PUBLISHED WORK > Hotel, Resort and Lodge Reviews > Amangani - Jackson Hole, WY
iTraveliShop.com August 2006
Amangani - Jackson Hole, Wyoming :: Hotel Review
When the first Aman resort in the US opened, I talked my way in to the hotel just to get a look around its rich stone and wood lobby, comfortable library and cozy restaurant. I even got a tantalizing peak inside one of its 40 rooms. But I didn't get the chance to stay there. Five years later, I'm standing in the soaring lobby of the Amangani once again, but this time I'm here as a guest.
Check in starts with a quick tour of the compact and tidy property, which is a good thing since the three-level design is more disorienting than it appears. The library is full of CDs and DVDs and a very chic collection of books about travel, art, and architecture. Next, there's the elegant spa and small but efficient gym (which can, of course, all be reached without a trip through the lobby to spoil your bliss). But it's hard to concentrate on the details my guide is giving me since I'm distracted by the views.
This is not an accident. Built on East Gros Venture Butte 7,000 feet above sea level and higher than most surrounding land, the property is situated to distract. Walls of windows face the rugged Wyoming scenery, as well as the hotel's grounds which are carefully under-gardened to maintain a symbiosis with the surrounding hills. You can also see a heated outdoor pool and Jacuzzi and a huge welcoming patio.
In fact, very little is left to chance at the Amangani which, like its sister Aman properties, has mastered the art of making perfection seem effortless. One morning I call for my truck at 4:30 in order to get into nearby Grand Teton National Park in time to photograph sunrise (tip: head to Schwabacher Road for great views). When I get downstairs, I find my Silverado waiting for me right on time along with a doorman offering to run into the hotel's kitchen and fill my travel coffee mug with the life sustaining elixir.
As I pulled away that same doorman called the housekeeping staff so they could clean my room while I was out. Since General Manager Guy Heywood took over, he's made it a cardinal rule that no guest should ever get a knock on their door followed by a plaintive call of "housekeeping...." Nor will you ever see a housekeeping cart in the halls. Heywood banned them (except one that carries heavy items). He, like many of his guests, finds them a jarring, rude intrusion into your vacation and the unwieldy things did a lot of damage to hallways and doors, some of which is still visible.
These features just add to the sense that there are invisible hands carefully and quietly crafting my stay at the Amangani. I know the staff is there because someone took away the used match I intentionally hid behind the pillar candle on the edge of the addictive soaking tub in my bathroom under a picture window looking out onto the hotel's pond. But who?
There are no clocks in the rooms (though you can request to have one added) and temperature controls are smartly located directly behind the pillows so you don't have to get out of bed in the middle of night if you get too warm or too cool. The bathroom features double sinks on opposite sides of the spacious room and a separate bath and shower. The lighting, however, is too dramatic and moody to be useful enough for shaving or applying makeup.
Various outdoor activities can be organized by the Amangani throughout the year--from golf to rafting to skiing to horseback riding—and if you do choose to venture out for the day, there's a backpack waiting for you in your room. A wonderful thought, unfortunately the thing is so badly made (the zipper on mine broke within an hour) that you would't send your first grader to school toting it, let alone take it along for a day of adventure.
Whether you work up an appetite at the spa or on the trail, the hotel's 65 seat restaurant, The Grill, is ready to re-fuel you at any time and in any location in the hotel. There are no hours of operation, allowing guests to order what they want when they want it. And no bill will be presented at the end of your meal either (unless you request to see one). Heywood says both measures are meant to make guests feel like they're staying in a gracious friend's home.
I order scallops and The Grill's version, on top of a bed of lobster risotto, go straight to the top of my list of best dishes ever. And even if (like me) you're not a dessert person, cap your meal off with the cookies and biscotti plate. The cookies are baked to order and come to the table warm and gooey.
While some hotels build their reputations on thread count or gourmet food, the Amangani takes those things as a given, then adds the one crucial ingredient that too many hotels have lost sight of in their single minded pursuit of the trappings of luxury: Service. Happily, I hear Aman is currently looking at a site in Utah for its second American hotel. I'll see you there.
Rates start at: $550
Peripatetic journalist Karen Catchpole recently left her job as deputy editor of SHOP Etc. magazine in New York City to embark on the Trans-Americas Journey, a three year, 70,000+ mile road trip through North, Central and South America. When she's not reviewing luxury hotels, she can be found enjoying the nearest camp ground.