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Rochester Hotel, Durango, Colorado in winter

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Snowy, icy streets and sidewalks provide the perfect introduction for a winter get-away to one of my favorite places, Durango, Colorado.

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This visit’s hotel, the Rochester, was built in 1892 and renovated to its present luxury in the mid-1990s. The 15 king and double queen rooms celebrate Western movies filmed in and around Durango. Along hallway walls, movie posters, framed in marquee lights, add a touch of Hollywood-like glitz to traditional décor. Located on Second Avenue, two streets removed from the town’s main thoroughfare and accompanying hustle and bustle, the hotel is nestled within a sedate and restful area of galleries, cafes, restaurants, and shops.

Under a silent blanket of snow, the hotel’s “Secret Garden” is a far cry from the electric atmosphere created here during the Summer Concert Series when local recording artists, singers and songwriters perform in the cozy, brick-walled niche adjacent to the hotel.

The Rochester Lobby Art Gallery provides display opportunities for local artists. The current exhibit is of large-format, very colorful works in mixed media, which contrast beautifully with the stark beauty of black and white birch trees seen through the gallery windows. The gallery is part of the seating area where the hotel’s full gourmet breakfasts are served daily. Through the open kitchen doors, guests get a glimpse of staff making fresh, over-the-top aromatic bakery items for ever-changing offerings each day. As part of its authentic Western heritage décor, the gallery’s chandelier is made from a giant wooden wagon wheel.

My room is an homage to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, with framed 8x10 production stills, movie posters on the walls, and fact-packed books on the night table. A vintage Super-8 format movie adds to the décor, although there is no projector. Movie fact: the famous scene of Butch and the Kid jumping off a cliff into the river below was filmed upstream from Durango, on the Animas River. Well, at least the jump (done by stunt doubles) was filmed there; the landing, showing the stars’ faces as they emerge from the froth, was in much warmer California water. Hollywood magic!

The Rochester, along with its sister property across the street, The Leland, are family-owned historic hotels, renovated by Diane Wildfang and her son, Kirk Komick. I had the pleasure of talking with Kirk over breakfast one morning about Western cinema, the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, single malt Scotch (the hotel bar has a nice selection), and the passion necessary to maintain an authentic Durango hotel for appreciative guests from all over the world.

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