|Heated pool at Aspen Ritz|
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
You've heard of extreme skiing, but how about extreme ski resorts?
In its infancy, the sport of recreational skiing called for a certain amount of rugged self-reliance. Ski centers were rare, their accommodations mostly Spartan, and their services often rudimentary or non-existent.
How that has changed! Today, after an arms race of sorts by ski resorts to offer the most over-the-top services, the word luxury fits skiing like a glove. Many ski centers bulge with posh amenities of every description and the après ski means as much to guests as four feet of new powder. Many resorts employ squadrons of workers to take care of their guests' every need and whim.
"People love having ski vacations where they don't have to lift a finger," says Chuck Gross, spokesman for the Ritz Carlton Clubs, which have a pair of fractional ownership ski resorts in Colorado.
One of the most popular features of luxury ski resorts is proximity to the slopes. Places like the Four Seasons Resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming have ski-in/ski-out access; there's no getting into the car, fighting traffic and looking for parking at the base of the mountain.
Stowe Vermont's Green Mountain Inn serves afternoon tea in an elegant living room. Guests can relax in plush sofas, drink mulled cider, and regale each other with tall tales of successfully navigating moguls.
And almost de rigueur these days is the presence of an elaborate, full-service spa where visitors soak in hot tubs, sweat in saunas, and let the aches and pains brought on by the day's activities be massaged or soaked away.
Spas at resorts like the Teton Mountain Lodge in Jackson Hole also provide rejuvenating treatments such as exfoliation wraps and hydrotherapy baths.
Raising the bar
The Ritz Carlton Clubs in Colorado have taken the luxury ski resort concept to its logical conclusion. The locations in Aspen Highlands and at Bachelor Gulch near Vail offer some of the best snow anywhere, but what really sets them apart are their long menus of luxury services.
They, for example, help guests relieve the pain of stepping into cold ski boots before taking off for a morning ski run. At the Ritz clubs, a ski valet will come and warm your boots for you.
That's a separate person, by the way, from the ski boot master. His job is to come to your residence to make sure your boots are the proper fit.
There's also a ski nanny, who takes charge of the little ones and accompanies them to morning ski school.
Now, a staff this extensive needs a coordinator; and you certainly don't want to do that yourself. Your personal concierge will be glad to see to all that, and much more.
The Ritz clubs are fractional ownership resorts, and blocks of 28 days are sold for each two- and three-bedroom condo. "You're assigned one personal concierge for the entire run of his or her employment," says Chuck Gross. Concierges get to know the guests' needs and wants.
Your equipment, which is stored at the resort, "is unpacked and laid out before you arrive," says Gross. "Your pantry and refrigerator is stocked to your tastes. Your transport from the airport is arranged." All you do is show up.
When you buy a time share from the Ritz, you receive two weeks in your prime season (either winter or summer), one week in the opposite season, and one week in the shoulder season. Since your concierge knows your schedule, he or she can arrange extracurricular activities in advance.
Says Gross, "The concierge might call you months before your vacation and say, for example, 'I know you're a Bob Dylan fan. He's appearing in concert here that week. Should I get you tickets?'"
It's like having a part-time, non-working spouse -- but one who really cares about you.
The clubs also feature the usual luxury health clubs and spas, heated pools and twice-daily maid service.
All this does not come cheap. The condo shares sell for between $200,000 and $500,000 each, depending on size and location, according to Gross. Association fees are between $500 and $700 a month.
Gross makes it seem like a bargain. He says the average price for a house in Aspen is now up to about $3 million and many of the people who buy these expensive homes only use these places a few weeks each year.
And they don't come with a personal concierge.
If skiing is not your thing, perhaps staying at a luxury villa in Tuscany is. For more, click here.
For more on the advantages of fractional ownership, click here.