Into the Wild at Vermejo
Vermejo, a Ted Turner reserve, epitomizes contemporary eco-travel, offering discerning travelers an immersive experience in nature that helps protect the land and its inhabitants in perpetuity—without compromising on luxury.
Beneath the flanks of New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo mountains—the rugged, snowcapped peaks that straddle the border with southern Colorado—stretches a sprawling estate grounded in its mission of environmental restoration and preservation, and connecting people with nature.
Vermejo, a Ted Turner Reserve, epitomizes luxury eco-travel. Businessman, philanthropist and environmentalist, Turner purchased the vast reserve—which spans more than 558,000 acres—in 1996, and transformed it from a long-forgotten playground for the rich and famous into an unfettered, wild expanse.
Today, Vermejo taps into growing demand for sustainable vacations in the great outdoors with a luxurious edge. Conservation is foremost at all three Ted Turner reserves (Vermejo, Armendaris and Ladder, plus one retreat, Sierra Grande), with the brand taking stewardship of the biodiversity-rich lands in which it operates. Its goal is to share and safeguard America’s wild places—and guests are invited to be part of the mission.
The Turner Endangered Species Fund has helped rebuild the population of some of the world’s previously endangered species across all three of Ted Turner Reserves’ properties
Where action and adventure align
“Conservation efforts are a part of Ted Turner Reserves’ core values,” says Jade McBride, General Manager for Vermejo. The work is comprehensive, protecting the land from development, rehabilitating native trees and plants, controlling invasive species, and repopulating the landscape with once-dwindling animal groups. It has paid dividends: the bison population alone has ballooned from 85 pre-Turner to around 1,200.
“The Turner Endangered Species Fund has helped rebuild the population of some of the world’s previously endangered species across all three of Ted Turner Reserves’ properties,” adds McBride. The American Bison, Chiricahua leopard frog, Bolson tortoise and the Mexican wolf—whose population has suffered from illegal shooting and habitat loss—have all been brought back from the brink.
The hospitality program is key to the reserve’s conservation work. Guest revenue funds the work, but eventually, Vermejo will become part of a conservation trust. According to the reserve, “the Trust’s activities will demonstrate that it is possible to strike a balance between commerce and conservation that results in both economic and environmental benefits.”
For guests, this means an immersive experience that directly helps to protect and restore wildlife and the land. A vast menu of activities changes with the seasons, from wildlife excursions through the wilderness to encounter a variety of animal species, to conservation tours guided by dedicated natural resource specialists.
Vegetarians and vegans should not be deterred—menus can be adjusted according to dietary requirements and, happily, all guest meals are included in the room rate.
Land to table
So much fresh air and adventure is a recipe for big appetites, and executive chef Giovanni Lanzante attends to hunger pangs with his New American fare.
“All menus, along with the food and beverage experience at Vermejo, are created with conservation and terroir in mind. From produce grown on-property to local farmers delivering products, we source locally and produce a southwestern-inspired cuisine that uses the finest ingredients available to our culinary staff,” he says.
Bison tenderloin, oxtail garganelli and seared elk chop are served alongside craft cocktails, local beers and wines from the property’s vast wine cellar. Vegetarians and vegans should not be deterred—menus can be adjusted according to dietary requirements and, happily, all guest meals are included in the room rate.
From conservation to restoration
By night, guests retire to Vermejo’s luxurious accommodations. The main mansion, Casa Grande, underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation that restored elements of the house to their original glory; carpet was peeled back to reveal hand-laid mosaic flooring and period fabric wallpaper adorns the stair walls.
At Costilla Lodge, offering spectacular mountain vistas, five cottages with a range of suite accommodations host up to 10 guests. Then there’s the new, eponymous Turner House, a 10-room property that pays homage to Turner’s conservation work. It is here that guests can enjoy Vermejo’s new treatment room, which also serves as a yoga and meditation studio for daily classes.
Collectively, these elements reflect the demands of a transitioning market. Guest needs have evolved and Vermejo has responded in kind, by offering immersion in the great outdoors by day, and luxurious comfort by night .
images copyrights Sean Fitzgerald for Ted Turner Reserves.
words by Emily Eastman