Tourist destinations often employ specialists to enrich the visitor experience. A company in Moab, for example, offers geologist-led tours that explain how the landscape became so bizarre. National Parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite offer tours led by naturalists, ecologists, and biologists to help tourists appreciate the natural spectacles within. There is a place, however, just a short drive from the north shore of Lake Tahoe in a castle-like structure perched at 6,900 feet among the fir and pine of the Sierra Nevadas where I found a specialist that can’t be found anywhere else on earth.
When the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe was built in 2009, the owners went to great lengths to ensure the property would stand out from the many other luxury hotels around the iconic lake. They started by placing it halfway up the Northstar-at-Tahoe ski area and hiring a team of renowned designers to create a structure that meshed with the feeling of the area’s historic mountain lodges with modern aesthetics and provided 360 degrees of dramatic mountain views.
But that was just the start. Anyone can pour a lot of money into a hotel and make it impressive. The Ritz-Carlton team knew that to really make the property stand out would require more than grandeur. They needed authentic charm. So, they focused on creatively integrating details of American-style camping into the luxury hotel experience.
Campers often travel with pets, so the hotel was deemed pet-friendly, and pets are welcome in rooms and common areas except restaurants (where they’re prohibited by law). The pet-friendly rooms were placed near exits leading to grassy areas stocked with pet waste disposal bags, and guest services provides four-legged guests with their own beds, bowls and treats. A bocce area and communal fire pit were built in the ‘backyard’, an ‘indoor camp-out’ experience was designed for children and outdoor BBQ service was implemented.
The Art of the S’more
The pinnacle of the Ritz-Carlton’s effort to meld the western camp out with the luxury hotel experience, however, was in their designation of a new kind of specialist whose task was to master a single, iconic facet of the American camping experience: the s’more.
For the uninitiated, a s’more is a time-honored American camping snack; a slab of chocolate and a toasted marshmallow (preferably toasted on a stick over a campfire) sandwiched between two graham crackers.
The Ritz-Carlton guest services staff has elevated this tradition from a children’s campfire activity to a culinary art. This begins with the training of the Marshmologists, two of which are on staff. They are taught not only the art of marshmallow toasting and ingredient stacking, but also the histories of the s’more and each of the component ingredients.