POWELL BUTTE —
From the craggy palisades just beneath the summit of Spirit Rock, a bluff that rises above Brasada Ranch on the southeastern flank of Powell Butte, the view to the west is stunning.
Juniper trees, green from recent rains, rise above the rooftops of an emerging village of resort homes. Emerald-colored fairways, flanked by dozens of white sand traps, mark an impeccably maintained golf course. Horses range around a stable beside a ribbonlike highway. On the horizon, the snow-capped peaks of the central Cascades keep a vigilant watch over the High Desert panorama.
Brasada Ranch was first developed in 2005 by Jeld-Wen, at a time when the door-and-window manufacturer was expanding into residential resort development. But last November, the ranch was sold to the Northview Hotel Group along with the Eagle Crest Resort, near Redmond, and Flying Y Ranch, near Klamath Falls.
“Jeld-Wen did a tremendous job with Brasada Ranch,” said Brent McLean, vice president of sales and marketing for Northview. “The company put a very serious focus on environmental sustainability, which resulted in Brasada becoming the first U.S. resort to earn a Gold LEED designation. We have a mission to stay in tune with that sustainability.”
But that didn't stop the new Northview owners from introducing major changes. Immediately, they infused $3.5 million in Brasada and repositioned it as a destination getaway, not just as a residential resort. And it was because of that new focus that a friend and I took two days last week to explore the 1,800-acre ranch.
What we discovered was what I might term a boutique resort — one with equal elements of contemporary Western flavor and modern luxury, one that encourages group dynamics but offers plenty of opportunity for intimacy. A friendly and impeccably trained staff help to make this a place that might appeal just as much to a couple on a romantic retreat as to a family with three kids.
For us, it was a perfect place for a 48-hour rest-and-recuperation escape from Bend.
We took advantage of an all-inclusive “Stay and Play” package, providing lodging and golf or a spa treatment — I opted for the links, she chose to indulge in a massage and facial — for a price of $699 for two nights. Beginning Aug. 21, the same package is available for as little as $559.
We stayed in a two-bedroom Sage Canyon Cabin with a back deck that opened onto the ninth tee of the Brasada golf course. Modern rustic in appeal, it was larger than many homes.
To the right of the main entrance, a full kitchen — with stainless-steel fixtures and a polished-granite counter — encouraged us to prepare our own meals. Although the resort has several dining outlets, options can run thin during long-term stays, and it's a considerable distance to restaurants in Bend, Redmond or Prineville.
The kitchen opens into a comfortable living room with a plush seating area that faces a flagstone fireplace and flat-screen television. On either side are a pair of king bedrooms, each with its own bathroom facilities. The larger of the two — the master, as it were — has a whirlpool tub separate from the shower. While the other bedroom, only slightly smaller, has no tub, it does feature a private entrance and can be closed off from the main unit as lodging needs dictate.
Covered parking provided security for our vehicle from the weather, a real consideration given the pingpong ball-size hail that recently fell on the region.
Our unit was located about a half-mile from the Ranch House, where the resort's administrative offices are located. We had the option of walking or driving our own car, but it was often easiest just to call for a Brasada golf cart, which provided service throughout the resort complex in minutes flat.
The Ranch House is at the center of a five-building complex at the heart of Brasada. The main floor of this lodge was once the home to the Blue Olive restaurant, now replaced by a casual three-meals-a-day grill. On the upper floors are four private suites, available to child- and pet-free guests at a lower rate than the luxury cabins; another four are under construction on the lower level of the Ranch House.
Immediately north is the Barn, Brasada's original “Discovery Center” when it was built as the first resort structure in 2005. Today it serves as a special-events space, especially popular for weddings and corporate retreats.
Just east of the Barn, the Real Estate Center reminds visitors of the residential nature of Brasada. “Real estate is still a very big part of what this resort is about,” McLean said.
“Jeld-Wen sold 300 lots and built 80 cabins. Deschutes County law requires that we built one overnight accommodation for each two lots. We now have 40 cabins in the rental program, and our goal is to grow the number of accommodations.”
Southeast of the Ranch House is the Brasada Athletic Center. Within this sprawling facility are locker rooms with steam rooms, a large workout center, children's activity areas (one with a rotating climbing wall) and a snack bar. Just outside are courts for tennis, basketball and sand volleyball, rental bicycles and fly-fishing rods. Out here amid the sage and juniper, the resort has stocked one of its ponds with catch-and-release bass, crappies and bluegills to delight anglers both young and old.
But most visitors come to the Athletic Center to take advantage of the popular swimming pools — an indoor lap pool and a pair of grotto-like outdoor pools, one flowing into the next. A spiraling water slide, a 12-foot waterfall and a circulating “lazy river” feature add excitement to the aquatic experience; guests who prefer to avoid the crowds can relax in any of five hot tubs.
A short hike south will bring Brasada guests to the resort spa. It shares a building with the resort's fine-dining restaurant — The Range — and next door to the Canyons Golf Course pro shop.
Opened on July 1, the new spa has all the features of a modern urban spa. Patrons are greeted at a reception desk by the spa director, Lynne Hite, who came to Brasada after nine years with Sunriver Resort's Sage Springs Spa to establish and implement the program.
