Aug 30, 2023

Twin Peaks lifts curtain on expansion

Multimillion-dollar project features new hot springs, vapor caves, solarium; more phases to follow

To understand Craig Hinkson's passion for building, you have to flip the pages of history back to the early 1970s, when the mines above Ouray were still pumping out precious metals, residents burned coal to heat their homes and an 11-year-old boy saw the town differently than most his age.

Hinkson often grabbed a 4-foot by 8-foot piece of plywood when he came home from school and set about making his own city, scratching in the dirt to create streets and crafting buildings out of milk cartons.

Ryan Hein, meanwhile, began laying the foundation for his own career at age 12, when he started working at the old La Papillon Bakery on Seventh Avenue in Ouray. His skills grew from there, and today he's known for grabbing a mishmash of ingredients out of the refrigerator and whipping up a delicious meal.

The two men first crossed paths more than 30 years ago, when the 30-year-old Hinkson hired the 14-year-old Hein to work for him in construction.

They joined together again 18 years ago, when Hinkson bought Twin Peaks Lodge & Hot Springs and hired Hein to be the general manager of the lodge. Hein later became a part owner.

The latest milestone in their business partnership is a multimillion-dollar expansion and renovation of Twin Peaks.

The public is invited to see the upgrades for themselves during a grand opening and open house at the lodge at 125 Third Ave. on Sunday, June 4. Ouray city residents can soak for free from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The goal, Hinkson and Hein said, was to make Twin Peaks feel "like a cruise ship on land" — a place where a visitor can enjoy a host of amenities without ever leaving the property. They’re happy to recommend restaurants, places to shop and sights to see, but if their guests want to treat Twin Peaks like an all-inclusive resort, that's now an option that wasn't available before.

Formerly a modest motel featuring one swimming pool and two natural hot springs tubs, along with an on-site restaurant and bar, the new Twin Peaks looks and feels like a full-service resort.

It incorporates some of the town's mining history — from photos of several old San Juan mines hanging on the walls of the Mineshaft Restaurant to ore from the Revenue-Virginius Mine built into the concrete walls leading to the thermal caves. The roof pitch and materials of the outdoor tiki bar and thermal caves give off the vibe of a Swiss mountain village.

The highlights of the makeover are two swimming pools and nine hot springs tubs set at various elevations on the property, affording privacy to soakers who may not necessarily want to see the people in the tub next to them — or be seen themselves. Twin Peaks has more than tripled the amount of square footage dedicated to the pools and grown pool capacity from 60 to 440.

Once set and controlled manually, the system that monitors the temperatures of the pools and water flows is now fully automated. Should water temperatures get too warm or flows drop too low, the system will send a message to the front desk and to Hein's cellphone.

"He can be on a vacation in Europe and he’ll get an alert and he can shut things down and adjust the flows," Hinkson said.

A host of other new features and improvements include: • Vapor caves featuring a hot sauna and a steam room and a pair of showers that allow customers to cool off while inside the caves. Or they can take a dip in the cold plunge just outside the caves.

• A new dining solarium that, when combined with the Mineshaft Restaurant, seats more than 100 people.

• Men's and women's locker rooms.

• A new mechanical system heating all the rooms, as well as the parking lots, sidewalks and pool decks on the property. That means, come wintertime, no more shoveling or plowing snow.

It's a long way from Twin Peaks’ humble beginnings, when Alfred Armstrong built a two-story home on the north side of Third Avenue in 1893 and a sanitarium was added on the south side of Third in the 1910s. The motel changed hands over the decades — the Tankersleys (the parents of Hinkson's wife, Chris), the Maduras and a partnership consisting of Michael and Wendy Bazin and Bette Maurer all took turns as the owners and caretakers of the Twin Peaks Motel, which became a Best Western in the late 1960s.

After Craig Hinkson acquired the motel in 2005, he hired Hein as his general manager. They eventually moved away from the Best Western franchise, shunning the cookie-cutter motel model preferred by a large corporation in favor of amenities that catered to the needs and wants of Ouray visitors. In Hein's eyes, few coming to soak in Ouray's hot springs and play in the mountains needed a business center at the motel.

It's also been an arduous and winding path to get here. It took several years for the city to approve the expansion and for engineers to design the project. Supply chain, labor and transportation issues tacked on another year before the project was finished this spring.

The expansion encountered strong opposition from several Ouray residents as a planned unit development application trudged through the approval process in 2018 and 2019. Some claimed the size and scope of the project didn't fit with Ouray's character.

Hinkson said he learned to take the heat in stride and to not take the criticism personally. He adopted an oft-cited philosophy, "what you think of me is none of my business."

"That was very liberating," he said.

Twin Peaks, of course, is a business, and the goal is to make money. But Hinkson said he derives the most joy from seeing parents and kids smile as they splash in the pool or lounge in the hot springs.

"You don't do this to make a lot of money," he said. "This was a labor of love."

Hinkson and Hein consider this phase one of a multiphase project. The next phase, which they hope to launch in fall 2024, will involve replacing the motel lobby and a new gym, spa rooms and mud baths. The final phases will double the number of rooms from 93 to 188. The goal is to have the full expansion and renovation completed in 10 years.