LIVING ON HIGH | VailDaily.com

LIVING ON HIGH

With four golf courses, miles of hiking and biking terrain and access to rafting, fly fishing and off-road touring, Cordillera offers a vibrant lifestyle to homeowners and visitors alike

by Katie Coakley

Stretched over the crest of the Sawatch range, just west of Edwards, rests Cordillera. More than a real estate development, but not quite a village, Cordillera is the manifestation of a vision. This vision has coalesced and shimmered, evolving from plans for a cross-country skiing district in the early 1980s to a multi-neighborhood community with four golf courses, an equestrian center and a high-end hotel and spa. There have been times that this vision has wavered, seeming as though it might blow away like dandelion fluff on the wind.

However, like the mountain ranges for which it is named, Cordillera — which means "chain of mountains" in Spanish — is rooted firmly in the Vail Valley. And, with new leadership and a dedication to cohesion, Cordillera is reflecting its best self to members and visitors alike. Venture beyond the gates and learn about the Cordillera that sits so close, yet can feel perfectly far away…

Home Away from Home

When Dan Wegmiller and his family decided to purchase a home in Cordillera, they weren't strangers to Eagle County. They already knew the area — they'd bought a townhome in Eagle Ranch in 2010, escaping the Texas heat to enjoy the golf, fly fishing and hiking that the area affords. It was when the two Wegmiller boys were enrolled in an Orvis fly-fishing clinic in 2013 that the family first visited Cordillera. On the first day, Dan and his wife, Jennifer, simply drove around, exploring, while the boys were in the clinic. On the second day, they contacted the Club at Cordillera to inquire about membership.

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An avid golfer, Dan was no stranger to golf courses and clubs. However, Cordillera presented some compelling attributes: "I was just blown away by the vistas on the Summit Course, the rugged beauty of the Valley Course and the uniqueness of the Mountain Course," he says. He knew of the rocky patches that Cordillera had endured, but he said he saw the potential.

Like many golf clubs and communities, the Club at Cordillera experienced dwindling memberships and acrimony during the economic downtown in 2007 and '08; in June 2012, ownership filed for bankruptcy. After a court-ordered mediation and disposition, The Club was purchased by Windrose Holdings, LLC, a California-based investment group and, shortly thereafter, Windrose engaged the professional golf club management company Troon Golf and the Troon Privé private club designation to oversee the re-launch of membership and golf programs for the club.

The change in management was successful and the benefits were soon apparent. Troon, who is the largest private resort course operator in the country, brought with it its stellar reputation for golf course management and professionalism. In the summer of 2013, all of the courses at Cordillera were open and membership numbers began to rise as people, including the Wegmillers, saw the level of commitment towards cohesion at Cordillera. Dan and his family decided to become members at the Club at Cordillera and they spent the summer of 2014 traveling back and forth from Eagle.

"It's not a bad commute, but when you go up to play golf in the morning, then fly-fish — the ponds are literally right there — and you go home to change to come back for a party or dinner in the evening … we were traveling back and forth all the time," Dan says.

That's when they started looking for property in Cordillera. In 2015, the Wegmillers purchased a home that, coincidentally, had been enjoyed by another Texas family — one that lives just a few miles from their home in Austin.

"Ending up in Cordillera — it's changed our whole Colorado experience," Jennifer Wegmiller says. "It's a whole other level."

"I've talked to members and people I've met and there's stability now — I wouldn't have bought a home or joined the Club if there wasn't stability," he says. "There's a commitment to keep development going, to keep the golf club at a high level, where you can enjoy bringing friends and family out. It's a total experience."

The Wegmillers spend as much time as possible at their home in Cordillera — especially in the summer months. Jennifer is taking advantage of the golf instruction and clinics at Cordillera to elevate her game and the whole family enjoys hiking and fly-fishing. Dan says the boys have already laid out their game plan for activities: Jeep touring in the mornings to avoid the afternoon storms, playing golf on other mornings, plus factoring in other adventures like whitewater rafting.

"It's not a place that you go to and say, 'what do we do today?' and it's limited to one thing," Dan says. "There's a laundry list of potential."

Membership Not Required

This laundry list of potential is not reserved just for Club members or residents — there is a whole wealth of opportunities for the taking, for those who are willing to go beyond the gates of Cordillera.

For both road and mountain bikers, the terrain at Cordillera provides spectacular training ground. For road bikers, the trek from Edwards up to the Summit is challenging, with more than 2,000 vertical feet gained. The mountain bike trails at the Summit are mellower, offering trails that wind through wildflowers.

Kids can accomplish all sorts of adventures during Cordy Camp — a summer day camp that is open to children ages 5 to 12 years old.

"Whether they live here full time or live elsewhere, all are welcome," says Rachel Zimmerman, camp director.

The camp, which takes place at the Trailhead activity center and runs from June through mid-August, is available on a drop-in basis: It's not necessary to commit for a certain amount of time, which gives families more flexibility. In addition to the various activities at the Trailhead, like swimming, hiking and biking, kids can take lessons in tennis and golf for an additional cost. There are also several field trips during the summer to places like Glenwood Caverns.

For golfers, the Dave Pelz-designed Short Course is a gem of a course, nestled above the Divide — challenging enough for more serious golfers who want to work on their short game, but still fun for novices.

"One thing that I really enjoy (about the Short Course) is that I can play there, my wife can play there, my friends who know nothing about golf can play there and we all have a good time," says Minturn resident Derek Pappas.

As a shorter course, there's no need to use a driver, Pappas explained. By focusing on the irons, with elevated tee boxes so that the ball just flies and drops, he says the course is not at all intimidating.

Then, of course, there are the vistas.

"Get up there in the late afternoon, like 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. in the summer, and as you're coming in on the 9th hole, you can watch the sunset from high up in the valley," Pappas suggests. "It's a pretty incredible view up there."

Not a golfer? Enjoy the sights with a glass of wine or perfectly poured pint. At the Mountain Course clubhouse, TimberHearth is a great location for a leisurely lunch — you might even see some wildlife crossing the course. Grouse on the Green, an authentic Irish pub, is located just above the Short Course; Mirador at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera is under the helm of Chef Michael Joersz and features upscale cuisine with expansive views of the Sawatch Range.

Visions can waver and sometimes fade away. However, as Cordillera continues this next chapter, the roots of the vision remain strong. A cadre of neighborhoods, dedicated to outdoor pursuits and camaraderie amongst members, residents and the Vail Valley community, Cordillera is firmly planted in the clouds: a vision realized.

When the snow flies
Just because the golf courses are sleeping under a blanket of snow, winter still affords plenty of opportunity for entertainment.

Cross-country skiing
and snowshoeing

Discover what attracted the original developers at Cordillera's Nordic Center. In addition to 6.8 miles (11 km) of groomed track and instruction opportunities, there's also a sledding hill next to the pro shop.

Sleigh rides at
Bearcat Stables

On Wednesdays through Saturdays, Bearcat Stables offers a scenic sleigh ride and dinner combo through the Bearden Homestead.

Dinner with a decidedly different view
Mirador and Grouse on the Green are open year-round, as is TimberHearth.

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