Hite directs guests first to a changing area, then to a relaxation room with a pervasive aroma of sage and lavender. Here they are met by their massage therapist or other practitioner and taken to a private treatment room. The menu includes 60- to 90-minute massages and facials ($125 to $185), as well as manicures, pedicures and body wraps.
Outside the spa changing rooms are a swimming pool and hot tub, far less frenetic than the Athletic Center facilities. Poolside food-and-beverage service is offered.
When Northview decided to upgrade Brasada's signature restaurant, the hotel group reached into the Rocky Mountains for a new executive chef. Adrian Carpenter came to Oregon from the Little Nell, at the foot of the ski slopes in Aspen, Colo., his latest stop in a 20-year culinary career that has taken him from his native North Carolina to San Francisco and has included stops at resorts in Arizona and Montana, as well as several other Colorado locations.
“I'm psyched to be here,” said Carpenter. “We have a better pool of products coming from the Pacific Northwest than anywhere else I've worked. In particular, the seafood can be here the next day by truck, instead of by express air.”
The Range — which, like the spa, opened July 1 — serves dinners only. Based only upon our brief visit, they are superb. We fell in love with Carpenter's quinoa-and-watercress salad ($9), blending fresh figs and pistachios with a balsamic-fig vinaigrette. And a thick beef tenderloin ($29), grilled with tiny chanterelle mushrooms, foie-gras butter and a bourbon jus, was wonderfully juicy and flavorful.
“I have some unattainable goals as far as food and service,” Carpenter said, tongue only halfway in cheek. “My biggest challenge right now is putting all the right staff people in the right places. Later, I will really concentrate on building more personal relationships with providers, although I already buy directly from several area farmers.”
Canyons Golf Course
I don't play a lot of golf, but I find the Brasada course seductive and the facilities first-rate.
Canyons Golf Course isn't a typical 18, at least not in terms of its now-you-see-it, now-you-don't layout. Designed by Peter Jacobsen, a native Oregonian who spent 25 years on the professional tour, it takes advantage of the contours of the natural landscape to wind around hills and through a series of dry gullies.
From one green, it seems, you can rarely spot the next tee — or, in Brasada's case, any of the next five tee boxes, as each hole of this championship course has five launch points of different driving distance. And there are precious few water hazards, save a couple of ponds near the clubhouse. Yet there's plenty of elevation change, beginning from 3,272 feet and climbing above 4,000, a height from which the views toward the Three Sisters are memorable indeed.
A buddy made the drive from Bend to join me on the links, which we covered in about four hours. I best remember the back nine — the 15th hole, where any drive must thread a needle-like path between bunkers that guard both sides of the fairway (mine found the sand not once, but twice), and the 16th hole, where I redeemed myself with a quality, one-putt, par four.
Zach Swoffer, Brasada's director of golf, encouraged me to come back and work on my swing on the resort's driving range, where I can take shots in the direction of Mount Bachelor and Broken Top and, I hope, avoid slicing toward Mount Jefferson. The five-acre practice area includes three bunkers as well as pitching and putting areas, all of them shadowed by an antique irrigation trestle that separates the front nine from the back.
Brasada Ranch, once the Shumway family cattle holdings, covers 1,800 acres, but not all of it has been designated for development. In fact, half the acreage will never be built upon; it has been forever set aside for conservation.
The best way to explore this semi-wilderness is not by foot or golf cart, but on horseback. Down at the Brasada Ranch Equestrian Center, off Alfalfa Road just over a mile southwest of the main resort village, stable manager Kevin Friedman and his team of wranglers and horses — most of them mature Tennessee Walkers — offer guided trail rides to visitors with experience, and “Horsemanship 101” classes to rank beginners.
Neither my friend nor I fall into the latter category, so Friedman placed us on two of his favorite horses, Scout and Red, before mounting his own steed, Toro. Then the three of us set off around the fringes of the golf course, climbing and descending steep, sage-speckled canyons as we moved up the slopes of Powell Butte.
Except for an occasional distant glimpse of golfers, our only companions were large numbers of jackrabbits, skittering cautiously beneath the glare of soaring buzzards and red-tailed hawks.
We steadily ascended to Spirit Rock, the origin of whose name was unknown to our guide. But one could imagine that the lofty bluff — the highest point on Brasada Ranch property — was so tagged because the view from here allows one's spirits to soar.
The vista, all the way north to Mount Hood, is a certain reminder of why we live in Central Oregon, and of how nice it is to have a close-to-home getaway destination with even more pleasures than home.
Expenses for two
• Gas, round-trip, Bend to Brasada, 42 miles @ $3.70/gallon: $6.22
• Two-night package, lodging, golf and spa: $699
(Stay and play packages begin at $559 for two nights with a lodge unit, $699 for a cabin. On weekends, the minimums for two nights are $599 and $759. Individual room nights, without golf or spa, start at $259 for a lodge unit, $349 for a cabin, $379 weekends.)
• Lunch, Ranch House: $31
• Dinner, The Range: $104
• Groceries for two breakfasts, a lunch and a dinner: $46
• 60-minute horseback ride for two: $70
NEXT WEEK: COLUMBIA GORGE
Brasada Ranch. 16986 S.W. Brasada Ranch Road, Powell Butte; 541-526-6865, 866-373-4882, www.brasada.com .