last year, the Broadmoor added the Overlook—a meeting and event venue with a spacious deck looking to the northeast.

There’s no doubt that with Cloud Camp, Philip Anschutz has truly made a unique and stunning vacation spot.

Rebuilding a Legacy

According to Bob McGrath, whose company Bob McGrath Construction built the camp, creating the 5-star experience on a rocky mountaintop was an engineering and logistical challenge. “The Fire Tower is a great example of an engineering challenge,” Bob recalled.  “I researched extensively how people have built structures in places like that. I ended up studying the pyramids! Like the Egyptians, we built a 240-foot ramp to the top with a rail system and a rail car. We had a 10-ton winch to pull materials up.” His team began construction in October 2013 and opened the camp in August of 2014.

Another challenge was pouring concrete in the cold temperatures at 9,200 feet. It took Bob’s crew 12–15 hours to set concrete that usually takes an hour. Bob described the question his crew asked:

“Do you build a concrete plant up there, or do you haul it? We chose to haul it, but concrete doesn’t set in freezing temperatures, so we had to have propane heaters running 24-7. And you can’t leave propane heaters unattended.”  Sometimes, Bob’s crew stayed all night in shifts, and 13-hour workdays were standard. “I love that leadership challenge,” Bob said. “How do you get 100–200 guys to buy into not failing? Nobody quit the Cloud Camp job. It was a mission to get it done. That’s kind of The Broadmoor way.”

The Grand Lodge was assembled first in Idaho—where the Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar trees originated—then disassembled and shipped to Colorado Springs. The logs weighed 2,000–3,000 pounds each, and the longest was 42 feet. Bob and his crew investigated the feasibility of flying the logs up via helicopter, but in the end decided to use the road. Always resourceful, Bob drafted his well-used 2004 GMC pickup to haul the logs by trailer, making as many as 4 trips a day. “And that pickup still runs!” Bob said.

It’s no wonder Bob McGrath has been a trusted builder and renovator for The Broadmoor for many years, having done 200 jobs for the hotel—from fixing doors to building Emerald Valley Ranch (another new wilderness experience site). He’s renovated many of its landmarks, including the Golden Bee. Bob and his team are currently renovating a nearby historic building recently acquired by the hotel called The Manor. “It will be an event space like no other,” Bob predicted.

In all this, Bob is quick to credit the vision of Philip Anschutz, the astounding ability of architect Mark Nelson to bring the owner’s visions to paper, and the leadership and construction knowledge of Terry McHale, the Broadmoor’s long-time director of facilities. “Terry knows more about construction than anyone I’ve ever met. He knows more about electrical than the electricians.”

Lifelong Memories and Relationships from a Weekend at Cloud Camp

Last summer, Jack Pottle, a Denver businessman, and his wife Judy, an educator, were looking for a weekend getaway. Jack had read about the Broadmoor’s Cloud Camp and Emerald Valley, so he called for information. Jack and Judy were intrigued by the idea of a Broadmoor experience high up on the mountain. “The Broadmoor is an iconic Colorado property. Cloud Camp sounded like an interesting new take on it,” Jack said.

For their Cloud Camp experience, Jack and Judy came to Colorado Springs in August.

“When we checked in at the Broadmoor, I was immediately impressed with the investment in excellence the new ownership is making,” Jack said. “They have really taken it up a notch.” Jack is a Colorado native and a Colorado College alumnus, so over the years he’d been to the Broadmoor many times. He was still blown away by Cloud Camp. “Everything seemed updated, and the art was amazing,” he praised. “The customer service was very high touch. They even began our planning process 2 weeks before the trip.”

After they checked in at the Broadmoor, a Cadillac Escalade took the Pottles and another couple to Cloud Camp. “We immediately bonded with the other couple, who was celebrating their first wedding anniversary,”  Jack recalled.  “We’ve continued to stay in touch and even gotten involved in some of each other’s organizations.”

Once at the camp, Jack and Judy settled into their cabin and began to take part in the life of the place. “In all honesty, this is like summer camp for adults,” Jack said. “It was really fun, and we got to know some wonderfully interesting people.” The food was particularly memorable for Jack, who enjoyed the cooking class combined with cocktail time when the staff demonstrated how their dinner was being prepared. They dined together as a collective of guests, about 40 in total.

On Saturday, they had activity choices like archery, hikes, and mule rides. Jack and Judy both enjoyed some archery. Then Jack went for a hike with a guide and another guest, a businessman from New York. Judy chose to go down to the Broadmoor for some pool time. “If you wanted to be alone and quiet, you could,” Jack said. “But there was more than enough to do to fill a weekend.” Some guests enjoyed the hot tub in the woods, and most gathered for the nightly campfire.

One of Jack’s favorite moments was the evening flag lowering at sunset. “Every night we gathered as they took down the flag while America the Beautiful played,” Jack remembered. “They even told the story of its author, Katharine Lee Bates, who was inspired to write it by the view from the top of Pikes Peak.” On Sunday morning, all of the guests got up to watch the sunrise together over coffee. “That surprised me. It’s not something I would normally do.”

“I knew this place was unique,” Judy laughed. “Jack relaxed—and that doesn’t happen too often! The last 3 trips we’ve been on, he was so absorbed with work. He didn’t seem to enjoy it. On this one, he really let go and had fun.”

On the drive back to Denver, Judy and Jack agreed that if they do Cloud Camp again, they might try the hike to Emerald Valley and stay there for a night with their grandkids. And so—true to the promise of both Penrose and Anschutz—the southern Colorado legacy of hospitality in the great outdoors will be passed to future generations.

The Broadmoor
1 Lake Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO, 80906
Hotel Reservations: 719.623.5112 or (855) 634-7711